Last Sunday I presented our IDX and Non IDX versions of the octomap WP plug in. We still have some development to do in order to get it into a distributable state. Here are my notes and the links to the sites I referenced.
Octomap plug-in demo
I can get really spastic sometimes. I am very susceptible to going off on tangents.
In trying to figure out how to cover this subject I decided to trace our thinking and dev over the last 1 1/2.
We develop property search sites for agents and we are agents with a brokerage here in PDX. Our primary focus has been on neighborhood level map property search. About two years ago we decided to use WP as the front end for all our sites.
Mportlandrealestate.com this was our first site for my real estate team. its focused on property search. then we thought it would be cool to add community content to show that we are out in the community. (demo site – community content, neighborhood search, author in hover)
Our little brokerage has been growing and all the agents are blogging and twittering and being really real estate 2.0.
As we started to grow we needed a corporate site for M Realty – Mportlandhomes.com – so we of course made a cool WP theme. then can a little ah ha. what if we fed posts form all the agent sites into the main site so people could see which agents where active in the different parts of the community. (demo site – the content is carrying the people)
Outside of real estate
Early on we saw the power of wordpress posts about neighborhood shops, events etc. we were getting long tail traffic to our real estate sites.
We created a site for local content called portlandoctopus.com. it has no real estate listing content is a magazine type multi author blog site. Map with categories.
SImilar to the real estate site we felt it would be cool to aggregate posts from multiple sources and the use geography as the association rather than time or category.
We created theOctopus.com as the main hub that aggregates content for the site on this MU install.
Demo the post editor -
You can create a site on our theoctopus.com site in fact we would love to get a core group of blogger interested in local and global stuff.
Few more bits of basic functionality to add in the next few weeks. one of which is the ability to make folders to save content to retrieve later or share.
Octomap a download-able plugin for wp.org sites. We hope to have it all done and out by the end of the year.
Anyone who would like to create sites on our theOctopus.com and help beta would be much appreciated
Our agents blog. or more accurately they utilize WordPress sites effectively in their practice. We are very connected with our agents activity because we develop & provide the WP sites, design and SEO. There are three primary configurations that are working for our agents, each site configuration has associated “marketing” techniques that work best. All of these can be very productive for the agent if implemented correctly.
passion blogs are the most compelling in my opinion, but not necessarily the most productive in terms of transactions. These blogs are extensions of an individuals love and passion and in a real estate context would be niche site such as modernhomes. These are very good at creating a connections with people who are passionate about the same topics. Long term organic search and return visits from subscriber build effectiveness over time.
A little less opinion and a little more information. these blogs tend to have a general topic such as Portland Relocation, Portland home auctions or Portland Market news and trends. The basic strategy is to cover the topic in a comprehensive manner with strong emphasis on SEO. These are designed as a resource and to present the agent as an authority. They require systematic content production and attention paid to analytics.
Property Search blogs
Very search centric sites with some neighborhood/condo building and possibly property niches. These sites tend to rely heavily on SEO and possibly PPC marketing campaigns. a good example would be Portland real estate. These are very good for consistent lead generation on high volume sites and staff to follow up. This requires relatively high budget for PPC and/or resources to win top organic placement for most competitive search terms. Only effective with agents that are skilled at following up with information and showing requests.
The keys to success:
1. Assessment of agents - past success, area of genuine interests, personality type, writing ability and desire.
2. Site design – style, look and feel, design elements, color pallets etc.
3. SEO – key word research, on page SEO, agent SEO training.
4. Content production – content plan/road map, blog training, accountability.
5. Traffic generation – social media, sphere marketing, organic SERP, PPC, traditional marketing.
6. Move forward – Consistent effort, keeping in the areas of strength.
The sites are providing a growing number of contacts and leads and something tangible to focus on in growing their business.
I recently went to Inman Connect in San Francisco. Tons of great Ideas and very smart people talking about RE issues. One of the most compelling items for me was the use of animation to convey ideas in a very fun way. We have all the equipment so we decided to write a script and try it. I would love feedback on this first attempt. Does it hold your attention? does it convey a message? What is the message? is it entertaining? thanks for the help:)
many of us focus on good search engine placement as a component of our Real Estate practice. It is a never ending competition to create sites and content plus SEO to win the first few positions in Google on the phrases that are most relevant to our business. There are tons of resources to learn about Keyword/phrase research, on page SEO, content creation and back linking. What I don’t hear much about is the role design can play in winning.
I have been invited to speak at Inman Connect in SF on design and search engine performance. I contend that sites with great design will crush the sites with poor design. In real estate there is a huge opportunity to “out Design” the competition because most design/innovation is very weak. Go to Google for any city and search for “city name Real estate” click the top ten links and look at the sites…they probably are crappy template sites with poor design and no fun to interact with. Now go to http://thefwa.com/ and look at sites that have been created by artistic creative people who push design.
So what? you say…people just want information you say…those sites have huge budget and we could never do that you say?! Well, here’s the deal, as agents we don’t really have much to say that others can’t say just as well. If the information is the same it becomes about how you package the information into a compelling experience! Create a new fun interactive way to find a house, learn about home inspections, explore you farm neighborhood, or a million other ideas you can come up with. It will cost some money but if you are successful enough to compete at this level you have the Money. And yes it takes work and creativity and passion or it will suck! If you don’t have it then find someone who does pay them and love them.
The reason to focus on design is more practical than you might think. To compete for the most competitive terms you must have strong back links. People and sites must link to you as an authority on relevant terms. You must stand out from the crowd and hold peoples attention. This is what great design does…it carries your information in a nice shiny package. Package your information about real estate so well that people want to show their friends. There are tons of people in our industry looking for new things to talk about and share. Be worthy of their attention.
This is not theory it is why I am speaking at Inman Connect SF. It is why influential sites link to us. And it is a big part of why we do well in Google.
BTW – I don’t consider us to be Great yet.
1 – Be in love with your site! -if you are not up at night playing with your site thinking of new ideas your in trouble.
2. We are monkeys and like little shiny things. Little things that move and interact with can hold our attention use this!
3. Don’t explain with lots of words – use design to expose to guide
4. Talk naturally – Your tone should be friendly and match the site.
5. Take some chances – look outside of real estate and try things. ask “wouldn’t it be cool if” and turn off “yes but”
6. Commit long term to design – Make it part of the budget long term
7. Design around Ideas – Look at the core ideas you want to convey and use design to support and enhance.
8. Use API’s and plugins from others – Integrate cool data and widgets from others. makes your site better and they want to show you off!
Idea = transparency Design/innovation = show agents activity on a map. MLS listing view by agents.
Idea = Walkscore heatmap is just so cool to look at! = add overlay on our Map. Homes for sale with the Walkscore Map
I just keep going back to this site because it is so damn cool amazing!
How should we spend our marketing money? The days of big print, radio, billboards etc. are over because they perform poorly compared to new more sophisticated strategies.. internet marketing (PPC & organic), Social media activities, and targeted marketing that supports niche communities are it.
This is a great example of a small marketing budget that has strong impact for us and a great M agent – Charles Ramsay. We are sharing the cost of bike jerseys for a cyclocross team that he is forming. The M brand is building a reputation as a company that supports its agents and the agents community. Charles is reminding the community that he is an active agent with a cool progressive firm. We are truly working together in spirit and wallet to build the his sphere and our brand.
This would be a useless strategy if Charles was not already a strong member of this community. The credibility of the brand and the agent is “slightly reinforced” by this not “established” by this. The jersey, agents blog, tweets, FB, actual racing, event participation are all part of the agents real connection to the community. The Value of the jersey uses the leverage of all the other components. Dollars well spent – Plus its just cool!
Charles will be including cyclocross activities on his blog site focused on First time buyers Portland
WalkScore is a data tool that allows you to look at a property as it relates to walkable places in the community. The heat map shows the concentration of walk scores as an overlay. You can use it as a guide to listings that have a high Walkscore…or low walk score if you hate walking:) Use the live version to search portland real estate with the Walkscore heat map.
Our M Car is an experiment and development project focused on taking the agent out into the field while providing tools and data connection. The car is equipped with computer, scanner, printer, GPS navigation, GPS vehicle tracking, webcam and more. We are experimenting with how to maintain a connection to all the data needed and tools to help the agent in the field. I think virtually all of the functionality in this car will eventually be available through an iPhone app. (hint hint we are working on it now)
In Action – Day One
In Action – Day Two
I always feel like such a goof when I see myself on video! But this is me. Please give me some feedback on this video. I am contemplating placing on our corporate site. Is it too long? to informal? too anything? Thanks
Here is our latest steps towards being the transparent brokerage. We love working on our WP/IDX map and this is maybe our favorite project ever!. We are combining RMLS listings, agent blog posts and the homes agents actually go inside to view.
How it works…
Agent geo-coded posts. All of our agents have their own custom branded WP sites and are posting about the real estate market and community on their sites (example Marisa - pdxmetroproperties.com ). We built our WPMU network to draw the posts from the agents sites into the main M Brokerage site mportlandhomes.com.
Marisa WP Blog
M Realty corporate blog
Homes Viewed by Agents Looking at homes is vital to being a good agent connected to the inventory and market. We think seeing what the agents are looking at is a really good idea. The data is pulled from the electronic key card system then our system turns a listing viewed to an orange icon. See Marisa Swenson’s activity
Active homes for sale. the site has a direct feed from the MLS that is updated every 20 minutes. The listing are processed to ensure correct placement on our map. Agent activity is integrated into the property search so you can which agents are active in the neighborhood and can reach out to the agent directly. for example Marisa Stevens lives and works in Montavilla check out the homes for sale and see Marisa at the same time.
Tactics are what you employ to carry out your strategy to realize your vision. It is our vision to be a new breed of real estate brokerage that gains dominant market share nationally. We have laid out a strategy that we think has merit and are employing the tactics that follow. This post is a tactical activity.
The vision acts as a common and reliable focal point. It is what you are moving toward. the strategies can and should be somewhat mailable and the tactics or action items directly serve the strategy. One strategy that serves our vision is to dominate online property search in our market. We have multiple tactics to accomplish this and some have worked well and some have not. we may alter our tactics but the basic strategy remains in place.
Blogging and blog sites are tactical. What you write about, the emphasis you place on search vs content, the platform utilized, etc all should be part of the strategy.
A good understanding of this concept results in reliable action with enough flexibility to exploit opportunity and/or avoid disaster. It does not have to be a big elaborate plan but some real thought should go into the vision, strategy and tactics.