We talked about blogging, content marketing, SEO, Invest Four More, developing and monetizing a real estate blog with Mark Ferguson.
We were talking with Mark Ferguson on our forum. I saw that he is successful in the crowded real estate niche. I asked him to give more details how he managed to do that. Cheers to Mark, he gave so many tips below. In my opinion, his online success comes from his habits to run a brick-and-mortar business smoothly and he applies his principles to the online world very well. For all our readers searching for online success, this interview will be a great insight 🙂
Hello, Mark. Please tell us about your blog.
I started www.investfourmore.com, a real estate blog in March of 2013. Before starting the blog I had no writing experience unless you count college papers I had written 12 years prior. I started writing articles about what I knew and the blog has taken off. The last three months (June, July and August of 2014) I have made over $4,000 each month from my blog and I had about 150,000 views in August.
I have put a lot of work into my blog, but it is definitely not a full time job. I run a real estate team of ten, fix and flip 10-15 houses a month and have 11 long-term rentals. The blog has been a part-time venture and I focus most of my time on writing when I do work on the blog. I think the blog has been successful thanks to consistent writing, consistent subjects, long articles and writing about what I know.
How did you get started blogging?
At the start of 2013 I was looking for new business ventures, my real estate business was going great and I am always looking to create new income streams. I figured I knew a lot about rental properties and how to finance rental properties, so I had my friend set up a WordPress account and I started writing. I wrote at least three articles a week in the beginning and I focused on getting a lot of content out quickly.
To be honest, my writing was pretty poor in the beginning. Many typos (I still have a few), bad punctuation and fragment sentences were all over the place. But people started following me and I started to see search engine traffic trickle in. I think people were interested in what I had to say and for the most part ignored my poor grammar. Thanks to the support of a few people in the beginning I was encouraged enough to keep writing!
How did you promote your blog in the beginning?
When researching for a real estate article, I happened upon a large real estate investing site that had a blog and forums. The site had a lot of great information and I started commenting on every blog I could and posting in the forums almost every day. I was allowed to post links to my site in a special section of the forum for a small yearly fee, which I was happy to pay. Those links and comments helped send traffic to my site and helped me become known in the online real estate investing community.
I also posted every article I wrote on LinkedIn in my profile and in groups I belonged to. I am lucky that I already had over 1,000 connections on LinkedIn, because every time I posted an update with a link to my articles I saw decent traffic. Once in a while one of my group postings would get multiple comments and I would see a lot of traffic. I always responded to all the comments on my posts, which helped keep it towards the top of the group discussions. For a beginning blog to see 200 referrals in one day was pretty exciting.
I also commented on retirement blogs, money blogs, I created a Facebook page and twitter account for my blog. Facebook and twitter were slow to get going, but they produce decent traffic now (nothing compared to Google).
How did you structure your articles?
Whenever I wrote I always titled my articles with how someone would ask a question on Google:
- How can you invest in rental properties with little money down?
- How much money can you make with rental properties?
- How much money is required to buy rental properties?
Titling my articles in the form of a question worked well with the searches engines. I also used plenty of sub headings that were as descriptive as possible and my articles were usually 1,000 to 2,000 words long. I used plenty of links in my articles to other articles on my blog.
What did you write about?
I have been a licensed Realtor since 2001, fix and flipping homes since 2001 and I own 11 long-term rentals. Many people have problems getting more than four loans in their name due to banking guidelines. I figured out a few ways to get more than four loans and I decided to write about it. That is also where the name Invest Four More came from. It is meant to be a play on being able to get more than four mortgages on rental properties.
I started writing about rental properties and that is all I wrote about in the beginning. I wrote about financing, buying, managing, repairing and any topic I could think of relating to rentals. I also gave detailed numbers on my rentals, how I bought them and how I did what I did.
I believe being very specific in my articles and focusing on one topic really helped my search engine traffic. After I had written about rental properties for months, I started writing about real estate agents and how to be successful as a real estate agent. Then I moved on to fix and flipping and then how attitude has helped me become successful. Now I write a mix of articles on all facets of real estate.
How much do you pay attention to SEO guidelines?
At one time I downloaded a SEO plug-in for WordPress that told me my SEO score. That plug-in killed me! I started writing articles trying to mention the keyword or phrase as much as possible and I immediately saw my search engine traffic decrease. I think Google knows when you try to cheat the system and over using key words was not a good idea. I went back to writing how I normally write and things got much better. I also rewrote many articles to reduce the keyword overuse I had done.
Sometimes I will look at the most popular keywords in my niche to see what may give me good search results. But I usually write what I want to write about and that keeps me interested and it has worked out well. Sometimes my articles take off and sometimes they do nothing search engine wise.
Has rewriting articles helped your search engine hits?
Over time the number of properties I own changes and I may change some of my thoughts on investing as I continue to learn. Every so often I go back through my articles and edit them, rewrite sections or tweak the titles. It always seems to give me a boost with search engine traffic when I rewrite or edit my articles. I also get a chance to correct typos that I missed the first time I published an article.
How guest blogging has helped your blog?
I started blogging with basically no idea what I was doing. I learned by trial and error and by reading random articles I found online. Everyone seems on have a different opinion on websites and it is tough to know what to do.
I do know having links from other websites to my site is important. I was lucky enough to become a guest blogger for a large real estate blog with an Alexa ranking under 10,000. It took time to become a guest blogger with the site since they wanted to make sure I was not just another blogger looking to get a link. I had to prove to them that I was going to stick around their blog and my blog was going to stick around as well. Not only did writing for them generate traffic from their site (I am not allowed to insert links in my guest blogs to my site, but I do have a link in my author bio on their site and under each article), but I think having many links from a large blog helped my credibility.
I am still writing guest blogs for that site and I write multiple guest blogs for finance blogs and retirement blogs to get more links and traffic. I noticed many traits that the bigger blogs look for in guest bloggers.
- Earn a reputation as a blogger who will be in the business long-term
- Show I am a guest blogger for other large websites
- The topics I write about are always relevant to the blog I am asking to guest blog for
- I see what the blog is about, what their viewpoints are and how I can compliment or add another point of view
- I ask blogs that I comment on frequently, who may already know me
- I don’t ask for a link back to my site, although most will allow it anyway
- I always include sample guest blogs I have done and offer sample ideas for an article
I get guest blog requests all the time for my blog and I can tell most people who request a guest blog have never read one article on my site. They all have the same generic email asking for one link back to their site, unique article, blah blah blah. I allow a few guest blogs, but I want to see a relevant article that will add to my writings, especially if I may not be an expert on that subject.
How you have monetized your real estate blog?
I started making money on my blog late in 2013. I had installed Adsense earlier in the year with some success, but my traffic was less than 50,000 views a month and it didn’t add up very fast. I experimented with different ad placements, blocked some ads and even tried another similar advertiser. Nothing really gave long-term gains, so I went back to Adsense and left all the settings alone. My earnings have been pretty steady this year with a RPM between $10 and $20. Last month I made over $1,900 from just Adsense.
Another source of income from my blog is eBook sales from Amazon and directly on my site. I have written six eBooks about real estate and most of the material I took straight from my blog. I took articles from my blog, reformatted and edited them to fit well together in a book, created a cover and then published them on Amazon. I mention the books in many of my articles and I sell about 80-100 a month on the Amazon store, which nets me about $350 a month. I also sell PDF versions of the book directly on my site, which equals another $200 a month from about 40-50 sales. I get to keep all the money on my site so I make more off each sale.
I have created a couple of products for my blog as well that provide income each month. I have the Complete Blueprint for Successful Real Estate Investing, which is 230 PDF guide on buying rental properties, it comes with call to actions, audio introductions and personal coaching from me. I offer the coaching in the form of email responses, although I am thinking of adding conference calls as well. I charge $399 for this, but it is usually on sale from $199 to $299. I have been selling 5-8 of these a month.
I also created an REO starter kit that teaches real estate agents to start working with banks to list foreclosures. This is a short guide, but comes with coaching as well and I charge $99 for it. I sell 3-5 of these a month as well. As far as the coaching almost no uses it! It does not take much of my time at all to respond to the few people who email me each week.
Finally I make money off of referrals from real estate agents, turn-key rental companies and a few affiliates. I have many investors asking me to help them find a real estate agent and I can point them in the right direction through my industry groups I belong too. Very few people end up buying a house through these referrals, but one has! I also send people turn-key rental information and if they buy through a company I recommend I get a cut. I have a couple of training programs that make me a couple hundred each month through affiliate sales.
What is the future of Invest Four More?
I am still writing, usually twice a week and I am working to increase my back links. I wrote three guest blogs this week, which is a new record! I occasional go back and edit articles to keep them fresh and I am creating a new product for real estate agents. I hope to continue to increase my traffic over time and build the blog into a money making machine!