Our regular readers and seasoned real estate blogosphere readers all know Teresa Boardman. Recently she has gained some broader exposure in national publications as an example of a locally focused real estate blogger that is firstly generating business from her efforts and secondly gaining respect from her peers nationally.
Along with this success has also come some misinterpretation of who she is, why she does it and how it’s done. We have enjoyed having Teresa here on the Tomato Soapbox, and felt that her articles have brought some much needed clarity to our voice, so in turn, we would like to return the favor and bring some clarity to hers.
Below is an interview we held with Teresa that focus on the reasons why she blogs, why it works for her and her outlook on the phenomenon of the real estate blog itself.
Business was slow, it actually started as an experiment, there were no examples or rules when I started. I really got serious about it after moving from Coldwell Banker to Keller Williams and watching my web hits, and leads fall to an all time low after being disconnected from their huge web presence. To make matters worse I got a cease and desist letter from NAR’s attorneys telling me that I could not use the domain name that I had been using for four years, and had built my business around. The combination pretty much put me out of business on the internet. In addition home sales in my local market decreased. My income supports a few people and has an impact on their lives, so I needed to figure out how to bring it back up to 2005 levels.
I read for one hour, and then I write for an hour. I start at about 5:00 AM, and set a timer to make sure that I get done by no later than 7:30. I carry a ratty old note book around and jot down ideas as they come to me. I also have a folder in MS outlook that I call “blogfood”. I save emails and turn the conversations into posts. I carry a camera with me at all times and have hundreds of pictures that can be used in my posts.
I had a small audience in about three months.
I used to refer to them as both of my readers, and I worried that one of them might go away. The internet can be a lonely place. My readership jumped when I found my voice sometime in the late summer or early fall. I know some blog writers who gained a large audience in a short time, it can be done, but it did not come easy for me. Some who experienced early success retained their large audiences and others did not, which suggests that getting a big audience early on is no guarantee of long term success.
My readership increases every month and the increases are getting larger as the spring market approaches, and my blog becomes more well known.
I did not start with a mission or a system, or a plan. It really was an experiment. After several months a pattern started to form. Fridays are for fun so I write about anything I want to. Some weeks I can’t wait until Friday. Saturdays are for consumer content, on Sundays a neighbor writes my post for me. Erik Hare, actually volunteered when I admitted that it can be hard to write everyday, he is not a Realtor but a life long St. Paulite, that I have known for years because we attend the same public meetings and volunteer or some of the same organizations. The rest of the week is neighborhood and real estate news. I have what I call an event once a month, which generates a spike in readership, I retain 30 to 40 percent of that traffic spike long after the event.
I actually monitor and measure my results, and at the risk of sounding geeky, I use charts and graphs, but again I feel like I am conducting an experiment and want to see what it will teach me.
I hope that everyone in my local market area believes those prominent blog writers. I meet most of my clients through my blog. The blog is my introduction, and opens the door for face-to-face contact. It demonstrates my commitment to my business and my passion for real estate and St. Paul. If my competitors believe what they read then I have less competition. Anyone can do what I am doing and get results.
Real estate professionals who are not generating business from their blogs are not writing to the audience that is most likely to do business with them, or they just have not been at it long enough to start seeing results. There is little real estate content on the internet for consumers and because real estate is local, each of us has a ground floor opportunity to provide content and win business.
If the local content looks like advertising it will not have much of an impact. Large corporations can not compete with individuals on this level, neither can groups of blog writers. It is our individual voices that speak to potential clients.
Funny it took me months to figure out why people contact me. It is really pretty simple, I write about St. Paul and about real estate and people who want to buy or sell real estate in St. Paul and the surrounding areas contact me. People don’t find me by going to Google and typing in search terms like St. Paul real estate, they find me through the more obscure complicated search strings found in the long tail.
I havealso learned that people will read my blog for months and that when we meet in person it seems like they know me. It took me awhile to catch on, I couldn’t figure out why they felt so comfortable with me but I still had the first meeting jitters. It took me months to learn that my voice speaks to the the kind of clients that I love to work with. I recently ran a series of posts about architecture because I was too busy to write a post every day. My posts resulted in new clients who are looking for the type of housing that I featured.
I like to call the phenomenon an unintended consequence and a random element of luck. (see question 9)
Mary Umberger from the Chicago Tribune sent me an email indicating that she was having a hard time finding real estate blogs that are for consumers, instead of for real estate professionals She looked at my blog after reading a post I had written on the Tomato : why your broker/manager hates your blog. She searched for blogs like mine and did not find many so she called me and asked me if I would tell her about it and if I could explain why the real estate industry has not embraced web blogs.
After she wrote her article, the real estate industry noticed and industry news letters started mentioning my blog. The internet is so global, the physical location of the blog writer is irrelevant. My audience is as national as yours is, but speaks to a different group of people.
When I first ran into the Tomato I wanted to put it in my blender and press puree, but after reading and looking at the quality of the Real Estate Tomato Blogs I have put my blender away. The posts I write for the Tomato would not be appropriate on my St.Paul real estate blog because the audience I am trying to cultivate is just not interested.
I love writing for the Tomato, you have amazing readers. I enjoy sharing my experiences and the Tomato has an audience for that. I am blown away by the comments and responses, on my posts, they are often better than the post itself. I am thrilled to be part of the Vine. I am not sure what I would do if I got thrown off of your blog. Would I start the real estate apricot? Could I do that and still have time to sell real estate?
I read what the “experts” are saying about my blog. They don’t talk to me, they talk about me. On one blog there was an audio interview and the person commenting on my blog admitted that he never actually saw or read it. Yet he laughed about a post I wrote and said that I was lecturing him. The post had absolutely nothing to do with him or his blog. He was not introduced on the podcast and so I am not sure who’s voice I heard. Last week a blogger indicated that what I am doing will not work for long, and that it is some kind of a fluke, I responded to his comment and he admitted that he really doesn’t know.
I am not afraid to admit that I don’t know where my blog will be a year from now. I did not know a year ago that I would be here today, because here did not exist until last July or August. I don’t have to be an expert on anything except real estate. As a small business owner I am able to quickly react to trends and can adjust what I am doing whenever I need to so that I can get the results I am looking for. There is absolutely no evidence at this time that the results I am experiencing are a fluke.
I read experts talking about local blogs and none of them have ever written one, or have even had a business blog for more than a few months. I don’t understand how they became experts. There is so much advice these days on the topic, yet I can find little that I agree with, or that matches what I have learned by actually doing what others write about. I am not an expert, and am overwhelmed by how much I have had to learn and how much I don’t know.
I do have a strategy but I also acknowledge that there is a random element of luck. I smile when SEO experts tell us what the rules are and then I break the rules and get amazing results. I don’t use pay per click, check my page rank or care about other ratings and measures. My goal is to meet people, all I care about is the steady stream of business that my blog generates. It is interesting to look at ratings but at the end of the day I have to ask myself if my goals are being met and if I am spending my time as outlined in my business plan.
Your question is the subject for a separate post which I would be happy to write, and it can be added to your advice. I would like to share one thought with other blog writers. Writing is difficult, for most of my life I have been told that I can’t write and even that I will never be able to write. I still lack confidence but am no longer afraid of making a mistake, or of taking a risk. It is better to take a risk and make a mistake than to do nothing.
The first time I sent a post to the Tomato, I was afraid that it would be rejected, because it would not be good enough. Can’t is the worst four letter word in the English language, please don’t use it. Your blog does not have to
be a literary master piece. Use a spell checker, have a friend proof read, and read it out loud, do the best you can. Don’t be afraid of your blog. If I had learned that lesson a few months earlier my readership would be larger than it is today.
Blogging might just be one of the greatest learning experiences of my career and maybe even my life. I Have learned that having a conversation with prospective buyers and sellers works much better than marketing to them. I have learned so much from my readers in comments and through email about real estate, and about what buyers and sellers are looking for in a Realtor. I have met some amazing people and have
made friends with the people that used to live inside my computer. In recent months my business has grown to a level that I did not think could be achieved through the internet, without pay-per-click or the power of a huge corporate web presence. When I go to meetings or classes with other realtors people find me and introduce themselves, and tell me that they want to meet me because they have read my blog. I have had job offers, and have been contacted by small business owners in Minnesota who want to know if they can come to my seminars even though they don’t have a real estate license.
I smile because a business blog is a business blog, and it does not require a license to write one.
I welcome them because I know their presence will add value and that they will teach us something.
No question really… however, I want to thank you again for giving me this opportunity, and for having the integrity and respect to talk with me instead of about me. I really am happy that I put the blender away, you are one of the amazing people that I have met through my blog, and after talking your wife’s ear off on the phone the other day I can add her to the list as well.
Teresa Boardman is an exceptionally professional Realtor in the St. Paul, Minnesota area.
Her website: www.TBoardman.com
Her blog: www.StPaulRealEstateBLOG.com
Thank you Teresa. As always, it’s a pleasure having you ‘on the Vine’.
Articles by Teresa on the Tomato