LT: Well, ever since we first connected way back in late 2007.
I had been running my own travel business at the time, had been a corporate lawyer and an MBA in finance so I was no stranger to complex spreadsheets.
We had recently moved to Hoboken from Manhattan, where Barbara Corcoran had founded The Corcoran Group Brokerage and she was something of an icon in the NYC real estate world. In 2004, the year I got my real estate license, she wrote (and I read) a book called “If You Don’t Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtails”, also know as “Use What You’ve Got”.
Well, let’s just say her book got me thinking about what my best attributes might be and how to use them.
Few agents – actually no agents in my market, had my combination of education, legal background, financial savvy and entrepreneurial experience. There were my ribbons! The other thing I kept hearing at real estate seminars was “become the local area expert” if you want to be successful. It didn’t take me long to realize that blogging was the way for me to ‘show my ribbons’. Ten years and one blog later, I truly do have a reputation as the local market expert.
LT: The results were pretty immediate.
I found that there was such a dearth of cold, hard data about our local market that once I started doing some meaningful number crunching and putting the analysis out there, via my blog, word spread and readership grew quickly.
Of course, I would still check google analytics every day to watch the red line rise. Within maybe a month the phone started ringing with people asking if I could work with them to find a new home. Now I don’t bother with ‘measuring my results’.
The financial cost of blogging is negligible. One deal in a market where the average sale price is over half a million, more than pays for more than a year of hosting. So financially, there is no question that I should spend the money.
I do put an enormous amount of time and effort into my blog but I truly enjoy doing it or it would be impossible to do on a regular basis.
LT: Our travel company had a website so we were familiar with the challenges of outdoing the ‘big guys’ at SEO to get above the fold in google results. It’s next to impossible without a huge budget and dedicated staff. Rather than rely on organic search for our blog to be found, we include our URL on everything we do.
Choosing the right domain name didn’t hurt any, either. We really only do business in one city, Hoboken, so HobokenRealEstateNews.com was an easy pick.
Well we come up on the first page for so many solid search phrases, it would be difficult to list them all.
If you google “Hoboken condos,” “Hoboken real estate,” “Hoboken homes for sale,” “hoboken property for sale,” or “Hoboken open houses” for example, we are always among the top results. It’s been amazing!
And then there are literally hundreds of longtail search results we are found for all the time. Blogging is the key to getting into the top results.
LT: I make a point of posting at least 3 times a week.
If I weren’t so busy doing real estate deals, I would love to write more but then, I love to write.
I think one of the biggest challenges agents face when it comes to blogging is that they don’t like to write so they just don’t do it often or well. Law school was invaluable in teaching me how to express myself clearly and concisely and I put that learning into practice in every post.
LT: I blog about the most pressing thing that my audience wants to know – what’s the market doing.
That question can be answered in many different ways. The way I most often hear other agents discuss it is anecdotally which may have some value. My market is primarily young buyers who work in finance on Wall Street.
More than anecdotes, they want to see the numbers, so that’s what I give them. Lots of statistics, charts and graphs about the Hoboken condo market. Merely posting numbers and charts are not enough, though. I make a point of analyzing the stats to explain what has changed, what is important and why. If, for example, the number of units on the market on the first of the month has dropped by 40% year-over-year, what does that mean and why does it matter to a buyer or a seller?
My job is not only to give them the facts but to then interpret those facts in a useful way.
LT: Never. Despite all advice to the contrary, I strongly believe it is counterproductive.
I am positioning myself to be the market expert. My credibility is everything and that disappears entirely when I start touting my listings. I don’t talk about other agent’s listings either.
I have a separate, traditional ‘agent website’ simply because sellers want to see that their listing has a ‘site’.
In general, I believe agent websites are a waste of time and money. If a buyer wants to search for a home they are highly unlikely to do it on an individual agent site. They go to Realtor.com, Trulia or Zillow. No individual agent can compete with ‘RTZ’ or even the big brokerage sites like a Weichert or Coldwell Banker. Those companies have full-time staff that does nothing but make the search experience better for consumers. Agents are not in the tech business – we sell real estate.
LT: From the blog I get 90% of my business. Down from 100 only because I get some referrals now since I’ve been in business so long. Our neighborhood is still transient compared to most so referrals are not a big part of anyone’s overall picture.
Best thing I ever did for my career – yes, thanks to you but – and this is a big but – I write original content that is meaningful and useful to readers and do it on a very consistent basis. To this day, I still don’t sell on the blog and no listings despite the advice of everyone in the world that an agent MUST have an IDX feed, MUST have a search function, etc. etc. Hooey.
When people call or email me they tell me they’ve been reading my blog for years. It’s like they already know me. The loyalty is already formed before they meet me in person. I get website leads on my listing from my brokerage but those people just want me to get them in the property and are on to the next agent when it suits them better. My readers want to work with me and only me. That is invaluable.
We have done more business every year for 10 years and won’t work with people who are not seriously in the market. My business model is all about developing personal relationships. I like to think of myself as an advisor.
I have no interest in ‘growing a team’ and getting hundreds of listings to let some transaction manager handle them. I don’t cold call or do mailings. I couldn’t truly provide quality service to 100 clients at the same time. I work mainly with buyers because it’s what I enjoy. My husband is also my business partner and he works with sellers because it’s what he enjoys (and keeps us from killing each other). We have a life outside work and believe strongly in keeping things in balance.
LT: Plagiarism. Other agents are lazy and dishonest and will steal your ideas and your work product when you do something brilliant. The good news is that most of them don’t have the gumption to do that consistently either. Also, there isn’t enough time to write as much and as in depth as I would like.
LT: I’ve hosted more than one open house where after talking to a prospective buyer for a while I hand them my business card and mention that I write a blog about the Hoboken market and the URL is on the back of the card and they react by saying “OMG -THAT’S YOU??? I love your blog – I read it all the time – I’m such a fan …” I feel a little bit like a local celebrity when that happens and it’s very satisfying.
I get thank you notes and comments all the time from readers, especially when I deal with more controversial topics. They thank me for providing an invaluable service to consumers and shedding light on practices many agents and some MLS’s would prefer to keep in the dark.
LT: Do what you do best and pay someone to do the rest.
LT: Blogging is not the right channel for everyone.
You have to be smart, and be a good writer or have good visual skills (if you do more of a photo or video blog). Then again, the real estate business is not for everyone either. But if you like expressing yourself, have something worthwhile to say, and truly address what your audience wants to know, it can be a blast.
Lori Turoff is an incredibly professional Realtor® servicing the greater Hoboken, New Jersey area.
She can be found at her regularly updated blogsite: HobokenRealEstateNews.com