Agents are interested in blogging for business; they continue to ask questions about how to get a blog started and how to keep it going.
This isn’t a new idea but it is an idea that keeps evolving, and there is still very little competition among agents for local real estate blogs. Starting a blog keeps getting easier, but for most people keeping it going remains the biggest challenge.
Business blogs are powerful marketing pieces and there is still little competition for local real estate blogs, especially blogs that are written for consumers instead of for real estate agents. Go one step further and include information about housing and there is no competition in most markets.
Consumers search the Internet for information that goes beyond what is in the multiple listing service, and static websites are just plain boring — even if they do have the agent’s face plastered all over them.
Homebuyers want to know what it is like to live in your town, and what the housing market is like, and where the amenities are and if the neighborhood is walkable, and maybe where to buy a cup of coffee or find some good pizza.
They also want to work with an agent who can be trusted and who is friendly (but not the creepy kind of friendly) and that knows the area.
Last week I attended a continuing education class and the speaker mentioned blogging and recommended a keyword-stuffing scheme that doesn’t work. Business blogging isn’t about using keywords over and over. It is about supplying useful information and showing expertise.
For the last couple of years the emphasis has been on self-hosted WordPress blogs, but there are other options that are free and easier to start and to maintain.
There are agents who invest a significant amount of time in WordPress testing plug-ins and tweaking their blog design instead of writing blog posts or selling real estate.
The popular free blogging platforms can be run off of any domain name, and it is important for businesses to own and control their own domain names. It is fairly easy to import a blog into WordPress and self-host it if that becomes desirable at some point.
No traffic is lost, and if it is done right the regular blog readers will not notice the change, and neither will Google. I don’t think it is wise to use any of the free platforms for a business blog without owning the domain name.
The easiest way to start a blog today is to use Posterous, Blogger or WordPress.com — and all are free. Blogger is a free platform from Google. It is the No. 1 most used blogging platform on the planet.
The Google search engine loves it and they just keep making Blogger better. It is highly customizable and very easy to use. I have used blogger for four years now and all of my posts were created with a BlackBerry.
All three platforms have smartphone apps that can be used to write a post, and add a photo and update the blogs. The apps can also be used to store blog posts and approve comments. The WordPress app even works on a BlackBerry.
Posterous has become very popular, and I have a Posterous blog, too. The beauty of Posterous is that it can be used to update other social media accounts and it works well as a mobile blog. I can update my Posterous blog and have it automatically update Facebook and Twitter at the same time.
A new agent or a new blogger could buy a domain name, use it with a Posterous blog, post to it by smartphone, or email and use it to update a Twitter account and a Facebook page.
A self-hosted WordPress blog can do all of that, too, but it takes expertise to install all of those plug-ins and keep them updated. Those functions are built right into the Posterous blog, and it is ready to go.
It should be noted that free blogs can be backed up. I would highly recommend that blogs on any platform be backed up at least once a week. I have heard grown men and women cry after losing hundreds of blog posts because a site got deleted or because something else went wrong.
The easiest way to create blog posts is while you’re on the go — they can easily be created with a smartphone. It doesn’t take much time or effort.
Here are some simple ideas:
- Snap a picture of a street sign and write a few words about the neighborhood.
- Write one or two posts a month that have local housing market statistics.
- Make sure your contact information is easy to find on the blog and that anyone reading it can tell which areas you work in.
- There is still almost no competition in most markets for a consumer-oriented real estate blog.
- Include information about local parks, architectural styles, road closings and most anything local.
- Don’t spend hours and hours writing blog posts, but write a short one each day and include a picture.
There are several other platforms I could mention, but these are my top picks for business. Before spending money to build a blog, try one of these free platforms. That is what I did before I started my business blog five and a half years ago.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.