Tag Archives: Interviews

Blogger Spotlight: Aaron Wall

If you don’t read SEO Book, you really should. It’s a read and repeat blog. Bloggers read Aaron’s post, and then repeat these concepts as their own all over the blogosphere. Why not get this advice straight from the horses mouth?

Aaron speaks largely on search engine optimization, but my favorite posts are the one where he talks about viral marketing and the new media in general. When he offered up the chance for his readers to interview him, I knew this was a perfect opportunity to bring in an outside the RE.net perspective.

Aaron WallHi Aaron, thank you so much for participating. As you may know, the real estate blogging community (we call it RE.net) is by far, one of the largest, and still fastest growing small business verticals for social media. It’s a close knit group, but with differing opinions as to what makes the best real estate blog strategies. Here’s three hot topics that I’d like to get an outsider’s opinion on.

Blog Rolls– Many RE.neters maintain a blogroll on their real estate blogs. Sometimes the links are local, other times, they’re other real estate blogs from around the country. From the standpoint of SEO, how important do you think it is for real estate bloggers to maintain or avoid a blogroll?

Well when you create a blogroll if you link to it sitewide you are passing out PageRank sitewide. What I do if I use blogrolls is either just link to the blogroll from the homepage OR link to a page I call blogroll where I list blogs I read often. The nice things about making the blogroll an actual blog post are that more people will end up seeing it when they do link searches on sites like Technorati, and you are passing out less link equity while still getting all the benefits of a traditional blogroll.

You still want to link to some of your core sales pages sitewide though such that they get maximum benefit from your site’s link authority.

Listings – Unlike ad driven revenue model blogs, real estate bloggers are generally trying to generate business for their own company. A popular school of thought is to avoid “selling” on the blog. This means that writing about a new listing is frowned upon. However, other bloggers report great success in blogging about their listings. What are the pro’s and cons with regard to search engines when blogging about your own product? In addition, as a consumer how would you react to a real estate blog that wrote about it’s listings?

If you want to write a blatant advertisement but do not want your core audience to suffer through reading it, consider backdating the post a week or month. 😉

People buy auto trader and it is nothing but ads. And few people would want to go to the million dollar homepage everyday because aesthetically it looks like crap. The key is to editorialize any sales information as well. Do you offer me tips on why I should stay in neighborhood x or the type of people who should avoid neighborhood y? Do you offer any unique ratings of areas? Have you visited the house you are pitching? Can you talk about your experience from an informing standpoint rather than using hard sales tactics? Those are the types of questions to ask. If you are teaching and informing it doesn’t feel like a sales pitch, even though Teaching Sells .

Keywords – Real estate bloggers are always striveing to own localized keyword search results. We all know it’s important to include these words in our posts, but at what point (from the perspective of SEO, or the blog’s readers) does keyword rich turn into keyword stuffing?

If you were your prospective client or prospective reader is the content you are writing something you would want to read or subscribe to? If not, then you need to fix it. Nobody is going to buy from or be impressed by poor reading content even if they do stumble upon it from a search.

Some people who keep adding keywords to try to match an arbitrary keyword density level end up stripping out important modifiers. Use a keyword tool to find modifiers that you can sprinkle in the copy… concentrate on fitting them in the page copy in a logical way more than concentrating on repeating the core keywords. Also it may make sense to use a few core keywords in your site template to help the pages be relevant for related queries.

Some WordPress plugins allow you to make your h1 headings different than your page titles. Using these sorts of tools allows you to get added keyword diversity without making the content sound bad.

Also in many cases if your site is structured well you have sales pages ranking for the most important target queries. Make sure to link to the pages you want to rank where it makes sense.

Besides SEO Book, what resources would you recommend for small business bloggers?

Study and learn your own industry inside out. Become the person reporters call when legal changes change your field.

Read Don’t Make Me Think to learn usability. And read the Cluetrain Manifesto and The Purple Cow to get a grasp of online marketing.

Finally, do you have any parting advice for real estate or small business professionals who are interested in starting a blog?

Sooner is better than later. Get launched. No big deal if you are not perfect off the start…it takes a lot of time and effort to become a good writer. Subscribe to a lot of other blogs you find useful and learn from them while you develop your own unique style. Plus tracking your industry and seeing what ideas spread and why they spread teaches you how to create and launch similar ideas.

And this will seem a bit self promotional, but I would also read the Blogger’s Guide to SEO. It is probably the best blog marketing guide on the web…and it is available in more than a dozen languages. 🙂

Thanks Aaron, I really appreciate your perspectives here on our corner of the blogosphere.

Blogger Spotlight: Daniel Rothamel

I think the thing I love most about today’s Internet is that all the tools are their to let pure talent rise to the top. Daniel Rothamel generates live audio, video, and the written word on the Real Estate Zebra. Maybe as few as five years ago, a talent like Daniel might never be seen, heard, or maybe even read.

Hi Daniel, what made you decide to start the Real Estate Zebra?

My wife, Kari. When I first began blogging, the title of the url was CvilleAreaRealEstate.com. I had really intended it to be a blog focusing on the Charlottesville area real estate market. A few months in, I started writing posts about my experiences as a basketball official and how they related to the practice of real estate. People responded very positively to the posts, and I did more and more of them. I realized that being a basketball official gives me a unique perspective, and I wanted to highlight that. I struggled with a way of effectively doing it and promoting it. As I usually do, I discussed the issue with my wife, being that she is the smartest, most insightful person I know. As usual, she had the answer– RealEstateZebra.com.

Looking back at your posts from 2006, and then comparing them to today, your blog seems to be evolving from focusing on content for consumers, to focusing on content of interest from other real estate professionals. How did you get to where you are today?

Similar to my migration from CvilleAreaRealEstate.com to RealEstateZebra.com, the change came about as a result of actively blogging. I enjoyed doing the coverage of local real estate news and consumer issues, but I also wanted to talk about bigger, industry issues that really don’t interest most consumers. For a long time, I tried to do both, and I think that the schizophrenic nature of that endeavor caused me to hold back some things from both sides. After being active in the real estate blogging community for a time, I realized that agents are very hungry for knowledge, much more so than I had ever experienced before. If you look at most real estate blogs, be they consumer-focused or not, most of the comments are from industry professionals. As I looked around the blogosphere, I saw plenty of blogs claiming to talk to consumers, when most of the content was actually indirectly focused on professionals. Heck, I had created some of that content myself. I decided that I wanted to remove all the pretense and talk to an audience made up primarily of professionals. I tend to be a guy attracted to big ideas and the need to spread those ideas as a means of inspiring change and achievement by others. Having an industry-focused blog allows me to satisfy that attraction.

I am lucky in that my brokerage is made up of only myself, my wife, and my Mother-in-Law. They decided that we should start a blog for the brokerage that would be exclusively consumer/community focused. This gave me the flexibility that I wanted to turn RealEstateZebra.com into an industry resource.

Has this shift changed, increased, or hurt your ability to attract clients through your blog?

Very honestly, I have no idea. I do know that it has increased my ability to serve my clients, regardless of how they find me. Creating content for RealEstateZebra.com has forced me to think about things in new ways, and consider issues I might have otherwise dismissed. Blogging creates an opportunity for unsurpassed knowledge just by the sheer amount of research that is required to create good content. This makes me a better agent, even if I never get another client via the blog.

Will I attract less clients via RealEstateZebra.com? Probably. But I’m fine with that. The purpose of RealEstateZebra.com is not to attract clients, that is what my personal site and our brokerage site/blog are for. RealEstateZebra.com is meant to attract professionals. In fact, it is designed to attract a specific type of professional. A professional completely dedicated to improving the practice of real estate and delivering to the consumer a level of commitment, service, and expertise that has been heretofore unknown. This purpose was set forth early in the birth of the current RealEstateZebra.com through the “Zebra Manifesto” that I made available on the site.

You’ve been avidly engaged in both video and audio blogging. For RE agents who are considering multi-media, what’s your advice concerning the pros and con’s of video, audio, and the written word.

Each of these forms of content creation poses incredible challenges. The best advice that I can give is to pick what works for you. I am the type of person that likes all of this stuff. As an English Major in college, I was trained and conditioned to write. Writing comes naturally to me. That isn’t true for everyone.

The video and audio is something that I thought might be interesting, so I have given it a try. While I love doing that type of content creation, and I think that it has tremendous power and potential, I also know that it isn’t for everyone, either. Each person has strengths and weaknesses. Play to your strengths. If you love to write, WRITE. If you are good at taking photos, incorporate that into your content. If you are handy with a video camera, maybe vlogging is right up your alley. Think that you stink at all of them? Not true. You probably just haven’t tried. No matter what you do, realize that it takes effort and continued practice to make it work. It might be easy at first, but at some point, it is going to get difficult. How you respond when content creation gets difficult will determine your success. Above all, trust yourself and be genuine. Regardless of what you do, make sure that it conveys your true voice. In the the internet age, their can be no disconnect between the voice and personality that you convey online and reality. People are too smart for the bait-and-switch.

Recently, you changed your blog to more of what I’d call a magazine layout. By this, I mean your home page isn’t a reverse chronological list of blog posts. Why the change?

In my experience, the people that have never been exposed to blogs sometimes have a hard time interpreting the sites. To those of us who read blogs, it seems second nature. I wanted a site that would allow for both. The front page has a more traditional website look and feel to it, but the blog itself is still prominent and available to people. It also allowed me a format to highlight some of the content that I would like to emphasize to people. Sidebars can get cluttered, and info can get lost, so this provides a good alternative. Plus, the theme is Revolution, designed by Brian Gardner. His work is great, and the theme is still pretty easy to use and customize.

What are some of your favorite blogs?

If we are talking Real Estate blogs, there are a lot of them. Just check out my blog roll. As of writing this, I have been without RSS for about 21 days (self-imposed embargo). During that time, I have found that the blogs I seek out the most are AgentGenius, VARBuzz, RealCentralVA, BloodhoundBlog, and anyone who is on Twitter. Does Twitter count? As far as non-RE blogs go, I always check out Chris Brogan, CoppyBlogger, and TechCrunch. That covers the social media geek, the writing geek, and the gadget geek in me.

What advice do you have for agents who are just starting a new blog?

The best advice I can give is to stick with it. A good blog is not created over night. It will take a while for you to find your content-creation stride. Whether you are doing writing, video, pictures, or a mix, just stick with it. The other thing I tell people is don’t worry about it sucking in the beginning. Everyone thinks that their blog sucks in the beginning. I know mine did. The good news is this: no one will find your blog if it sucks. People only start following and reading when it gets good.

Blogger Spotlight: Andy Kaufman

Andy Kaufman is the epitome of of Web 2.0, and an example of why web designers are the video rental stores of the future. Gone are the days were one would need a computer science degree to DIY market themselves on the web. Andy was gone from, “I can do this too” to “let me show you how”. All the while his day job is still as a real estate agent.

Hi Andy why did you start MyEastBayAgent?

After I got turned on to what would become known as ‘Web2.0 sites’ like flickr, del.icio.us and bloglines, I had the ‘a-ha’ that someone with limited technical abilities like myself was now able to create my own content and self publish it super easily and that it was changing the way that we interact with the web. So I decided to start MyEastBayAgent so I could try it out for myself.

Photo credit: Chris Heuer via flickr

I found your original Blogspot blog, and noticed that you started off the same way I did. Creating a blog, posting a couple things, then letting it go dark. That’s the end of the story for thousands of bloggers, but you came back a few months later, and have been going strong ever since. What advice can you give for bloggers who are trying to get back in the saddle?

Don’t be overly self critical. Lots of people go dark for a length of time, no biggie. Just decide to get back into it and have fun with it.

In May, you switched from Blogger to WordPress. Why?

The more I got into blogging, the more I realized that all the cool kids were using WordPress. Since they’re a whole lot smarter than I am, I knew that WordPress was something that I needed to look into and once I did, I knew that it was exactly what I was looking for. The funny thing is that I was meaning to move things over for well over a year before I went ahead and took the plunge. I wish that I would have done it a lot eariler, but oh well.

You actively post on Twitter, and republish that content on your blog. Does twittering lead to new consumers? If so, how?

I wouldn’t say that twitter itself has led to new clients, but it is certainly an integral part of my overall marketing strategy. Making an initial connect in twitter is a low commitment event. You don’t need permission to follow someone, and if they follow you back, you can slowly get to know each other 140 characters at a time.

Now, I’m not totally sold on republishing tweets on my blog, but I’m playing around with it and trying to find the right mix. The reason that I’m doing that is that I believe that the content that I create in Twitter shows that I’m honest, knowledgeable and that I’m passionate about what I do. If I can clearly convey that to my target audience, I think that potential clients will gravitate to that.

What is RE.net Talks?

RE.net talks is a real time conversation tracker of the RE.net community powered by Twitter and my amateur media hacking. By building a twitter micro-channel and feeding it into a widget, I can now focus on the conversation between RE.netters in almost real time. Since I can control the flow of information, it’s a spam free channel full of info from thought leaders in the real estate industry. At least that’s what it is right now.

Why doesn’t anyone call San Francisco the West Bay?

Because it’s the city.

What are some of your favorite blogs?

Agent Genius, BloodhoundBlog, 4realz, ChrisBrogan, Web Strategy by Jeremiah, Hidden Track, The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, Lifehacker

What advice do you have for agents who are just starting a new blog?

You should find the online conversations that you care about and listen to them through RSS. Once you get the feel it, take the plunge and join the conversation with your blog. Create content filled with honesty and passion. Share, participate, link, learn & then do it better. Above all, make sure you’re having fun while doing it.

Speaking of having fun. I wanted to give RE BarCamp a quick little plug if I could. If you’re coming to Inman Connect SF, come out a day early and be a part of the first BarCamp for the real estate industry. The price is right (free) and you’ll probably walk away wondering how any future conference-like experience could ever compare. Plus, we’ll go out and party in San Francisco afterwards. No brainer, right? Cool, hope to see you there.

Blogger Spotlight; Mike Mueller

Mike is a great blogger. Want proof? I liked his work so much, I asked him to blog on my own baby, lenderama. Mikes a great loan originator, and as you will see, has been at the forefront of the mortgage industry in communicating with his clients over the internet.

Hi Mike. How did you come to the decision to start Mike’s Mortgage Minute?

I have to go way back to the 90’s. I had been financing racks of servers and modems for internet service providers. I was manually writing html (on notepad) to update individual web pages on a daily basis. In 2000 I remember finding a small little start up called Pyra Labs. They used .php to update web pages. I tried it out, liked the idea, and even donated money towards a new server they needed. Starting in 2001 I was updating my mortgage news page on a daily basis. Much of what I did at that time was cut and pasting of various newsletter articles and not my original material. Soon I started interjecting my own opinions. There was no clear start to my blogging, instead I somewhat slouched into it.

Officially, I was a real estate blogger in 2001.

Your blogs are all about advice. I want to focus on just one of them for this question though. The Foreclosure Report doles out advice for consumers who are facing foreclosure. With a readership in distress, how much more thought do you put into making sure the advice you give is in the absolute best interest of the reader?

The Foreclosure Report was an idea I came up with to harness the SEO that blogging provides. I wanted to deliver honest unbiased information to those that needed it most, the homeowner in trouble. We in the business see cases of gross misrepresentation, outright lies, and fraud, probably on a daily basis. It was never meant to be in my voice. Instead I envisioned the voices of many. I saw the opportunity to have some of the most ethical, knowledgeable, and giving people on the internet offer up that advice.

I had 30+ real estate professionals lined up to contribute. Unfortunately most all of them did not actively participate. Today, I pick and choose what is posted. If I find an article I like, I ask the writer if I can repost it. I give them full credit and direct links back to their article. I work today more like an editor for this blog. On one hand I think the blog failed in that I have just a couple of contributor posts written specifically for the blog.

Then again I have to remember who it was created for and why. Case in point: recently someone typed “what can i do to delay the sale of my home in forclosure” into Google (misspellings and all). Obviously, this is a homeowner in trouble. Out of 136,000 pages, The Foreclosure Report shows up 6th. Thanks to the long tail, they hit the website and I hope they got the correct information. Looking at many of the other sites listed on that same page, you can see how easy it is to get the wrong information. To that end, it’s a success.

The blog provides three important things to the consumer.

1.The latest contact information for over 50 lender loss mitigation departments,

2.It shines the spotlight on various foreclosure and mortgage fraud and scams,

3.And most importantly provides what I saw as something that was vital yet missing on the internet – honest, ethical, unbiased information to the homeowner in trouble.

You take on a lot of complicated topics, reverse mortgages, REO’s, and foreclosures. Yet, the content comes out in very practical terms that a regular Joe can understand. Did this just come naturally, or what sort of path led you to establishing your “voice”.

Why thank you. I want to think this comes naturally, but I can source it back to college days. I’m a visual learner. In studying, I had to visualize complex concepts in order to get them to stick in my brain. I guess I do the same to my readers.

This is kind of a fun question that I like to ask of my contributors. Why do you blog on Lenderama? The same could be asked of why you blog on Active Rain?

Much like the ‘Mountain”, I blog on Lenderama, because I can.

Seriously – I love the ability to be able to write directly to the industry professional.

I can’t do that on any other site. Recently I wrote How the Appraiser determines a stable market

That post was important to me, important to other originators (I hope) but had little or no value to a consumer or homeowner.

ActiveRain is a real estate clubhouse. I have met some really great contacts across the country there. Yesterday I need to send a referral to someone looking to buy in Florida. In seconds I pulled up AR and found the person I know and trust to send a referral to. I also use ActiveRain for some of my posts that I think should reach a wider audience. I also help to moderate the Active Rain Newbies. We silently help those new to blogging find their way and get started.

Your blog is linked to some television appearances. Was this opportunity a result of your blogging efforts?

Not directly, although I think blogging certainly added to my professional credibility. I look at television and radio the same way as I do blogging. It’s an excellent way to reach out to many people. I like to think people can see through what is B.S. and what is real. I’d like to do more television work in the future.

What are some of your favorite blogs?

Ooh, I like this question! For the thinkers I like Calculated Risk, Brian Brady, Greg Swann and Traderbill.

I also like to read the twisted bubble bloggers like patrick.net and HousingPanic, not that I think they are right or wrong, but it’s great seeing into a vastly different perspective.

For the sharpening the saw stuff, I like Seth, My Name is Scott, Mark Cuban, and the Duct Tape Marketing Blog.

For keeping me on top of my game, I like The Mortgage Cicerone, The Mortgage Porter, Dan Green, and Morgan Brown.

Guilty pleasures. I have a couple. I’d say Athol but everyone likes Athol and I don’t want to give him any more traction ; ) Besides the one and only picture I sent him of a bad MLS photo – he misspelled my name! How about bad banana blog, or growabrain? Ok, I do read Athol, daily. But if anyone asks, I’ll deny it.

I read most everything inside my feed reader. RSS is my friend!

What advice do you have for agents who are just starting a new blog?

Let me step up on the soapbox.

Step one – read blogs. Read and read and read some more!

Learn to effectively use a feed reader.

There are three reasons you are likely to hear about as to why to start blogging:

1.SEO or more accurately Search Engine Ranking. That’s the hook that draws you in.
2.Networking. Sites like ActiveRain can give you a warm sense of belonging.
3.And what I think is the most important reason, “Sticky-Ness”.
3a. Nobody will tell you this but by blogging you will become smarter. Bloggers gain knowledge and clarity of thought simply by blogging.

Now throw away reasons 1 and 2.

They are unimportant and will lead you down the path to the Dark Side.

Don’t try to game the system. That too, is the Dark Side.

Your readers are smarter than you think and will see right through it.

I believe strongly in reason number 3 and 3a. Be honest and write about what interests you.

My parting statement? Give me the full RSS Feed including pictures. Don’t give me a partial feed. Don’t exclude the pictures. Make it easy for me to read and I will. Make me jump through hoops and I’ll have to decide if your really worth it.