Blogging 101

Blogging 101

Blog Introduction

Blogging can boost your marketing, establish you as a thought leader, and help grow your business. However, it’s also a topic that generates hype and misunderstanding. This article introduces blogging, explains how it works, and offers practical tips.

Boiling it down, blogging can help achieve two major goals: First, attract website visitors, and then convert them into leads and clients. Let’s examine attraction and conversion after covering the basics.

Blogging Defined

Blogging has been a buzz word, even a fad, for years in real estate. Recently, Facebook and Twitter have gotten more press, but for many agents blogging may be more useful. Methods vary and should be evaluated based on your own goals and personality.

Let’s begin with a definition and basics.

A blog presents short articles in a journal-style format, which makes sense because “blog” stands for “web log,” a kind of web journal. Here is the “anatomy” and key features of a blog:

•    Blog posts display articles (called posts) with recent posts on top followed by older ones.
•    Your blog’s front page displays recent posts, and older ones are available by clicking on links.
•    A section called “categories” collects posts on specific topics, enabling readers to read your material on the subjects they care about.
•    Blog posts can be linked to and from custom pages, listings and other pages on your website to build SEO.
•    Search engines can “see” your older material regardless of how old it is.

Why do blogs matter? Blog articles help people find you when their interests (via Google searches) match up with the material you write. While blogging helps your search engine optimization (SEO) – think of this as your “findability” online – by providing content, you don’t need to be an SEO expert or a “techie” person. If you blog regularly, address real concerns, and provide real answers designed for specific target groups (i.e., markets), you build your “SEO snowball.” It takes time to grow your online visibility but blogging can be a big help.

How Blogging Attracts Website Visitors

Now, let’s look at how blogging helps Lead Attraction and later we’ll consider the other side of blogging, Lead Conversion.

Here’s the key: Google wants to connect searchers with relevant content! Real estate is topic-rich, so your blog can potentially attract readers if it offers useful information on current, high-interest topics. But remember this: people search for specific information based on their needs, so your blog must provide specific information for specific people (markets).

To attract your key clients, write for them.

“If you aim at everything, you hit nothing.” This old saying applies to blogging and really, all of your marketing. To succeed, your blog material must aim at specific audiences. How narrowly you focus depends on market dynamics.

Remember that your blog material will be found by people searching for specific information, and Google will match them with writers who provide it. Consider the kinds of Google searches being done by these potential client groups:

•    First-time buyers
•    Investors
•    Luxury/high net worth buyers/sellers
•    Parents looking for homes near outstanding schools
•    Buyers and sellers in gated communities
•    Downtown condo buyers/sellers
•    Lakefront, ski home, or recreational second-home buyers
•    Relocating families (military, corporate, education relocators)
•    People interested in specific neighborhoods or sections of town
•    Distressed property clients
•    Etc. – fill in the blank based on your area

Each of these audiences wants something different, and while your blog might not be tailored towards just one of these (except in large urban areas), it’s crucial to select your audience(s) and consistently create material for them. If you target all niches, your blog is “vanilla,” and doesn’t stand out and won’t get the kind of traffic you want. The bottom line on target marketing is this: In large areas you might win by dealing with just one market segment, but in most places you’ll need to target several. In small communities, you may have market much more broadly.

Avoid extremely broad targets like “home buyers in Chicago” or “Seattle sellers” unless you can really handle the entire market yourself. These are too enormous and varied, plus large, deep-pocketed brokerages are spending very large sums to advertise and create content for city-wide markets. The “big boys” have an advertising budget advantage, but you can win by smart targeting. (see suggestions below).

Target market possibilities:

•    Geographic targeting | Instead of “Chicago real estate,” target “Lincoln Park neighborhood” or “the near North side.” Rather than the extremely broad “Seattle blog” or “Seattle real estate blog” consider concentrating your blog on “Seattle’s Ballard District blog” or “the Ballard real estate blog.” It’s fine to have more than one of these markets, but you’ll need to produce blog posts for each of them to gain traction with search engines. Why? It comes back to searches: People tend to search more narrowly than “City X real estate.”

•    Specific client types | Examples include (to name a few) first-time homebuyers, luxury buyers, retirees, relocators or investors.

•    Special buying motivations and lifestyle | Consider the special motivations and niches of certain buyers and sellers: lakefront homes, school-driven buying, gated communities, 55+ communities, golf course homes, etc. (in conjunction with a city or neighborhood name).

These are simply suggestions, but here’s the takeaway: vanilla makes a great ice cream flavor, but a poor approach for targeting blog content. Know who you want to reach exactly and write for them.

Once you choose your target markets, how do you build up material for them?

1.    Compile the questions people ask you each day and answer them in your blog. This can be current questions or those that are perennially asked by clients.

2.    Provide real, actionable answers, not teasers. By showing your expertise, you establish credibility. Don’t worry about “giving it all away for free” because it doesn’t work that way; buyers and sellers will always have more questions – and they will often turn to the agent who passes the credibility and expertise test. People read blogs to find an agent they can trust.

3.    General, local, community-based posts about local festivals, local events, etc., are great, but your main task is to create material consistently for your key clients.

4.    The best way to stay on track is to set up a blogging schedule and regularly schedule posts for your target clients. This will ensure that your blog’s material continues to grow. According to HubSpot's 2012 Marketing Benchmarketing Report, companies that blogged 6-8 times per month generated over twice the leads of companies that blogged just twice monthly.

Converting Visitors to Leads and Clients

We just covered lead attraction, now let’s look at converting readers into leads and clients. Once visitors arrive at your blog, they will probably have one of two reactions:

1.    “Terrific, this is just what I was looking for – let’s keep reading!” (this is where having posts placed into categories, explained below, make a huge difference)

2.    Or…  “Nothing to see here, let’s move on.” 
The first response depicts people engaging with your blog, which is how you win over time. “Over time” is important because there are no magic bullets. It takes time to figure out your markets, discern what people want to know, compile topics, write your posts, stick to a revolving schedule so you build up your content and your traffic, and for Google to index it. Oh yes, and in most markets you’ll face competition so you want to keep growing your skills.

Here are some ideas to help convert visitors into leads and clients:

1.    Your blog has “Categories” which collect posts on specific topics in one easy-to-read-place.

•    Categories make it easy for your target clients to read all of your material on a certain topic and to skip whatever isn’t relevant to them.

•    Create categories for your target markets. You can have a few general categories (Community, Events, Open Houses, etc.) too, but make sure that your categories clearly convey what you do and where you do it. Here’s great test: If a visitor to your blog had only 15 seconds to identify what you do as an agent, and could use ONLY your blog categories, would they identify your niches correctly?

•    One warning: do not try to make a category for every post. Too many categories may confuse readers instead of converting them. I once saw a real estate blog with about 50 categories and had to ask the agent, “What do you do, what are your niches? I really can’t tell.” Too many categories can dilute what your focus.

2.    Blogs clearly targeted for certain market segment and which answer real questions can result in readers spending hours perusing your content. This kind of “pre-relationship building” is a big part of converting readers into clients.

3.    Your blog uniquely presents your personality and “voice” more powerfully than the rest of your site. People want an agent who fits their situation and personality. Your blog conveys who you are through information, writing style, humor, stories and real answers to questions, and this helps convert readers into clients.

It can take time and practice to find your “voice” in writing, so don’t be discouraged if at first it seems like a slog to create good material. Blogging is a skill that can be learned by most anyone.

Practical Pointers:

1.    How long should my blog posts be?

Posts don’t need to be long, and they should cover one specific topic. Many posts can be 200-500 words which is just a few paragraphs. Some longer pieces of 600-1000 or more words are great but you don’t have to do it often. Most questions can be answered neatly in a short space.

2.    Write down your target audience(s) and market(s), be explicit.

3.    Place your key target-audience posts into categories. Caution: Don’t create a category until you have at least one post to fill it, otherwise people may click on it and find nothing to read. Not good.

4.    Create a revolving blogging calendar so you regularly write material for each of your target client groups. Stick to it! You need to grow your material and build the number of posts in each of your categories.

5.    Make it perfectly clear what you do and where you do it. Your overall blog title, your post titles, your overall content and your categories should leave no one guessing about you, your specialties and what you offer. If you live in a big city, don’t try to make “everything and everyone” your market.

6.    How much non-target market writing should I do? Mix in general local content because it shows engagement with your overall community. 

7.    Confine each blog post to one specific topic! Google favors a clear title, single-topic contents and clear keywords. Google and other search engines have a hard time figuring out what’s going on in highly complex, multi-topic articles.

8.    Title your posts with eye towards search engines, but don’t obsess over SEO. Make sure Google knows based on the title what the post is about, and often where it applies. Sometimes it’s great to use a fun, quirky or thought-provoking title, and this can add liveliness to your blog, but most of the time you want it to be clear and straightforward. For example, you could title a post “How to stage a home for sale.” Or, much more powerfully, you could title it, “How to stage your Ballard condo for maximum resale value.”

9.    If you write market updates that involve lots of data and/or use graphs and charts, explain the takeaway for the reader. Don’t leave readers wondering what to do with the data.

10.    Use photos (or video) in every blog post, or at least in the majority of them.

11.    Let your personality show. Use humor if it comes naturally to you but don’t be clownish. Use some personal stories (protecting names of individuals of course) and make it clear that you are a real person helping real people!

12.    Link to and from your blog posts to build your SEO. If you write a blog post on how to stage your Ballard neighborhood condo, link this to a custom page about Ballard, or to a page geared toward your seller services overall, or even to other blog posts about Ballard and local real estate. The longer people stay on your site, the better it is for you (we call this making your site “sticky”). Linking your material adds to the stickiness.

13.    Keep a journal of blog post ideas. When someone asks you a good question, enter this into the journal for blogging.

14.    Inspiration is all around, keep your eyes open for interesting ideas. Have fun and write short posts when you get ideas – and don’t worry about being perfect! Spend some time proofreading and editing, but don’t think you can’t win with blogging unless you write like Tolstoy or Hemingway. It’s a real estate blog and you have what people need, go and give it to them and be you.

Contact Information

Photo of Client Support Real Estate
Client Support
Real Pro Systems
400 S. Colorado Blvd., Suite 970
Denver CO 80246