Blogs can be a great source of free advertising for real estate professionals, though the medium is most effective when it is used to educate and communicate rather than to sell, said blogging experts who participated in an Inman News audio conference Monday.

Effective blogs tend to be realistic, honest, opinionated, conversational and even blunt, panelists said – they effectively engage readers in a dialog and they do not shy away from controversy.

“The idea is to get some pertinent information out there.

Blogs can be a great source of free advertising for real estate professionals, though the medium is most effective when it is used to educate and communicate rather than to sell, said blogging experts who participated in an Inman News audio conference Monday.

Effective blogs tend to be realistic, honest, opinionated, conversational and even blunt, panelists said – they effectively engage readers in a dialog and they do not shy away from controversy.

“The idea is to get some pertinent information out there. For Realtors thinking of doing this, you have to say what it is and you have to get your ego out of it,” said David G. Crockett, founder of The Crockett Team Ltd., a real estate team that is part of Cleveland-area brokerage Smythe, Cramer Co. Crockett also developed what he calls a “blog galaxy,” which is a series of interconnected blogs focused on the Lake County area of Ohio. (See Inman News story on Crockett’s local blogging network.)

“Give them the reality of what’s happening in the marketplace,” he added. “Don’t clutter it up with trying to sell them something.”

Russ Cofano, a real estate lawyer and consultant and an avid blogger who maintains the RealtyObjectives.com blog and contributes to other blogs, said real estate professionals miss the boat when they plug property listings into their blogs.

“In my opinion … that is the cardinal sin. People can find listing information anywhere they want to get it on the Internet. Blogging is about opinion and honesty and insight.”

Consumers are primarily looking for local information and views when they visit blogs, said Richard Nacht, founder and CEO of Blogging Systems, a technology company that provides blogging services for the real estate industry. “The information (consumers are) looking for needs to be relevant and needs to resonate with them for the particular region they’re looking at. Most readers aren’t interested in national trends.”

Blogs that effectively incorporate links and specific keywords can receive high placement on search engines. “Ultimately for Realtors, what you want to use your blogs for is to drive traffic and business to your Web site,” Nacht said.

While posts at New York City real estate blog Curbed.com sometimes lean to the light and whimsical side, founder Lockhart Steele said that blogs can be most compelling when they are “straightforward and blunt.”

Glittering generalities like “Hey, the market is great,” aren’t that effective in blogs, he said. “People want your real insight, your real opinion. The more real you can be … the more successful.”

There are different approaches to blogging, panelists noted. For example, Steele said his approach is to post up to 15 new short items each day. Steele is a professional journalist, though he said it’s not necessary to have skills in journalism to be an effective blogger.

“You have to obviously enjoy the act of putting words together. If you enjoy writing an e-mail to somebody you’re probably going to be a good blogger. Don’t be afraid to have fun. If you think it’s going to be entertaining as well as fruitful for your business, then dive in.”

Some other bloggers who participated in the panel said they may have few new blog postings each day but they tend to write longer posts. “I’m blogging a couple times a week but the articles are fairly in-depth – definitely more than a couple of paragraphs,” Cofano said.

Dustin Luther, director of consumer innovations for Move Inc., formerly Homestore, and founder of RainCityGuide.com, a Seattle real estate blog, has invited a team of real estate professionals to post blog items at the site. Crockett’s multiblog effort features many authors, too.

Crockett said his real estate business has grown about 27 percent since he launched the community network of blogs, and he encouraged Realtors to build similar systems in their markets. “The first guy in wins,” he said. “If you do it right and you do it first, you can say, ‘Checkmate,’ to the rest of the Realtor out there.”

Cofano said that bloggers can get good “Google juice,” or placement in search-engine results, from their blog posts, which can drive more traffic to their sites.

Blogger panelists generally agreed that all reader comments and feedback are welcome at their blog sites, though they do at times cut out responses that cross the line by attacking others or contributing nothing to the topic of discussion.

Steele said new competition is welcome in the blogging world, as bloggers often share links and content with one another.

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