24 Nov The Benefits of Blogging–Pros, Cons and Advice
Every Tuesday, here at the American Trust Escrow blog, we post Technology Tips designed to help you, the REALTOR®, grow your business, keep up to date on the latest technologies, and move you forward into the new era of real estate.
Blogging is the cornerstone of the new media marketing movement, and the promise of business for the REALTOR who embraces it, is tempting. This post is designed to give the pros and cons of blogging, and help you decide if blogging is something that you should incorporate into your real estate business.
First, what is blogging?
I wrote a detailed post answering this very question. Basically blogging is an on-line journal. It consists of posts, or articles, that the blog author writes and adds on a regular basis to the blog. The most current post resides at the top of the blog, and the prior posts move down the page.
Success in blogging results from two things:
1. Providing content of value to your target audience
What content is of value in real estate?
I view the following topics as good topics for REALTOR blogs:
* Market Data: Answer the question, how is the market? This is likely the most common question in real estate and makes for excellent blog post fodder.
* Neighborhood Info: Talking specifically about different neighborhoods and farms will help build your credibility, establish your expertise in an area, and help you with what is called the “long tail” search in Google. When it comes to buying decisions, people are very interested in the nuances of a particular neighborhood. You discuss this in the car with prospects, and you work to show sellers your neighborhood expertise with post cards mailings, and in your listing presentations. Take this information to the web in the form of blog posts.
* Lifestyle Information: Every buyer wants to know what the lifestyle is like in various cities, communities, and neighborhoods, and you as a REALTOR are selling not only the houses in a particular area, but you are also selling the lifestyle. Blogging about the events, people, restaurants, schools, and area information are all great topics for a blog and paint a picture about the local lifestyle in the area.
* Transaction Education: For most people, the process of buying a home is complicated and overwhelming. As the REALTOR, part of your job is to navigate buyers and sellers through that process. By discussing the process and providing an education on the nuances of the transaction, you have the opportunity to establish your professional credibility and attract buyers and sellers who appreciate the education you are providing them on the process of home buying and selling.
* Competent Advice/Perspective/Interpretation: No doubt about it, there is access these days to almost any information someone could want. The problem is that the amount of information is overwhelming. This presents a blogging opportunity for the REALTOR who can provide an interpretation of all the data. From all the stats, what is the most important piece of information for today’s buyer to know? Why is it important for them to know? What is meaningful about that?
And what about frequency of blogging?
How often you blog is going to vary for each REALTOR. I suggest that blogging once or twice a week is a good target. The key is to do it on a regular basis. This keeps your blog fresh, reminds people that you are active and current in the market, and helps you get Search Engine Optimization with Google.
Blogging has several advantages for the REALTOR.
* Establish Your Expertise: Keep in mind that when you are positioned in the mind of the buyer or seller as THE trusted advisor, you have a client. There is no better way in social media to establish yourself as a trusted advisor than with blogging. Blogging provides you a golden opportunity to establish your real estate expertise. It allows you to express your perspective, your professionalism, and you market knowledge in a way that reflects your tone and personality.
* Google Friendly (Search Engine Optimization – SEO): By definition, blogging is Google friendly. The platform of blogging is designed to be indexed by Google and if you are blogging using words that are relevant to your market (key words), you are helping yourself naturally appear in search results when people search Google for terms that match what you are blogging about. So, for example, if you are frequently blogging about items related to Pasadena real estate, when someone types in “Pasadena real estate” into Google, you are more likely to rise to the top or be on page one.
* Subscribe Feature: Blogs have the ability to have people subscribe to them so that any content you post is automatically distributed to the reader (vs. them having to come to the site to see new content). When this channel is properly respected (and not abused, which would result in the reader “unsubscribing”), the blogger creates a drip marketing opportunity to all of the readers who are “reminded” of you ever time you post a new blog post.
* Brand Building Opportunity: Through blog subscribers (as described above) and in the visual design of your blog, you have the opportunity to establish, and extend, your personal brand. What you say on your blog, and how it looks, is a reflection of your professionalism and your personality and gives people an impression about you.
* “Long Tail” Opportunity: This benefit relates to the opportunity to reach people who are searching for specific terms in Google, vs. broader terms. For example, “Pasadena Real Estate” is a very general term that yields about 1.6 Million results in Google. Compare this to “Oak Knoll/Madison Heights Real Estate” which yields about 8,000 results and you can see that there is a much greater opportunity to be found on the long tail search. Another benefit is that people who search long tail terms tend to be closer to a purchase or sale decision as they have gotten specific in what they are looking for.
* Can Be a Lead Generator: Blogs can generate great leads. When you are effective in articulating your real estate knowledge, answering the questions of your target market, and positioning yourself as a trusted advisor, people will contact you through your blog. Those that do contact you are generally attracted to your perspective and generally stronger leads than you may get off of an ad or other form of marketing. People tend to watch a blog for a while. They will get a feel for you. When they do contact you, it is because they have a feel for who you are and they are interested in working with you.
* Time Consuming: No doubt about it, blogging is a time consuming endeavor. It takes a commitment from the REALTOR. Keeping in mind that frequency is a key element to successful blogging, you really need to view blogging as a strategy that you have a plan for. It takes time to generate good content.
* You Need Average, or Above Average Writing Skills: Blogging is a content driven marketing vehicle. If you are not generating good content, you are not going to get good results. If you do not have the ability to articulate your perspective easily with the written word, blogging will be a challenge for you. There is an alternative – video blogging. With a very affordable piece of equipment called a Flip Video Camera, you can post a video blog instead of writing one. A video blog doesn’t carry the same SEO benefits that the written word does, but it can be a very effective way to articulate your perspective, or actually show your market area. A video blog can also be an efficient use of your time (maybe video tape yourself while you are sitting at an open house and waiting for traffic).
* Several Nuances to Learn: Although the actual process of posting a blog is not much more difficult than sending an email, to succeed in blogging over time, there are many nuances to learn about the blogging platform. For example, there are better (vs. worse) ways to title your posts so that you rank well in Google and/or capture the attention of your readership. There are best practices to follow in terms of naming your images and inserting links into your posts. Although none of these items are particularly challenging, all of these little items tend to present a learning curve for the Realtor just getting into blogging.
* Becoming Competitive: Blogging has been popular in real estate for several years now, and in some markets, there are some very established real estate blogs. In these areas, the landscape for blogging is very competitive. You should survey the blogging competition for your market and determine if there is a great opportunity for you there. Even in markets where blogging is very established, there are still ample blogging opportunities on a hyper-local level. You don’t have to blog about Pasadena. You can blog specifically about the homes around the Rose Bowl. This would be a hyper-local topic and one where you have a strong chance to stand out and dominate a niche area. Alternatively, you could also define a niche market – maybe foreign buyers or sellers for your area. Or , seniors. Or, first time home buyers. Think about segments that may be under-represented by blogs that are focused on larger areas and geographies and you will find some great blogging opportunities.
I’ve pointed out the reality of the challenges of blogging in an effort to give you a realistic view on what it takes to succeed in blogging. Blogging may or may not be for you. But, if you are searching for a new strategy, or you actively farm a geographic area or demographic niche, and plan to be in business for 5 years or more, I suggest you seriously consider establishing a blogging presence. There is just so much to be gained. In a future post, I will lay out the leading blogging options for those who would like to pursue a blogging strategy for their real estate business.
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