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Mind, Blown: 1 in 10 REALTORS Has a Blog

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Take the above, multiply by 50; that's how many REALTOR bloggers there are

This is simply mindblowing:

The use of blogs has steadily increased as a marketing tool for real estate agents. One in ten members reported having a real estate blog. In 2009, 7 percent of members reported having a blog. Among REALTORS®, blogs are most common among those aged 29, and nearly one in five members in this age group have a blog.

One in ten REALTORS has a blog. There are 1 million REALTORS as of February, 2011. That means there are 100,000 REALTOR blogs out there in the wilds of the Web. Let’s say that again: one hundred thousand real estate blogs. In 2009, 7% of REALTORS had a blog — which means 77,000 real estate blogs. While the number of REALTORS shrank by 100K, the number of real estate blogs went up by 23,000.

Note that one in five REALTORS aged 29 has a blog.

Meanwhile, at conferences like CMLS, I hear MLS executives say that some 30-40% of their members have done zero transactions in 2010. So one of two things is true:

  1. The blogging REALTORS are among the 70-60% who do deals; or
  2. 30,000-40,000 real estate blogs are written by REALTORS who have done not a single transaction in 2010.

I call upon NAR to correlate the transaction counts and gross income of REALTORS who have blogs vs. those who do not. Or, send me the data, and I’ll do the analysis.

But wait! There’s more. I am forced to conclude that blogging has entered a new realm of strategy for marketing real estate services.

Blogging Is Now Commonplace

With 100,000 real estate blogs and only 50 states, that means there are 2,000 blogs per state. Of course, since population distribution is uneven, it probably means that Wyoming might only have 20 blogs, while California might have 25,000 blogs. “But what about hyperlocal?”

Well, there are 3,141 counties in the United States. So on average, each county has 31.8 blogs covering it, assuming each one is hyperlocal. If we go to the MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) level, there are only 362 of them, and these are the areas where the population is the most densely concentrated. On that basis, there are 276 real estate blogs per MSA.

It is now impossible to believe that a real estate blog will stand out simply for existing as a place for consumers to find useful and valuable information about real estate. If you’ve got a blog talking about your area, there are 30 others in your county alone. Maybe in 2006/2007 when some of the most well-known real estate blogs were started, they were so unique, so novel, simply for being that consumers naturally gravitated towards them.

Not so in 2011.

Anyone who still thinks of real estate blogs as ‘something different’ has a different idea of what different means than I do. One in Ten. One in FIVE in some age groups.

Strategy: Unexpected vs. Execution

I’d like to refer you to this post I wrote over on Notorious about strategy. Strategies come in two varieties: doing the Unexpected, or Executing better. At one time, blogging (and by extension, social media marketing) was doing the Unexpected. Quite a few REALTORS and broker/managers thought all this bloggery was a bunch of nonsense and a waste of time. Those early pioneers — assuming they met a minimum level of competence in execution — did grow their online reputations, create an audience, and possibly got some leads from their blogs.

The SEO angle of blogging is, I have to conclude, vastly overrated. The idea that simply by having a blog, posting some random words on there to have Google index them, just fails when there are 99,999 other blogs doing the exact same thing. Just because Jay Thompson has 80,000 backlinks to his blog, which he began in 2005, does not mean that your blog that you started in 2010 with 99,000 other blogs will get the same results.

Today, with 1 in 10 REALTORS also having a blog — thanks to years of being told by others that they need to start a blog, that they need a social media strategy, and so forth — this early pioneering phase is now officially over. Now, it will be about Execution.

There might be 30 other blogs in your county; 275 other blogs in your metro area. But if you out-Execute them all, then you can still find blogging to be an effective marketing strategy of some sort (depending on what you’re looking to get out of it). Otherwise, forget it. Out-execute, both in terms of quantity and quality, or do something else.

Good News (or Is It Bad News?)

The good (?) news is that with 100,000 REALTOR blogs out there, there is absolutely no chance that the vast majority of them are worth ever clicking on. In my own RSS Reader, I think there might be a half-dozen REALTOR blogs, out of 100,000. Even if I’m not the average consumer who wants to read another post on local restaurant reviews and whatnot, there is no chance that the vast majority of the 100,000 real estate blogs are any good.

The good news, then, is that anyone who wants to out-execute the competition doesn’t have a particularly high bar to clear. A decent command of the English language, some personality, some natural talent in interacting with other bloggers and commenters, and the ability to just keep on writing posts and publishing on a semi-regular basis, and you should be way ahead of the competition.

The bad news, of course, is that there are so many bad real estate blogs out there. Unless and until you rise above the masses, your blog too, I’m sorry to report, sucks. And as a result, how much time and energy you would need to spend on blogging to get ahead of the competition, see SEO improvement, and increase business is at this time completely unknown. I can assure you, however, that it won’t be “15 minutes a day for a month”.

For the Broker/Manager/Owner

Given that blogging (and quite likely social media marketing in general) is now commonplace, the broker/owner/manager has to make some decisions.

  • If you’re going to pursue having a company blog, then you too must out-execute not just other companies, but the 100,000 individual REALTOR blogs that now populate the Interwebz. Are you really committed to doing this? If so, put real resources towards it.
  • If you’re going to encourage your agents to take up blogging and social media as a strategy, you must ask whether that particular individual has the natural talent and the inclination to rise above the masses of bad real estate blogs. You don’t recruit a 5’3″ guy to play center for your championship basketball team; don’t urge agents who can’t write a coherent sentence to start a hyperlocal blog. That’s a waste of your time and their time.
  • If you’re going to pursue blogging and social media strategy, it is now imperative that the effort become one driven by Execution. That means attention to detail and commitment. Recruit only those who show promise, then support the hell out of them, while managing the whole process tightly. If that means you bring in blogging consultants, social media gurus, writing coaches, and the like to make sure that your people are out-executing all the others, that is what it means.

Otherwise, don’t bother. You’re likely to get better results by getting on your agent’s case to make more cold calls to expired listings.

Simple Take-Aways

Allow me to summarize for easy digestion:

  • There are 100,000 REALTOR blogs out there.
  • Most of them suck, but that means yours does too.
  • Until and unless you out-execute the rest of them, which requires commitment, natural talent, and attention to detail.
  • Have that commitment, talent, and attention to detail, or find something else to do to market yourself.

Your thoughts, as always, are welcome.

-rsh

19 COMMENTS

  1. All good points, Rob. I have been blogging for 5 years now. Looking back I now see that my efforts for the first 4 years were pretty much a waste of time. I got some good feedback and a little business, but my time could have been better spent.

    During the past year my content has gotten much more focused and I restructured my layout to make it more engaging. I stopped thinking of myself as a blogger and now remind myself that I am a Realtor using a blog to generate leads. That’s what it’s all about.

  2. Hi Rob, Matthew from Corcoran here,

    As always, a thought provoking set of ideas, and it’s encouraging to see at least some data, however vague, being put around the social and blogging conversation. For me there’s far too much anecdotal ‘you should do this’ advice being thrown at the real estate community, without being backed up by hard figures.

    The numbers presented here are terrifying, but of course, the real issue, as you propose, is how many of these blogs are effective and actively leading to business. My sense is that only a very small subset of these blogs remain active and updated, and even fewer of them are actually being found or built into online marketing plans in a proactive way. Even as an ‘insider’, I still find it incredibly difficult to point to something I’d recommend as ‘what to do in real estate blogging’ – there simply are no good examples, whatever the ‘jedis’ say.

    So, I agree with you that most blogs suck, and that quality is really the defining issue here, as it is with all social media initiatives within the real estate industry. Just because you now ‘can’, almost always doesn’t mean you ‘should’ when it comes to interactive marketing, and starting a blog has one of the steepest audience growth and effectiveness curves you could ever start upon. For us, social adoption has always been about solving problems, and we simply don’t have a marketing problem that’s solved by a blog, so we don’t have one as a result. For many, the advice of ‘get blogging and get leads’ thrown at them at the various annual conferences has resulted in a huge time sink, and the large-scale syndication of some incredibly poor content. As a result, the ‘better’ ones just get lost in a sea of noise, and we all look mediocre.

    Out-executing isnt a blogging strategy, it’s really a comprehensive business strategy, and in a sea of same-ness, (especially in social), finding and leveraging those points of differentiation and creating killer content around those themes is one way we’ve seen these platforms become successful.

    • No, out-executing isn’t a blogging strategy; it’s a general strategy like you said. But as a result, it applies to blogging conducted as marketing. But as you know, our industry isn’t exactly a shining beacon of out-executing anybody on anything. Let’s hope we all can do our part on correcting that.

  3. Show us some stats! What is the relationship between bloggers, sales, time in the business and location? At my company of 40 agents in Charleston, SC there are about 4 of us who blog ‘actively’ (posted in 2011) and our profiles vary greatly. One has been in the business for 20+ years and is the company’s top agent. Another has been in for 5 years, is a medium-level agent but hasn’t had much luck with his blog. I’ve been in the business for 2, been blogging for 2, and have met a lot of great people through it. There are some companies in town where not a single person blogs, yet they are consistently in the top 5 companies in our metro area. So yes, it seems to be all over the place.

    Having taught classes on real estate blogging – I can say that most people who attend are those who either have no money to market themselves, want to learn more about technology because they think they should but are afraid of it, start a blog and then give up after a few months because nothing came of it, or never do anything at all. Perhaps this dismal record is because we are a little slow on the tech-uptake here in SC? We don’t seem to have any local superstars like Phoenix Real Estate Guy or Dale Chumbley, though I do stumble upon a new local blog almost every day.

    The stats I’d really like to see are how many people bought or sold their home with a Realtor they found via blog. Most agents operate from what they THINK people want, not what people ACTUALLY want. Wouldn’t you agree? Hey Zillow or Realtor.com – I think a survey is in order!

    Thanks for your consistently entertaining and thought-provoking perspective Rob. You and 1000WattMarc are my faves.

    • Thanks for your insights, Kristin. I don’t know that I would classify “blogs” as a tech-uptake issue. It isn’t as if consumers everywhere know what a blog is by 2011; they read tons of sports blogs, politics blogs, lifestyle blogs, cooking blogs, whatever blogs. I’m willing to bet that someone in SC has an incredibly high-trafficked site dealing with SEC football. So it’s not an issue of technology or audience ignorance. It’s something else.

      And yeah, I’d love to see a survey on the impact of social media from the consumers themselves. 🙂

      • I actually meant tech-uptake on the Realtor side. I think the average consumer is ahead of the many Realtors from a tech standpoint. I actually know some who still think using hotmail or AOL is ok, and don’t have a smartphone. (gasp!!!!) As Realtors I believe it is our JOB to not only stay ahead of the curve with market knowledge, but also with technology use. We have to already be there when the non-early-adopter consumers arrive.

        So what do you think the ‘something else’ is??

      • Honestly? I think the “something else” is that most agents aren’t interested in real estate enough to maintain a real estate blog. When most realtors talk about “market knowledge”, I find that such “market knowledge” is incredibly thin and amounts to looking at the MLS comps once in a while, or glancing through a third party report. So many turn to “hyperlocal” so they can talk about restaurants and fairs and such, but most of those lack to discipline to maintain a real hyperlocal blog, which is pretty much akin to a fulltime unpaid journalist job.

        Bottomline is, most realtor blogs are written by realtors who wouldn’t be blogging were it not “for business”, but most of them don’t care enough about the business to do a decent job at it.

      • OK, maybe because it’s Friday, or the cold medicine, or something but here goes; I know plenty about real estate – I was a developer for 20 years who did land acquisition, feasibility studies, zoning, equity participation agreements, project conceptualization, construction management, project marketing and more, but you know what? Nobody cares. They just want you to sell their house at the highest possible price in the shortest possible time frame and with the least amount of grief. They don’t care if I’m tech savvy, they certainly don’t give a rip about restaurant knowledge nor do they really give much thought to anything else Realtors fret over.

        The main reason I think Realtors are looking for the next tech tool, hot blog idea, etc. is that many of them know very little about the business and, as such, they feel inadequate. They’re afraid that if they don’t have the latest whiz-bang googlemaflitchey that they’ll not be considered professional.

        Let’s face it. There was lots of real estate sold before all of these goodies came along. I, for one, sold over $400 million before I’d ever heard the word “blog”. And now it’s supposed to be the silver bullet that will propel my career? I don’t think so. I like the idea of knowing what the heck you’re talking about, delivering results and keeping the B.S. to a minimum.

        Of course, I could be wrong.

      • You’re right. The highest producers in real estate are agents those who are the best at sales. Period. They generate leads, they make the calls, they close. A blogging platform gives an agent another channel to connect with buyers and sellers, but it doesn’t change the fundamentals of being successful at selling RE.

  4. Building an effective, targeted and meaningful blog is super hard — harder than selling real estate, I think.

    The cost of starting a blog is cheaper than ordering business cards, so it’s sweet nectar for the agent who seeks easy leads with little effort or cost. Of course, one quickly discovers that delivering crap content does nothing but suck up time…. assuming one even makes an effort to deliver crap content.

  5. Though on one hand I’m elated to read that SEO, something I’ve cursed richly and often, has possibly been overrated, I’m even more pumped to see that so many of the myriad real estate blogs suck. Why? Not cuz I want them to fail. But seriously, blogging isn’t much different than book writing. Why do you read some books from cover to cover, yet put others down after the first pages?

    Content . . . period. Either it resonates with the reader or it doesn’t. Why has this concept been so difficult to understand for so many for so long? Folks read Stephen King over Stephen Wannabe cuz the latter has nothing much to say, then says it horribly — hardly an original thought on my part.

    Those who consistently demonstrate real knowledge, expertise, and experience and can write well enough to get an A on a sixth grade writing assignment, will do well over time. The rest? Well, Rob’s already told us what’s happening to the rest.

  6. OK, I may be committing sacrilege here, but I wonder just how effective blogging about real estate is for the average agent. I’ve always contended that having a few blog posts can help establish your knowledge in the eyes of visitors to the blog, but here is the item that gets me most;

    A good friend of mine started and runs a very successful company called Vitrue. They help Fortune 100 companies build social media platforms. He was previously CFO at WebMD, so he’s no slouch. In a recent conversation about blog traffic he mentioned that people tend to buy a house every 7-10 years or so. In the interim, they probably don’t care all that much about what is going on in real estate. They have their house and they’re not moving for a long time. Furthermore, he stated that what is the probability that a person who is thinking of moving has found my blog and become an active follower? Very, very low.

    He went on to say that if I absolutely must blog, and to engage the people who make the decision of which agent to hire, I should blog about something that impacts their lives on a much more frequent basis. When the readers of the blog go to see who the person writing it is, they see that I am a real estate broker. At that point, they’ve formed somewhat of a connection, assuming the content is worthy, and I’ve established myself as someone who they trust.

    On a side note, there is an agent in our market who has one of those “365 Things to do” blogs with thousands of followers. She made about $50,000 last year – before expenses. Not exactly a barnburner. That’s a typical commission for me. And none of the “top” producing agents in our market blog. Is blogging a revenue-enhancing activity or a chance for frustrated writers to voice their opinion to a world that’s not listening? Not sure.

    Would love your insight.

    • I usually recommend to most people that they shouldn’t touch blogging unless they would write it and keep it up even if not a single person read it. I’d blog without a single reader, because I’m a frustrated writer. 🙂

      • “write it and keep it up”?

        For what purpose? Doesn’t that approach the cusp of the definition of insanity – keep doing the same things expecting to get different results? Wouldn’t they be better off having face time with clients or keeping in touch with their sphere?

        Not saying you’re wrong (I’m certainly not Notorious!) but I just don’t see how very busy people have time to read about something they are not actively engaged in. I sure don’t read about air conditioner compressors but I can guarantee you that I’ll need one in the next 7-10 years.

  7. THANK YOU for making me not the only one to mutter ‘SEO is for the birds’ under my breath every time some clueless real estate marketing expert tries to explain how to make my blog better. Content, Construction, Community. the three Cs are what will make or break your blog, whether it’s about real estate (which, granted, is fairly boring in an of itself), the porn industry or making homemade jam.

  8. The arrogance, ignorance, and condescension here is palpable. Forget blogging, let’s use more or less traditional websites with IDXs. Most of those suck like a turbo charged Dyson too. Yet I personally know a bunch who make $100-500,000 a year of such sites. It’s the same for real estate blogs. You may have failed, or know only those who have failed. Doesn’t change a thing.

    Those who know which way is north on the map are snickering as they read some of these comments.

  9. I haven’t read through the comments, so someone may have already said it… I’d like to know how the NAR is defining “blog” when it reports that one in 10 agents have a “blog”.

    I suspect some survey was sent to a very small subset of Realtors and a question along the lines of “Do you have a blog?” was asked. Some statistics geek determined a statistically significant sample size and calculated a confidence level from the data received and proclaimed from on high that “One in ten Realtors has a blog”.

    But how many of those 1 in 10 do nothing more than post listings to an Active Rain, Trulia, Blogspot or Realtor.com “blog” and then check the “Yes” box when answering the question?

    How many set up a free “blog” on WordPress.com and wrote 1, 6, or 47 posts — but they haven’t written anything in the last six months? Do they “have a blog”? I’d wager many who fall smack into this category also checked the “Yes” box.

    Having authored a real estate blog for almost six years, I can tell you one thing for a fact — and it’s a fact a LOT of people don’t get, including many of the self-professed “experts” and “social media gurus”.

    That fact is — maintaining a successful real estate blog is a shit load of hard work. (And I’m defining “successful” as generating prospects and closing transactions).

    The internet is awash with abandoned blogs of all flavors. People hear experts spew utter crap like, “You have to have a blog to be successful in real estate”, so they jump on the bandwagon. And they pump out “content” (because it’s King you know) for a few weeks or months. Then they step back and they realize: 1) the phone has never rung; and 2) they hate every minute that they are “blogging”.

    So they give it up. Some do this after spending thousands of dollars on a flashy, hip custom blog design.

    I think the number of real estate bloggers — REAL real estate bloggers — is actually much lower than 1 in 10. But it’s going to be difficult to ever come up with a true number because defining things like “successful blog” is difficult.

    I wish the NAR would send out a survey with two questions:

    1) How many people in the past 12 months were added to your prospect database as a result of your blog?

    2) How many closed transaction sides in the past 12 months can you attribute directly to your blog?

    That would be interesting data to see.

    As an aside, I think the vast majority of real estate buyers and sellers that come to my site don’t even know that they are on a “blog”. They Google some search term related to Phoenix real estate, land on a blog post, probably don’t read it or skim it at best and then click on the home search button. My ego would like to believe they flock to the blog to read my witty prose, but the reality is they come to search for homes. And I’m fine with that. After all, the ultimate goal of the blog is to generate prospects for my agents. (But like you, I’d write even if no one was reading.)

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