When did this real estate blog start?
My first modern blog post was January 6th, 2009, but I originally started the website way back in 1999. DougFrancis.com was born after attending a seminar at an NVAR Convention in Tysons Corner, Virginia led by Saul Kline of Internet Crusade who basically told us to leave the room and register our names. That old “website” was okay then but showed its age in 2008 and it was really time to evolve… and thus began this WordPress blog in 2008.
In 2008, blogging wasn’t as business-focused as people have made it today. I learned from bloggers who were writing to write, and trying to help people answer important questions… and not capture-the-lead like most websites try to do today. I really don’t know how to describe it (that old blog culture), but in 2009 blogs were more educational than sales-y and I have intentionally worked to write useful articles rather than sales pitches.
There were many conversations that I had with internet-gurus who told me that my blog was totally wrong for real estate. Yes, they liked it but they were so critical of my work that I could not believe the dismissive nature of their arguments. “Doug, it’s a waste of time”. Luckily I didn’t listen to their “advice”, and continued to write on real estate topics that I thought would benefit people.
People always like numbers, so for the month starting April 18, 2017, dougfrancis.com had 4,212 unique users with 12,119 pageviews. There were 4,580 sessions averaging 46 seconds looking at 2.65 page views per session. Not bad!
And the really interesting thing is, today books like Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype discuss why smart marketing is about help not hype. It’s worked for me and can work for you too.
In July 2013 I was contacted by Verisign, Inc. to discuss how using this site helps my business. As a result, they had an ad agency film an interview at a client’s home in Vienna which they use in their marketing… you can check the Verisign video out here.
Always open to change, in March 2012 this blog went through (yet) another evolution when it was upgraded to use StudioPress & Genesis from CopyBlogger Media to help it perform better on your PC, phone or iPad. All of the original content is still here and it may look pretty much the same, but it really is different. Changes are going to happen because technology has changed so much. For example, when I started this “new” WordPress blog Apple hadn’t even introduced the iPad yet!
In 2015, Carrie Dils of the successful OfficeHours.fm podcast asked me to be a guest to discuss using WordPress as a blogging platform in my business. Carrie is a freelance WordPress developer who also has training available on Lynda.com ~ an excellent site for some basic training. If you are looking at hiring an excellent professional to help you create a kick-ass site then I have to recommend contacting Carrie Dils.
Doug’s last blog redesign was in 2014 (really!)
In March 2014 another version of the site was introduced. This time I hired Carrie who, as a WordPress developer and an excellent question-asker, helped me work through the process. When I first pitched my idea, it looked a lot like the old site and I realized it was important to do something different. So, I went back to StudioPress (they liked it and added to their Showcase) to review their cutting-edge HTML5 Pro themes and decided on the Minimum Pro Theme.
With that in mind, I started to think out-of-the-box and reading a lot. Some of the best insight was on The Moz Blog and those posts really helped me refine what I hoped to design.
In 2017, I discussed how building a site is helpful for any business professional.
What is the blog about?
Basically… Northern Virginia real estate. I understand that is casting a wide net but it is about real estate activity that I personally see or experience, feel is noteworthy, or impacts real estate buyers, sellers, investors and those who work in the business like agents, mortgage people, settlement companies, termite inspectors, home inspectors or anyone making a living in Northern Virginia.
In the summer of 2013, I was contacted by a writer from Money Magazine doing research on Vienna and what it is like to live in here. Yes, she Googled Vienna VA Real Estate. I like to think that our 45-minute conversation helped Vienna land the #3 spot in the “Best Places to Live 2013” issue, and she did quote me on page 62 of the print edition which clients found in waiting rooms while waiting for their doctors.
Why are you writing dougfrancis.com ?
After talking with some of my clients (high-tech folks), it seemed like a good transformation for my website (circa 1999). The response has been positive and a good way for current clients to understand real estate and me. Overall, real estate is a fun business with plenty of emotion, characters, and strange encounters… and I like to share that element of fun with a bit of humor.
I also feel like there is a lot of real estate information out there, but most of it sounds like the same old real estate pitch. Or, it was written by someone in the PR department who is focused on Keywords for Google, rather than what you can expect looking for a home in Northern Virginia. In essence, I enjoy creating content that is helpful.
What software runs the blog?
This is a WordPress (version 5.4) blog. WordPress is a free software platform which I have customized using the Minimum Pro theme
Streamline Theme 2.0 as of 3/2012 (not free) from StudioPress built upon the Genesis framework from CopyBlogger Media (renamed Rainmaker Digital in 2015). WordPress is a bit complicated to start out with and I have to continually update the version and have added many plugins.
I originally had it hosted at a budget outfit for financially broke bloggers, then hosted at GoDaddy for better speed using their 4GH Hosting. In June 2012, dougfrancis.com began hosting on Synthesis which is part of StudioPress. The objective was to find a dedicated WordPress host, increase speed and expertise. So far it is working better than expected.
StudioPress was sold to WPEngine in 2018.
In September 2018, I changed hosts once again to Flywheel which is designed around hosting exclusively WordPress sites. If you are looking for a new host to improve your speed and security then check out Flywheel for “next era hosting”. It was easy to move although I did end up spending a good amount of time figuring out the new surroundings. Again, another Carrie Dils recommendation.
This site is Mobile Responsive.
Can I link to you? Add you to my blogroll or exchange links?
I really prefer that only real publications link to me. If you resemble that statement then… okay, link away! (send me an email too so I can check it out)
Can I copy your posts?
No. What do you think? Would you be happy if someone copied you? Let’s talk first if you want permission and we can work something out.
I am fine if one of my posts gives you an idea for a post to write on your blog. All I ask is that you refer back to my post with a link which is a great strategy for getting links back to your blog. Most bloggers I know are givers, so if you give a good link then it will pop up (in an alert) and open up an opportunity to link back.
Who takes the photographs?
Many of the blog post photos are from Flickr.com or other resources and credit is given. Some photos are licensed or bought at iStockPhoto.com .
For my client’s homes, I hire a photography firm named BTW Images who I feel is one of the best in the country. Really, their work is amazing and they are very responsive.
I like to take my own photos which are seen on every IDX site, and are posted to Google Picassa. As of December 2011, I also use a Canon DSLR EOS Rebel T2i.
Videos are taken using an Apple iPhone 5S and then edited using the Videolicious app. There is more to it but the iPhone is an amazing tool that allows video and audio production equal to cameras costing thousands of dollars.
Who taught you how to blog and do all this tech stuff?
I need to give credit to Chris Carlson and Allyson Cain who helped me get started with this here blog… because they were willing to help me when I polled past clients for some input. (Yes, they were clients and are still good friends.
Brad and Bobby Carroll who are the Dakno Marketing guys provided a lot of insight and guidance in 2009 and 2010. If you are a REALTOR then send me an e-mail and we can discuss my experience with the Dakno guys, Vancouver BC Internet marketing pioneer IanWatt.ca , photography experts like Steve Pacinelli at Tech SavvyAgent , and Chris Smith.
But I have been on my own to create content that is original. And real estate changes every day because each house in unique as are the customers and clients. There really isn’t any “normal” in the real estate agent business because it can almost always be… funny. Yes, there are plenty of serious moments, don’t get me wrong, but there is an ever growing source of material to blog about every day (if I had the time). If you are thinking about writing a blog then feel free to touch base with me, but first take some time to read through CopyBlogger which is a very helpful site that will help you work on your writing skills.
In May 2014, I hopped on a plane at Dulles and headed out to Denver, Colorado to attend CopyBlogger’s Authority Intensive which was a fantastic content marketing conference. Speakers included Seth Godin, Darren Rouse, Lee Odden, Joanna Wiebe, Ann Handley, Bill Erickson, and Bryan Eisenberg. Of course Brian Clark (right), Sonia Simone, Brian Gardner and all of CopyBlogger provided colour commentary too. You might want to read Ann’s book: Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content
This conference had nothing to do with real estate. Really, nothing.
(what I didn’t realize at the time was that I sat with and had lunch with a very quiet Australian blogger named Darren Rowse. Darren started the Digital-Photography-School and ProBlogger.net… so he’s kind of a big deal. Today, I listen to the ProBlogger Podcast for tips and great ideas.)
Authority Intensive covered core WordPress design concepts about strategic marketing online covering topics such as authentic content, smart design and calls-to-action. Although I went with a little bit of anxiety knowing I am an amateur blogger, I left feeling much more on track and confident about the digital marketing craft.
Blogging = Writing
Believe it or not, the Internet is full of blogging training on YouTube. Keep in mind that a lot of real estate agents across the country (and Canada) also were helpful to me.
Another (early on) forum was RE BarCamps which are informal get-togethers of real estate “tech” nerds interested in sharing their knowledge. Great low-key forums take place across the U.S. thanks to volunteers and without sales presentations. Thanks everyone!
Oh, and thank you Pam Taylor who was a demanding English teacher at The Gunnery School in Washington, Connecticut.
Who is the “admin” or designer for this site?
That will be me, and
I am responsible for the content unless specifically ID’ed as a post from a guest writer. If I don’t like something or feedback shows my thoughts were unclear, I will edit a post at any time without notice so it is beneficial to the readership. Get it?
Can you help me set up or fix my blog?
Sure, within reason. A few years ago I totally screwed up the blog messing around with stuff (code) that non-tech people should not mess around with. To make a long story short, an agent in San Diego with the same StudioPress Theme sent me a copy of the “Footer Code” and voila, I was working normally.
So, I am not tech support but will share my experience if you have a question.
Yes, I don’t share your e-mail address with anyone. WordPress 5.4.4 is very secure against spammers. There are some “cookies” and I use Google Analytics… those folks know a heck of a lot about you so I ain’t the problem.
By using the site then you consent to this policy which may be updated at any time. Just know that I am not going to sell you out!
Also, please note that I have a few Affiliate Links which means Amazon or ShareASale may send me a couple of bucks if you buy something. There isn’t anything unfamiliar with either site so please don’t worry that I am sending you off to a third-tier site in a former Soviet bloc country.
Do you have a Comment Policy?
I have actually removed “comments” simply because they took up too much room. Email me if something is really rubbing you the wrong way (or you have helpful insight I may include you in a future blog post)
How much time have you put into this site?
Many hours have gone into this site from planning it set up and editorial calendar, creating original content, fixing problems or just checking in to make sure it is loading properly. So, probably a few hundred hours of work…
Are you familiar with NAR’s Policy for Implementing A Social Media Marketing Plan?
I have read it and feel that I am in compliance (and more!) It must appear clearly that I am a licensed real estate agent since 1991 in Virginia, and I am affiliated with TTR Sotheby’s International Realty in McLean as an “independent contractor”. Yes, I am a member of the National Association of REALTORS and my local association is the Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS in Fairfax, Virginia.
Want to hire Doug Francis?
Yes, I sell real estate in Northern Virginia and have been successful for more than twenty years. I understand the Internet, marketing homes and selling homes. Smart marketing strategies to help you.
Please feel free to send me your questions: email@example.com