There’s always something to howl about

Neighborhood-level real estate weblogging: Traffic is not about traffic, traffic is about conversions

I’m quoting from comments to BloodhoundBlog posts, so I’m not going to show the links.

Brian Brady to Teri Lussier: “Soon she’ll be winning carnivals.”

Not to put any pressure on the girl, but I think this is a fine idea. Won’t win us the contest, but it’s a testament of excellence that’s kind of difficult to dispute. I like stuff like that.

John L. Wake: “Have you ever noticed that a common strategy used by many successful Realtors is to become an area specialist?”

But exactly! I don’t know how large or small an area Teri wants to work (or you want to work, for that matter), but it pays to think small. For now, Cathy and I target a very small region of Downtown Phoenix, but the neighborhood names that pop out of that are legion: F.Q. Story, Willo, Encanto, Palmcroft, Del Norte, Alvarado, Campus Vista, Ashland Place, Fairview Place, Woodlea, Yaple Park. Believe it or not, that’s only about half.

But we can get even smaller. If you search for Culver Street, the first two hits should be us. There are other streets down there for which we will pull very strong results, and, in the long run, we will tend to be category-killers for the names of the streets we list on.

Isn’t that the opposite of what I said the other night? Yes and no. We are looking for Long Tail search results on very arcane search terms, but our objective is not to capture random leads but to attract, enchant, delight, enlist and convert people who have a very strong interest in those same arcane search terms. How do we know they have a very strong interest? Because they’re searching for terms no one with a casual interest would ever use.

“Phoenix real estate” or “Dayton real estate” are difficult keywords to dominate, but neither would be all that useful, anyway. The Greater Metropolitan Phoenix-area is bigger than Rhode Island, maybe bigger than Vermont. I have to drive to make money, but I don’t get paid by the mile.

There’s more: By focusing on small target markets, even if doing so requires multiple weblogs, you present your best possible profile to sellers looking for a lister. John is correct that a weblog is not enough to establish yourself as a “neighborhood specialist,” but it can be a fearsome arrow in your quiver. Even so, you’re still going to attract a lot of buyers, but they’ll be buyers who are strongly interested in the homes about which you are best informed — which should massively increase your chances of making the conversion.

Greg Swann: “Traffic is not about traffic. Traffic is about conversions.”

If you get 3,000 unique hits every day and convert one a month, you are an emaciated wretch with huge bragging rights. If you get three unique hits a day and convert one a week, you are constantly trying and failing to make time between appointments to get your Lexus detailed. Your goal is not traffic. Your goal is not even community, although this is a vitally-important secondary objective. Your goal is not forms filled out or leads captured or phone calls returned or listings emailed or showings scheduled. Your goal is conversions, as represented by a fat check from a title company. It does not matter how many shots you take at the basket. What matters is how many times — and how often and how regularly — you get the ball through the cylinder.

Todd Carpenter: “You could get an aspiring journalist for the local high school to contribute to your blog by covering these sports, or other events at the school. Make it an annual internship for Seniors. They get an experience they can document, you get free content.”

Utterly brilliant. We’ll come back to this in due course, because I know of a way to make it even better.

The bottom line, for now: A local real estate weblog should not be locale-specific but, rather, focused on geographic regions that mean something to particular people in your carefully-defined target market: Neighborhoods, school districts, shopping areas — right down to individual streets.

Homework Part I: Teri (and those of you playing along at home), begin to generate this kind of neighborhood-specific content: Posts about the neighborhood or key homes or schools and parks, etc. Take photographs, using a camera appropriate to real estate photography (there are four recommended at the bottom of the sidebar, but some others — not all — will do the job). Even if you don’t have a real estate weblog set up yet, it’s not too early to start cooking up timeless content. (As a disclosure, Teri got ahead of me on this, so she’s already doing it. I told you the girl is game.)

Homework Part II: Preview listings in your target market, taking pictures (with permission) and making notes. Get permission from the listing agents to promote their listings on your weblog. Then do it.

What!? Isn’t “no listings!” the first rule of real estate weblogging? I detest rules. I don’t think listings belong on a weblog like BloodhoundBlog — nationally-focused, industry-targeted — and I don’t like local real estate weblogs that consist of nothing but the weblogger’s own listings. But I think sites like Curbed or SocketSite demonstrate that there is a huge interest in what I think of as real estate porn. People want to see houses. Let them.

There’s more. Every time you write a weblog post about a preview of a listing, the heading of that post will be something like “New listing in F.Q. Story: Experience the historic elegance of 925 West Culver Street” or “934 West Coronado Street might be the smallest home in Encanto/Palmcroft, but it may also be the most elegant”. What have we done? We’ve used another agent’s listings to cement our relationship with our weblogging community, to burnish or reputation as a neighborhood expert and, at least marginally, to increase our Long Tail search keyword dominance.

I think Teri and I deserve to win this contest already. I am not terribly interested in local real estate weblogging, nor with generating business through weblogs. Even so, I think I have some great frolicking ideas, which Teri is rushing ahead to put in play. And we haven’t even gotten to the really good ideas yet…

Nota bene: If you’re playing along at home, you should have read all the entries in the Weblogging 101 category. Best to start with the oldest post, which means reading in reverse-reverse chronological order, which people enmired in the pre-weblogging epoch were compelled to think of as, simply, chronological order. A negative times a negative is a positive and Soylent Green is people. Get used to it.
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9 Comments so far

  1. Jeff Brown March 22nd, 2007 8:37 pm

    >What matters is how many times — and how often and how regularly — you get the ball through the cylinder.

    I don’t feel so alone now. 🙂

  2. Edward Vielmetti March 22nd, 2007 9:12 pm

    Traffic should be about conversions and conversations – if you are doing your work right you should be a source of a wide range of information about the area you cover.

    (google for “48104” for me)

  3. Teri Lussier March 23rd, 2007 5:19 am

    >Soon she’ll be winning carnivals…
    > I think this is a fine idea.

    Carnivals!? I thought I was already on the Tilt-a-Whirl. But hey, if there’s cotton candy involved….

  4. […] Original post by Greg Swann […]

  5. […] Neighborhood Roundup: Breaking the Espresso Rut March 25, 2007 Creating the list of active neighborhood blogs was only the first step in my grand vision… (or is it Greg that has the grand neighborhood vision?) Nonetheless, I thought it would be fun to give a roundup of recent posts… […]

  6. Rebecca Kuno March 26th, 2007 9:21 pm

    I think these are some really terrific ideas! I really like the one about previewing other homes in a specific neighborhood and then promoting it with the listing agent’s permission. I am already previewing homes as they come on the market in my area, so this would be just a quick addition to what I am already doing. One spin that was mentioned was the idea of getting a specific url for each listing. Easy enough. My question is, what do you do once the listing has sold. Presumably over time, this could get to be an expensive proposition. Thoughts?

  7. Greg Swann March 26th, 2007 10:17 pm

    > One spin that was mentioned was the idea of getting a specific url for each listing. Easy enough. My question is, what do you do once the listing has sold. Presumably over time, this could get to be an expensive proposition.

    That idea is just for your own listings, of course, not for the houses you are previewing. We keep the domains alive forever, anticpating that we’ll list the home every time it sells. I just moved our hosting account to a semi-deidcated server, so hosting new domains will cost us nothing extra. The domain name itself discounts down to about $6/year. The homes we’re talking about start at around $400,000 and go way up from there, so we tend not to sweat the expenses.

  8. […] Your goal is not weblog traffic. Your goal is converted sales. This is not news. This is me, from last March: “Traffic is not about traffic. Traffic is about conversions.” […]

  9. […] events, community involvement — but I want to see a lot of houses. Your own listings, your competitors’ listings — even homes that you just happen to like and want to draw attention to. Everything is done […]