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There’s always something to howl about

Building Content for Others …when is it right?

First off, I’d like to thank Eric Bramlett for a great post explaining the BASICS of links and linking to other sites. What he was doing was setting a good foundational understanding based on known facts and avoid much of the speculation that exists out there in the world today about Search Engine Optimization. What he did not go into of that basic foundation, I’d now like to explore a bit further.

Here are some facts that we know about Building Content on other peoples’ sites:

Fact 1: Adding content on another person’s site builds opportunities for them to build internal links. Internal links (read: pages) have value

Item #1 that he did not go into was internal links vs external links. Internal links are the links to and from pages within your site. Let’s (for now) avoid the temptation to go into page rank sculpting, internal link sculpting, or the details of internal page structure. Please note that I have linked to a couple of resources there on the subject for your further reading if desired. Do we KNOW exactly how Google values internal vs external links. NO. Is there much speculation and testing on the concept. YES. True search engine professionals TEST these concepts as they change over time and they RARELY comment on them publicly. They often compare notes with other search engine professionals who are testing similar concepts. What we do know is that experienced webmasters can made GOOD use of hundreds or thousands of indexed pages to internally link and support pages that they want to rank for a given term. They would not be SCULPTING it if it did not have VALUE.

Fact 2: Adding Content on another person’s site provides opportunities for more people to EXTERNALLY link to their site.

Whether I write here on the Bloodhound Blog, on Real Estate Webmasters, or as a columnist on RE/MAX Times Online, people who read that can link to it externally. This is also true of comments on blogs and forums, LISTINGS and really, on ANY online community that you choose to participate and spend time in. This not only DIRECTLY helps the site I write on, but also INDIRECTLY helps them by inciting more people to link to them. Several times (Think Todd Kaufman or E-Perks), the blogging community has linked to a specific post to promote a cause and give it voice. This is how BUZZ is developed online. It is the basis for how marketing works on the web. All business on the web is REFERRAL based in one way or the other (which is part of the genius of the original two Google guys’ approach).

In this sense UGC (user generated content) is NOT about keywords. It is about thoughts and ideas and stimulating conversations. In my opinion, this has MUCH more value for the site that it is written on than most people realize.

Fact 3: User Generated Content is FAR less costly to generate than website owner generated content.

For a national site to generate enough content, interest, buzz and links in the real estate world, they NEED a STRONG community of REALTORS. It is cost prohibitive for them to hire enough staff or contract labor to accomplish this. Why do that when REALTORS will do it for FREE?

As Greg as said previously (cannot find it–sorry Greg), “Vanity, thy name is author”. He was/is right.

The bottomline:

We DO know that user generated content is an asset and (especially in the hands of someone skilled at wringing the most search engine advantage out of it), 1000 pages of it can go a LONG ways.

An equalizing fact:

Fact 4: Adding our content to other people’s sites can build our own online authority, helping the author as much as the site it is on.

From a purely SEO point of view:

Yes, it is true that if someone TOTALLY made their decisions about where they write based on getting the MOST SEO benefit, they could derive benefit in the search engines purely from WHERE they choose to write their content. Is that the CORRECT way to evaluate it? NEVER, IMO. We have a NAME for people who SOLELY evaluate things that way. SPAMMERS. Why do they do it? Because it works, or did at one time.

From a holistic point of view :

I am a columnist for RE/MAX Times Online– an online magazine that is on the Password protected REMAX.net site that provides NO search engine benefit to ANYONE. Why do I write there occaissionally? Because it builds my online authority. It adds to my street cred and it furthers my personal mission of helping REALTORS. It is THIS kind of authority building that helps build relationships around the real estate world.

I also (from comments, posts and relationships online) DO derive search engine benefit FROM writing around the web. Examples of this for me would be authoring here and at Real Estate Webmasters. This is a nice benefit. It should be considered IMO, when spending copious amounts of time authoring QUALITY material.

For most types of content, it is better to spend time on your own site than authoring on the site of another. Having said that, becoming a member of an online COMMUNITY such as here at BHB can be a very good thing! Learning is one of those overlooked benefits that comes from an online community.

Trading hundreds of hours of online time in exchange for a simple link from a profile page (although Greg pointed out CORRECTLY that if you participate, at least get the credit for it.), well ummm…SUCKS unless you AGREE wholeheartedly with the mission of the place you are adding value to and are WILLING to support their cause. Doing that for a competitor who is trying to outrank you in the search engines and who says **cough** “no agents required” **cough**…Truly (a) seems counter-productive to me.

I realize that rather than delving into the vagaries of Search Engine Optimization, my post may seem very basic. The reason? IMO Basic principles work. From these basic truths come basic principles that form good decision making (again, in my opinion).

If we KNOW that adding content to someone else’s site adds value to them (even looking at it PURELY from an SEO point of view–which I don’t recommend) , we SHOULD be able to develop our own algorithm for when it is good to add content to others’ sites, to wit:

My bottom line ALGORITHM for authoring on others’ websites:

F(good authoring relationship) = C(0) + 1Ag + 2R + 3S + 4ABO

Where C = competition Note: I try to write on a competitor’s website as little as absolutely possible and ONLY when it benefits ME. That INCLUDES adding content in the form of listings. That is the MOST valuable and hardest to replicate form of content in the real estate industry today. That is an almost AUTOMATIC deal killer in my algorithm.

Ag= Agreement with their mission

R= Solid relationship with the owner of the site

S= Search Engine Benefit

ABO= Authority Building Opportunity DIRECTLY with potential clients

So what’s YOUR algorithm and how do you decide how to prioritize YOUR social media and content generating time spend? If time is money (and it is…) are you budgeting and spending according to plan?

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  • 6 comments

    6 Comments so far

    1. Bob Wilson May 27th, 2008 8:00 am

      That is the MOST valuable and hardest to replicate form of content in the real estate industry today.

      This content is available on virtually every agent website and most major newspapers. If you truly believe this, then ask your broker to opt out of IDX.

    2. Joseph Bridges May 27th, 2008 9:08 am

      Eric,

      I think it is important that all real estate professionals consider authoring on other sites as you have mentioned. Posting quality comments, writing other posts, and contributing as a member on other agents blogs outside of your area can not only increase your SEO potential and value but that agent or team will be more likely to refer business to you when they have relocation business. I always say it is worth the time to find blogs in cities that send relocation business to your city and post as you will build a relationship with that agent and SEO benefit for your website.

    3. Barry Cunningham May 27th, 2008 11:24 am

      Presently I am topped off with contributions on various sites. I had to cut back on writing to concentrate on more activites that generate revenue. One of the ways was to increase and develop our subscription base to Real Estate Radio. We also are working DILIGENTLY on our real estate website to drive buyers to it.

      As for content we are finding that there has to be some differentiation. It seems that many industry blogs aren’t really talking about the industry anymore.

      I think that blogmania has taken over and what we are seeing are agents pulling back seeking information that will actually help them sell houses.

      It seems the Re.net has evolved into a cornucopia about everything EXCEPT making money in real estate.

      If we as a group do not get back to delivering news, strategies and tips to help Realtors actually make money then I fear we’ll all be just writing and talking to each other.

    4. Eric Blackwell May 27th, 2008 3:22 pm

      @Bob– You are correct that I should have written that more clearly. I was referring to the fact that for a national, third party, non REALTOR, company this is the hardest data for them to obtain. Yet people persist in populating their listings and blogging on their sites when it is contrary to their own long term interest in my opinion. Hope that clarifies it a bit more. ;-)

      @Joseph– Thanks for your response! I agree for the most part. I think all marketing activities need to be measured for their cost, both in time and money. That is the only way to get a solid ROI calculation is to know what was / is spent. If to get one referral you connect with some other REALTORS from around the country on their blogs and you can do it QUICKLY and efficiently then I totally agree. (and I think that’s where you were going with it, right?) If that takes several hours out of your day on (insert AR, T! or Z! or other) for weeks on end, then I am not so sure that the time could not have been better spent. Especially true in my opinion if those folks are direct competitors for eyeballs (deal killer for me personally) and your content is helping them rank ahead of you in the search engines.

    5. Bob Wilson May 27th, 2008 6:54 pm

      Eric, I guess I just don’t understand why you are beating a dead horse. As soon as the RETS stuff gets figured out, all these sites are going to have most of the listings. it is what the consumer wants – all the listings all the time.

      The post still looks to me as another swipe at trulia disguised as SEO advice.

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