The One Site to Rule Them All

Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.

Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.

One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.

Twitter, some say, is a useless waste of time.  That’s often true.  But then, sometimes, it’s really kinda fun and useful to boot.

Case in point:  Earlier today, I had  brief Twitter exchange with a few people starting with a question I asked.

“Why do you have a ‘website’ and a ‘blog’?  Why not one site that does it all?”

A number of people responded that they were struggling with that very question.  Still others provided even more in-depth thoughts.  Kelley Kohler (@housechick) had some very interesting insights on the blogpost linked to above:

It’s an interesting line to walk, and it’s taken a bit of doing to stop thinking about the blog like it’s a blog, because it isn’t a blog, it’s a framework (can I get that printed on a t-shirt?).  Having started originally with AR and Blogger, it was a difficult mindset to break – two blog services where blogs really ARE just blogs.  But for WordPress and Drupal, they aren’t blogs, they’re just platforms, a framework.

In the end, it’s not about what is website and what is blog, it’s about where in the framework some piece of information should live.  And that’s a liberating place to be, conceptually, while in the midst of designing a new web presence. (emphasis added)

While I agree with Kelley wholeheartedly from a certain perspective, I do think she discounts a bit the psychological and marketing imperatives that may be driving realestistas to divide their web operations between a “website” and a “blog”.

Crass Commercialism vs. Authentic Engagement

I think the hint of the underlying issue came from Fran Bailey (@franbailey) who wrote:

My site is my blog which focuses on helpful info 4 buyers. They can search listings on my broker’s site which promotes listings.

The mantra of Web 2.0 — borrowed from the good people of Cluetrain — is authentic engagement.  People don’t want to be sold.  They don’t want to be marketed to.  They don’t want to be a lead.  And so on.  Hence, the listings — which is the basis of the commercial engagement — are over there on the broker’s site.  My site here is where I’m simply helpful.  I understand the instinctive pull.

There’s something to this perspective that says that anything which smacks of crass commercialism is bad in social media/blogging/whatever-you-call-it and that blogs have to do more to educate, to engage, to brand the writer as a local expert, and so on.  To surround a post on the local neighborhood with listings, or to have a “Ten things to consider about mortgages” with a “Featured Listing” does seem somewhat… in bad taste in the world of bloggery.

Even Kelley Kohler’s own website (which, I guess is under revision) shows that the blog lives in a top nav link and lives in its own url (www.mytucsonblog.com).  In addition, her blog has no listings search, even though her “website” features a listing search prominently in the top left position:

What a sweet lookin' site! Clean, easy to read... just great.

What a sweet lookin' site! Clean, easy to read... just great.

So I do think there’s something to the division between the “storefront” and the “fireside chats” in the real estate world.

False Dichotomy

And yet, is there a notion that such a dichotomy is just a bunch of hooey?  Mike Simonsen of Altos Research (@mikesimonsen) pointed out to me via Twitter:

@robhahn riiight. as if there’s a hard line between the personal and professional. The functional difference is one of tone

As a matter of fact, a blog is — in a way — a gigantic extended ad.  [Granted, I thought (and said to Mike) that Notorious ROB was my personal blog written primarily to entertain myself, while the corporate blog of Onboard Informatics, my employer, is where I write to promote Onboard and its products and services.  But Mike may be right.  Perhaps with social media, we are entering an age where the Personal is the Political Commercial.]

For a realtor blog — one written to help drive business, as opposed to satisfy the blogger’s need to put words on virtual paper — the distinction disappears completely.  The Personal is the Commercial.

All the advice-giving, all the helpful hints, all the videos of mojito-making, and so on continually brand the realtor as an expert, as a good person, as a fun-lovin’ master of the mystic liquors.  Since real estate appears to be an intensely personal business, it simply pays to be personable and personal.

And if the advice-giving, helpful hints, and videos and twitstreams and such are actually not bringing you any business… then don’t you have to ask yourself why you even bother with the blog?

Just sayin’.

You can find me as @darklordsauron on Twitter!

Has anyone seen my ring? Contact @darklordsauron on Twitter please!

One Site to Rule Them All

But having established the business importance of being personable… why leave a “website” hanging out there ruining all of that goodwill?  What’s the point of a brochureware site that has a bunch of boilerplate about how great an agent you are, or how much you care about your clients and all that when you have a whole other website dedicated to showing, rather than saying, precisely those things?

The ideal realestista site to me is one where you have the fusion of content: listings, statistics, and dynamic content.  For larger organizations, listings and statistics will take precedence, but they too need dynamic content that showcases their brand promises and lets consumers form authentic relationships with their people.  For individual realestistas, I think the dynamic content drives the site, but listings and statistics must also be present.  Again, see Kelley Kohler’s site for a great example.  She already has her latest blogpost there; why not just merge the thing together and create the ash gwî (One Web…site)?

The consumer knows — or should know — that he is on a realtor’s website, reading a realtor’s opinions and professional advice, and learning more about that particular realtor.  Either the site visitor is in the market or is not; if he is not, then he may turn into one at some point or refer you someone who is.  If he is in the market, then he’s not only looking for a fun person who knows a lot about real estate and the local communities — he’s looking for someone who can help him.

Authenticity does not mean pretending to be a disinterested commentator — hell, I’m as close as such things come, and even I’m not 100% disinterested in everything.  So in that, Mike Simonsen may be right.  Authenticity simply means trying not to bullshit someone, spin bad news, get into marketingspeak (“this house is doubleplusgood” is a bad sign), or such.  It means letting your personality come through while at the same time maintaining the commercial nature of the desired relationship.

The dichotomy is false.  Ash gwî durbatulûk!

-rsh

  • Heather Elias

    Ah. Love it. Currently have been engaging in an intense internal debate over whether I should meld the two sites to one..and how it will affect the overall impression for the consumer…there aren’t two distinct types of consumer out there, which I can appeal to with two divergent types of websites (blog and ‘all business’.) I think in large part having the two continues to pursue the ‘shotgun’ theory of pelleting a wider area with shallow ammo rather than focusing with one site most intensely on where my strengths are.

    Wait, I think I just answered my own question. Thanks, Rob! ;)

    ~Heather

  • Heather Elias

    Ah. Love it. Currently have been engaging in an intense internal debate over whether I should meld the two sites to one..and how it will affect the overall impression for the consumer…there aren’t two distinct types of consumer out there, which I can appeal to with two divergent types of websites (blog and ‘all business’.) I think in large part having the two continues to pursue the ‘shotgun’ theory of pelleting a wider area with shallow ammo rather than focusing with one site most intensely on where my strengths are.

    Wait, I think I just answered my own question. Thanks, Rob! ;)

    ~Heather

  • http://snap.tc/ Todd Carpenter

    I think what Kelley would recommend and what she’s been able to do on her own are unfortunately two different animals. Kelley’s site was banned by Google. It’s coming back now (gray hat SEO lessons learned)but she’s had to operate from different URL’s to grow organic web traffic in the mean time.

    However, I like the idea of multiple sites. The way Kelley’s sites are set up, people who come to the blog get the blog experience. People who come to housechick.com get the blog integrated, all-in-one experience. The magic of RSS and matching CSS takes care of connecting the two into a seamless experience between both sites.

    Best of both worlds if you ask me.

  • http://snap.tc Todd Carpenter

    I think what Kelley would recommend and what she’s been able to do on her own are unfortunately two different animals. Kelley’s site was banned by Google. It’s coming back now (gray hat SEO lessons learned)but she’s had to operate from different URL’s to grow organic web traffic in the mean time.

    However, I like the idea of multiple sites. The way Kelley’s sites are set up, people who come to the blog get the blog experience. People who come to housechick.com get the blog integrated, all-in-one experience. The magic of RSS and matching CSS takes care of connecting the two into a seamless experience between both sites.

    Best of both worlds if you ask me.

  • http://www.sandiegolifestyle.info/ Jeffrey Douglass

    Dear RSH, I saw your post on twitter earlier today but could not boil my thoughts down to 140 characters – with that said I really like your article which are always thought provoking.

    While I started with just my primary website at http://www.jeffreydouglass.com which is produced on the Mac, I soon found that the blogging portion was not good enough for my needs and went to Word Press. And yet I need the main website for more visual postings and more commercial aspects of my business. In fact I think that most REALTORS are using a combination of many websites that are linked together for a seamless experience. For instance I have a link IDX property searches, a link to Relay, which is a on-line transaction management with client access. I also use links to single property websites, links to You Tube, and widgets for Trulia and other real estate related information. I guess what I am trying to say is there is no universal tool to rule them all, YET anyway! Nothing more sinister than that.

  • http://www.sandiegolifestyle.info Jeffrey Douglass

    Dear RSH, I saw your post on twitter earlier today but could not boil my thoughts down to 140 characters – with that said I really like your article which are always thought provoking.

    While I started with just my primary website at http://www.jeffreydouglass.com which is produced on the Mac, I soon found that the blogging portion was not good enough for my needs and went to Word Press. And yet I need the main website for more visual postings and more commercial aspects of my business. In fact I think that most REALTORS are using a combination of many websites that are linked together for a seamless experience. For instance I have a link IDX property searches, a link to Relay, which is a on-line transaction management with client access. I also use links to single property websites, links to You Tube, and widgets for Trulia and other real estate related information. I guess what I am trying to say is there is no universal tool to rule them all, YET anyway! Nothing more sinister than that.

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  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com/ -Rob

    @Heather -

    LOL, glad I could help. :) Having people answer their own questions is ideal.

    @Todd -

    If having two sites with two URL’s is beneficial for Kelley, then wouldn’t it be better with three sites? Why not four? Fifteen? As you say, with RSS and master CSS file, connecting 20 sites together into a seamless experience is no big deal.

    @Jeff -

    So the link to IDX, link to Relay, links to YouTube, etc. can’t exist on your blog? Why not? Widgets from Trulia and such could go on a blog just as easily as they could go on a ‘website’.

    But your site and your blog seem to serve totally different purposes, which then perhaps means they need to be separate.

    -rsh

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com -Rob

    @Heather -

    LOL, glad I could help. :) Having people answer their own questions is ideal.

    @Todd -

    If having two sites with two URL’s is beneficial for Kelley, then wouldn’t it be better with three sites? Why not four? Fifteen? As you say, with RSS and master CSS file, connecting 20 sites together into a seamless experience is no big deal.

    @Jeff -

    So the link to IDX, link to Relay, links to YouTube, etc. can’t exist on your blog? Why not? Widgets from Trulia and such could go on a blog just as easily as they could go on a ‘website’.

    But your site and your blog seem to serve totally different purposes, which then perhaps means they need to be separate.

    -rsh

  • http://realestatezebra.com/ Daniel, The Real Estate Zebra

    I’m with you on this one, Notorious. Heck, in our business, we’ve been trying to get one site that incorporates both blog and “traditional” info developed for a while now. We are finally going to get it launched by the end of the month, with the help of the great folks at The Real Estate Tomato.

    In my estimation, having more than one site creates more issues than it solves. First, there is the management side of things, double hosting, maintenance, etc. That is a royal PITA.

    From a marketing perspective, I think it can fracture your brand. Multiple sites can lead to sending multiple messages. I don’t want to send multiple messages. I want to send one message– “come HERE for everything you need.” I don’t want to say, “come here, and go there, and oh, go over there, too, because I own them all.”

    On of the main reasons that I think agents maintain two separate sites is there is a psychological comfort in it. The agent thought process goes something like this– “Blogging is new, and trendy, and kinda edgy. What if it doesn’t work? What if people hate it? What if it doesn’t generate any leads? OMG, I can’t give up my static site, it is trustworthy and safe. It is my rock.”

    What most agents are missing is exactly what Kelley said– a blog is merely a platform, a vehicle, a means by which you can do what you have always done, only better.

    While the new StrongTeamRealtors.com is being built on the WordPress platform, and blogging will be a component of what we do there, you will never hear us refer to it as a blog (not publicly, anyway). Consumers don’t care if the thing is WordPress, or Point2, they don’t care if it is a blog-based CMS or Joomla, they just want information, advice and expertise. Our job is to choose the most effective way to deliver it, all in one place.

  • http://realestatezebra.com Daniel, The Real Estate Zebra

    I’m with you on this one, Notorious. Heck, in our business, we’ve been trying to get one site that incorporates both blog and “traditional” info developed for a while now. We are finally going to get it launched by the end of the month, with the help of the great folks at The Real Estate Tomato.

    In my estimation, having more than one site creates more issues than it solves. First, there is the management side of things, double hosting, maintenance, etc. That is a royal PITA.

    From a marketing perspective, I think it can fracture your brand. Multiple sites can lead to sending multiple messages. I don’t want to send multiple messages. I want to send one message– “come HERE for everything you need.” I don’t want to say, “come here, and go there, and oh, go over there, too, because I own them all.”

    On of the main reasons that I think agents maintain two separate sites is there is a psychological comfort in it. The agent thought process goes something like this– “Blogging is new, and trendy, and kinda edgy. What if it doesn’t work? What if people hate it? What if it doesn’t generate any leads? OMG, I can’t give up my static site, it is trustworthy and safe. It is my rock.”

    What most agents are missing is exactly what Kelley said– a blog is merely a platform, a vehicle, a means by which you can do what you have always done, only better.

    While the new StrongTeamRealtors.com is being built on the WordPress platform, and blogging will be a component of what we do there, you will never hear us refer to it as a blog (not publicly, anyway). Consumers don’t care if the thing is WordPress, or Point2, they don’t care if it is a blog-based CMS or Joomla, they just want information, advice and expertise. Our job is to choose the most effective way to deliver it, all in one place.

  • http://www.rehubbub.com/ Tim White

    Google renders this discussion moot. It’s not about the website, or whether it’s integrated with a blog or not, but rather it’s about seeing each indvidual piece of content as its own business entity, competing against other like-kind content on the open and distributed web.

    Put another way, the web is your website and search is your navigation. Google doesn’t direct traffic to your sites home page (only 20% of the time), but rather brings their customers to the precise peice of content about which they inquired. More often than not the content lies somwhere dep within your site.

    So, you see, the website integrated with blog is irrelevant. Consumers doing research online and finding the content that satisifues each unique search request is much more relevant.

    The battle for eyeballs will be fought on the open and distributed web. Think distributed!

  • http://www.rehubbub.com Tim White

    Google renders this discussion moot. It’s not about the website, or whether it’s integrated with a blog or not, but rather it’s about seeing each indvidual piece of content as its own business entity, competing against other like-kind content on the open and distributed web.

    Put another way, the web is your website and search is your navigation. Google doesn’t direct traffic to your sites home page (only 20% of the time), but rather brings their customers to the precise peice of content about which they inquired. More often than not the content lies somwhere dep within your site.

    So, you see, the website integrated with blog is irrelevant. Consumers doing research online and finding the content that satisifues each unique search request is much more relevant.

    The battle for eyeballs will be fought on the open and distributed web. Think distributed!

  • http://www.miamism.com/ ines

    I used to have several websites, a blog and finally blended them all together into a hybrid blog-site with some static info and the basic structure of a blog. It has made my life so much easier, has helped me strengthen our brand and released some stress.

    While defining my audience though, I have realized that 2 sites will benefit our business and I am working on a second one as we speak – miamism always being our hub and the other one just for the audience and business that the particular readership brings.

    I don’t think there’s a right and wrong way – we each need to define our goals and identify aspects of our business that will benefit from the different structures. And yes….i will continue with the mojito vids.

  • http://www.miamism.com ines

    I used to have several websites, a blog and finally blended them all together into a hybrid blog-site with some static info and the basic structure of a blog. It has made my life so much easier, has helped me strengthen our brand and released some stress.

    While defining my audience though, I have realized that 2 sites will benefit our business and I am working on a second one as we speak – miamism always being our hub and the other one just for the audience and business that the particular readership brings.

    I don’t think there’s a right and wrong way – we each need to define our goals and identify aspects of our business that will benefit from the different structures. And yes….i will continue with the mojito vids.