Category Archives: Training Stuff

I fear you underestimate my geekiness sir.

I had a great phone conversation with Teresa Boardman last week. She wanted to know if I was going to Inman Bloggers Connect this January. My answer was no. As a mortgage guy, the entirety of the Connect conference really doesn’t suite me. This summer, I went to just the bloggers pre-conference, and it was fun, but not particularly informative. I would still recommend Bloggers Connect to somebody with less experience. I admitted to Teresa, that while it might seem arrogant, I learn very little from other RE bloggers. It’s not that they don’t have a whole bunch to say, it’s just that I’ve probably already heard them (or someone else) say it. I started investigating the use of blogs for my mortgage career over three years ago. Lenderama launched in January of 2005. I’m quite certain I’ve laid my eyes on more RE.net blogs than anyone (at least 1500 of them). I still read a quite a few, but more and more, I’m getting my ideas from outside RE.net. I promised Teresa I would post an article on the sites I follow, and here it is.

Common Craft – Explanations in plain English. A great example of how to explain complex topics in simple terms

Copy Blogger – Brian Clark is making me a better writer. That’s a tall task.

Duct Tape Marketing – Pretty good marketing advice for those of us on a budget. Small business is a focus.

Found|Read – I just “found” this one a couple weeks ago. Great entrepreneurial blog.

How to Change The World – From Guy Kawasaki. It’s a marketing/tech/geek blog. My blogging buddy Phil Leto turned me on to him.

Instigator Blog – anyone who can bring humor to the business world is worth a read.

Linked Intelligence – I found out about this on at Blog World. Linked In is the one social network that is really serious about doing business. This blog covers strategies on how to use it.

Mashable – I love this blog, but I also hate it. They vomit out massive waves of garbage (to me). But then there’s a pearl of enlightenment that makes me love them again. Reading Mashable is a little like playing golf.

Matt Cutts – Seems to me, if you’re going to read a blog that covers SEO, it might as well be frome someone who works at Google.

Pro Blogger – Most bloggers look at this site as the bible. However, much of it really doesn’t appy to the RE.net. There’s only one advertiser on most RE blogs (the agent). So filter out the posts on AdWords and what not.

pmarca – Marc Andreessen is the co-founder of Mosiac, Netscape and most recently, Ning. enough said.

SEO Book – This one just came out, and I’m not sure it will be a long term resident in my RSS reader. But for now, it’s worth evaluating.

Social Networking Watch – another blog found at Blog World. Similar content to Mashable, but more discriminating in what they post.

Tech Crunch – You can’t call yourself a geek unless you read Tech Crunch.

TWIT – Not really a blog. Actually, it’s the most listened to podcast on the net. Hosted by Leo Laporte (God of all geeks) and featuring a crew of characters that makes nerds every ware hearken back to the days of TechTV.

Web Worker Daily – I have a feeling the author’s politics couldn’t be any more opposed to my own, but I like the blog.

Finally, I read Grow_A_Brain. The original real estate blog that really isn’t about real estate. Because sometimes, brain candy is the best way to feed your brain.

I don’t want to be a zombie so stop throwing sheep at me

In one of Facebook’s endlessly useless widgets, Jonathan Washburn said I have a better sense of humor than one of his other “friends” (sorry, I don’t remember which one). I’ll take it as a compliment. I’d like to think I’m among the more light hearted among us. Who else would establish a mortgage industry blog and call it lenderama? On the other hand, there’s a line between light hearted fun and just plain freaking me out.

 

A couple weeks ago, Mariana Wagner used Facebook to throw a pumpkin at me. I’ve seen from first hand experience what throwing a pumpkin will do to a mailbox, and Mariana, that’s really not cool. April Groves used Facebook to tell me I’m the most likely person she knows to drop my keys in a toilet. Lani Anglin took the opportunity to tell me she thinks I’m a strong candidate to steal candy from a baby. Thanks ladies, why didn’t I think to put that on my resume? Can I list you two as references?

Jessica Hughes invited me to play TV trivia games with her, Maureen Francis wished me a happy birthday, and both Teresa Boardman and Frances Flynn Thorsen rank me not only as a “friend”, but as a “Top Friend”. Apparently plain old “friend” doesn’t have the same importance it once did. Not to be outdone, Kristal Kraft blew off the notion of including me as a mere “Top Friend”, and invited me to join her bloodline of vampires.

I shouldn’t be complaining here, especially with all these ladies poking, hugging, and throwing sheep at me. Except, all the women I mentioned so far are married. Trust me, when you’re as devilishly handsome as I am, there’s bound to be a jealous husband out there. There always is.

I joined Facebook primarily to network with other Real Estate Web2.0 professionals. I guess it’s working. I noticed Erica Lee had a Facebook account. She’s a PR agent that had contacted me in the past concerning one of her clients. When I sent out an offer to be her “friend”, all was silent. A few weeks later, when I met her in person, she told me she hadn’t recognized my name. She thought I was a stalker. Great… more material for the resume. At least she finally accepted my offer of “friendship”.

I’ve also tried joining groups on Facebook. After much trial and error, I’ve determined the point of a group is to join, then never once visit the group ever again. That reminds me, I need to start a group of my own, I’m sure everyone will join, they always do.

So far, my “friends” fall into two categories. People I already knew before Facebook, and people I still don’t know, but they asked to be “friends” with me. I don’t see the any reason to say no. According to Facebook, I have 73 “friends”. I have a question for nearly all of them. Do you wear Bermuda shorts to work? If I were still originating, there’s no way I would let my clients know I have my Facebook account. I’m sure there’s a way to professional represent yourself on Facebook, but I haven’t seen it. It appears to be more of an online playground, perfect for college kids, but kind of dumb for professionals in our industry. If you’ve found a better way, I’d love to see it.

In the mean time, I was only joking about the title. I’ve shelved the idea of doing business on Facebook, so go wild. Feel free to continue to throw sheep at me, invite me to your groups, and offer your “friendship”, even if you’re a complete stranger. Marina’s throwing mashed potatoes at me as I write this, so everyone might as well join in.

Key word SEO is at best, a hedged bet.

“It’s all about the meta tags”. That was a favorite saying of one of the salesmen I sat next to, selling websites for Myers Internet. Keep in mind that this was eight years ago. Yahoo was the king search engine, and only nerds like me used Google. This catch phrase was part of his sales pitch as to how Myers was going to make this Loan Officer’s web site rank high in the search engines. I’m not sure if he knew what it meant, but meta tags were little bits of code to tell a search engine what a web site is all about.

Search Engines weren’t all that powerful at the time. For Yahoo to know the focus of your web site, you needed to give them these digital Cliff Notes to help them sort it out. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but competition to rank highly in these engines led web masters to manipulate “optimize” meta tags until their site ranked best, even if it wasn’t. By 1999-2000 search engines like Yahoo, Alta Vista, and Lycos were becoming less and less effective as more people learned how to game the system.

The first time I used Google was simply astounding. I actually emailed everyone I knew to tell them to try it. By comparison, Google was leap-years ahead of it’s competition. The secret to Google’s success is that they concentrated more on the content published than the site publishing it. They layered that with a trust system that gave pages additional clout based on how many other sources linked to it. All of the SEO wizards had two new challenges. One, was to get as many people as possible to link to their pages. But more importantly, the second challenge was to figure out how to manipulate content to deliver the best possible search results. Most of this is done in a very white hat manner, allowing Google to continue to reign supreme in the search engine wars.

But Keyword SEO is beginning to create the same diluted results that Meta Tags manipulation did at the turn of the century. The premise behind Keyword SEO is to write content that is rich in certain terms of value. For instance, if your blog about Brittany Spears, and you mention her in the title of every post, then three or more times in the content of the post, making the effort to type out her name each time instead of simply saying “she”, then presumably, Google will come along and see that you are mentioning her quite a bit, and rank you higher when somebody queries about her. For the most part, this actually works. If your key words are focused on something less competitive than “Brittany Spears” you might have a decent chance of showing up well in search results.

There’s a downside though. You may want to garner lots of traffic from a particular key word, but those visiting may have no use for your site. There’s still value in planting you virtual business card in front of as many eyes as possible, but the work it takes to own a keyword can sometimes not be worth the trouble. On top of that, writers who become to aggressive in stuffing keywords into their posts become harder to read. Still, key word SEO is an effective online strategy today.

But what about tomorrow? Folks, my reason for writing this post is that I’ve seen the future today. Just as Google toppled Yahoo, I’ve seen the technology that can do the same to the current champ. I was just invited to contribute to Powerset Labs. This is a beta site to help develop Powerset’s new Natural Language Search Engine. It’s not a finished product yet, but from what I can tell, Powerset will make key words no more relevant than meta tags. When a query is performed, Powerset looks at what’s being queried, then thinks of all the other ways a human might make the same query, then searches it’s data base. The key words that were entered into that little search box are now mixed in with a thesaurus of synonyms and related content. All the time spent by a webmaster writing the same key word over and over will have a largely diminished effect. In fact, it might even hurt. Now, if the competition who wrote about the same subject, using a bevy of synonyms to your keywords, they might actually rank better.

I can’t tell you that Powerset will replace Google. Who knows, maybe Google will buy them, or maybe they will come out with an even more effective algorithm of their own. However, what’s obvious to me is that SEO has once again grown to powerful, and a dithering of key word relevance is sure to come.