I will admit I am not much of a rule follower. There are some rules I must follow and I do. When I see a red light I stop, and I would never mess with an electrical outlet while standing on a wet sheet of metal, and I wear my seatbelt.

Yet some rules just get in my way. I went on a short vacation and the whole point of it was to go someplace different and shoot some pictures. Out of all of the photos I took, the only ones I like are the shots I got when I was breaking the rules.

The ideas come when the voice in my head goes away and my eyes take over and I trust my instincts. Rules can take the joy out of photography for me and turn it into work.

I will admit I am not much of a rule follower. There are some rules I must follow and I do. When I see a red light I stop, and I would never mess with an electrical outlet while standing on a wet sheet of metal, and I wear my seatbelt.

Yet some rules just get in my way. I went on a short vacation and the whole point of it was to go someplace different and shoot some pictures. Out of all of the photos I took, the only ones I like are the shots I got when I was breaking the rules.

The ideas come when the voice in my head goes away and my eyes take over and I trust my instincts. Rules can take the joy out of photography for me and turn it into work.

When I disconnect my brain, something else takes over and if I am lucky I get a photo that is closer to spectacular than to ordinary.

There is the whole tourist thing: When people travel they all take photos of the same subjects. Does the world really need another photo of Mount Rushmore? I have been places where the photographers are all lined up pointing at the same thing. If I stop my car and pull over to take a photo, 10 other cars stop, too.

When I started my real estate blog it was an innovative idea. Instead of writing about just real estate, I expanded it a bit. I created a unique product. It was especially unique five years ago, before real estate blogs became more mainstream.

There is a fairly new movement in real estate blogging that seems like going backwards, from creative to average, or worse. Bloggers use the same platform and special themes and plug-ins for real estate.

It is like we have lost sight of the idea that content matters and instead are trying to achieve a uniform look and feel.

The blogs have loads of widgets and doodads that look pretty, but they are starting to all look alike and have little to offer when it comes to unique content.

Real estate bloggers compete to be the first to use a new plug-in, and they spend far more time discussing it than they spend generating client-attracting, revenue-generating content.

The blogs look commercial, just like the template websites many agents use. They feature reports and numbers that are derived from the same sources. The charts and graphs look the same and most of the bloggers don’t offer any unique insight. There is no sense of place.

A Southern blog looks just like an Eastern blog, and one blogger sounds like another.

The graphics look much the same as the canned graphics on the template site. We have for-sale signs, sold signs, happy couples with small children, and random sets of house keys. And, of course, the smiling face of a Realtor in the upper right-hand corner.

The look and feel and layout are becoming uniform and it is becoming easier to ignore the sites. They don’t stand out. They look standard.

Good blogs work because of the content and they work because of the voice of the blogger.

The platform is important. It needs to be flexible and the site needs to be not only pleasing to the eye but easy to navigate with any browser or electronic device that can be used to surf the Internet. It needs to be user-friendly not just real-estate-widget friendly.

Maybe it is time to break the rules and ignore the coaches, search-engine-optimization experts, hosting companies for Realtors, and most of all those special designs and plug-ins.

Pick a topic, and a pleasing, clean, user-friendly design, and write what no one has written before. Maybe something from you own life or experience. Include a photo of the back side of Mount Rushmore. Ignore the rules, and invent a word or two.

On one of my sites, readers have the option of listening to a duck quack. The feature makes no sense whatsoever, yet it starts conversations that end in signed listing contracts. It causes them to notice the website and dig a little deeper to find out who I am and why my real estate site has such an unusual feature.

An expert would look at it and tell me all of the things that are wrong with the site, but so what? It is what my readers think that is important. They are the only experts who matter.

Please go out and break with the convention today. Trust me on this.

We don’t need any more real estate blogs that look like real estate blogs and we don’t need any more photos of Mount Rushmore.

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