Tag Archives: Marketing Professionals

Blogger Spotlight: Rob Hahn

It hardly seems fair that many of us have toiled for years to build great real estate industry blogs, only to have Rob Hahn come along and pretty much shame us all in a matter of months. If you’re a real estate professional who does not read Notorious R.O.B. yet, then you’re missing out. He understands marketing in our vertical like very few others. Forget Seth Godin, you need to be reading Rob Hahn.

Hi Rob, what made you decide to start a blog?

I’ve wanted to do a blog for quite some time, when I started in the real estate industry, first at Kinesis Marketing working with Coldwell Banker, and then at Realogy overseeing interactive marketing at Coldwell Banker Commercial. As a real-estate industry outsider (well, I guess I’m more and more an insider more time I spend in this industry) I find it absolutely fascinating. It’s an incredibly important segment of the economy, but there’s just so much to talk about and discuss as it comes to marketing, technology, the Web, and business practices. While I was at Realogy, blogging was more or less strictly forbidden by the legal department, so while I had my own personal blog on politics, I couldn’t really write or talk about the things in real estate, marketing and technology. Now that I’m at OnBoard, I can do just that. Within reason, of course. J

One reason why I wanted to interview you was your unique position in RE.net. You have a personal blog, while serving as Vice President of Marketing at OnBoard LLC. How do you balance your personal opinions with your responsibilities as a public face for this company?

I’m sort of making it up as I go. J It’s actually a difficult balancing act, because I have responsibilities to OnBoard that ultimately supersede my own personal preference for blogging. I balance it by asking myself, “Does what I wrote hurt OnBoard in any way? Does it hut our client in any way?” Because of OnBoard’s position in the marketplace as the premier provider of data and geography solutions to some of the top companies and brands, it’s impossible to comment on the real estate industry without in some way commenting on one or more of our clients. Even if such comments were to be critical, I try very hard not to have them be hurtful. Not all criticism is not malicious, and I do strongly believe that criticism from friends who want the best for you is one of the greatest gifts in a relationship.

My colleagues and I have actually discussed this in some depth after one of my posts was seen as possibly crossing that line. I think what works is to be as frank, honest, and authentic as possible on my blog – and if I see a conflict, I’ll simply state that conflict, and refuse to write about it.

Then in my day job, I simply focus on telling the OnBoard story, following the principles I am preaching on the blog as much as possible. I think OnBoard is the best data company in the industry; therefore, it is no bullshit to say so. I really believe that we have the best data, the best technology, and the best customer service – it’s actually a joy to market that which I believe to be true. So it’s a wonderful opportunity.

Have you ever felt that you needed to withhold an opinion because of your job?

Of course – that’s part of the balancing act. But it happens only very, very rarely. I’m not a shill for our clients in my personal blog, nor am I a shill for OnBoard. I will refrain from commenting if I think it would actively hurt either OnBoard or a client without cause, without reason, and without benefit. In other words, criticism has to be constructive – point the way towards an improvement of the situation. Simply flaming someone, or some company, serves no purpose.

How has the OnBoard brass reacted to your blog?

Well, I’m part of the brass, so… J No, seriously, they’ve been great. Marc, our CEO, is anxious for the day when we relaunch our official blog. So am I, frankly. I’m hoping to get the rest of the brass into more blogging. We have certain views here on business, on real estate, on data, and on technology that result from having had the privilege to work with all kinds of companies in the industry, from brokers to web portals to media companies. I think some of what we know is of enormous value to others in the industry, and I’m eager to start the sharing. But first, I have to redesign and relaunch the website, with the blog – which is one project I’m working on now.

What is OnBoard anyway?

Why, my good man, OnBoard is the best data and geography company in the real estate industry. We serve some of the largest brands, some of the most innovative companies, and help them create more compelling websites by leveraging data. I don’t know that I could do better than to just quote from our website’s About Us:

Three former executives of MonsterDaata regrouped after 9/11 in a tiny basement office in New York City’s East Village. Their dream was to create a new company focused on outstanding B2B solutions derived from local neighborhood information that would increase their clients’ ability to meet the needs of today’s consumer. OnBoard LLC is the fulfillment of that dream. The office pulses with creativity, intensity and a sense of community. From teams of solution specialists helping shape a client’s vision and the product team working with clients to optimize our solutions, to the occasional Guitar Hero duel between the CEO and the new Product Manager, OnBoard is really just a special group of people, each with a little bit of that basement vision.

OnBoard LLC provides innovative web tools, web services and comprehensive data that give your website the distinctive edge needed to compete in today’s market. Our client engagements begin with providing content and continue through delivery of strategic planning and integration expertise to support our clients’ business processes. We are experts in data aggregation, standardization, distribution and integration, allowing us to deliver critical decision support and content solutions for your website, back office, marketing and planning needs.

Do check us out at www.onboardllc.com. There, that’s my pitch of the day.

What are some of your favorite blogs?

Oh man… I read a LOT of blogs… There are some great blogs and bloggers in the RE.net. I can just list a few of those in my RSS reader right now:

4realz.net

BloodhoundBlog

Center for REALTOR® Technology

Future of Real Estate Marketing

1000 Watts

Redfin Corporate Blog

Rain City Guide

Sellsius

Transparent RE

– Outside of real estate, I regularly read

Seth Godin

Presentation Zen

TechCrunch

The Die Line (package design blog)

James Shore

On Product Management

Tyner Blain

– And I read center-right political blogs:

Instapundit

The Powerline

Redstate

Big Lizards

– Of course, for fun, you can’t beat Stuff White People Like, Cracked, and Iowahawk.

What advice do you have for prospective bloggers who are sitting on the fence.

I think the number one thing is to do it for your own pleasure, or don’t do it at all. Blogging for business, as a lead generation tool, is still somewhat unproven. If you can blog and see it as at least partly entertainment, then go for it. Even if you get nothing out of your blog, you’ll have had fun.

Having said that, if you want to blog for commercial reasons, understand exactly what you’re getting into and what you want to get out of it. I’m advocating blogging for business at OnBoard, knowing exactly what that requires, but also knowing what I want to get out of it. Educating the real estate industry about data, technology, geography, and how people can use these things to empower their businesses is ultimately good for OnBoard’s business. I think of it as participating in the markets-as-conversation in a positive, expertise-driven way. That only serves to enlarge the market for us. If we can do that, then I’d be satisfied even if we got not a single lead off the blog.

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.