How to Build Profitable Hyperlocal Websites

I’m often asked what kind of sites I’d be building if I wasn’t running Copyblogger Media. Actually, I’m in the process of producing a few new projects, and they are all of the hyperlocal variety.

Hyperlocal websites provide content related to a very limited geographic area, such as a town, neighborhood, or even a single zip code within a city. The content can range from local news and politics, to information about schools, restaurants, and other businesses in the area.

There has been much sound and fury about the possibilities of hyperlocal, adding up so far to mostly hype. My interest in building these sites stems from the fact that I made a lot of money from them between 2002 and 2005, back before I started Copyblogger.

We’ll get to that in a bit.

First, let me frame the way I think about profitable hyperlocal websites, which is generally in sharp contrast to the way many approach them.

How to Avoid the Briar Patch of Hyperlocal

The most well-known hyperlocal enterprise is Patch Media, a subsidiary of AOL. Patch had established hyperlocal sites in more than 500 communities across the United States, which sounds like a lot until you realize how little of the US that actually covers.

Patch isn’t very interesting to me as a business, and not just because it reportedly lost $100 million last year. It’s not interesting because it’s basically just a traditional media concept (the community newspaper) shifted online, which is a very AOL thing to do.

Patch performs traditional local journalism funded by advertising. Everyone is having a hard time with that model, and yet Patch is clinging to it and wondering why money is being liberally burned in the name of hyperlocal.

I’m not saying community journalism is a bad thing, because I think it’s a vital thing. It’s just not a good business as currently practiced, and tends to overwork editors at the hyperlocal news level with marginal — if any — returns.

Adrian Van Klaveren of the BBC said is best when it comes to my approach to hyperlocal:

We need to move beyond news to information.

That, and you need a revenue model that makes hyperlocal worth your while. Let’s talk about how you might enter the hyperlocal game and end up with a highly-profitable business.

The New Media Real Estate Entrepreneur

The way to make hyperlocal profitable is to think of yourself as a new media producer whose foundational revenue source is from real estate transactions.

Back before “hyperlocal” was a buzz word, I built a virtual real estate brokerage out of a collection of websites with that exact mindset.

I got started in 2002 by creating content-rich sites focused on affluent Dallas-area towns. No one else was doing this, so it wasn’t long until my sites were ranking extremely well for searches done by people looking to buy homes in those areas.

Google has evolved over the years since, but a similar strategy will still work exceptionally well today. Create a mix of local news, anchored by evergreen historical information (think of the town Wikipedia entry, except better), insights into area school and the local political scene, and reviews of restaurants, bars, and local merchants.

Then get realty specific by offering up information about neighborhoods, writing up features about homes on the market, and providing helpful details about the rental market. Stick with this for 6 months to a year, and you will have a significant presence in the local search results for your chosen area.

To produce enough foundational revenue to make this effort profitable, you need to generate qualified leads that result in real estate commissions. Whether you build a virtual brokerage like I did, or run a referral-based operation, you’ll need a real estate license. This is not a hard thing to achieve, and you’ll be able to create a model that brings in much more revenue than advertising can begin to match.

You’ll also need a real estate license in order to display MLS real estate listings on your site. Once your content is attracting targeted local traffic, the real estate listing section of your site is where the leads come in. Visitors view home listings and contact you for more information and showings.

As the real estate markets around the country begin to recover from the crippling recession, it makes sense to get started building hyperlocal sites right now. Of course, you may be asking why existing Realtors and brokers shouldn’t just build these sites themselves, right?

Yes, they should, but very few are. Just as in 2002, the real opportunity is for someone like me (or you) to take the lead in hyperlocal, because obtaining a real estate license is the easy part compared with convincing an existing brokerage to reinvent itself as a content-focused company.

As for me, I’m thinking that joint ventures with existing quality brokerage firms are the way to go. All the leads and commissions generated by the joint venture entity (in other words, the business that results from the website) will be shared 50-50%. I do what I do best (content marketing and conversion) and they provide excellent real estate services. Everyone wins, including and most importantly, consumers.

Let’s now take a look at what a well-produced hyperlocal site looks like. The business model here is indeed real estate, but from a different angle.

How to Own an Area

Let me give you an example using a site I’m producing. It’s called Your Boulder, and it’s all about the unique lifestyle in my hometown of Boulder, Colorado.

The site produces week-daily content about events, outdoor recreation, restaurants, shopping, and homes for sale in Boulder. We also do feature articles that have appeal to people who live anywhere.

By focusing on the geographic area first and creating content about that area, both people and Google begin to view the site as an authority on Boulder, Colorado. By also adding real estate content into the mix, the site should begin to rank well for the terms that will bring in brokerage leads for a real estate business model (I’ll keep you updated).

Will the average real agent or broker create content-rich sites like this? Maybe not the average anyone, but there already are exceptional agents and brokers building these types of sites and both Google and their clients love them for it.

Plus, there are also pure content producers building these sites and making referral deals with brokers and agents thanks to our AgentPress program. Beyond real estate, they can also move into native advertising, local events, and marketing services arrangements.

This is how you make hyperlocal work.

Something to Think About

It’s obviously beyond the scope of this article to detail the ins-and-outs of the real estate brokerage business. And despite the word count, we’ve only scratched the surface of this topic.

I’m just giving you something to think about. Every year for many decades, starry-eyed entrepreneurs obtain a real estate license hoping to make their fortune (or at least a living) from the business of buying and selling homes and other real estate.

It’s all about getting clients. That’s the hardest part for a new Realtor, but it was the easiest part of the business for me.

We’re talking content marketing 101 here. It’s the content that gets people to know, like, and trust you, while also helping you dominate high-value local search results.

A well-produced hyperlocal website can deliver you more leads than you can handle. And that’s a good problem to have compared to the alternative.

Sure, this particular entrepreneurial approach isn’t right for everyone. But give it some thought — the great idea you’ve been looking for might be right outside your front door.

Brian Clark is Editor-in-Chief of Entreproducer, a multimedia email publication exploring the business of independent digital media. Get more related content on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. The Knox-Henderson district is another DFW-based area perfect for hyperlocal promotion by a variety of the retailers in that area. Good stuff.

  2. I am *all about* the profitable hyperlocal websites. I focus on events, though.

    • Hi Meg,
      Events are a huge part of LowerOakLawn.com. They show the activity and vibrancy in the area and make it easy for users to get information on what’s going on without having to subscribe to every business’s email list. While events make great content, I’ve found that it is very important complement these “temporary” posts with core content on the neighborhood. Not only does this type of content help with search, but also provides context for the events that you’re posting! Would love to see some examples of your sites. I am always looking for inspiration from other hyper-local bloggers!

  3. This is so interesting Brian, thank – you for writing it – and in such depth. We are just starting to experiment here in a poor region of the UK, with how hyper local sites might help regeneration after post-industrial decline. The Lower Oak Lawn story and site is a revelation.

  4. Fascinating approach and you could easily use this approach with so many areas of the US that aren’t well connected yet and aren’t utilizing smart content marketing.

    Thanks for sharing this insight.

    • Scott Vann says:

      David, you definitely have to be careful on this one because it is illegal in Texas for a real estate agent to share his commission with someone who doesn’t have a real estate license. While there may be some way to legally work that as Brian has suggested, the easier and safer of the two options is to get a license.

  5. Martin Messier says:

    Hey Brian!

    Do you still need a real estate license to make money with the model you propose? ie, partnering with brokers and earning commissions.

    MM

    • Brian Clark says:

      Martin, great question. If you create a JV partnership or a new entity like an LLC, the brokerage company can use its license to make the new entity a broker as well. Make sure you’ve got solid legal counsel, but it’s a straight-forward thing. It’s still a good idea to get your own license though, because I think it gives you more leverage.

  6. Too many folks are creating content to hit pay dirt in a week or a month’s time.

    This goes to show how much work is to put in to really profit from online.

    Great post, as usual.

  7. I try to do this with my Insurance Agency every single day. We’re currently in the midst of a video series called “100 Insurance Questions Answered in 100 Days”.

    The name pretty much gives you the gist… 100 questions answered in 100 days in 2 minutes or less of video. The idea is to take our website from 1 blog post to 101 blog posts in 100 days…

    The results have been amazing and we’re only on day 70.

    This stuff works people… FOR REAL BUSINESSES…

    Thanks for a great article Brian.

    Ryan H.

  8. This is awesome. In my local market, I can see the possibilities being tremendous. I’ve already got a hyperlocal thing going, but I don’t work it like I should.

    So, the foundation is already laid…now I’ve just got to work it.

    Thanks for brain kick!

  9. Brian – good stuff. In Hong Kong (pop 7 million, mostly well off consumers) we have the ideal environment for the hyperlocal concept. After just 12 months we are rapidly cornering the market for Inbound immigration services (foreign nationals coming to live, work and establish a business here). It took us 4 solid months to produce excellent professional content teaching people for free on how to get their own visa approved, but since then we have been selling support services to our visitors like it’s going out of fashion! And actually, we have only recently realised the importance of ‘engagement’ and have ‘lost’ tens of thousands of drive by visitors by not offering premium information products for free and signing them up for an ongoing post-visit dialogue (something we’re putting to rights at this time). Hyperlocal IS the name of the game for us.

  10. Great article, Brian. I truly appreciate the detail and fully agree with all you wrote. I especially appreciate your sharing this because I’ve been helping a friend who’s trying to nail down a business to start based on her talents/interests. What you’ve outlined is it, right down to her having written for Patch (before they cut her work, due to what you indicated).

  11. Thanks Brian,
    While maybe not hyperlocal, I’ve been building a local based site. I actually had left it alone for an extended period not knowing how to make it profitable. I’ve still been struggling with that but this is one possibility I’ll be really looking into (real estate licensing especially).
    My biggest mistake was not starting a mail list from the start (I even have an Aweber account but never saw the need for one on a local based site). I threw out 30K potential subscribers last year by not having a subscription form.
    Thanks again.

  12. I just wanted to add that not only do you need a real estate license to use the online MLS system, but you also have to pay what can be a hefty fee to the major sites that provide it. It’s not, as far as I know, just a little script that you can copy and paste into your site, but something that requires a fee to license – on top of your real estate credentials.

    • Brian Clark says:

      MLS data comes from the Realtor associations, and companies like Diverse Solutions provide IDX feeds to brokers and agents. I think I paid $100 a month back when I was doing it?

      Ricardo Bueno works for Diverse Solutions, so if he shows up here, he can give you exact numbers. For a “real” business endevour, it’s not a lot of money, considering that a 3% commission on a $300,000 house is $9,000 (assuming you did only one transaction a month, which hopefully is not the case).

    • Hi Sherice,

      I’m wouldn’t quite call it a “hefty” fee to access/use MLS data on your website. Though I suppose for a new real estate agent who’s just starting out, keeping costs low is important.

      IDX products range from as low as $29.95 per month to as high as $100 per month (or more). dsIDXpress for example (our product at Diverse Solutions) will take every single listing that hits the MLS and create an indexable page on your domain to display that listing. It does that for both listing details and listings by area type (cities, communities, tracks and zip codes). And it does that automatically so there’s no manual uploading of listing data, editing, etc.

      Not bad for $29.95 per month if you ask me :-)

      And to quote/add to Brian’s numbers above, as you can see, the commission on a single escrow more than makes up for that cost.

      So yes, while keeping costs low might be important, IDX is a necessary expense, but it doesn’t have to be overly expensive either.

      • Scott Vann says:

        Does the 29.95/month include the fee to your MLS?

      • Hey Ricardo – Why is it that the diverse solutions WP plugin create permalinks with both “-” and “_” as in: .com/mls-s708010-7_via_pamplona_rancho_santa_margarita_ca_92688

        This is more of me being extremely picky, but I don’t quite understand the logic, and wish it was all “-” for overall site consistency.

  13. Brian, how do you go about setting up a JV with another company?

    Would structuring the JV be on the entreproducer side, or the service provider? If the former, what tools would you use to track leads/conversions?

    Awesome post, thanks… and I hope you got some killer BBQ outside of Austin.

  14. Let’s say you build all the technology, content marketing, and social behind a hyperlocal site. Form an LLC to back it legally. Where does the connection from a local realtor or broker come in? How or why would they want to partner with you? And what is the business model? Leads? Links to their site? Or are you earning commissions through sales?

    Really interested to learn more about this.

    • Brian Clark says:

      You definitely want a share of commissions — selling leads alone would not be as lucrative if you focus tightly on a region. The business model is brokerage — Realtors refer leads all the time for commissions, usually from other states or cities. This is unique in that you’re in the same area, but you are positioned where buyers start the home-search process — online.

      As for why a local broker or realtor would partner with you — simple, you have a presence in the area they don’t. And that presence is generating leads. In fact, you could even build the site and flip it to a local broker who saw the value in the site after a year or so. This requires brokers and realtors to be more Internet savvy, but trust me … all they hear about at the RE marketing conventions is content, local content, hyperlocal content. They just aren’t willing or able to do it themselves.

      If no one wants to deal with you, just get your license and send over leads on a referral basis. Or start your own brokerage (it’s easy to attract Realtors when you’re providing all the leads for them).

      • Awesome info! I do have a digital product that I offer online for creating RE sites. I have clients that purchase it all over the world and I would love tell them about this tactic. Much like your StudioPress theme Mine is for Drupal.

        I have all the resources at my studio to do all the tech work – but you’re right – I should explore the license/broker setup to really push it.

      • I think something just clicked in my head – there’s a different “share of commissions” when you actually have your license?

      • Brian – In your experience from doing this years ago, how have you dealt with “getting” your earned commissions. I know that who you choose to get in bed with is always important, but how would you suggest working with your JV’s on a contract that states what a website referral was. Sure they came in from the site, but the realtor could easily try to say it was after the initial referral. Most people are honest, but not when it comes to sales.

        Rich

        • Brian Clark says:

          We dealt with this a lot a the AgentPress conference. Primarily, there’s a referral agreement signed by the other agent and his/her broker. So there’s no shady stuff involved.

          The more important question is how much are you, the lead generator, involved? Different approaches by different folks, but the consensus is that you treat it as your own client to some degree. Follow up with the handling agent, checking with the client once or twice, etc.

  15. I sell new homes and have been using hyper-local websites to generate leads since 2006. It takes a fair amount of effort… but has proved very successful.

  16. I had a feeling that Real estate leads could be the golden egg. I’ve been nursing my Hyperlocal site for Katy (West Houston) for over 4 years now. We have lots of traffic (400+ uniques per day), but businesses don’t show much interest in advertising on our site (ads or directory listings). I have yet to add real estate to our site.

    Would like to know more about how these referral partnerships are set up. I would not want to be handling real estate leads, but would still want to be fairly compensated for leads the site generates… Would a working license still be necessary?

    Are there any other comparable revenue streams (for hyper-local) that hold a candle to Real estate leads in your experience? Coupons/Deals, Jobs, Listings, Ads, Donations?

    • Also interested to learn more about this. Care to share your hyperlocal site?

    • I think a working license would still be necessary in order for you to receive a referral fee for the commission.

      A buddy of mine built RainCityGuide.com years ago (in 2005). They had a real estate license but welcomed content contributors (other Agents), then distributed leads and got compensated by way of a referral fee for any leads generated and escrows closed.

      So for your site, I would do the same. Offer real estate agents who otherwise don’t have a web presence, the opportunity to contribute content on your website and offer to distribute leads to them. You’d have to find a way to get compensated for those leads (legally of course). But if you ask me, that has the potential to be very profitable and it’s a win-win.

      Content/compensation for you. A web presence for the real estate agent who you set up as a contributor.

      • Awesome feedback and I really appreciate it!

        What if the site allowed the outside Agent to actually list a property? Display photos, list property information, price and location? Or is that not legal to have them do that?

      • If you have a license and you’re sending out these leads to a particular agent – are they suppose to commission you?

        What if it’s just a lead and not a sale?

      • @Ricardo-

        In looking at various sites, I see that this isn’t a completely new idea. Most agents (if any) aren’t working it like a copyblogger site. But there are some that have done quite a bit. Yet, many seem to surge for a while and then taper off and haven’t updated for a while. That says to me that there wasn’t enough revenue.

        Is that lack of revenue due to the economy, the quality of the site or deficiencies in the concept?

        Brian suggests that 6-12 months of strong work, along with economic recovery, should be necessary to generate income. Some of the sites I have reviewed look like they had more than a year of strong work, only to fade out.

        I know you are a real estate site guru. What do you think?

        Jim

    • 400 uniques a day is not “a lot of traffic.” Unless you are in an area of 1,000 residents. We started selling ads when we were up to 2,000 uniques after 2 years (the site was a sideline till then) and we now have 11,000 daily uniques, 140,000 monthly. If you are the news AND INFORMATION AND DISCUSSION hub of your community, you should have no trouble selling advertising. It is not dead, contrary to what the big-talkers will tell you. Neighborhood businesses need to reach neighborhood people. Not with gimmicks. Not with ‘daily deals’ that hurt their bottom line. And no, you don’t want to be running after national advertisers either, if you truly care about your community.

  17. Brian,

    This post was very interesting, and also very unexpected. Yet, it spoke to me. This hyperlocal business might actually be one to look into.

    I would love to learn more about this as well. I have a question, however:

    I have a close friend who has a real estate license, and he is without a doubt one of those guys you mentioned above who obtained the license with hopes and dreams of getting rich. I do not have a license, but I breaking into this business seems like a lucrative idea if I join forces with him (sort of like what you do with brokerages). So my question is, then, is the hyperlocal real estate model practical for someone like me (who doesn’t have a real estate license) if they pair up with a real estate agent, or someone who does have a license?

    Actually, anyone who knows the answer or cares to contribute is welcome :)

    Thanks again for an eye opening post, and I look forward to your feedback.

    Darcell

    • Brian Clark says:

      I think that’s a great idea. When I speak to agents and brokers, I tell them to partner with a content producer. Or, hire a content team, but the problem is most real estate professionals don’t think like media producers and wouldn’t know how to manage the team. It’s not what they got in the business for, even though it’s now what the business requires.

      The reason I encourage the media types to go ahead and get licensed is 1). it’s not that difficult; 2) it gives you a better understanding of the business of real estate, including regulations; and 3) it lets people know “I”m doing this, with our without you.” People respect you more when they realize you’re not messing around.

  18. Brian, this is so good and right up my alley. I was an insurance agent for 4 years before I started my own freelance copywriting business (which, btw, Copyblogger has taught me so many useful tips about copywriting online! I especially like the IMSP Course). After I launched my copywriting business I also created the first hyperlocal website for my city (Battle Ground, WA…pop roughly 18,000) called BattleGroundBuzz.com.

    I’ve connected with many local business owners, elected officials AND real estate agents. I also started a podcast about a month ago which is off to a good start (and yes I am building my email list which I communicate with weekly). People are talking about it and I’m much more involved in my community but it’s not generating any revenue (but I’ve been doing well with my direct response copywriting business).

    I’ve ran the numbers and even if I had several advertisers on the Buzz it wouldn’t be worth my time to acquire and manage those accounts….but your idea is the BEST advice for creating a profitable hyperlocal site I’ve ever heard! I read several hyperlocal blogs and I haven’t heard anyone propose this.

    Now I need to research getting my real estate license and how the MLS listings go. Great idea Brian! When I make my first $10,000 from it I’m going to send you a NICE Starbucks card! ;)

  19. “People respect you more when they know you’re not messing around.” Exactly. That’s a key point that keeps running through my mind in testing some things out more behind the scenes right now and even when I get frustrated that I’m not where I want to be. You often can’t get buy-in until you start doing it, and it can be take time to get your focus but the tide does turn. Someone asked me how I knew what I was planning would work and I said because I’ve done it before. But now I’m going to do it, whatever “it” turns out to be, with a website. It’s been dramatic at various times throughout my career when suddenly my efforts started to produce unexpected results and others who were initially skeptical wanted in. Interesting you tie it to getting a real estate license. I can see this applying in other areas as well. It’s still wide open for those who do the work and will be for a long time to come because what you describe is hard for most people to envision, but the results are beyond imagination if you stick with it. There comes a point where you have to decide if you are going to do media related work for others or use it for your own business. I’ve reached the point of wanting to use the skills in a different way and I am anxious to see you discuss JV partnerships more. It’s a critical link. But I guess I’m just restating the obvious. When is it time to use your skills for your own business? Now sounds good to me. Thanks, as always.

  20. I’ve been working on building a hyperlocal news site off and on for the past few years, but I am now working on it more seriously. I had in mind the idea of including more local real estate news, and this is justification I needed to pursue it. We have a local REALTOR who has been doing a lot of the same type of work you’ve outlined here for three years, too. I’ve often thought about joining forces with her. Seems like there’s not time like the present.

  21. Another great example I have seen locally (I have no vested interest in this) is Do What Tulsa http://dowhat.thislandpress.com/ run by This Land Press who is doing some great things on the news front.

  22. I love this article and I myself own a hyperlocal site called: Dallas Single Mom.

    I think I can definitely integrate this model for the parent and family markets. Good Stuff!

  23. Brian,
    I have been a real estate broker for 25 years. I think that most brokerages are getting much more saavy about social media and hyperlocal content. They also resent non-professionals trying to get money from their commissions by using IDX to skim leads. Most of us refuse to buy leads anymore. These days, your model works much better, I believe, if a true real estate professional owns it. The problem with a non-professional realtor thinking that they can make a lot of money from commissions is that if you only do one or two or even ten transactions a year, you will not be an accomplished broker and you will set yourself up for a lot of liability problems. Selling real estate sounds easy but it’s not. If it were, all those folks who jumped in to make easy money during the boom would still be in the business. That said, selling real estate professionally takes a lot of time so it’s hard to do that and maintain a blog as well.

    • Brian Clark says:

      I agree with you Carol, and I’m not advocating selling leads. New Realtors are licensed every year — some of them are going to be a lot more savvy about content marketing than the existing “professionals” who refuse to change. I think the mark of a true professional is adaptation, and yet I see a lot of real estate people still waiting for the Internet to go away. It’s not.

      As for hard work, tell me about it. My little brokerage (me and 3 team members) grew up to $50,000 a month in commission revenue, and we were working our tails off. Knowing what I know now, I think going the joint venture route with an existing brokerage would make me way more happy. ;)

  24. I regret signing up to Entreproducer.

    I haven’t slept well since last week’s article on startup I’ve been so fired up. And now this. I mean, man, you’re spilling out some of the best entrepreneur advice I’ve read in years. As a matter of discipline, I’m putting this one in the slow burner, but shared it with a good friend who’s life you may just change with this.

    Keep ‘em coming (I’ll figure out a way to sleep).

  25. Great article. We are a small independent brokerage in Colorado and are not members of the MLS. And after just getting off the phone with DiverseSolutions I found out that you have to be a member of each MLS and get approved in order to display that MLS’s Listings. So you would definitely have to work with a local realtor that is a member of their area MLS.

    We syndicate our listings through Point2Agent to Zillow, Trulia etc and also through LandsofColorado and that works good for us. So my question is are there any options on adding syndicated content to our websites thats would be profitable? Or would you have to monetize your site with Adsense or other ads?

    Any suggestions?

    • Charlie: That’s about right. For anyone to be able to grab and use an MLS feed to display listings on their website they need to be an MLS member and undergo approval.

      Once you’ve purchased an IDX solution, your vendor will need to both acquire the IDX data from your MLS and get the approval to start displaying the IDX listings on your site. This usually involves getting paperwork signed off by your MLS, your IDX vendor, and the member (and/or the broker). In most cases, the IDX vendor will already have an established IDX feed setup with your MLS, and the paperwork is simply a matter of MLS protocol.

  26. I really love this concept and have plans to implement a similar strategy when my wife and I find the place we are going to settle down.

    Question: I think this has already been asked but even though you don’t see a future in ad supported revenue streams, is it worth looking at ad type offerings such as daily deals, job boards, etc? Or is the potential income so dwarfed by commission earnings that it’s not worth the time and effort to manage programs like that?

    • Someone commented above about how they have been running a community site for several years and still find it difficult to get local businesses involved to generate ad revenue.

      Now, I’ve never sold ads on my site(s), but I would imagine you need a substantial amount of traffic to make it profitable. Period.

      With a hyperlocal site, even if you’re attracting little traffic, it’s high quality traffic. Conversion on that to just one closed escrow is a large commission check. Even if you’re only getting a referral from that commission, it’s still a good sum. (To quote Brian’s numbers on a comment above “3% commission on a $300,000 house is $9,000″).

      That said, I’d rather monetize this way than through ads, daily deals and the like.

    • Brian Clark says:

      Johnny I have no problem with adding other revenue streams — that’s the cool thing about owning a media asset instead of a “real estate brokerage site.”

      You just have to make sure you don’t distract people from your primary revenue source. I think it’s easy to segregate real estate on a hyperlocal site, so it’s probably not a problem. On Copyblogger, however, we could put ads on the site and make a substantial bit of revenue. But would that revenue eat into sales of our own products? That’s the question, and the reason we’ve never done it.

  27. Brian-

    I recall stories about your past before Copyblogger in which you expressed a great deal of frustration and down right hate of your work back then. If I am recalling properly, this hyperlocal thing was the very business you hated so badly. Am I off base? Recalling incorrectly? What has changed to make it better, more feasible?

    Jim

    • Brian Clark says:

      Jim, I loved the content creation and marketing. Because I was good at that part, I worked way too hard dealing with the brokerage side, and grew to resent it. I didn’t know how to grow a business back then, but have gotten it right with Copyblogger Media (with a lot of help from people like Tony Clark, who is now our COO).

      That’s why I mention in the article that I personally would stick with the content marketing and conversion side of things for my hyperlocal model, and partner with an existing brokerage to handle the rest.

      • Brian, do I have it right? So back when, you were doing both the content and the brokerage simultaneously? You were using the site to generate deals for your team to execute. The difference here is that you’re suggesting two different parties: content and broker. Do I have it?

        • Brian Clark says:

          Yes, I was doing both sides. When you think about it, all companies do both marketing and delivery, I just did so well at one side (the part I enjoyed) that I ended up struggling with the other side.

          If I started that model today, I’d know how to staff up in advance of growth. But, there are other ways to go about it.

          So, I now have a production company that does all sorts of things. We’re in the business of creating content while partnering with other companies that provide the products or services.

          For others, you could create a small production team that just focuses on producing these type of sites. Start with one, build it yourself or with a freelance writer or two, then once you have position in the community, start looking for partners. Then you can scale your side of the equation from there.

  28. Brian,

    Thanks for getting the fires buring. I was a concierge in the Uptown and Downtown areas of Dallas for many years. I know the Dallas restaurant scene like the back of my hand. I have thought about creating a website to share my knowledge, but I could not figure out a business model to make it profitable.

    Also, it looks like this niche is oversaturated. But East Dallas is really changing and I think a website focusing on the joys of living in East Dallas might work. I had not considered partnering with someone, like a real estate agent, but that is something worth investigating.

  29. Kevin (TheDADvocate) says:

    Hey Brian,

    I really like this idea. Chris Brogan suggested a similar concept last year and it was brewing in my mind for quite some time. But I did buy a bunch of sites in the north metro of Atlanta such as CummunitynameBusinessReview.com I’m starting with my community and I’m going to grow outward. I decided that I want to concentrate on local businesses in the community and maybe cover relavent local business news. I have two intentions with the site. Imeadiate income – local online marketing services then long term leads and business brokerage. I’ve been questioning myself as to if this is a good model thanks for the validation but I wonder if you hunk I hinder my long term success with the shortterm model.

  30. Just wanted to chime in here and say how much I appreciate this post. As a person who’s fully believed in the power of using WordPress for real estate, I definitely agree with the concept of hyperlocal websites.

    To be quite honest, there’s a part of me that fantasizes about building a hyperlocal website just to see how much fun it would be along the way. Obviously right now my work responsibilities don’t allow much time for fun and games, but if I was a real estate agent (or someone interested in new media based on geography), I’d be all over this.

  31. What Studiopress theme(s) are suited for this – outside of Agentpress. I would think there is a design that is more suited for what you are talking about.

    I want to walk right out of night class and keep working, everything besides building my real estate brokerage has become a distraction. Excellent writing Brian, keeping me fired up!

    • Brian Clark says:

      I think a new theme started being created this afternoon. The requests have been higher and faster than I thought, so I’m trying to dream up something hyperlocally useful with Gardner. ;)

      • Hey Brian,

        How big / small of a population area do you think would work for this model?

        I’m having trouble seeing it work, in my little mind, in an area of less than 250,000 affluent folks. Maybe needs to be even bigger.

        But, I’ve never been in real estate, so I may be way off.

        • Brian Clark says:

          I could have settled on one town of 60,000 and been very happy. Back then it was so easy to rank this way, though, so I kept adding towns. ;)

      • Brian(s), hows the Theme coming for this…. Are we mashing up News or Mag with Agent? Doing a multi-site with a couple themes? Using News, Mag or something else with plugins. I’m pull the trigger on this and could use your guidance on which way to go at your earliest convenience, appreciate it! Cha Ching :)

  32. After being introduced to Copyblogger in 2009, I began formulating the re-invention of my real estate brokerage business.

    Since sites like Craigslist, Yelp and other consumer real estate websites have permanently transformed the real estate brokerage business for good, I realized that, with so many sources consumers had available to them, a real estate broker or salesperson should position themselves as “curators of specialized content for a super engaged audience”.

    And inside that revelation is where I began formulating the business platform I’m currently perfecting out of 5 different web sites focused entirely on the segmented audience within the market I serve in Brooklyn, New York.

    Your post has only confirmed my hunch and I’m grateful you wrote it.

    Hopefully, I can offer thoughts on how my “lab experiment” is going here in the future.

  33. Thanks for the post, Brian.

    You said: “Whether you build a virtual brokerage like I did, or run a referral-based operation, you’ll need a real estate license.”

    Do you mean a broker’s license or an agent’s license?

  34. A few years ago I won a business plan competition at my university by coming up with an idea for a local, online newspaper. The one nagging part of the plan was making the advertising model work.

    I wish I’d read this back then. I would have went from competition winner to real entrepreneur

  35. Brian, as a small entreproducer, I take great interest in this post. Your position makes sense. It may seem counter-trend to some, but as the noise level increases on the Web, the more localized information is, the more valuable it will be to the user.

    Every time I pull one of those direct mail pieces from realtors out of the mailbox, I can’t help but think of how many opportunities these companies are missing to connect with their target market. Have even thought of doing a “case study” type post on the topic.

    I am not an expert in real estate sales, but I am a member of the target demographic. A promo piece covered with images of houses with “Sold” banners over them does nothing for me … OK, proof that you can sell a house or two. (I’d hope so … ).

    Once I received 3 such direct mail pieces in a day, allowing for interesting comparison. Company A’s contact info consisted of a phone number, street address and email. Company B went a step further, listing a web site. Company C covered those bases, while also providing Facebook and Twitter addresses. (Aside: The realtors got progressively younger moving from A to C …)

    I flipped over each card, looking for the hook that would entice me to go online to get additional info. Sure, I am not *currently* in the market to buy/sell, but I or someone I know will be in the future.

    Content marketing would have done it. Who isn’t interested in learning more about where they live? From that little known public walking path supported by local farmers and members of the community, to area car garages to where to get a really good donut or croissant.

    It’s all about context and realizing/maximizing the value of that context. Take Pinterest.

    If I was a realtor, I would be on that platform in a flash, creating bulletin boards of houses for sale, local restaurants with Yelp reviews, and add some personality by creating collections like “Beautiful interiors,” “Vases,” etc.

    As for the cliche of open houses and freshly baked cookies, why not create a bulletin board “Comfort Foods,” featuring an image of a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie chocolate – strategically placed near the homes listed for sale. The pin could include a recipe – or even better a link to the local bakery that makes those damnably irresistible temptations.

    Ahhh, the possibilities.

  36. Thanks for sharing this idea. I already have a broker’s license. My broker doesn’t want to join MLS because of the monthly fee to be a member so we list land and commercial properties through Loopnet.

    How does one capture the lead? If the potential client finds a link to a listing through my website’s IDX widget, what would keep that person from contacting the listing agent (assuming it was someone other than me) directly? Is a registration required before one can access the listing information?

    Thank you, John

    Thanks, John

  37. This article makes a lot of sense, with the evolution of search I can see how building “hyperlocal” websites can be a very smart strategy. Fresh, and on point marketing advice!

    Thank You
    Shawn Lyles

  38. First, the statement, ” Everyone is having a hard time with that model” is just flat our 100 percent wrong.

    Second, if LOL is an example of how hyperlocal should be done, that’s just LOL ridiculous. Here’s a news flash: There’s no news there. No community coverage whatsoever.

    The idea that a real estate agent or broker is going to sit through city council meetings, show up at fires and accidents, report on a small business that hasn’t paid its taxes for years or snap 100 pictures at a charity auction seems like a stretch.

    I mean, really, are you serious?

    • I think you just made the point of this article. You provide a service. You create your website that is local and you do the journalistic work along with info about the area. Real Estate leads pay the bills.

  39. The site you offer as an example of to way to do hyperlocal is a very bad example from my perspective. There’s no “local news” let alone “insights into area school and the local political scene.” Independent local news publishers are making it with actual newsy and timely sites with — yes– advertising as their main revenue source.

    • Brian Clark says:

      That’s fine. I’m not coming at this from a journalism standpoint, as I thought I made clear. The company that produced that site made way more money from real estate sales than they ever would from advertising. That’s the point. If you’re happy with your model, good for you. I was just giving other people a different perspective, which I also think I made abundantly clear.

      • “made way more money from real estate sales than they ever would from advertising.”

        You continue to make statements you can’t substantiate.

        Of course, LOL would have a hard time with advertising at fewer than 1,000 visitors per month, according to compete.com.

        But what you’re pushing is really bait and switch: produce a real estate sales site that ‘s cloaked as a news site with a public service mission. How unethical is that?

        • Howard, I think what you’ve presented is bait and switch. Not sure if that is what Brian is proposing here. In a nutshell, make better real estate sites with lots of good local content, beyond the scope of what’s being done now in general.

          • Yes, I agree. I didn’t get that Brian Clark was advocating sites like LOL as a *replacement* for local online newspapers. So it is not an either/or situation, but a case of peaceful, profitable co-existence.

            I wouldn’t go to LOL with the same purpose or expectation in mind as I would a online paper. Do I seek information value from both? Definitely! The same content marketing strategy? No.

            What keeps businesses in two complementary market niches from forming “a long and beautiful friendship.” My thought: Be “social.” And proactive. Welcome vs. fear what may initially seem to be your “competition” – their traffic and exposure (co-op advertising/editorial) will only have a positive influence on your business. Evolve with the market.

        • Brian Clark says:

          How is providing valuable information about an area unethical? The point of the article was that hyperlocal does not = news.

          I even put one of the most important points in a box quote for you. Did you miss it?

  40. Brian-

    After thinking abut this for a few days, I have three implementation questions for you:

    1. If I were to do more than one of these sites, would you see any advantage to branding them similarly? I suspect not because that would raise the profile of the of the sites as a strategy but not really increase the revenue.
    2. Do you recommend that the site be overtly operated as a broker site? Or would it have more benefit to operate it as simply an information source? I suspect that a more overt strategy would aid conversion.
    3. How would you align intended boundaries? I’m thinking that school districts might be the most useful.

    Jim

    • I’m wondering about this myself.

      Do you need to have a license to list a property? If you list a property (not from MLS) but your own data set, is that enough to send as a lead to an agent or brokerage? If you do have a license, I’m assuming that allows you to negotiate a shared commission with the selling agent?

      • Matt-

        Every state regulates brokers under their own regimen. But I believe that every state has a license law requiring that people engaged in the real estate business for others be licensed.

        In Washington state where I am, the law is extensive. The law requires a license for “real estate brokerage services”. Not only that, but a licensee must have a broker until they have themselves qualified to be a broker.

        (16) “Real estate brokerage services” means any of the following services offered or rendered directly or indirectly to another, or on behalf of another for compensation or the promise or expectation of compensation, or by a licensee on the licensee’s own behalf:

        (a) Listing, selling, purchasing, exchanging, optioning, leasing, renting of real estate, or any real property interest therein; or any interest in a cooperative;

        (b) Negotiating or offering to negotiate, either directly or indirectly, the purchase, sale, exchange, lease, or rental of real estate, or any real property interest therein; or any interest in a cooperative;

        (c) Listing, selling, purchasing, exchanging, optioning, leasing, renting, or negotiating the purchase, sale, lease, or exchange of a manufactured or mobile home in conjunction with the purchase, sale, lease, exchange, or rental of the land upon which the manufactured or mobile home is or will be located;

        (d) Advertising or holding oneself out to the public by any solicitation or representation that one is engaged in real estate brokerage services;

        (e) Advising, counseling, or consulting buyers, sellers, landlords, or tenants in connection with a real estate transaction;

        (f) Issuing a broker’s price opinion. For the purposes of this chapter, “broker’s price opinion” means an oral or written report of property value that is prepared by a licensee under this chapter and is not an appraisal as defined in RCW 18.140.010 unless it complies with the requirements established under chapter 18.140 RCW;

        (g) Collecting, holding, or disbursing funds in connection with the negotiating, listing, selling, purchasing, exchanging, optioning, leasing, or renting of real estate or any real property interest; and

        (h) Performing property management services, which includes with no limitation: Marketing; leasing; renting; the physical, administrative, or financial maintenance of real property; or the supervision of such actions.

        • Very interesting (and scary!)

          So if a hyperlocal site were to list properties with an in-house licensed agent – in your state – you would still need that broker level?

  41. That in-house licensed agent would have to be licensed under a broker. Only the broker can receive the compensation. The broker then pays it to the agent under the compensation arrangement they have. There are many compensation forms available but that is between the broker and the agent.

    • Interesting. Ok thanks for that information. I do have some family that have their license, but not directly connected to a broker. I was thinking if we were showing property on our sites, we could work out some compensation if our agent met with the listing agent.

  42. I really feel that I have to jump in here with another comment. As I noted earlier, I am a real estate broker with 25 years of experience. For those of you who are not familiar with the real estate business, yes, you have to be licensed and selling real estate is not easy. It can be a minefield full of legal liabilities if you don’t know what you are doing and you don’t do enough transactions to gain any competence.

    I write hyperlocal blogs to market my services and I am able to get leads from my blogging. But it is not my only source of leads. You would have to have a great number of real estate leads to sort through to get enough workable leads to make a living either through selling the real estate yourself or trying to refer your leads to another licensed broker.

    Brian mentioned earlier that he didn’t care for the real estate side of the business and that he preferred the blogging side. I think that illustrates that you have to have the right personality for whichever side of this model that you work. Most, not all, successful real estate agents are very social and not detail-oriented personalities. Most, not all, are not going to spend time holed up in front of a computer writing a blog.

    My suggestion is to think about what you like to do best. Can you see yourself out and about working with buyers and sellers and managing transactions? Or are you most interested in creating a hyperlocal website? I think that most, not all, people are not going to be good at both.

    • @Carol, Would you be willing to share the number of annual sales you attribute to leads from your blogging effort?

      • @Jim, It varies from year to year. I would say that I have been getting a third to a half of my business from my internet prospecting. That includes a website, a couple of blogs, and some social media such as Facebook, etc.

  43. You would call my blog hyper local. I just call it local. I don’t share my content with “3rd” party sites. Everyone wants to put real estate listings on their sites. I am the one who goes out and gets those listings. I am a realtor and a licensed broker. Each of my listings is on five zillion web sites and consumers only need to find a home once. The real estate industry and homes for sale listings are not an endless resource that anyone can tap into to make a buck. There are those who preach to us that we are hurting the consumer by not buying adds on every third party site that pops up. I call it extortion and I say enough is enough.

  44. I love this idea.

  45. I’ve been running several hyper local sites for the past 5 years. I am the top search engine listing in these area for most keywords. I generate a ton of leads for real estate, rentals and businesses and charge monthly for these listings. I also create and run display ads for a monthly fees. It isn’t a huge business but it’s steady, growing revenue.

    I’ve considered switching to a real estate commission but understand there are some legal challenges with it. I figure I can tackle it at some point n the future as long as I keep the top SE listings.

  46. Brian, you are a lifesaver!

    I’m a longtime news reporter/online news aggregator and have been publishing a hyperlocal news blog for nearly 6 years.

    My compensation from the blog has been accolades from people who dig knowing what’s happening in their backyard and a few small barter deals with local merchants.

    The real-estate idea you outlined has given my hopes for ditching my job to do my own thing a tremendous boost.

    I’m anxious to find more information and/or someone to mentor me on this business model.

  47. Game plan options.

    Reading through the article and every comment above (all great) there seems to be a few options:

    #1- I have an existing site/want to keep control
    a) Go get a broker’s license and do it full on $$$$$
    b) Get a broker’s license and refer clients to a partnered realtor/broker. $$$
    c) Do not get a license, and sell leads to whoever will buy them. $

    #2 – I don’t mind sharing with a broker
    a) Partner with a broker house through a legal agreement on a new or existing site (Joint Venture)- this is great, however as with any partnership, you must say who owns what – i.e. your site, content, etc…

    #3
    Hire yourself out to work for a brokerage house directly.

    I’d be pleased to see responses here regarding other options/clarifications on my short list.

    • Cindy – great comment. I think the original idea from the article could be more refined. First – selling the leads from a hyper-local blog just sounds confusing. And as a broker, not sure I’d be interested. We are bombarded with so many lead generating sites already. This wouldn’t appeal to me at the least. A partnership is a much more powerful idea.

      I think #2 is the most realistic option and something that a few successful independent brokerages are already doing. I think to make this model work the way Brian presented – web development would have to be part of the package too.

      • Greg,
        Thanks for commenting. My concern is that I already have a blog with lots of content- and, believe it or not, I currently receive unsolicited email requests from out of town (women) who want to know which neighborhoods are best for their kids.

        So, I am starting with some assets, and don’t want to start over! I suppose I need to fully develop the JV concept.

        Suggestions anyone? I’m akronohiomoms.com.

        • @Cindy

          I took a look at your site. Very nicely done.

          I believe it is exactly the type of site that Brian is talking about. You wouldn’t be starting over in any way. You’d add some content related to neighborhoods and real estate issues over time.

          The primary difference would be that you would not rely only on advertising revenue but instead shift your foundational revenue source to real estate commissions. You would do that by proper licensing, additional content and asking for the business.

          You would have to cancel some of your advertising because it would conflict.

          Jim

        • Cindy, your site is excellent. Keep in mind as you explore this further that you want to avoid option #3 you presented above. This limits the income potential of your work. The true power of Brian’s concept is to tie your work to the sales commissions.

          Many referral based companies get around 30% of a gross real estate commission from a deal they referred. Think bank and credit union sponsored moving programs. This is what you might reasonably expect to earn too.

  48. Okay Brian, you not only gave me something to think about with the hyperlocal sites but you gave me something to keep me awake yet another night after reading your stuff. Keep it coming.

  49. Aaron Petrey says:

    I can understand the benefits of becoming a broker but wouldn’t that take years? First you have to go through school then I believe you have to work under a broker for awhile before you can become one yourself. In order to accomplish the type of site mentioned in this article you would have to be very motivated and committed in your belief that you could make it worth your while.

    • Scott Vann says:

      In Texas you have to have a Salesperson’s license for two-years before you can become a broker, and other requirements must be met. But getting a Salesperson’s license is fairly easy. Once that is done you can set up a site and start representing clients that come to you through the site.

      • Scott, just of note – Texas has beefed up the broker licensing requirements. 4 years as a salesperson, a bachelors degree (or hundreds of hours of real estate classes), and an abundance of closed deals. It’s getting tougher. But, you’re right, the salespersons license is doable.

        • Scott Vann says:

          Greg,

          You are right. I knew the requirements had been tightened significantly. I have my broker’s license so I didn’t pay to much attention to the details when they came out.

          Side note. I think all agents should be required to be brokers. A higher level of responsibility in our industry would be a good thing. Just my opinion.

          Scott

  50. WOW! I just found this site of yours Brian from Brian Gardner’s blog… and am I ever glad I did! I’m a Calgary Alberta (Condo Specialist) Realtor, a Copyblogger/Studio Press/Genesis fanatic & a novice WP guy.

    I apologize in advance for the length of this post – it’s a one time thing. I don’t do this kind of thing ever but you’re talking here about a hot topic that I’m really into… It’s important to me and I’m as excited about it as a kid in a candy store!

    In fact I’m not just tickled with the idea… right now as we speak, I’m working on implementing today’s topic into my Real Estate business. I just put together three ‘brand new websites’ two are on new domains and one on a domain that I already had and wasn’t using.

    http://ellistonparkcondos.com , http://panoramahillscondos.com , http://countryhillsvillagecondos.com

    Now at the rate I’m going it’ll probably be two or three weeks before I feel happy enough with them to leave them alone for a while and switch over to analytics to tweak my content and offers for conversion.

    The first two are on your Genesis/Streamline platform and the third is on a theme that I actually I don’t like much but it has some affiliate monetization features out of the box that I want to test.

    I’m interested in learning how to do affiliate marketing or maybe how to sell some real estate based info-product of my own at some point but for now at least since I’m into big ticket leads… if nobody buys from the banners on that site I’ll be switching it over to one of my StudioPress themes like the other two as well.

    I just bought Premise for a Real Estate based membership site but that’s not a right now thing, it’s on my large to do list though for a later.

    I hope I’m not boring anybody with my story here but you know I just turned 60 this month and while working at all this stuff is intimidating… I have to tell you it’s profitable plus it excites me like I was back in my twenties.

    I work on learning and implementing into the early AMs every day. I tell my wife what I do with this stuff for all those hours is my ‘Internet Porn’ and by the way, just as a side not… she does not think that’s the least bit funny!

    My goal is to build about a dozen “community specific websites” like these ones before the end of the year. I use direct mail to drive hyper-focused traffic to each site which I hope to build relationships with that will at some point lead me to business from them or somebody they know.

    In fact my current active listing came directly from this strategy. To the point, when I sell that listing I will be taking them into a house and the income from those two transactions will amount to about $15,000. In my company I pay $200 in deal fees for both transactions and the rest is mine.

    If you take off my hosting costs (almost nothing), my StudoPress product costs (cheap), $300 for the mailer (well worth it) and my time learning and creating the website the ROI is not too shabby! Would You Agree?

    I’m currently looking for a way to take my own content and post it once and it appear at each of my sites all at the same time. I’m focused on learning how do everything myself first then when I know what it takes to get everything right I’ll have confidence to outsource the tasks to maybe some place the Philippines.

    FINALLY I’m going end here be saying I will be soaking up everything I can from you here. You have a second to none team all of which I admire, that provides everything anybody could ever need or want to earn how to make a living online.

    PS: Since retirement doesn’t appeal to me my end goal, my exit plan if you will… is to be still working at doing what I love for months and months after I’m dead!

    Thanks for being here – Fred Ferguson (a fan)

  51. I just read about an upcoming initiative from Wikimedia that could be the ultimate hyper local program: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/story/2012-05-17/wikipedia-town-launches-wales/55046738/1

    Local residents and businesses have created and edited articles about Monmouth, Wales that are linked to barcodes displayed throughtout the town, while other volunteers have been translating them.

    Of course there’s a lot of work that would be required to go from the first town to widespread replication.

    I’m not sure how this would impact the plan referenced in Brian’s article. But it would be important to keep it in mind. Also, it may provide some good ideas for local implementation of our own plans.

  52. Brian this post is a reminder I need to keep plugging away at what I’m doing!
    I see the noise has died down a bit on this post so hopefully you are still checking comments as I’m hoping to do a short Q & A.

    Q1. Where’s the best place to set up the IDX on your site? I don’t see an IDX feature on Kendall’s site.
    Q2. You made reference to evergreen posts that provide historical info “think of the town Wikipedia entry, except better.” Can you give an example of how to make it mo’ better?

    … I had a feeling signing up for the newsletter was gonna be good :)

  53. Fantastic concept and well written as always.

    I’m just curious though about how this business model actually works. In detail.

    I mean, how does the tracking of the referrals work and therefore compensated. Sounds good in theory, but…

    I’d be very interested in hearing from anyone who has or is successfully implementing this.

    Thanks in advance.

  54. This article is EXACTLY what I was looking for to save my current business.

    Question though, how small of an area should I focus in on? Should I build separate sites for each area of my city? Or would it be better to make one site around the whole city (population of 403K) with the site divided into sections for all of the different areas?

    Loved this article and I’d really appreciate a reply if you can spare a minute for a fan lol, thanks. Great Job.

  55. Changed my mind about this concept. It stinks. I hope brokers figure out to be the content publishers before this gets out of control.

    • Greg, your message doesn’t make sense to me.

      If the concept stinks, why would you want “brokers figure out to be the content publishers “? I presume you mean you hope brokers figure out that they should be the content publishers. If so, what stinks?

      It sounds to me like you are a broker who wants to keep non-brokers from invading this turf. Do I have it wrong?

      • Yes, you have it slightly wrong. I don’t fault anyone here for using their hyper-local assets/audience and trying to partner with local real estate agents or brokers when possible business wants to be referred out. Go for it. It’s a smart business practice if you have one of these assets.

        My comment simply meaning – the brokers have lost this battle. They should have trained themselves and eachother to be better content publishers and guardians of there business generation funnel. There is great advice here for those in the real estate industry too.

        I guess I’m just thinking out loud more than anything. Powerful local real estate brands need to heed this advice and be the first point of intended contact when a housing issue arises. It’s part of a smart business plan. It reduces our cost to acquire and close business. Sure – happy to pay you right. Not really in conflict with that. Just a little fired up for my industry to get its head out of its ass

        • Now we are talking! Thanks for putting it out there Greg

        • I own a real estate company and I’m very glad other brokers do not understand this. I have built a website that is consistently at the top of Google for my area, I would have a harder time if more brokers in my area did this.

          Greg, I say master this concept and run with it. Wait… you’re not my competitor, are you? LOL
          Best of luck

  56. I am a BIG fan of hyper-local sites and believe they can have a LOT of benefits for consumers and for the content creators. I’ve seen some fail when people start multiple sites without actually knowing the areas or living there. They tend to start strong but not last long.
    For the site owner, it can be a great way to build a business and a great way to make some long lasting relationships while doing what you love to do.

  57. I SO BELIEVE IN THIS! The hardest obstacle for me personally is finding a reputable company to build this type of website for me. I really have always enjoyed writing, and so blogging is natural to me. I am on Trulia.com a lot answering questions, and I also periodically blog there too. Most people that contact me directly do so because they expressed liking the content I deliver. That whole “law of attraction” thing I also believe in big time. I have found a lot of “cookie-cutter websites” out there, and I confess that since I don’t have an acting website they are probably better than nothing, but websites and technology is not what Realtors do best. I need someone/company to also manage the website for me as well. Realtors can not count on their brokerage to provide a website. WE ARE THE TRUE VALUE! No one cares what broker I work with, and they never will because they are hiring ME. If anyone on here can help direct me to the right people to build a website for me I would be super interested!

    • Hi Chris, you are not alone. This concept is presently echoing through the industry….mostly for brokers to do it, but they won’t, which creates a tantalizing first mover advantage in many markets where the demo of the actual agents is 40yrs old+. On March 14th Brian said he was dreaming up a theme with Brian but I haven’t heard anything. Ultra-mobile friendly is critical. StudioPress themes have the pieces of the puzzle, throw in something fresh and forward thinking and you have a theme that will heat up a Downloads server. Magazine+News+Agent+Fresh, some Geo,yelp tie in=Success. I think and update would from the boys would be appreciated by all!

      • I currently have multiple sites that all run off various studiopress child themes. I have never done a real estate site before. I am curious if any of you that are running a hyperlocal website are using IDX integration with a different child theme other than AgentPress. And does anyone know why the RealPro theme is not available on the shop for themes page? I bought all the themes in November but I did not get the RealPro theme.

        Anyway, I am exploring the idea of running a hyperlocal site and just doing the research. Any help is appreciated.

  58. I don’t want to miss the field through the trees, but how many brokerages/agents would you say are able to justify the 50/50 split with the E and O and the broker fee’s? Did you have a problem wrangling?

    Most of our lead sources charge 20-25% – total. With our Team of buyers agents, who are already at a 50% split – the purchase price has to be +400k to justify acceptance of those referrals within our business model.

    God forbid a lawsuit or another party lawyering up – we have a 10k deductible on E and O – a couple of those could sink a company…

    I had a point -, but it now escapes me – don’t ever get old and thanks for the article….

    • Brian Clark says:

      Connor, we just had our live AgentPress training event last week, so I got to feel out some working agents on the issue. Standard referral rates are around 25%. I did speak with one KW agent who said someone who could generate substantial business would be welcomed into the firm and enjoy splits more like 40% to 50% and also the resources and support of the brokerage.

      I think it comes down to how much business can you generate, and what kind of deal you can negotiate. The way I’m thinking about this is much like the way you compensate your buyer agents — you bring in the business, they work with the client, splits are 50-50%.

      That said, there’s nothing “standard” about this kind of thing, which is what makes it so cool.

  59. Awesome information here. It’s difficult to find the right mix of traditional news and evergreen local content, but I think I’m figuring out a good system.

  60. Hey Brian,

    Great stuff, thank for sharing this!

    But, I’m wondering what you see in this model that is different than other niche marketing/affiliate/content models? To me, what you describe above is how I’ve always built out any niche – annihilate it with perfectly targeted quality content, then make money via ads, commish, etc.

    • Brian Clark says:

      If you’re an online marketing type, it’s very similar. But to the traditional local media which is struggling with advertising models, it’s a revelation. What I don’t get is why companies like AOL and NBC News have made the same stupid mistakes with the wrong model.

  61. Brian – are you going to make the theme available like you are using for YourBoulder?

  62. Can somebody please explain to me why there aren’t any RE listings on yourboulder.com? Isn’t the point of Brian’s strategy to feature both local content and local listings for a one-stop portal for local consumers?

    • Brian Clark says:

      I’m not at that stage yet. The site is only 3 months old, and my wife is working on getting her RE license. I’ll update once we implement IDX on the site.

      • Great concept. Looking forward to an update once IDX is implemented. Replying so I can stay in the loop.

      • Thanks, Brian! I know another group that’s working on a very sophisticated listings only content model. I’m watching both projects with great interest. It’ll be interesting to watch how Google responds to the two projects.

  63. I love the hyperlocal idea. I’ve been working on this for about two years now, but have not launched because I could not identify a monetization strategy. This is a very interesting idea, real estate commissions.

    What I don’t understand is how to track the lead/referral. If I have a site that includes quality real estate information and articles about local properties for sale and a site visitor follows a link and makes a purchase, how is that tracked? In affiliate marketing there are links and cookies that help keep track of leads through the sales funnel, but how does it work in this scenario?

    I love this idea and have a couple realtors/brokers that I am going to talk to about JV relationships for the site I’m building, but I don’t understand how to track leads and ensure the commission.

  64. Great article.

    Is there a specific reason you have no way to contact you on YourBoulder.com?

  65. Michael says:

    Great post, Brian! I’m currently a broker and have the ability to receive commissions directly or by referral. Something that has been going thru my mind lately is taking some serious time off to travel the world for a year – but as a working adventure.

    I’m trying to think of different ways to take my computer with me to use it as a tool for revenue and one thing that comes to mind is to create some hyper-local sites, create leads, and refer those to an agent that knows the areas I have sites for. Because I already have first-hand knowledge of the neighborhoods, and current news can be found online easily enough, this seems that it might be a very doable strategy. I don’t need to close 10 deals a month to make it workable, just a couple would suffice.

    As well, I could build out other hyper-local sites for agents in other areas (anywhere in the U.S., really), and charge a build out and monthly maintenance fee for that.

    Any additional thoughts you or any other members may have would be greatly appreciated!

  66. Thanks for sharing this with us. It is incredibly motivating for someone like myself who has a passion for a local area and an encyclopedia-like knowledge of that area. I have tucked away several amazon, hyperlocal domain names years ago, continually renewing them. This is what I have been waiting for. I have been saving up to buy content, saving up to buy logos and saving up to buy script. The best part? They are all untapped markets!

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