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Turning Internet Confusion into Success

Written by Brandon Smith on Wednesday, 26 August 2009 7:00 pm
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The simple fact that the internet is a part of the returning real estate market is not big news, but with so much information coming out so fast, understanding it can be difficult. This article is the second in a series of six that decodes the basics, and even some mild intricacies, of the world of electronic marketing and will show you how to compete and succeed in an area of marketing where you might have previously feared to tread. In this part we will discuss blogging in the general sense of the word and what the advantages and disadvantages of blogging are.

Basics first: What is blogging? The word blog comes from another word: weblog. This was a term used early in the genre to label web sites that were populated with commentary or other regular entries such as news or events. Blogging is simply the act of creating a journal online. Perhaps when you were a child you kept a secret journal under your pillow and recorded your most intimate and private thoughts. Well in our new and ‘improved’ social networking world, people expect you to put those thoughts online to share with everyone. How nice of you! This can be good or this can be bad for your real estate business. If you are a serious scribe with years of experience to impart on both home buyers and other agents alike, then you have the basics for being a good blogger. However if you are only trying to create a blog because someone told you that it will bring more people to your site, then you might want to re-think this whole blogging thing.

Pros and Cons of Blogging Let’s start with a couple of blogging myths.

Myth #1: You have to have a blog in today’s market.

No, you don’t. As a matter of fact, sometimes it is better NOT to have one. Blogs are a lot of work and having a blog does not necessarily lead to instant participation. The first people to participate in your blog will likely be close friends and family. If it is compelling enough, and you have a large enough customer base, then you may build a small community, but is there really enough attraction for it. What is the market for your particular blog? A blog is a business just like the one that you are trying to build. You have to ask yourself if you want to spend your time with clients or writing blog entries? To build a vibrant community of readers your blog needs to have a consistent focus on a particular topic, fresh compelling content, and good exposure on the Internet.

The general anecdotal rule is that two thirds of blogs die after the first two weeks. That is simply because blogging is so difficult. It is difficult to consistently post day after day - especially in the beginning. Stagnant information can date your site and tell your clients that you are inattentive.

Myth #2: Blogging will bring in more clients and mean a higher page ranking on Google.

Possibly, but everything in Myth #1 still applies. Most people also miss the fact page ranking is page ranking, not site ranking. Some people live and die on the idea that they must have a blog on their site. While they may benefit just as well from a blog on a completely different site that cross links to their home page.

The better alternative is to create articles on your site and then publish those articles in other places on the web linking them back to you.

Myth #3: Blogging is a cheap alternative to advertising.

That depends on how much your time is worth.

Let’s run the numbers? It’s almost impossible for a real estate agent to determine this so let’s break it down by salary. Let’s assume that you make $100,000 a year as an average; considering both good years and bad years. Now let’s divide that out over 50 weeks (2 for vacation) and 40 hours a week. $100,000 ÷ 50 ÷ 40 = $50 per hour. Now we’ll consider that you will keep an active blog and post for about 45 minutes (writing time, plus finding a stock image, plus posting, plus procrastination) 3 times per week. This is equal to about 10 hours per month or $500 per month. At $500 a month you are much better off using a trusted SEO expert to drive the results to your site instead. For $500 a month you can find an excellent SEO expert that will provide relevant in-bound linking and content as well.

Benefits of Blogging (I would be remiss if I did not mention that there are real advantages to blogging as well.)

Advantage #1: Blogging is gaining in popularity.

While blogging is not as hot as a topic as social networking is at the moment, it does continue to increase in popularity, and your continuing education classes will likely emphasize it.

Generally the number of personal blogs appears to be on the decline with the adoption of social networking sites like Facebook and services like Twitter by those in the baby boomer generation. However, many people see blogging as an in-road to their main site and therefore professional blogging is on the rise.

If you look long enough, you can fill a bucket with the names of CEOs, CIOs, and the like that blog in order to promote their company, impart their wisdom, and distract them from the day to day of managing their business.

Advantage #2: Competitive differentiation.

Having a blog means that you get to state who you are and why you are different.

If you have a well designed web site, then this can be covered in the general feel of design, series of pages, etc., but as is often the case, all you have to go with is a corporate site from your broker or whatever was free from the MLS. In this case a blog can help to show potential clients that you have some expertise in your particular area and help you to differentiate yourself from your competition.

Advantage #3: Aids in building your brand.

Blogging is an intimate medium and puts you in direct contact with potential clients.

Because you have control over everything that is in your blog you have the ability to create the brand that is you in a new and different way. Even if you only keep your blog for a couple of months (again, see Myth #1), it will exist as a representation of who you are and what you have to say for many years to come. When people contact you, they will have an idea of who you are and will feel more comfortable with you from the beginning since there is already an air of familiarity.

I Still Want to Blog, How Do I? Now that you know the pluses and minuses of blogging, are you ready to push on? Fortunately the options for blogging are both well developed and easy to come by. Unfortunately though, many companies will incorporate blog options into their software as an afterthought which does not make it as functional as the full featured sites.

There are multiple places where you can get a blog for free. The easiest (and arguably best) option is to sign up with a group that specializes in providing blogs and has done so for quite a while. Off-hand I can list approximately thirty or so blogging engines or platforms that support it.

The current best options for blogging, in my opinion, are Wordpress, Typepad and Blogger.

Wordpress has three main options:

  1. you can download it and set it up yourself

  2. you can host it for free at wordpress.com

  3. you can host it elsewhere for a fee (often as cheap as a few dollars a month).

Word press is an open source blog which means there is constant and heavy development on it. Not easy to change, but easy to use.

Cost = Starts at $0;

Ease of use = good starter blog

Blogger Blogger is the blog offering from Google, so if you are tied into Google this may be the blog for you.

Blogger is feature rich and extremely easy to use for first time bloggers. The disadvantage of blogger is the level of customization which can be difficult.

Cost = $0;

Ease of use = super easy

Typepad Great blogging software to make your blog look professional. Great plug-ins and a solid program. There is no free option here and you will have to be at the Pro pricing level if you eventually want to integrate it into your website.

Cost = $14.95 and up (though smaller plans start at $4.95);

Ease of use = Fairly easy

Obtaining any of these is a simple as going to the website and signing up. You could start blogging within 5 minutes of reading this article. But by now you know that whether or not you can blog is not the question. The real question is … SHOULD you blog?

Next Article: Your Marketing Life Beyond Life - Social Networking

About the author: Brandon Smith is a marketing expert in the real estate industry and is a college instructor. He can be reached at agentexcel.com.

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