Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent the past six years working for Zillow Group. He retired in August 2018 but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His weekly Inman column publishes every Wednesday.
Once upon a time — no, wait.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away — dang it.
Back in the dark ages — yeah, that’s the one.
Back in the dark ages of the internet, circa early 2005, when Facebook was just three months old and only available to students attending Harvard, Stanford, Columbia and Yale, I launched a blog called BuyGilbertHomes.com. Several months later, I thought it wise to change the name to reflect a wider area, and with a location that people would know. Because other than people living in Gilbert, Arizona, who even knew it existed?
A friend of mine happened to be holding a domain I really liked. I tried to buy it from him, but Steve being Steve, said, “Pfffft, you can have it.”
And The Phoenix Real Estate Guy (aka “TPREG”) was born.
If you had told me back then that someday that blog would win an Inman Innovator Award, help me open an indie brokerage, get a million visitors in a year and lead to speaking and employment opportunities, I would have called you crazy.
Yet here we are, almost 14 years after that blog was birthed. It’s since been sold, but not until after generating thousands of prospects and creating untold opportunities.
Although I have not published a post on TPREG in years, to this very day (it happened literally 20 minutes ago) people ask me questions about blogging. What does it take to be successful, what can I write about does blogging still work in today’s social media-filled internet?
“As someone who has been following you for about a decade I would love to hear your perspective on the changes in content if you blog as an agent you need to make to have an effective blog today. Also what’s your advice to an agent just starting a blog.”
Andrea’s suggestion, along with the parade of questions I still get regarding real estate blogging, sparked this column you are currently reading.
Content for today’s world
Before I get into what’s changed since I was actively writing on TPREG, let’s talk about what, importantly, has not changed.
To have a successful real estate blog — and the definition of “successful” in this case is referring to a blog that generates real estate buyer and seller prospects — you need to generate content, you need to generate a lot of it, and you need to do it consistently.
Yes, as with much in life — even in blogging — quality is more important than quantity. That said, in order to build an audience as well as get the attention of search engines, you still need to produce a lot of content.
It’s not easy.
There is no fast-track to blogging success. It is, to be frank, a grind.
If you can’t or won’t produce at least three pieces of new content a week, I wouldn’t bother even trying. You are better off putting your prospecting time, effort and dollars into something else.
Things have changed a bit, though, in the 15 years since I started real estate blogging. The biggest change by far is the advent and explosive growth of social media. The always-on 24-hour news cycle has also entered our lives. Between these two things, many content marketers (and really, that’s all blogging is — another content marketing platform) are now producing short, sound bite-like video segments.
“Vlogging” — that’s video blogging — is hardly new, but it’s hard to imagine a successful real estate blog in today’s world not incorporating some form of video.
Back in the day, I don’t think the word “infographic” even existed. Today, infographics (done well) are solid pieces of content and a way to potentially get a backlink (a link to your blog from another website). Google is constantly changing, but it will always like backlinks.
The old adage, “content is king,” still holds true. And a blog isn’t just written articles. In addition to what’s mentioned above, other content that can be hosted on a blog includes case studies, longform content, white papers, FAQs and e-books.
If you’re a blogger or thinking about becoming one, don’t dismiss these content flavors. Many can be directly tied to a call to action (CTA) that can facilitate a potential buyer or seller providing you their contact info.
My advice to new bloggers
It’s super-simple to get started in blogging. You can literally set up a functional blog within minutes at sites like WordPress, Wix, Medium, Blogger and more. “I don’t know how to start a blog,” is not a viable excuse.
Try it before you buy it
Sure, if you really catch the blogging bug, you’re likely going to want more out of your site than most of these free platforms can deliver. If you are just starting off, though, I would strongly encourage you to try it first.
I know a few agents who have paid a lot of money for a gorgeous, custom-designed blog only to have it go idle in six months because they grossly underestimated the time demands of content creation.
Stop worrying about how you look and sound, and get in front of the camera. People love to consume content by watching videos. Personally, I can write far faster than I can shoot and edit video. Others are the exact opposite. But even if video is slow, clumsy and scary for you, it needs to be incorporated into your blog at some level. Keep the videos short, generally speaking.
Find a niche
Probably the single biggest mistake I made as a real estate blogger was trying to cover a physical area that was too wide. I was actually on the right track with the original URL of my blog, BuyGilbertHomes.com. Flipping over to a coverage area the size of the Phoenix metro area was, in hindsight, a mistake. Blogs are perfectly situated for focusing on a niche.
I always thought, “Gilbert isn’t big enough. I need a big area because I’ve got to create all this content about it. If I go small, the ideas will run out.”
That was a mistake. There are plenty of content ideas out there for even the most focused niche. Don’t know what to write or talk about? Just Google something like, “100 real estate blog topics” and you’re off to the races. Or just go to Inman contributor Teresa Boardman’s column, 101 topic ideas for your real estate blogs. Yes, it’s almost five years old, but every one of those topics is still 100 percent legit today.
Just do it (or at least try it)
Often, I see and hear much angst and gnashing of the teeth over “the portals’” dominant positions in the search engines:
“Oh, I can’t compete with them.”
“There’s no way I can be found on Google.”
“No one will come to my website when they can go to Zillow, Trulia, realtor.com, Redfin (or insert any large site here).”
None of that is true. Those big sites can’t do things like interview the new business owner. Write a review of a new local restaurant, go over to the 14th fairway of the local golf course and take a few pictures for their “Golf course homes of MyTown, USA” article.
You certainly can compete in the search rankings — you just need to understand the time and effort it takes. For those who enjoy writing, making videos, creating content on a high-volume, consistent manner, real estate blogging has the potential for tremendous rewards (even beyond gathering prospects).
If you go into it thinking it’s easy or won’t take much time, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Look at a blog as a platform that showcases your local knowledge, displays your expertise and perhaps most importantly, shows your personality and humanness, and you might just find yourself a successful real estate blogger.
Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and retiree in Seattle, as well as the mastermind behind Now Pondering. Follow him on Facebook or Instagram. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty.