I accidentally used a keyword yesterday. I’m pretty sure I didn’t accidentally use a meta tag, because I don’t know what that is. But if I did, I’m sorry. I promise to clean it up. If I am not careful, I might find myself Googleable, and everyone will want to list their home with me! Or so, I’m told, they should.
My local paper runs a weekly column on real estate written by a local broker. It is a different broker each week and is usually the office manager, president or owner of one of the big boys. This week the article was devoted to blogging and the author chose to go with the Indiana Jones theme. Now, I totally get the nexus between the tale of a death-defying adventure hero and the real estate blogger — that’s just too obvious. What I am having trouble with is the message. The "ark," it seems, is a page-one search result from Google. Moreover, this page-one ranking is "the greatest treasure an agent can give their clients."
No, the greatest treasure I can give my clients is superior experience and service.
Whoa, there, adventure girl! "If you are on the front page of Google, then aren’t you maximizing exposure of your client’s listings, thereby potentially maximizing their results?" you ask. I don’t believe so. What I am doing is maximizing my own exposure. This is good, of course (good because I like keeping the lights turned on and because my mortgage lender enjoys receiving regular mail from me with checks inside), but let’s be honest about who exactly is the recipient of this finest of fine treasures. It’s me.
And we wonder why people tend to distrust Realtors.
"It’s a great time to buy." This tired phrase has made us the laughing stock of countless water-cooler conversations over the years. In this market, where one could argue it is not a great time to buy in each and every circumstance, I still see these words trumpeted from agent marketing materials across our great land. Instead of trying to generate demand for the product we sell, shouldn’t we be focusing on generating demand for our services in successfully delivering this product should you decide to buy? And, isn’t this what we are doing when we blog?
Maybe one reason people tend to distrust real estate agents is because we aren’t always scoring high on the honesty meter. Page one is not the greatest gift I can give my client; it is a gift I give myself and my business. Even then, I personally question the extent of this value for me. I question the value because I am a small-time independent contractor who will always — if not today then eventually — be outgunned online by bigger brokerages or third-party vendors and aggregators. I question the value because the core of my business is still and will always be within a 30-mile radius of my office and rarely dependent on successfully nailing a page-one search return for "San Diego home prices" (or, in my case, "rabbits in my backyard San Diego") delivered to a 20-year-old college student in Fort Bend. For me, I prefer hard clicks. These people are visiting me on purpose, but I digress and will save the rest of my misguided search-engine optimization discussion for another time.
The point is that my blog is not going to sell your home. My Web site might, but my blog is not. My blog, if successful, is going to sell me. It will show that I know the difference between a possessive and a plural, and I therefore stand a fighting chance of writing reasonably coherent and compelling ad copy for your home. It will demonstrate I know a little bit about this business, and I just might be qualified to represent you in a purchase or sale. It will suggest that I have done this real estate thing a few times, and I might possess the experience to navigate a challenging escrow and protect your interests during a contentious transaction. It will imply a level of commitment and time investment in the business, suggesting that real estate just might be both my job and my "other job" as well, and I am not serving cocktails or lattes on my days off.
So, let’s say a buyer finds me on page one, stumbles onto my blog and even sees your home featured. So what? What they really stumbled across is me. I liken this to the open-house argument. Absent the open-door policy on a particular Sunday, the real, motivated, checkbook-in-hand buyer would have seen the home eventually. The buyer would have seen it with an agent or found it online or noticed the yard sign in your gazanias while trolling this, their neighborhood of choice. The open house, then, tends to mainly showcase the agent. A blog is no different.
Your buyer may find your listing on my little ol’ blog, but the reality is that if they were looking they would have still found it, and probably found it first, on one of the dozens of larger online sites where your listings are placed or fed by me and my broker. Or the buyer would have found it through an agent. I could argue that first-page placement will position me as the neighborhood expert and go-to guy for your keywords and therefore your home, but that’s a benefit to me, not you. If another agent controls the buyer, that’s just a matter of agency. What is important to you is that I have exposed your home as broadly and professionally as I possibly can. And I have. Even if my blog is safely tucked away on page four.
There is value to you, the consumer, in my blog. Hopefully it informs, educates and even entertains. But, my blog will not sell your home. My blog, if done right, will sell you on me and on the fact that I can sell your home. That’s the truth.
Kris Berg is a real estate broker associate for Prudential California Realty in San Diego. She also writes a consumer-focused real estate blog, The San Diego Home Blog.
Berg will speak at Real Estate Connect in San Francisco, July 23-25, 2008. Register today.
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