Back in the 1990s, real estate agents used their faces and their names for branding and for marketing. Having a first and last name as a domain name was as standard as the static template 1.0 website.
Apparently, agents and experts believed homebuyers and sellers would search the Internet by real estate agent name.
What was old is new again, as the .realtor domain names are now available through the National Association of Realtors for members. I tried to buy com.realtor, but of course that’s not allowed. NAR requires that you use your first, last or full name in your .realtor domain.
NAR will let me buy “teresaboardman.realtor” or “sellTeresa.realtor.” Unless I point my .realtor domain name to my own website, it will direct traffic to a realtor.com “profile website.”
I think I’ll just stick with my .com domains. I can have domain names like StPaulRealEstateBlog.com and StPaulCondolife.com and StPaulPhotos.com and several others that don’t include my name, or the words sell or sold. The domain names are more about real estate, not about me.
Maybe someday the whole .com thing will make it even easier to stand out and show up on the Internet. Some Realtors have a kind of herd mentality. As a group, we are not the most Internet-savvy people on the planet. Agents often want to hang out on the websites where the other real estate agents hang out because they believe that is where the business is and that bigger is somehow better.
There is plenty of business to go around, and there isn’t anything wrong with standing out or even with being exclusive. I’ll go on record as saying I don’t want to be just like my competitors. I want to stand out, and I can do that and still be found.
As people are focused on the media companies, I am shifting my focus to my clients, and my future clients, who don’t want to be a lead and who want to work with someone just like me.
These people will find me through others, or on the Internet as they search for information that goes beyond the generic 10 things they need to do now or the sevens ways they can do it better with the stock photography of a person screaming or pointing, or that one house that I see everywhere.
The combination of writing a real estate blog and interacting with people in the community through social media channels still works well as a way to attract business. My clients use several real estate websites, yet they still managed to find me on the Internet and ask me to help them buy a home.
I never wanted to be part of a big national company. I always wanted to be the local real estate agent helping others in the community.
This month I celebrate my ninth year of writing a real estate blog. I own the domain names and I own the hosting account. My business sites are backed up daily and can be moved with the greatest of ease if I need to. I make the rules on my own site and decide how to use it.
There isn’t a lot of competition in the local real estate content space and not nearly as much content as there is in the generic real estate space. It takes time and work to become established as a local expert, but it is worth the effort.
There’s no reason a small, medium or even a large real estate company can’t have a real estate blog and publish local content and get traffic and business without relying on third-party websites. I like to think of business blogging as a content strategy that can be used to penetrate niche markets and stand out in local markets.
Like everything else in business, being able to do the things that no one else will do can be a great strategy for winning business. Several years ago cold calling was and maybe still is a great way for a real estate agent to find business. Most agents would not pick up the phone and call, but those who did got business because of it.
As real estate agents get on board with the idea of paying for premium profiles on the big commercial websites, even sending traffic to them so they can capture “leads,” I’ll be beefing up my local content and my social media strategies.
I won’t be buying SellTeresa.realtor. Someone else can promote the idea of selling Teresa. I’ll be writing blog posts and taking pictures instead.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minnesota, and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.