MasterMind Call Notes
“Tools for Success in ‘07”: Hot Tips to a Powerful Online Presence
November 8, 2006
Scott Smith: Good morning and welcome to our International Mastermind call presented by HouseValues. I am your host today — Scott Smith. I am the Vice President of the HouseValues Customer Success Team. Let’s take a moment to make a couple of announcements as we get started.
Today's Mastermind speaker has over 10 years of marketing, public relations, and business development experience. He has a wealth of knowledge in current marketing trends, high-tech tips and simple ways to reach more people in less time. Go where the people are and that’s online, he will tell you. This is a great tip from our speaker and it lays the foundation for his marketing strategies that will place you ahead of your competition.
He is an avid blogger, podcaster and YouTube user — and he finds them all as great resources to create a frenzy of positive and fresh marketing ideas around business. Our speaker today comes from the HouseValues marketing team. He is going to share with us easy and effective online marketing tips that you as a real estate agent can implement immediately to market yourself, increase your market presence and tap into some virtually unused resources proving that you are current with all real estate market trends.
Please join me in welcoming HouseValues’ Senior Director of Marketing, Matt Heinz. Matt, welcome to the call today.
Matt Heinz: Good morning, Scott. How are you?
Scott Smith: Wonderful, great introduction to you. I’d like to dive into this. We talked about the statement you said, which is go where the people are and where they’re online. This may sound like a very basic question, but what do you mean by online?
Matt Heinz: Well it’s interesting. I think maybe five years ago when we started, the meaning of being online was basically just a Web site, and that was largely true. I think if you look around today, being online is no longer just about a Web site and it’s no longer just about going and reading a Web site. There are a number of interactive tools on the Web and based on the Web that consumers are getting access to — but the interactive world also includes things like cell phones, PDAs and any number of interactive two-way devices and communication vehicles that consumers can access and request information. The online world has gotten a lot more complex, but I think, for real estate agents it’s actually created a vast new set of opportunities to get in front of consumers and capture their attention and also earn their business by leveraging some of those great tools out there.
Scott Smith: That's great. What are some of the things you can do beyond having a Web site?
Matt Heinz: Well, I think I’ll talk a little bit about Web sites in general first. When we first started doing Web sites, in the real estate industry it was good enough to just have a Web site, right? Having only something that identified who you were and that gave a little information about you is a thing of the past. Consumers are expecting far more now than a brochure or business card online; they are expecting the real estate professionals or anyone they access online to give them access to information they might not find elsewhere.
Having the right kind of information on your Web site is important, but in today’s world you need more than a Web site. We’ll spend some time talking about a number of other tools that are available to agents at this point. Some of you may have heard terms like blogging, podcasting. You know video on the internet has become a huge, a huge opportunity and something that so many consumers are paying attention to. You may have heard the term YouTube, which is one of the more popular online services for not only publishing but also accessing online video. It’s amazing to me to see not only the volume of people that are paying attention to these different mediums, but also just how easy it is to get up and rolling on some of these tools as well. I will be honest; about a year ago I did not understand blogging. I did not get it. I did not know that it was going to be as big as it is today. I was a skeptic for a long time about podcasting and online video as well, but the sheer volume of consumers paying attention to these mediums, combined with just how easy these different sites have made it to access these mediums have made me a convert. I’ve seen a number of real estate agents start to take advantage of them as well, and I look forward to sharing some of those ideas here on the call today.
Scott Smith: That's perfect. Why don’t we dive right into blogging, if you can give a little background about what blogging is, what is a blog? What does it means to blog? And probably most importantly, how can real estate agents take advantage of them?
Matt Heinz: A blog is just a Web site; it’s a Web site that has information on it that is relevant to particular group of users. The advantage of a blog is that blogs typically come with a site that lets you add content on a regular basis, frequently if you want and is also very, very easy to use. It’s no different — so blogging on your Web site is really no different than going in, writing, and sending an e-mail in Hotmail or Yahoo or even, your corporate email server today. What's great about blogs is that they are updated so frequently and because they tend to be very relevant to a particular type of topic and also because they usually are in smaller nuggets of information. Traditional journalism, traditional reporting, traditional articles on the Web so to speak have been long and researched and there is a lot of work that go into them. The benefit of blogging is it tends to be quick and informal. It tends to more be of a conversational thought than a well thought-out and well researched article.
There is an advantage for the reader, and there is obviously an advantage for the writer, as well. If you have an idea or a nugget of information and maybe it’s only a paragraph worth of information, that's a valuable blog. It's something that you made. Your readers, home buyers and sellers, prospective home buyers or sellers might be interested in that. Putting information up on your blog is just as easy as going onto a blogging service, typing an email, and posting it as your blog. It’s very, very easy to do and the more content that you’re able to get on a Web site associated with you, the more other people are going to be able to find that content, search for it on their search engines, and ultimately seek you out and ask you for their business.
Scott Smith: You talked about it being pretty straightforward and easy to do. How would I set up a blog?
Matt Heinz: There are a number of services where you can set up a blog for free. I’ve been blogging for about a year now, and I haven’t paid a dime to anyone to publish it or to have people read it. The best service I would recommend is blogger.com. We will also post on the Mastermind Forum later today some of the different resources we are talking about on the call today. At www.Blogger.com you can literally set up your own blog. It takes about 5 minutes to tell blogger.com what you want the name of your blog to be and chose a template for your blog. They also have an easy tutorial that you can take to learn how to set up your blog and get best tips. It will walk you through exactly how to start blogging; how to post an entry; and some recommendations on how frequently you might want to post. Really, it’s all up to you — how you would like it set up. It's very, very simple if you go to blogger.com and give it a shot.
I think one of the benefits of some of these tools is that there really isn't a right or a wrong way to do it. There are certainly best practices that we could go on for hours and hours about and there are certainly things that some bloggers do better than others. It’s such a new medium, I think that for the most part we’re all still discovering what works and what doesn’t work. I would encourage you to experiment, set some thing up, give it is a shot, play around with it for a little bit, start adding some content, and see if it's right for you.
What I found with blogging is that for some folks it's natural. For me — I have ideas all the time and things that I don't necessarily want to bug colleagues with. Sometimes it’s just fun to just throw it up on to a blog if for no other reason then I just want to get it out of my head. An example for a Realtor would be if the local MLS publishes data on home sales, and maybe you have a quick perspective on that you would like to share. Now, you don't necessarily need to write a full article about what you think, but if you’ve got a quick perspective on what that news means for your neighborhood and prospects that would be meaningful. Other topics that you might comment on would be if you see interest rates changing, or if you see an interesting trend in what kind of houses people are looking for. There are so many different types of content that you can put up on your blog. Blogs are so easy to publish and so accessible to other people, they can offer the kind of insight, expertise and understanding that prospects are looking for. Consumers are going to have an idea or understanding about you as a Realtor before they even meet you, before they get to know you and spend a lot of time with you; they can start to understand that you are someone who’s credible and is formative enough to represent them when they want to buy or sell a home.
Scott Smith: How would people find my blog if I created one?
Matt Heinz: There are a number of different ways. I’ve been surprised that just how often without doing any marketing on some blogs get a lot of traffic just by having relevant information. Most of the blog traffic that I’ve seen people get comes from consumers going to search engines like Google, Yahoo, or what not to search for topics that are written about in your blog. Your blog will show up in the search results if consumers are searching for things you’ve written about. That creates another, interesting way for you to think about how to write content and how to time some of your content, perhaps coinciding with the news.
If home sales are in the news, writing something on your blog about home sales is going to increase the number of people that find you via search results when they’re researching and looking up news about recent home sales. I think there are a number of other ways that you can market your Web site. We will talk about it later in the call, and we’ll talk about general Web site marketing, but I found that just by having good content on your blog and writing about things that people are interested in; they will find your blog. It’s so fast and easy and free to publish, blogging is a great way to get started, right? The best way to get started is by writing things, get something going, put some good content up there and let some of the traffic literally just start finding you.
Scott Smith: Perfect. So dos and don’ts, if I were getting into a blog as a real estate agent, and being a very busy person, you’ve mentioned this not too time-consuming. What are some good recommendations on things I should focus on and things I should maybe avoid in my blog?
Matt Heinz: I would say first of all, do try to post at least a couple times a week. If you have a blog, especially one that you start marketing more aggressively to your customers or that starts getting a lot of traffic, you don’t want to let it go a couple weeks without having a post. Does it mean you have to post multiple times every day? Some bloggers will tell you to do that. I don’t think that’s realistic for 98% of us. If you get a couple things posted a week, I think that’s fine. One of the don’ts related to that is, don’t over-think what you write about — especially if you write something short. Short blogs, short pieces of information are far more interesting for people to access, they’re far easier for people to read it and feel like they can come back to and read your information on a regular basis.
There is a really fantastic blog that I would love to read everyday. It’s actually management by baseball. It has basically taken management best practices, relating them to the baseball world. Well, every blog post is just pages and pages, it just goes on forever and it’s almost inaccessible. The best blogs out there have very short snippets of information to make them very accessible.
After the call today I will post on the Mastermind Forum what I call my blogrolls. It’s just geek term for saying, “a list of the blogs that I subscribe to and read on a regular basis.” About half of them are general marketing blogs, and the other half of them are real estate-related blogs. I’d encourage you to go take a look at that list. I think it will give you an idea of what other bloggers are doing on their blogs and how they set them up. It might give you some ideas of the kind of style you might want to take in a blog of your own. It will also give you a sense for how short and formal blog posts are and see how some of these bloggers like to cultivate an idea using their blog. They had an idea, sat down and 5 minutes later they were done. They blog because their idea can distribute quickly and easily.
Scott Smith: Great! I look forward to getting that list when you post it later today. Let’s move on to another topic. You mentioned ‘podcast.’ Can you give us a little bit of background? It sounds like a very technical term. What is it?
Matt Heinz: It’s really funny how this industry has developed. Podcasting is basically blogging with your mouth. It’s the same type of concept, the same type of content, but instead of writing it down it’s delivered in audio. As you know, this is another thing that sounds like it might be really complicated but it’s actually really quite simple. There is a company called Hipcast.com. It is a podcast creation and publishing service. I believe they charge you 8 bucks a month to set up and to publish your podcast. They make publishing so simple that you can literally pick up the phone, dial in your account number, and record your podcast right over the phone. Once you are done, it’s published.
It’s so interesting. It’s a different medium for the same type of content. I’ve been just really impressed with the volume of people that are paying attention to some of these podcasts. I think the success in part is because of the power of Apple computer and iTunes. iTunes a few months ago started publishing a podcast directory. One of the advantages of using a company like Hipcast to publish your podcasts is that they actually will syndicate your podcast to iTunes. Just a quick case in point: HouseValues started a podcast a few months ago called the “Daily Motivator.” You can actually check it out at AgentInspiration.com and I will put that up on the Forum as well so you can check it out.
Everyday we just record a quick 3- or 4-minute inspirational message for real estate agents. Sometimes it’s about marketing best practices or a great motivational story. We’ve published it through Hipcast, which puts it up on iTunes. We are averaging around 800 listeners a day, without really having done a lot of marketing, having only published it through Hipcast.com. Again, there are a lot of people out there that are starting to pay attention to and listen to these various mediums and the best part is that the publishing opportunity is very simple and either really inexpensive or free.
Scott Smith: You used an interesting phrase to describe podcasts saying, “It’s like blogging with your mouth or an audio blog,” Are there similar things that I should do? Such as have the same content on both, or should I have a variation of content?
Matt Heinz: I think there will not be an overlap between the people that are looking at a blog and those that are listening to a podcast. I think the opportunity with a podcast is that you have an opportunity to display your personality a little more on a podcast, right? You might have some of the same content, advice, and insight — but for people to be able to hear your voice, your inflection, and that you are a fun and accessible person, might make them realize that you are someone they could get along with and do business with. That goes a really long way. I think that podcasting — especially now that some of these services have made it so easy — is a great way for you to get a little of your personality out to folks before they get a chance to meet you or perhaps even before they speak to you on the phone.
Scott Smith: Perfect. You talked a little bit about promoting a Web site and things you can do to actually market your Web site. What are some easy and inexpensive ways to promote my Web site?
Matt Heinz: Well certainly, I would certainly start with things like blogging. What you can do with a blog eventually is start to link it back to sites that you have listings on, your Web capture tools, and other information. Most blog services, including Blogger.com, give you an opportunity to add Web capture tools right into your blog — which is very exciting! For many of you who either aren’t quite ready to set up a blog, but do have an existing Web sites, most of your marketing channels already exist for your Web site. If you think about all the marketing you already do — you’ve got business cards, you have an Email signature, you have ‘For Sale’ flyers, you have lawn signs, you have a number of different places where you are already marketing yourself. They may or may not have your Web address on it. Make sure that they do, along with a value proposition to entice the consumers to visit your site. For instance, offer a free home evaluation or listings.
Make sure that first and foremost, you are talking advantage of all your existing channels to promote your Web site and think hard about all the other places that you are throughout the week. Ask yourself what you’re doing to promote your Web site. If you are working at the desk of your brokerage, when people walk in — what are you doing? Is there some kind of flyer you can hand out to the folks as they walk in to promote your Web site, to promote the fact that you have listings on your Web site, or the fact that you have access to past homes — and that you have a ton of great information for people to access for free on your Web site? Definitely spend some time on this and think through your day and all the places that you go and how you can use those different channels to market your Web site. I think that’s one of the most underutilized but one of the most important and high potential channels that exist for every real estate agent today, just making better use of all those preexisting marketing channels.
Scott Smith: Thank you for that Matt. Social networking — what does social networking mean?
Matt Heinz: Ah, these goofy terms. Social networking is really all about helping people interact online. You could argue that blogging and podcasting are sort of social networking tools, they are about the author (blogger/podcaster) pushing information out to others connecting with others. One difference between the two is that with blogging, you do have the opportunity for readers to comment back to you. You have a great opportunity to capture some of their interests and insights. In the comments section you’re going to actually go and interact with some of your customers as well. You can reply back to some of their comments in the “comments section.”
When I think of social networking, I think online; I think of things like the Mastermind Forum. I’ve been at HouseValues for a while now, and I sometimes take the Mastermind Forum for granted. As a marketer, I don’t have a resource like the Mastermind Forum in my industry or among peers even in other industries to go and chat like that.
I have a network of people that I will talk to off-line. I can Email folks, et cetera, but to have a forum or a group of people with similar interests and insights sharing ideas with each other in real-time in a really dynamic two-way communication is very rare. I think the Mastermind Forum is a great example of social networking, which is just the opportunity to just connect with each other.
One of the other tools that I think a lot of people certainly use these days, and another good example of social networking in the business world, is a tool called Linked In. Linked In is essentially an online networking service to help business folks access each others network. Basically how it works is, “I’m Matt, I’ve got the people I work with and my friends and so I add them online to my network.” All of those individuals have a network as well. If I am working for new person to hire or if I am looking for someone who many works at a particular company, I can use that online network to access people who may work for or know people that are in my network. It makes me far more efficient in reaching people. All for free, all very easy to setup.
Now I would think this would be a great opportunity for real estate agents as well. You know, definitely not, it’s a fairly narrow tool so it’s not necessarily — it’s definitely not going to replace a Market Leader in any kind of content your process management system you have. But if you are able to advertise yourself as a Realtor and they have a section there where you can go and you can promote, you can put a little resume in there and you can add, you know, the kind of things that you focus on. By setting up an online network on the site like Linked In and building a network of people you’ve worked with and other colleagues, you’re going to get business back from them. You’re going to get people that are asking you questions because they are on Linked In looking for a good Realtor, asking people in their network what kind of Realtor they have. I think it’s a great way to tap into things like the social networking phenomenon to accelerate the volume of referrals that you can get from your sphere of influence, which goes well beyond just your current and past customers.
Scott Smith: It’s a great strategy for doing what I call referral by association.
Matt Heinz: Absolutely.
Scott Smith: So, one other term I’ve heard a lot talked about is syndication — and I know we think about that in the journalistic world. How would that apply to real estate?
Matt Heinz: Well, I think, the syndication essentially means that you have a piece of content and market it through one channel, and eventually it’ll go through a number of different channels to be marketed. For instance, one way to use it is the opportunity to take a real estate listing and instead of having you advertise it on a number of different channels one by one, you basically publish it through one publishing channel and it goes everywhere for you.
I think a good example of this is on the podcast side and what Hipcast does for the podcasters: The fact that I can publish a podcast through their service and they syndicate it out. They syndicate it to iTunes which is a big deal, but they also syndicate it through to a number of other podcast directories that really help get it more traffic and get it more exposure. For customers of our Showcase subscribers on homepages, we actually do listing syndication today, the home listings that you have. When you have those home listings added as featured listings in your ‘Showcase’ package, we already syndicate that out for you onto a few different Web sites including Google and a site called Oodle — which is a highly popular online classified site. We’re definitely looking at ways we can accelerate the volume of people in that publishing network as well. The idea of syndication and the promise is that it allows you to take a piece of content or something that is of value to people, like a home listing or like your podcast, and publish that once and have the publisher help you get broader advertising through a number of different publishers all automatically.
Scott Smith: It’s a perfect way for real estate agents to really use it as a tool to get more listings by being able to let a seller know the number of places I can market the listing.
Malt Heinz: Absolutely.
Scott Smith: Syndication becomes a very powerful tool when used. Okay, one other thing that seems to be very newsworthy as a marketing tip today or marketing practice today is YouTube. Can you talk about what that is?
Matt Heinz: Sure. Most of the times that I hear YouTube in the news is it’s when there is a copy of a Saturday Night Live skit that is getting a lot of traffic or some goofy ad that some teenager in their bedroom recorded. I think YouTube has such a wide audience now and many people are searching for a variety of information. I’ve found it to be a fantastic tool just to publish video content on the Web and have it get to the massive audience. Over the last few months have started to record more HouseValues videos. When we go to seminars, we take along a video camera and try to get a couple of minutes to do a quick interview of one of our agents.
We’ve actually published a number of our videos on YouTube, did some customers interviews and seminar highlights. I’ve been shocked at the kind of traffic these things are getting. Literally hundreds and hundreds of people are coming and searching for some of these videos on their own and finding them. Good example of this is an agent in Chicago (we were there at a seminar in September). We did a quick interview with him. It turned out really well and we put it up on YouTube. He called in earlier this week and said, “Funny story. I haven’t talked to my nephew in years; we lost touch over time and I wasn’t really sure where he was. He called me the other day. He is in Europe and he saw my interview video on YouTube. It had my name, brokerage, and my location so he looked me up and reconnected with me. I was so happy to be able to reconnect with him!” All of this happened because his video was on YouTube. The reach of these videos is just incredible.
Now Scott, I’m going to guess that your next question is, “What are some of the ways that real estate agents can take advantage of YouTube for themselves”? Clearly if you want to go record your own videos, you can do that, and you can put them up on YouTube. This takes some time and effort; if it’s something you are passionate about, by all means, go for it. But if you don’t want to do that, here is a quick tip of something you can do. Take the HouseValues or the Just Listed or the HomePages TV commercial, if you are a subscriber to one of the three, take the one. If you are a subscriber to multiple then take all of them. You can pull them all down from HouseValues University, and post those commercials up on YouTube. When you post something on YouTube, you can write a description of what it is; you can put in tags which are basically search terms that when people search on YouTube with those search terms, your videos will show up because they are tagged that way.
In the comments section, give a description of your business and say “Hey — if you want to know how much your home is worth, give me a call or go to my Web site.” The TV commercial will give them a sense for what the value proposition is and will help you get searched and it’s a great way to use YouTube to drive more traffic and drive more requests back to you. The URL that you use when you post it on YouTube can either be your personal URL or even better yet, it’s whatever Web site you have your Web capture links on so that you can immediately capture all of those consumer requests into the Market Leader for yourself.
Scott Smith: You are one step ahead of me, asking and answering that question Matt. A lot of good stuff here; we went through a lot of various different ideas and talked about how can feel overwhelming as well, and how to avoid that. Given what you’ve gone through, what would you recommend as a good starting point today if I want to take advantage of some of this as an agent?
Matt Heinz: We’ve talked about a lot of different things. There are a lot of different opportunities here; I would recommend everyone take a note of everything that you think you may eventually want to do. Not all of this may be right for everyone, but hopefully there are a lot of ideas here that you think might be right for your business. That said, don’t feel like you have to go and do all of them right away. That’s a quick recipe for being intimidated and not doing anything. Make a note of all of them but pick only one thing you think you might be able to commit to, and at least try it in the next week. Don’t try to just do it this afternoon because it might be intimidating, but just pick something you want to do right away and just experiment with it, play with it. If you get something started, post it on the Mastermind Forum or ask your trusted colleagues and see what they think.
I think experimenting with some of this is the best way to give it a shot. Take a look at the blogs, the good real estate marketing blogs that we will post on the Mastermind Forum later today. I will post a link to our podcast so you can listen to some of those as well. I will also post a link to the different HouseValues videos on YouTube so you can see some of those videos up there. We have posted some of the commercials as well. This way you can get a sense for how we’ve done that. Also, ask questions, continue to ask questions. It’s the best way to learn. The Mastermind Forum is a great resource for that. I am on there on a pretty regular basis now so and when we post these different resource lists and such, if you have a questions feel free to ask me as well. I think the key is picking things that you think you want to try first, something that sounds like you might be more passionate about than others and just give it a shot. Experimenting with some of these things and figuring out how we can fit into your business is really the best way to go.
Scott Smith: Thank you for all this Matt. We really appreciate you taking the time to put all this stuff on the Mastermind Forum. It’s a great way for people to implement the things you’ve talked about, and also to use you as a resource to help guide them. I look forward to actually seeing some of the postings and people pointing us to their blogs and the different videos they post on YouTube, and the various different activities they do. Thank you for taking the time on this today, Matt.
Matt Heinz: Absolutely.
Question and Answer
Question: Great call today Matt and thank you. I went to U2.com and I only got information on the band, so you might want to spell that out for people, it took me a while to figure it out.
Matt Heinz: Sure. YouTube is simply Y-O-U-T-U-B-E.COM and go check it out. You’re going to see all kind the different content up there, it's the pretty wide channel, but if you search for things like real estate, or type HouseValues in the search box you’re going to see a variety of the videos that we’ve posted. I definitely encourage you check it out and see what's up there.
Question: Got it. My question is about the blogs, how important is the name of a blog? Should it reflect in your face your real estate stuff or should be more subtle than that and could I use a blog in a Q&A format just like people who write into newspapers asking questions, could that be the primary format for it?
Matt Heinz: Absolutely. I think that is a really good question. In terms of the name of the blog, you can certainly use your name. Part of your marketing strategy is to promote your name as the brand; I think you can certainly use your name. If you set up a blog on Blogger, your URL is going to be yourname.blogspot.com. That will be the URL they give you. Now it doesn't preclude you from going out and registering a separate URL that you just redirect and point there. For instance, my personal blog is Mattonmarketing.blogspot.com, but I went out and registered MattOnMarketing.com. When people ask you where is your blog, I just tell them, “MattOnMarketing.com” it’s much cleaner. I tried to make it something that it was a little more about the content and a little less about me. When I put up the list of the marketing and real estate blogs, you'll get a sense for how different people handle this. I think people tend to lean more towards with a content side then the personal side, but I would argue in the real estate world it probably makes more sense for you to think about the right role for your brand.
Another opportunity in terms of content is that there is a wealth of content in your Market Leader. Things like your drip campaigns, the past client campaigns, all the content that HouseValues publishes on your behalf that can be your content. We get requests everyday from subscribers asking, "This a great article, can I put it on my Web site"? I’ve even had subscribers call and say “This was a great drip campaign can I submit this to my local newspaper as a short article.” The answer is always yes. We write it for you, if you want to take some of that content and either post it on your blog, you can repurpose it or use it as inspiration for your own blog. It is definitely an opportunity for you.
Scott Smith: Thanks Matt. I hope that addresses your question. By the way, I’d recommend if you could get yourself on U2.com as well that would be a great resource for lot of traffic. So, YouTube.com. Let’s go to the next question.
Question: Yes. How do I harmonize the content of my Web site versus my blog? In other words, I don't want to duplicate the content of both.
Matt Heinz: Okay, that's a good question. I would definitely link from to the other, but I think in this case there can be different content and they can be going after and capturing different users. My sense is that on most good agent Web sites, the content itself isn't updated that frequently. It tends to be more of a resource that features things like home listings, research in your neighborhood. For those of you who have taken advantage of the personal Web site that every HouseValues customer gets as part of their subscription, it's dynamically updated content. You have home listings on the Web site, recently sold homes, you have neighborhood information up there; it's all just done for you.
My sense is that the blog is going to be something that is going to be easier for you to update on a regular basis. If you are traveling, blogs are something that you can update from any Web connection anywhere just like you would access Hotmail. It's going to be an easier opportunity for you to update things. I think that your blog should have the majority of content be different than on your Web site but also tie the two together, whether it's home listings or Web capture forms, the blogger tool allows you to add these links right into your blog. Very simple to do and there are step-by-step instructions on blogger.com to do it. I would recommend not worrying as much about the direct integration yet and just getting a blog up and rolling, integrating some of the content on your primary Web site into the blog and just you know see if you can drive more traffic to your brand from new sources by starting that blog.
Scott Smith: Thank you that was a great question. Going on to the next question.
Question: Are copyrights a problem with blogging?
Matt Heinz: That's a great question. I actually get this one a lot. There is a lot of great content out there that, oftentimes if I’m reading a magazine or if I’m reading something, somewhere else that someone else has published, I get inspired and I want to go off and talk about on a blog somewhere. As long as you site the source and in many cases link off to that article somewhere, you are free to do so. I can’t think of any content or any publisher that isn't allowing that today. As long as you give them credit for the origination of the idea or give them credit for where you read it, and in some cases allow a link to your customers to go off to the article that you read originally that gave you the idea, you are free to reference anything out there.
Now what you can’t do is, just take someone else’s article and put it on your blog and say it was your article. You cannot do that. If you want to take a paragraph or two from an article and repost that on your blog, you can do that as long as you make a very clear, “I read this in this publication written by this person and here is something they said” put the paragraph or two in your blog and then you can go on and sort of give your interpretation or your analysis of it. That is perfectly acceptable.
Scott Smith: Great comments Matt about giving credit and also linking to folks and for content that you get out of Market Leader, if you repurpose any of our e-mail forms or the drip campaigns or anything, you are free to use that, as long as you are a customer of ours you are free to use that on your blog as well. We will go ahead and take the next question.
Question: I wanted to know when you go into a blog or let’s say YouTube and it is going to be advertised in other places, can you get a list of those other places, so that you can present that to a seller when you go to a listing appointment?
Matt Heinz: Great idea. There are in Hipcast.com and on YouTube. I believe they do have a resource page where they say where they do publish it out. The blogs themselves don't publish a list. Once you have blog content, certain search engines will find you. There are some fairly simple traffic monitors you can add to your blog. It’s a little more of an advance thing you have to go into the template of the blog to add it in. It’s a free service that allows you to track not only how much traffic your blog is getting, but you can also look at the referring sources. You can see which Web sites are linking to your blog, including which search engines sent traffic to your blog and what the search term was.
What I will do is for things like, the blogger and YouTube and the podcast, I will do a little homework on my end and post on the Mastermind Forum. Some of the places that I know they syndicate out to so that once you start using those, you can immediately start using those distribution channels in you marketing to your customers.
Scott Smith: Thank you Matt. We’ll go onto the next question.
Question: I was wondering on the blogs, how area specific should you be? Should you identify where you are working in real estate or whatever topic you are going to cover or should you just be very general and let the rest of it happen naturally?
Matt Heinz: I think you could do both. I think you do want to let people know the areas in which you work, it certainly lends a lot of credibility to yourself if you are able to comment on those areas. There is no one but a real estate agent that is able to really understand the ‘ins and outs’ of a neighborhood. They understand the up-to-the-minute market conditions, the fluctuation in the market. As we know, real estate is a very local business and marketing conditions on one street may be very different than what it’s like a few blocks down the road.
That’s the kind of insight that real estate agents are uniquely positioned to provide. I think that kind of advice could be really, really valuable on your blog, because no one else is going to be able to have that. Now that said, I don’t think you have to keep your entire blog content specific to your geographic farm or the area that you want to work. If there is a general trend in real estate you want to discuss, if you want to give your comments on staging for example, perfectly acceptable. If you want to talk about some of the trends in what kind of homes people are looking for these days or the fact that, you know, “Hey it appears that families are looking for smaller homes” or you want to talk about just general trends in real estate or home buying or what have you, all that is acceptable. I think that, it is valuable obviously to also talk about things going on specifically in your area, not only because that will be relevant to people in your area that are reading your blog and are interested in becoming a customer, but also because that very specific information will help you pop higher on the search engines when people search to look for that type of information.
Scott Smith: Thank you, Matt. Great question, hope that helps you take advantage of becoming the local expert here in Washington.
Question: Do you recommend having another Web site in addition to the personal HouseValues Web site that we have to utilize all of this or is that adequate to use this?
Matt Hines: I think the personal Web site you have from HouseValues is a fantastic tool to use as your personal Web site. When we talk to consumers about what they are looking for online, they say they want information and home listings and want to be able to easily research neighborhoods. They are pretty impressed when they find that they can get that from a local Realtor’s Web site, which is the Web site that you can get through Market Leader. There is an ‘About You’ section on that Web site that allows you to describe yourself, the areas in which you work, and some of the specifics of why people should work with you. What we found is that the ‘About You’ section is pretty adequate in terms of what consumers are looking for, in choosing an agent, they are much more impressed by the type of information they are getting from the agent.
If you want to go and try to set up a blog you can definitely set that up separately and then link back to your Web site and link back to some of the Web capture tools on that Web site. I would definitely recommend — at least from the “get go” — go to blogger.com to get something started. Start it as a separate endeavor until you get to feel comfortable with it: How you use it, what the type of content that you want put on the blog, and how frequently you want to do it. Once you are committed to keeping it up and you are happy with the kind of results of how it looks, then you can start do some integration with the Web site you get from HouseValues.
Scott Smith: I think we have one more question in here. We’ll go ahead and take that.
Question: I have been blogging since February and we’ve consistently put two or three new entries on a week. I am not getting comments from people, and I don’t know if I’m not controversial enough or not interesting enough or what is happening; I am using Blogger.com and I just wanted to see if you had any ideas?
Matt Heinz: Are you able to actually track the traffic that you’re getting to the blogs?
Question: Yes. We are not getting that much; it’s probably about 50 to 60 visits a month.
Matt Heinz: What I found is that, in general people tend to not comment. Sometimes you get a particular topic and people will comment, but I found more and more that people will read something and then move on. Comments really start to build up when you get a lot more traffic. It’s a valuable way to interact with customers and get people that you know, you can talk to. I wouldn’t worry about lack of comments at this point, especially with that kind of traffic. You know, one thing we can do is follow-up on the Mastermind Forum or for those that are interested. Once you have a blog post, there are some places you can actually publish that blog post. One place that I’ll throw out now is a site called RealEstateVoices.com.
It’s a news and information directory site specific to the real estate industry. It’s only about a month old, but it basically is a free opportunity for you to take something you have blogged and post it as a news item for other people to read and vote on it. It’s a publishing tool, but it’s also some what of a democratic process and that once people read something, you’ve written, they can vote basically to say that they like it. The more people who like it, the higher placement you are going to get on the page and the more votes — the more opportunities you are going to get votes from other people.
For those of you that are familiar with sites like this, it’s similar to a site called dig.com which is a broader service that anyone can go and post on and the most popular story “Digs” — the stories are like posts that are put up there, those are the stories that get the higher placement on the site. Definitely check out realestatevoices.com. Once you’ve posted a blog it takes about two seconds, to post it up on realestatevoices.com as well. It increases the exposure of what you are doing right away.
Scott Smith: Thank you, Matt. Looks like a couple more questions came in while you are talking. Go ahead and take the next question.
Question: When I Google your name it takes me to your blog. How do I get Google to recognize my site and input search words, for people using Google to find me?
Matt Hines: Basically just start a blog. I basically did nothing with Google other than start building my blog on Blogger. It will take a little while once you have a blog up and rolling for Google to pick it up, they’ve got more technical words here. They have, what they call spiders that go out and search the web and look for relevant content and they do that on a pretty regular basis. It won’t happen immediately; it will take maybe a week or two. The advantage of using Blogger is that blogger.com was actually acquired by Google about a year, year-and-a-half ago. The reason I typically recommend to Realtors that they use Blogger is because there is such a tight link between Blogger and Google. By using the Blogger platform you tend to get better search results for your blog on Google then you otherwise would, because they probably want to promote their own service.
When people search your name on Google once you start using your Blogger Web site, you will start showing up more often. I think consumers tend to search more for generic topics and trends rather than Realtor name especially when they don’t know a Realtor or when they don’t have a relationship yet. Certainly, once you get a blog up and rolling, having that blog linked when you search your own name is a pretty valuable and free marketing opportunity.
Scott Smith: Thank you, Matt. Thank you everyone for participating in today’s call. I hope everyone found this useful and have everyone take an opportunity to try to engage with Matt on the Mastermind Forum as well.
Matt Heinz: Absolutely.