Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Few REALTORS® have a blog. What's holding you back? Learn how to get your personalized blog up and running and generating business.
August 1, 2007
Jackie Cuneo of Zephr Real Estate in San Francisco used to get roughly 300 visitors per month to her real estate Web site. Not bad, but not astounding, either.
Then she launched Jackie’s SF Real Estate Blog, where she shares insights and opinions on a variety of real estate topics, from buyer basics to tenancy-in-common issues. “Blogs are such a dynamic way to reach clients and potential clients,” Cuneo says. They’re also a great way to build site traffic and prove your expertise to buyers and sellers in your market area.
Today, less than a year after adding the blog, visits to Cuneo’s Web site have increased nearly tenfold — to between 2,400 to 3,000 visits per month, she says. Part of the traffic comes from higher search-engine rankings; since most blogs are updated more frequently than a Web site, they tend to creep up higher on result pages when prospects search the Web for, say, San Francisco real estate.
Despite the business benefits of blogging, Cuneo is among 8 percent of REALTORS® who have a blog, according to the 2008 Member Profile by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. That means the door is open for savvy practitioners like you to claim a spot in the blogosphere.
If you’re considering starting a blog, you probably have a lot of questions: What makes a blog successful? Where do I begin if I don’t have any blogging experience? What should I write about? How much time does it take?
Don't fret. Here, Cuneo and other practitioners with thriving blogs share their tips and advice for getting your first blog started.
Step 1. Read other blogs. Find out what the rest of the blog world is up to. Visit blog directories and search engines, such as Google Blog Search, Blogorama, and Technorati to look for blogs that interest you.
Step 2. Focus on real estate. As you browse blogs using the sites above, keep track of what you like or don’t like about each one. Then narrow your search to only real estate blogs — check out the array of blogs on the ActiveRain Real Estate Network and on REALTOR.com. Look for blogs that already exist in your market, as you’ll want to find ways to differentiate yourself from those.
Step 3. Determine your blog’s goals and audience. Like any marketing initiative, a successful blog takes careful planning. Your blog should focus on the same niche — community, demographic, or specialty — that you target in your other marketing efforts. Also, determine if the principal goal of your blog is to find new leads, stay in contact with past clients, or perhaps both. For example, Kelley Koehler, sales associate with Long Realty in Tucson, Ariz., started her The Housechick Blog in April to become known as the practitioner who’ll tell you “everything you need to know about Tuscon and real estate — and then some.” She’s found particular success targeting buyers who are new to the area.
Step 4. Refine your content. Blog postings can range from chatty commentary on neighborhood happenings to in-depth analyses of economic trends and their impact on real estate. Based on your target audience, decide what topics your blog will cover. On a practical basis, what will you write about on a daily or weekly basis? For your answer to that question, consider what questions you are asked most often by clients — what are their interests and concerns? Cuneo says she also scours local newspapers looking for real estate articles she can use as the basis for commentary.
Some other possible topics:
- Local regulations and ordinances that affect real estate.
- How to spruce up a home before putting it on the market.
- New home or business construction in your area.
- Tips on renting out vacation-home properties.
- Changes in zoning or land use that could affect home values.
Step 5. Set the tone. Since you’re representing your business, you want to keep up a professional Web presence. But at the same time, you should try adopt a more informal, conversational tone than you would use in a printed article. From the outset, Koehler knew she wanted her Housechick blog to be a reflection of how she speaks. “When prospects are reading the blog, I want it to seem familiar to when they talk to me in person,” she says.
Step 6. Choose blogging software. Good news, you don’t need to be a tech genius to start a blog. You’ll just need to find software that best fits your needs, and some of it is available at no cost. Most blogging software is based on templates that allow you to post content and add links to other Web sites or blogs without using HTML programming language. Many templates also allow you to customize your blog with photos and logos. How much does software cost? It depends. Free options, such as WordPress, Blogger, Realtor.com and Internet Crusade’s RealTown Blogs may be good to get your feet wet. For more advanced blog options, check out proprietary software such as TypePad (ranging from $4.95 to $89.95 per month), and Movable Type (about $50 per year or more for multiple users). Proprietary software often will give you more customization and allow you to publish other media types, like podcasts and videos.
Step 8. Develop a writing schedule. Blogs are meant to be updated often. Many bloggers post daily, but once or twice a week is probably sufficient as long as you do it faithfully. “You want your content to be current,” Cuneo says. For example, when “60 Minutes” on CBS aired a story in May that contained some unfair statements about the real estate business, Cuneo posted a response on her blog.
Set aside a specific time each week to write. Koehler aims to post 5-6 entries a week. Before a busy week, she’ll often write two or three 200-word entries at a time so she can have a stock pile of postings. To lessen the work load, you might consider getting a blog partner — perhaps an an allied professional like a lender or home inspector — with whom you can take turns writing. “It’s not difficult to come up with ideas. The challenge is just to sit down and actually do it,” Koehler says.
Step 9. Promote your blog. Add your blog address to your print and online ads, Web site, newsletters, business cards, and other marketing materials. Add it to your e-signature on your e-mails. And don’t forget to register your blog on directors such as Yahoo! and Blogarama. Cuneo credits these directories to driving more traffic to her blog. In addition, she uses social bookmarking sites, such as Digg and del.icio.us, on her blog so her entries can easily be shared. Cuneo also offers RSS feeds, which is a free service for automatically sharing blog entries on other Web sites or having them delivered directly to a user’s desktop.
Step 10. Encourage audience participation. Blogs are all about interaction with readers. Getting readers to comment on your posts and add remarks of their own will help you achieve that. However, you’ll want to set up some rules for visitors who wish to add comments, such as no profanity or plagiarizing from copyrighted sources. You also need to decide if you want to review, edit, and approve comments before they appear on your blog. Doing so allows you to weed out inappropriate content, but, on the other hand, it’s more work and may cut down on the spontaneity of the blog.
While comments can help build a community on your blog, don’t judge a blog based on how many comments it’s received. “It’s validating to have comments and it makes you feel warm and fuzzy, but I don’t think it’s a sign of how many people are reading your blog,” Koehler says. “Most people who comment on mine are from the industry, not clients.”
Step 11. Make it easy to find. One way to expand the content of your blog and give it more of a boost in the search engine rankings is by linking it to other blogs with related content. Think of it as networking in the blogosphere. One way to do this is by visiting other real estate blogs and posting comments. Along with your name, you can leave a link to your blog. Another option: Write about another blog’s content at your blog, and link to that other blog’s entry. For example, one real estate technology blog — Mike’s Corner — recently singled out The Housechick Blog as one of the best examples of blogs run by real estate practitioners, and included a link to Koehler’s site.
You also want to make sure your blog is findable on the Internet by using key words that relate to your business; Koehler uses the term “Tucson real estate” in every blog entry to improve the blog’s chances of being found by search engines.
Step 12. Organize your archives. In a traditional blog, postings are organized by date, with the most recent entry at the top. That’s fine when you have just a few postings, but after a while it becomes almost impossible for visitors to find content on a specific topic without help. Many blog software programs allow you to archive your postings by month, by year, and by topic. Your visitors will thank you for it.
Step 13. Track your readership. Some blog software, such as TypePad, or services, like the free Google Analytics, will help you keep track of information that can help you do a better job of tailoring your blog to your audience. You can find out how many people visit your blog, where they’re from, and which of your entries were the most popular.
Step 14. Blog away! It takes time and creativity, but Koehler says having a blog is well worth the effort. Besides the extra business it has sent her way (already, three new clients have found her through the blog), it helps solidify her online image as a local real estate authority. “You need to have an online presence in some way” to compete in today’s business, Koehler says. “I don’t think static Web sites will cut it in the future.”
Mariwyn Evans, REALTOR® Magazine, contributed to this report