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Oh, for goodness’ sakes! Nothing sells houses like houses, so of course you should blog listings — your own and other Realtors’

'Homey' feel is a lure for attracting women home buyersVery early on in BloodhoundBlog’s history, I argued against blogging listings. The argument actually concerned styles of anti-blogging that were common then: Stealing and reposting newspaper articles verbatim, for example, or posting listing after listing with nothing to engage the reader in any way.

Later on, when I was working on the posts that became Real Estate Weblogging 101, I reversed that position in a big way:

So what are we looking for? Hmmm… There’s no place like it, and, when you go there, they have to take you in…

We’re looking for home, of course. If I could lay one blanket complaint against locally-oriented real estate weblogs — allowing for particular exceptions — it’s that they are way too much locale-oriented and way too little focused on — what? — on homes and families.

Russell Shaw is beyond brilliant, and BloodhoundBlog is very lucky to have him as a contributor. But if no one learns anything else from Russell, please read, learn, mark and inwardly digest this sliver of his genius: Buyers don’t want agents, they want a house.

The very first thing I want to see at your neighborhood/community/town-focused real estate weblog is a house. A nice, big, homey house, with a welcoming front door. I want to see a gleeful little girl on a swing-set and a Chocolate Labrador playing Frisbee with her brother. I want to see the Spring flowers and the Autumn foliage and the glowing of Christmas candles — all at the same time. I know you can’t do all that, but I want to feel that way anyway.

I want for you to have made me feel instantly at home.

At a minimum, that means adapting the stock weblog theme you’ve adopted. Okayfine. Get on it or hire it out. First impressions are lasting. If you don’t sell me on the idea that there is no place like your home on the web, I’m movin’ on. Buyers don’t want agents, they want a house.

In truth, I think your target market should be sellers, not buyers, but it’s going to be people with their buyer’s hat on — even if they need to sell their current home to buy the next one — who are going to come shopping at your weblog. All is not lost. Even when your buyers put their devastatingly logical seller’s hat back on, they want to know that you can market to buyers. Plus which, they want to believe that you have plenty of buyers to bring. Buyers should hate Dual Agency, even though for the most part they don’t. Sellers love Dual Agency — at least in the abstract.

In any case, what I want to see are houses, lots and lots of houses. When I’m writing at BloodhoundBlog, I tend never to use an image except when I have to for clarity’s sake. I abhor the notion that readers — that would be you — can’t read without interstitial graphic relief. But there is no better passive tool for selling a house than photography. Here’s my outline of the ideal locally-oriented weblog post:

  • Headline
  • Photo
  • Brief copy
  • The “more” tag
  • Many more photos
  • Much more copy
  • Links to relevant sites and documents

This is nothing like a BloodhoundBlog post. I don’t even know how to use the “more” tag. But what we’re doing, essentially, is building a single-page website for the home with the weblog entry as its teaser. Buyers want houses. Sellers want to see houses being marketed. Give the people what they want, for goodness’ sakes.

The headline is address-specific and locale-specific, along with giving the reader a promised benefit for reading the copy: “Are you longing for country living without the commute? Beavercreek’s 517 North Pastoral Lane is a mini-ranch in the midst of everything.” The copy should emphasize those long-tail keywords again, and the photos should be big and beautiful.

(How big? I really like 640 x 480 pixels, and this is a factor you should take into consideration when picking your weblog theme. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of small video monitors out there, so you probably need to limit yourself to a theme no wider than 800 pixels. Ergo, you may need to lay hands on photo editing software that will reduce whatever your camera produces to whatever your weblog can support. Do not scale images in HTML. You’ll waste your readers’ bandwidth and the results can be hideous, especially in Microsoft Internet Explorer.)

You can do other stuff — news, upcoming 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 with permission, of course, and I would make all comments moderated, so you can kill the graffiti before anyone sees it. But I don’t think there is any content that is as important, overall, to a locally-focused real estate weblog than the regular promotion of well-photographed houses.

Repeat that for emphasis: I don’t think there is any content that is as important, overall, to a locally-focused real estate weblog than the regular promotion of well-photographed houses.

That post is worth printing out and taping to your monitor, but here is my take on the matter today:

If you are able to produce one post a day of “text” content — buying or selling tips, local real estate news, sales stats, new ideas you are implementing, etc. — then you should also do one listing a day — your own or someone else’s. Too many houses will make you look lazy, no matter how much work it takes. But a “House of the Day” feature tells buyers that you know what they want, and it tells sellers that you understand buyers. If that’s too much work, or if you can’t produce enough text-oriented content, make it the “House of the Week.” But right here, right now, I will give you the mantra of truly effective real estate weblogging: Nothing sells houses like houses.

I talk about a weblog post structure in the matter quoted above, but engenu (when I get it done; I’ve been sick for weeks) makes the whole strategy even richer.

Like this:

One morning a week you can preview and photograph houses — with the permission of the listing agents, of course, and I would say with the further permission of the sellers for occupied homes. You’re going to be showing their stuff to random strangers; they have a right to decline that risk.

Which houses? The ones you want to sell, of course. Whatever is your niche — a geographic farm, modern or period homes, investment properties — these are the houses you want to show off.

For each house you preview, build an engenu page. That way you can show all the photos, captioned as needed, if someone wants to see everything. You can also link to appropriate offsite resources. This engenu page will be a permanent asset in your inventory of on-line content.

Then write your post as discussed above using two or three of the best photos. Link back to your engenu page for those people who want to see more. Don’t forget the call to action — and make sure you give buyers and sellers some easy way to contact you.

That’s that. If you overdo it, it won’t work. If you just phone it in — a bad picture with a list of features — it won’t work. But if you blog listings the way I’m talking about here, you’ll do yourself all kinds of good:

  • You’ll give buyers what they came to see — houses
  • You’ll show sellers you’re nobody’s fool
  • You’ll demonstrate your knowledge of, your love of, and your passion for the homes you represent
  • Over time, your long tail search results for the houses you document will soar
  • The engenu page will make you look wicked smart — and it will search well forever
  • Your weblog will always be visually interesting

The beautiful thing about doing houses in batches is that you can knock out a ton of future weblogging in just a little bit of time. As you go along, you will also be accumulating an historical database of photos of homes that you can use in future marketing efforts. Just by blogging about houses, you’re going to look very attractive to other sellers in your niche.

(As always, I’m better at talking about ideas like this than I am at following through on them. Learn from my bad example and do the opposite. But: If you go to our Phoenix real estate web site, the local weblog I am putatively responsible for, you will see three different houses every time you refresh the page. Cathy does a better job at showing off houses at our weblog devoted to historic Phoenix homes. But the fact is I am much better at having these ideas than I am at executing them. If you think that makes me wrong — your competitors will know better.)

Todd Carpenter has further thoughts on this subject. He’s doing great blogging listings — and he’s not even a Realtor!

Here’s the bottom line: “Don’t blog your listings” is poor advice. This is much better advice: Blog listings — your own and other peoples’ — with the same thoroughness and attention to detail that you would want to have done for you, if you were the consumer.

It’s actually funny that I have to go on about this at this length. We’re Realtors. We sell houses. Our job is to show off the inventory. Do that wisely and well and you will have created great weblog content that will bring you a ton of business.

 
Practical examples: Here are some examples of listings we have promoted in the past. Only one of these was our own listing.

All of those posts link back to web sites we built for the houses. If you want to engage — we want to engage you!

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17 comments

17 Comments so far

  1. Todd Carpenter March 4th, 2008 11:33 pm

    One thing I forgot to mention in that post was that I know people like looking at the pictures, just by reviewing my stats. The most telling statistic is that my bounce rate is absurdly low.

    Denver Modern is just now starting to gain traction. Sunday was it’s busiest day ever with 123 Readers (not counting RSS). Between them, they viewed 540 pages. On most days, the ratio is about the same. That means the people who land on my blog, stick around for a while.

    The posts most visited are the listings. Even long expired ones with similar tags.

  2. Greg Swann March 4th, 2008 11:40 pm

    I do not doubt it for a minute. A well-documented real estate listing speaks right to the mammal brain: We like stories and we like pictures. We like to think about things we might have, even when we know they’re no longer available. As you build content on that site, your attractiveness to your readers will grow geometrically. And on top of all that, you’re building a fabulous historical record of the most interesting homes in Denver. Good lord, Todd — you’re one with the angels! 😉

  3. Greg Cremia March 5th, 2008 6:39 am

    In the pursuit of links, a lot of agents have forgotten what a blog, or any type of marketing, is really about. If we want to engage consumers then we need to appeal to consumers. I have yet to meet a client who wanted to talk about anything but real estate.

    My blog is as boring as dirt to anybody not interested in relocating to my geographic area. But it is #5 for getting new visitors. I am now comfortable not getting remarks. Visitors is what I am after.

    As for adding my listings. I found that with my limited listings on my site my leads were directly limited to the type of listings I had at the time. I took my listings off my site and the variation in the type of leads went up along with the number of leads. Translation, with low priced listings you get low priced leads. Not complaining, but I like variety. Niches are too confining.

    Now I make sure there is a link to the IDX wherever potential client eyes may wander. My listing are in the IDX along with whatever my be of interest to potential clients.

  4. […] Oh, for goodness sakes! Of course you should blog listings | BloodhoundBlog: Real estate marketing a… […]

  5. Greg Swann March 5th, 2008 10:37 am

    > Translation, with low priced listings you get low priced leads.

    Check. The idea is to blog the listings you want to sell — which may no be your own. This can also be an argument for multiple weblogs. Despite all the white noise you hear about SEO, residential real estate weblogging is about target marketing. Talking to everyone is a waste of your time. You want to focus on those people you hope to do business with.

  6. […] great ideas: Brian, Greg, James, Teresa, Todd- within a week? Are you kidding me? Who am I missing? Who else has offered up […]

  7. Ken Smith March 5th, 2008 12:48 pm

    Greg it might be worth pointing out that you need permission to advertise another brokers listings. In IL advertising another brokers listing without written permission can get you fined at the very least in IL. This might be different in other states, but IL is very clear that you may not advertise other brokers listings.

  8. Greg Swann March 5th, 2008 4:48 pm

    Indeed. I mentioned getting permission twice in the post, but it cannot be emphasized enough. Promoting another Realtor’s listing without permission is a violation of the NAR Code of Ethics and may also be a violation of state law. I think it’s also wise to get the permission of the seller if the home is occupied or furnished.

  9. Ken Smith March 5th, 2008 9:06 pm

    Sorry as you know people scan when they read blog posts, I actually scanned it twice but didn’t see the ask permission part.

  10. Russell Shaw March 6th, 2008 10:08 pm

    Pictures of houses are not a thing that home buyers people in general like to see. Pictures of houses are THE THING people like to see. I now have THOUSANDS of people (almost 5,000 actually) who have subscribed to a feature on my buyer website to see photos of my latest listings. http://www.russellshawrealtor.com/home-buyer_listings-phoenix-scottsdale-mesa-arizona-homes.asp I have had them write to me and tell me it is going to be another year or so until they can move here. They were writing to tell me how much they appreciate getting those pictures of the houses 2 – 3 times a week. None of those houses are houses they will buy. They like looking at the still pictures and virtual tours. Providing that to people via a website or a blog is a service.

  11. Jennifer March 16th, 2008 1:08 pm

    Dear Greg and Cathy:

    I am sure you are both very busy, but if you can spare a moment your experise would be greatly appreciated. My questions to you arise from this quote of yours, “For each house you preview, build an engenu page. That way you can show all the photos, captioned as needed, if someone wants to see everything. You can also link to appropriate offsite resources. This engenu page will be a permanent asset in your inventory of on-line content.”

    Being a total n00b in this business I am very excited about what you have written in this particular post. My question to you is how do I build an engenu page? I have a blog at wordpress so can this even be done with my existing blog? Do I need any particular software? Thank you both for your time.

    Sincerely,
    Jennifer

  12. […] This is my response to a comment that Jennifer Castillo left on my post about the benefits of blogging about real estate listings you would like to sell. […]

  13. Greg Swann March 17th, 2008 7:22 am

    Jennifer: I’ve responded to your question at some length in this post about engenu.

  14. […] — so many not even I can remember them all. But there are two precepts that came out of this extended discussion of whether or not to blog listings that I think are worth […]

  15. […] the listing and linking back to the single-property web site. This has all kinds of benefits, as we’ve discussed, but here’s one we haven’t talked about: Linking to your single-property web site from […]

  16. […] the listing and linking back to the single-property web site. This has all kinds of benefits, as we’ve discussed, but here’s one we haven’t talked about: Linking to your single-property web site from […]

  17. […] the listing and linking back to the single-property web site. This has all kinds of benefits, as we’ve discussed, but here’s one we haven’t talked about: Linking to your single-property web site from […]