I have been asked several times over the last few weeks about the setup of my site and how someone else could do it. So let me take a few minutes to let you know what I did and how you can do it for yourself.
Step 1 – Choose a Name
The first step for me was choosing the name of my site. Even before I started deciding whether to use WordPress.com, WordPress.org, Blogger, Google Sites, or any one of a half dozen other website platforms, I needed to decide what to call the site. I chose AtlantaPropertyJournal.com because it was easy to remember, broad enough to cover anything that interested CRE pros, and, most importantly, available for purchase. I will take you through the specifics of domain names and hosting elsewhere, but for now I just want you to know that I chose the name of my site before I ever considered a platform.
Step 2 – Choose a host
Maybe I should have done more research into blogging platforms before this step, but I wanted to make sure I had a place to buy my domain name and host all of the security and warranty stuff. I happened to choose Bluehost for mine (they have been great), but I could just as easily gone with 1-and-1 or iPage or any of about 1000 other hosts. Almost all of them integrate well with a WordPress blog.
Step 3 – Install WordPress
The nice thing about Bluehost is that they have a control panel with software called “SimpleScripts” that allows you to customize and install things into your site. I simply ran the WordPress simple script and Bluehost installed it for me. I was then given a login page and asked to create a WordPress account. That took about 30 seconds. Once I confirmed my account through email, I was up and running with my new and secure WordPress Site.
Step 4 – Customize
This is by far the most difficult and time-consuming part of the process. I created the site in about 15 minutes. I have been customizing it for more than a year. WordPress comes with a default “theme” and some goodies, but I wanted to make mine look customized. There have been volumes written about how to customize WordPress sites and I would recommend this one as one of my favorites. But, for the scope of this post, let me just talk about themes.
A theme is basically just a way to tweak the appearance of your site. You can change the color scheme, site layout, text display, fonts, and pretty much anything else that has to do with the appearance of your site. This is extremely important because, as CRE pros know, layout and aesthetics matter. If the site is too “busy” or sloppy or confusing, no one is going to hang around and discover your brilliance. So you want to find a theme that fits your content, is nice to look at, stays simple, and displays your content well. In fact, that could be a good little checklist for you.
When looking at a theme for your WordPress CRE site ask yourself:
1) Does this site fit my content? Pink bunnies don’t jive with retail leasing trends. Make sure it is professional.
2) Is it nice to look at? Pretty straight forward. People don’t like looking at ugly stuff and if it caught your eye it will catches someone else’s.
3) Is it simple? If you throw too much on there, people will get distracted and the thrust of your content will be lost. I am guilty of this from time to time, so don’t think I’m preaching.
4) Does it display your content well? Since the content is the most important part of your site, make sure that it is well-displayed. Don’t let it be dominated by headers, links, or photographers. People will come to your site and stay there based on your content. Make it pop.
You can tear your hair out over how many columns to have, where to display your RSS feeds, and a dozen other minor tweaks. But if you get the theme right, you will have a step on the competition.
Where do you find themes? Great question.
As I get into customizing your site, I will explain more. For now, just know that there are literally thousands of themes to choose from. Some are free and some cost $20- $50. A good place to start is WordPress.org’s Free Theme Directory. There are 1500 free themes here for you to compare and answer the questions above.
My favorite paid themes (or “Premium” themes) are on ThemeForest.com and WooThemes.com. Both have thousands of great themes that make your site look more professional and improve its performance. If I had to recommend one premium theme, I would point you toward the Standard Theme by 8bit.io. I know the head of 8bit. He is a stud and so is his product. Check it out.
So that’s my quick and dirty WordPress and themes intro for all of you who are looking to build your own CRE site. I will follow up with a series of more in-depth discussions on customizing and optimizing WordPress and its themes. For now, hit me up in the comments!
Lightning struck my brain this morning (figuratively) and I had an epiphany. It’s not really all that rare since I do some of my best thinking on my morning jog. But this one has stuck with me so I thought I would share it.
The Internet is commercial real estate and commercial property deal-makers are uniquely suited to succeed in creating a web presence.
I’ll start with the first half of the idea. At its most basic level, the internet is just a collections of places where you can see, do, and buy stuff. It is a collection of places for commerce, learning, working, and interacting. Sound familiar? Define commercial real estate . . .
Do I really need to draw a comparison between a shopping mall and Amazon.com?
The point is: The entire theme of the internet is placemaking. You want to create a space where people want to be. It’s the exact same concept as commercial property.
We, as CRE geeks, ask questions like:
- How can I get traffic to my property?
- How can I make visitors want to stay on my property?
- What can I do to the layout of the property to optimize the visitor/tenant experience?
- How can I entice shoppers to spend more money in my mall?
- How can I give tenants easy access to my building from their commute?
The web geek version would be:
- How do I get traffic to my site?
- How can I make visitors stay on my page?
- What can I do to the layout of the site to optimize user experience?
- How can I get visitors to spend more money on my site?
- How can I get visitors into my site easily from their natural web-surfing patterns?
Do you see that these are the EXACT same questions that require the EXACT same mentality and need the EXACT same skill set?
We spend our entire careers figuring out how people interact with places and that is exactly what web traffic is about.
I would even go so far as to contend that there is no group of people on the planet better suited to innovate on web traffic patterns and user experience than commercial real estate professionals. It’s our entire career. It is how we have made our living for every year of our professional life.
Need further convincing? Ok.
Web addresses. Do you know why every site builder and designer wants a “.com” address? Of course you do. Same reason all of the office buildings in Atlanta want “Peachtree St” addresses. Everyone knows it and everyone goes by it.
Why is blinds.com a better web domain than woodblindsofatlanta.com? For the same reason that “Atlantic Station” is a better label than “that brownfield development on the old Atlantic Steel site off the connector.” It’s short, pithy, and people remember it.
Why do web designers spend so much time on their tags and categories? For the same reason you spend so much time studying the demographics around your retail center. You want to know what your target customer is looking for.
Is this exciting to anyone else?
Hopefully, those three examples didn’t teach you anything. You already knew the concepts because you’re a CRE pro who understands a customer or tenant’s interaction with property.
So, what I’m telling you is very simple:
If you are in Commercial Real Estate, you are ALREADY very well equipped to succeed in creating a web presence.
It’s all the more exciting because deals and properties are finite. As the saying goes “They aren’t making any more land.” Well, apparently there’s a fresh supply of internet. We may be hindered by geography, financing, capital markets, or something else in commercial property. On the web, you are limited only as far as the human mind is limited. If you can imagine it, someone can probably create it.
So, here is the real question:
What are you going to do about it?
I’ve just told you that you have an unparalleled skill set that makes you uniquely suited to succeed in a limitless environment. You have a chance to be utterly dominant at building a corporate brand, expanding your influence, growing your skill set, and yes, even making money through the web.
What are you going to do about it?
Hit me up in the comments.
Let’s take a moment to discuss pseudonyms and three reasons I use one.
I wouldn’t say I’m a huge Dave Ramsey fan. I certainly like the guy and think his mission to stop the debt-happy insanity in our country is admirable. But I’m not really his target audience. I’m a finance guy that hates debt. His messages don’t add much value.
I do love my wife. And she wanted to take Dave’s Financial Peace University before we got married. Long story short, we took FPU for 8 weeks at Wieuca Rd Baptist. As I suspected, I didn’t get much out of it in terms of financial tools, but I did get a great book recommendation.
Ramsey tells a story of talking to the wealthiest man he knows, a multi-billionaire, and asking for the man’s recommendation for “the greatest book on investing someone can read.” The billionaire’s response is one of the only things that stuck with me from those 8 weeks.
This nameless billionaire claimed that the greatest investing book of all time is . . . .
“Cool. But, Duke, why are you writing about Dave Ramsey and children’s books in a post about pseudonyms?”
Because, kind stranger, I write with a pseudonym because of The Tortoise and the Hare. The theme of tTatH is “slow and steady wins the race.” I agree with that wholeheartedly, but I would amend it slightly:
The best way to go far is to NEVER go backwards and NEVER stop.
The tortoise won the race because he never stopped, never slowed down, never deviated from his path, and never took his focus off his goal. That’s my intention for my career. A thousand small, steady, focused steps toward my goal.
A legal battle over postings on a website could fall under the category of “step backward.” A pseudonym tacked on the end of any post allows plausible deniability to any author and places any legal burden on The Atlanta Property Journal and the parent company that owns it. Both the APJ and the parent company have excellent legal counsel and can protect themselves from nasty words like libel and slander.
If you have read any posts on this site, then you know we aren’t in the business of talking smack or trashing anyone. This is a forum for ideas, discussions, book reviews, trends, and anything else interesting that affects commercial property in Atlanta. This ain’t TMZ and I’m not Perez Hilton. But I have been around long enough to know that there are plenty of unethical people and ambulance chasers who will sue you just for fun. So, I protect myself and the writers of the APJ.
I have access to every account that runs through this site and can claim that any author of the site could post under any name. So all liability comes back to the company and never to the author. It may seem like a small distinction, but it is the difference in the company paying $20,000 in legal bills and my friend paying $20,000 in legal bills. That’s a big difference to me.
So, the main reason I write under a pseudonym is to protect myself and my authors from legal liability. I never want anyone associated with me and my business to be forced to take a step backwards in their career because of some article. That’s the main reason, but there is another reason:
Writing under a pseudonym allows an author to feel more free and open in her writing. If you know that you, your family, and your employer are all protected legally from your writing, you can be totally open and honest with your work and not feel the need to pull punches or water down your content. It may just be a subconscious trigger, but people who are comfortable with writing the truth tend to write more truthfully.
And I can promise you this: More open authors are more interesting authors. And more honest content is more interesting content.
The APJ was created to foster an environment where people can come to be real and truthful about whatever vexes the CRE world. Keeping the attorneys away from everybody will help nurture that. Tip-toeing around the truth for fear of hurting anyone’s feelings leads to overly-vague and philosophical content. If you can’t get specific and detailed about something you end up sounding too general. On the other hand, if someone wants to come in and start talking noise and being terrible . . . they’re blocked. Piece of cake and I sleep like a baby.
The third and final reason I use a pseudonym is humility. Maybe I am the only one who struggles with this, but I can be a tad prideful. I like to think how smart I am or how great my accomplishments are and that gets me into trouble. (In moments of clarity I actually believe that anything I accomplish is simply because God allowed it, but that is another post for another time.) Whenever my focus starts turning to accomplishments I lose focus and become the hare.
So, I don’t want my name on this site. If this site and it’s affiliates have success, I want the success attributed to them not me. Otherwise I might start thinking how great I am and trying to “promote my personal brand.” I’m not that great. My friends and partners are great. They deserve to be lauded.
Anyway, those are my three reasons for using a pseudonym. Do they make sense? Do you think I’m crazy? Tell me in the comments.
- A peaceful spot to write something . . .
I find that I get a little push-back on writing (see: blogging) about commercial real estate. I hear excuses about “not enough time”, “nothing to write about”, “preserving intellectual property”, blah blah blah.
Ok. Maybe those are true, but I doubt it.
I won’t say that every other industry has embraced the blog as a viable form of information delivery, but several very mature industries have not only embraced but even openly encouraged blogs centered around the industry’s trends, challenges, and news.
And I would argue that the industry is the better for it. The constant flow of information and ideas from these two sites alone can change the way a person or firm operates and interacts with the financial industry.
So, let’s bring it back home.
Writing is wonderful and beneficial. Neato. But why should you write about CRE?
Here are five (not-so-obvious) reasons why (and I am going to assume that you are a commercial real estate professional):
This may be obvious to you, but when I first started writing online I didn’t realize how much I would need to connect with the online CRE community. Through research for articles and building my social media profiles, I ran across some tremendous resources. Learning from people like Coy Davidson, Duke Long, The CRE-Apps Team, and the 42 Floors guys has VASTLY increased my knowledge base on the fundamentals of global CRE. I can’t imagine any other way that I would have been able to grow my tool kit as quickly or thoroughly as I have through gaining connections with the online CRE community.
This plays heavily into Connectivity, but I want to point out that through my direct research for articles I have been forced to understand concepts that I may have glossed over in business. Just taking the time to research bankruptcy has made me decently knowledgeable on the differences between Chapters 7, 11, and 13 in US bankruptcy court. It has been both fascinating and rewarding and I’m not sure I would have taken the time to study it if I hadn’t wanted to present it clearly and concisely on my site. Maybe the best way to say it is that directed research for an article is the best way I know to gain depth (as opposed to width) of knowledge in a subject.
One concept I have come to understand is that true thought leaders on the web don’t repackage information. They aren’t just regurgitating news from the local paper. Thought leaders create new, original, and interesting content in a palatable, concise format. To do so, they have to read, interpret, and understand the news and information that crosses in front of them. They need to gain an applicable understanding of the subject in order to present it well. I think that leads to retention (it has for me). It’s very similar to school. Remember, those advanced statistical questions you had to memorize for calculus? Yeah, me neither. What I do remember is the papers I wrote and studies I did that forced me to take the info, interpret it, and bend it to my thesis. I retained that knowledge and could discuss it today. Memorization is intellectual junk food. You don’t retain knowledge that you memorize or redeliver. You retain knowledge that you interpret and apply. So I have found that creating original content will make unique concepts stick with me for substantially longer than news stories that I retweet.
This one goes hand-in-hand with brevity. Web-based articles shouldn’t be novels. They are brief, fact-filled, and to-the-point. The web isn’t a friendly place for rambling. So to create good content, you need to develop the ability to present ideas clearly in as few words as possible. That forces you to think clearly about the concept and find a creative way to present it with brevity. What you will find is that you will start forming opinions and thoughts through this process that are clear and concise. Think of the brightest people you know. Do they drone on and on about subjects they discuss with you? Probably not. They have clear, pithy truisms that they dispense quickly and sharply. I aspire to that. I want to present quick sharp thoughts eloquently and I find that the more I wrote and opine on my site, the clearer and sharper my opinions become. I want you to have that as well.
This is an open forum. Write about what you want to write about. As long as you aren’t bad-mouthing anyone or being overly profane, spread your wings. I’m not your momma. Do what you want. As long as it pertains to CRE, rock on. How many other forums in your career allow that type of freedom and creativity? Not many, I’m betting. I find it very satisfying to know that there is a forum with very few rules where I can create new ideas, projects, or concepts for my industry. It’s a lot of fun.
So, there it is. My 5 not-so-obvious reasons why you should write about CRE. Can you think of any others? Think I am off my rocker? Let me know in the comments!
photo Courtesy SXC user Ydiot