I had the pleasure of having an in-depth convo about blogging for real estate agents with the brilliant Seth Price of Placester on the Marketing Genius Podcast. In addition to blogging, our conversation covered our content production process, content syndication, social media marketing and more. Listen to the interview or read the transcription below. And let me know if I can serve you for your blogging and marketing needs.
Seth Price (Introduction): Finding a digital agency that knows how to create outstanding content is really tough. On one hand, you’ve got a whole bunch of content mills that are producing “me too” content that’s duplicate and that’s useless. On the other hand, you really have a hard time determining who’s really good at this. I came across Chris Craft a little while ago and he does an amazing job. One of the things that’s hard to do as an agency is to really create a unique voice for each one of your clients. As the founder of Atlanta-based Nao Media, Chris has built a really successful and ethical company that delivers high quality search optimized content to real estate agents and other small business owners. In this interview, Chris takes an inside look at Nao Media’s content creation process and offers some valuable strategies to help real estate professionals get more mileage out of their marketing.
Seth Price: Chris, really nice to have you on the show. I have watched your work I think, one, as an agency, and two as an individual content creator for a bit now, and I just … I love what you do. I wanted to dive a little deeper into not only your work, but then how you work in this industry that we call real estate. Tell us a little bit about the work you’re doing now with Nao Media.
Chris Craft: Thanks for having me. First of all, I like to start with my true identity. I’m a follower of Jesus Christ, first and foremost. Then as far as Nao Media, we’ve been at it since 2010, creating rich long form content for individuals, and we’ve transformed a little bit. We’re still doing that, but we’re hyperfocusing on realtors and agent teams. There’s also a pretty big publishing component to the business now. It’s an exciting time for Nao Media.
Seth: I don’t want to just gloss over your faith. I love that you said that. Clearly faith means so much, but tell me how that empowers your work.
Chris: It puts me in the mode of a servant. My lord and savior said that the greatest of them all would be the one who serves, and it allows me to not only put my clients first, but the writers on our team, I serve them by communicating with them. We have this neat intranet in Nao Media that has all of our systems in process just for content creation. I believe that’s the best way to not only by telling people, “Hey, I’m a Christian,” but by living it out through service of our team members and our clients.
Seth: Yeah. I also really … I think it’s so important and people are fearful. I don’t want to lump faith into putting a stake in the ground, but it’s really about saying, “Hey, this is who I am.” I think that that is so powerful. As an individual, as a person in the world, as a brand, as a business, staking your claim allows you to have this core to work from, and I think it’s so helpful to building a business.
Chris: Thank you, Seth. Yes, there are benefits of it. Industry benefits. There are voice and brand benefits. I’ve been able to carve a niche for myself as that guy who’s bold about his faith, but also provides excellent content for his clients. It’s awesome because when you live authentically, whether it’s through your faith or anything else, it allows you to bubble up to the top and not mix in with the rest of the crowd.
Seth: That’s good. I want to shift gears and I want to talk about … You talk a lot about content and so do I, but I want to hear your perspective on what is the purpose of content creation.
Chris: I’ve transformed over the years. When I first started creating content for people, I was all about instant big wins. You’ll get to the top of page one, just hear me out-
Seth: You’re one of those guys?
Chris: I was one of those guys, but now, I’m an awareness guy and an authority guy. I believe when you sell that and when you really mean it, first of all, it creates a good standard for what the role of the content will be, right?
Seth: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.
Chris: It also it creates more creative opportunities for you to do more with the content because when you’re a top of page one guy, you’re focusing on just publishing content and letting Google do its thing, and hopefully your on site and your off site SEO is up to par. When you’re an awareness guy, it gives you more reason to repurpose, and not just have that content sitting on the blog. You’re repurposing it through email. You’re utilizing the image that you use on Instagram. You’re doing more with the the content. You’re turning a lot of blog posts into more brick content and making it into an ebook. Now that I’m an awareness guy and I’m waving that flag, things have gone a whole lot better.
Seth: When you say an awareness guy, are you saying that “Hey, we are with our customers, our customers are attention starved, so our job as individuals trying to build our business, we need to be valuable and touch our customers as much as possible”? Is that the … When you say awareness or is there something else?
Chris: Yes, and not only touch them as much as possible, but touch them with good stuff. Stuff that’s not only for the purpose of making you an authority, but that once again, here’s that word, that serves your target audience and edifies them.
Seth: Okay. You clearly work with a lot of folks in helping them implement and you do some of the creation with your team. You and I have both used this term, a content creation machine. How do you do that? What does it take, because I think so many people get just turned off by the idea of blogging or hey, they create some content, and they just don’t know how to measure whether it’s doing anything and how to actually create a machine that helps them.
Chris: Certainly. We have a seven-step process, and I’ll just paraphrase it now-
It starts with really getting to know the client. Being transparent, we’re ghostwriters. We write for people as them. We have to get to know them and get to know how they tick. That is the first … Sometimes two weeks to one month of our onboarding process with a client is getting to learn them, learn how they tick. We have an in depth questionnaire that every prospect must fill out and it’s all for the purpose of learning their voice and aligning it with their goals. Then secondly, we do a deep dive in the nerd side, the keyword research, but also the human side in making sure that the topics that we write on are in alignment with their goals. We create anywhere from a 60 to 120-day editorial calendar that’s decked out with their desired keywords. The headlines are pre-written, and all that is pre-approved so that we don’t go into the process writing content and then going back to the drawing board the next week. We know what we’re going to be writing for the next three to four months out ahead of time.
Seth: Let me ask you a question about that. I am your average real estate professional. Whether I have a team or not, how do I know what keywords I should be focusing on? How do I know what I should be writing? Even if I’m blessed enough to have the resources to hire someone to ghostwrite for me, what should I do?
Chris: We take a two-prong approach with that. Who are you and what would help you stand out? In fact, we have one client who is a former professional bodybuilder and her whole thing is serving the athletic community in her area. We write not only about hyperlocal content in Columbus, Georgia, in the valley, but about health and wellness. It’s not only the hyperlocal content approach. I think any beginning blogger can find hyperlocal, geo-targeted keywords for people, but that’s that whole part of the two or four-week process of getting to know the person so that there is a good portion of the content that is unique. It provides value to them, and for the people they serve.
Seth: Helps them stand out. That makes complete sense. Let’s take the tack that I’m just starting out with the whole content creation thing. Clearly I’m trying to make it rain and get my production up. How much in the form of marketing resources should I be thinking about allocating to this content creation?
Chris: For us, and what we pretty much demand, is if you’re an agent team, there’s bound to be someone who can act as an editor on your side. We’re not an agency in the form of where we actually facilitate … I like Mark Schaefer’s word, igniting of the content. We pretty much produce it and we hand it out to you in a form that’s easy for you to copy and paste into your CMS of choice. Whether that’s Placester or whether it’s WordPress. For us, working with us is just an editor, but we always recommend that someone has a facilitator of spreading the content out to social on their end as well.
We used to be in the social media marketing game, but then we found that our niche is just being that content army and just pumping it out.
Seth: Tell me a little bit more about that piece. Okay, you’ve mapped out … You’ve figured out a content strategy over that four-week period. You’ve articulated what the keywords are, you’ve articulated what the topics are. Do you do different formats of content or is it all written? Walk me through what you recommend.
Chris: Yes. For our rapid fire form of service, it is all written content because that’s something that we can do. Being remote and most of our clients are not here in the Atlanta area.
It’s pretty neat. It is mostly blog content and word count varies, but typically, we’re happy to pump out thousand-word long form pieces, but most of our clients just say, “Hey, can you make something that’s keyword-rich and enjoyable to be read by a human within four to 600 words,” and we can gladly do that. I think there’s still value in micro-content in that form. That’s what we typically stick to is the content that ranges between 600 to 800 words and tries to hit on one focus keyword and a secondary keyword.
Seth: Let’s attack the debate that people have. I know a bunch of folks sign up for services that do … I’ll call it duplicate content. It’s more templated content.
If I understand this correctly, you’re creating uniquely written content for this particular topic and whoever the client is. Why is one better over another?
Chris: I am so far in the one of one camp unique content that it’s not even funny. To be upfront, I’m scared of one client’s content hurting someone else if you don’t get that threshold right in terms of the amount of originality from post to post. I’m all about protecting our clientele.
Seth: What’s the downside because I think that you and I get it, and when you intimate the negatives, I understand it.
I don’t think the audience understands what happens when you use duplicate content and almighty Google finds out.
Chris: Almighty Google finds out and suddenly, you’re not on page one anymore. You’re no longer relevant and it takes not only that, but the time that it takes to get back. It’s like the GPA thing, right? It’s easy for your GPA to drop quickly, but it’s so hard to build it back up.
Seth: I think the thing that I always try and tell folks when they ask about duplicate content or the services where they can just hey, pull a piece and post it out, is that all the advertising portals are in the business of selling trust, just like you and I are.
Chris: That’s right, Seth. That’s right.
Seth: If they find out that you are scamming the system by copying something that already exists, they want to penalize you because if they serve up erroneous information or duplicate or plagiarized information, they look bad, and then you go to another portal. You don’t use Google, you use Bing or however it works.
They just want to sell ads. I think it’s so important that … It’s so hard to stand out today. The world is super competitive. If you’re not going to take the time to be unique, why even bother?
Chris: That’s exactly right. I will say in one way I’ve evolved though is syndicating content across the same brand, right? With Medium being here, with LinkedIn being here, as long as you publish your content on your hub, your site first, let it season for a while. I’m all about putting that same piece of content on Medium or LinkedIn.
Seth: Okay. Can you do me a favor? Walk me through a syndication process because I want to make it clear that we’re not talking about syndication like you do with properties.
This is you create a really awesome piece of unique content. Then you put it on your blog. Then what do you recommend happen? Where else should it be syndicated?
Chris: First of all, email. Email is the best channel in terms of connecting with people for me if you have a list built up. I’m not talking about first paragraph, first three sentences, link to read more. I’m talking about the full thing, man.
Seth: Just send it out.
Chris: Yeah, just send it out. Copy and paste that baby into an email, but don’t just blast it out blindly. You’re not going to send something about Utah real estate to people who live in New York.
Have it segmented. Email, number one. Number two, LinkedIn. I know of agents that believe that LinkedIn is just a waste of time because they say, “They’re only other agents there,” but the reality is there are other working professionals, people who have income who can be your future client who are there. Especially LinkedIn if you’re engaged in groups that target your demo. Put that baby on LinkedIn and share with the groups, man.
Then number three, for me, not as successful for real estate, would be Medium.
Maybe you have a different opinion, but I haven’t seen much success for my clients in syndication on Medium.
Seth: Yeah. I’d say that Medium is a great tool for broader awareness of you as a subject matter expert or an authority in the world.
Chris: I agree.
Seth: Not necessarily hyperlocal just because it’s such a broad reader base.
Chris: That’s exactly right. I agree.
Seth: Okay. We have some distribution ideas. How do I create … Let’s say I can’t afford to hire Chris Craft and his team, and I’m going to do this myself. How do I create or map out some content formats that are just going to be really valuable for me and my audience? How do I go about thinking about that?
Chris: Sure. The best one, but also the most scary one for some people, is video because some people can talk out a blog post a whole lot easier than they can sitting down at their desk and banging it out. I would say video. I think Facebook Live has made the breaking through the inhibition a little bit easier.
Seth: It lowered the quality bar. It’s now okay to have video that jumps around. It’s almost like Snapchat. Snapchat, I’m so fascinated by it because it’s the only medium where it’s actually better to take selfies that you look like an idiot. It’s better to do the short videos where you’re just either drooling or eating or whatever it is, that’s totally cool. It makes it okay.
Chris: You’re right. I’m not trying to scare people away from writing their own content. I just know the reality is that most people don’t have the time to do what we do, right Seth? That’s why I’m very transparent in my book, The Foundation, that outsourcing and delegating is your friend in this case.
Seth: Yeah. That makes complete sense. You guys create the content, then you give it to them.
Seth: Your successful clients. What are they doing with the content once they get it?
Chris: First of all, our model is bulk. We’re delivering four to eight pieces per week to a client. Our best client is not just putting them all out at the same time.
They’re actually following our directions with the editorial calendar that we design for them and putting the one to two pieces out per week that they can comfortably ignite through social. Also, our most successful clients automate social.
They’re not sitting there in front of their computer sending individual tweets out. They batch. We batch produce.
We recommend that they batch schedule the sharing of the content as well. I will say those are the two things. I skipped a step. Our most successful clients get redlines back to us if necessary within 24 hours too.
Seth: Yeah. Why is that important?
Chris: Most of our content is evergreen, but you never want your content creation team to feel like you don’t care about the content that they’re crafting for you.
Seth: You’re saying it’s like any other management relationship. If you neglect them, they get de-motivated and they don’t do their best work?
Chris: Let me speak for our agency. We’re still going to pump out good work, but hey, we’re human. We’re going to wonder, “Hey, what’s going on?”
In one case, we weren’t getting feedback and we found out that they were just running with our post. Not to say that that’s wrong. It’s great because we have our own internal QA Process. Quality assurance for people who don’t know. We’re confident in what we deliver. Our first drafts I feel can compete with other agencies’ second and third. We’re fine.
We weren’t hearing back from this one particular client, and we go check their blog. They’re just running with it. Hey, okay. Cool.
Hey, for the most part, give us some feedback within the first 24 to 36 hours.
Seth: That’s great. I want to switch gears and talk a little bit about social and about social automation. Tell me what are the tools that you suggest people use and what types of things should they automate in that process.
Chris: Sure. I’m glad you brought that up because I’m not a big believer in automating Facebook. I do believe Facebook is one of those sit down craft the right message, and also, Facebook doesn’t always play nicely with third party tools. I’m just leery. I believe Twitter is automation all day long. My favorite tool is free. It is IFTTT.
Seth: I love that. If this, then that.
Chris: That’s right, my friend.
Seth: Yeah. It’s IFTTT.com. If you’re not using it, go use it. You can automate all kinds of stuff, but tell us what you recommend folks … You’ve created this four post a week. What should they do with it?
Chris: Sure. Let’s focus on Twitter. As we know, Twitter is fast moving. You should not be concerned with bothering people. I believe on Facebook, a good life of a post is a day. You shouldn’t bombard, but with Twitter, if you have a nice piece of content, I recommend to our clients that they pump it out two to three times a day the same piece of content. Then also, consider that people are in different time zones. Someone in New York might read it and then while someone in LA is just now waking up. Yes, Twitter, the same post two to three times. Also, think seasonal and remember, if you have an IFTTT, selling your home in the fall post, just be cognizant that you need to turn that baby off for when the next season rolls around. You’re not automating content that’s no longer relevant.
I will say those are my two biggest things. Twitter frequency. Don’t get scared of the frequency. Pump stuff out, but also remember what you automate so that you can turn it off when necessary.
Seth: That makes complete sense. Any other tools that you would recommend?
Chris: I like Hootsuite. I’ve been using Hootsuite for a long time, as a carry over from when we did facilitate social for clients. What I like about it is just the ease of having all the channels there in one place. Unless they’ve changed things, Seth. Maybe you could let me know. I believe that you have to batch through the uploading of an Excel file or some kind of limited file. I’m not a big fan of that, but Hootsuite is really cool. Sprout Social. It’s awesome. That’s another one that I recommend for automation, but the added value there is they actually produce reports for you that tell you the best times for when people are most engaged with your social posts. Those would be the three. IFTTT, Hootsuite, and Sprout Social out of Chicago.
Seth: Have you used Meet Edgar?
Chris: All the greats have coaches. When I first got into the self-publishing game, I hired an awesome coach, Tim Grahl.
Seth: Yeah. I know Tim.
Chris: Yeah. I’m going to be seeing him next week in Nashville. He’s a big Meet Edgar fan and I haven’t used it yet.
Seth: You got to use it. You have to.
Chris: I keep hearing great things about it.
Seth: I’ll walk you through how we use it as Placester.
We have a huge library of content. I think we have over 600 pieces of content and we categorize them as to the types of things they are. Whether they’re listing type content or video content, or personal branding content, different types of groups. Then what we do is we create these schedules when we want certain categories to be posted on different channels. What it does is you actually … You write the different … Whatever the CTA is. The call to action. You can write multiples. Then it programmatically chooses based upon your schedule not to repeat the same CTA, even though it might be the same piece of content.
Seth: You can change the sharing image as well. It’s the best tool out there. I interviewed the founder a while ago. She’s just lovely. Totally worth every dollar that I spend on it.
Chris: They’ll likely have a new customer today.
Seth: I have not personally met Tim, but I’ve followed his work. I’ve read his content. You have to introduce me at some point.
Chris: I will. He’s amazing.
Seth: That’s great. Chris, this has been awesome. You’ve shared a ton of great stuff. Where can folks find out more about you, about the work that you do? Where they should go?
Seth: Awesome. Thanks so much, man. Great to chat with you.
Chris: Thank you, Seth. I appreciate it.
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