(This is Part 1 of a four-part series. Read Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.)

Blogs are one of the hottest Web trends today. Are you ready to take advantage of this powerful tool to build your business?

What is a blog?

(This is Part 1 of a four-part series. Read Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.)

Blogs are one of the hottest Web trends today. Are you ready to take advantage of this powerful tool to build your business?

What is a blog? Some people say it’s a combination of the word “Web” and “log.” Many of the earliest blogs were not much more than diaries or journals. Social and political blogging has been around for about five years. Business blogging, however, is an entirely new trend that is about to revolutionize our business in a wide variety of ways. Blogs are not only the voice of the moment, but they are also a way to generate more leads, to interact with potential clients, and to build trust in the communities we serve.

Interactivity and User-Generated Content

Blogging is an important part of what is being called “Web 2.0.” Web 1.0 was about having visitors to your site and keeping them there. Web 1.5 was about lead generation. Web 2.0 is about lead conversion, i.e., users being involved in the creation of content. This is where blogging shines — it allows your readers to actively participate in terms of the content they receive as well as to provide feedback on the information that you post.

Business blogging is at the cutting edge of Web 2.0 and may make many Web sites obsolete. The reason for this is that Web sites provide static information. Updating the information usually requires the services of a Web designer. In contrast, blogging is as simple as writing an e-mail and sending it. You don’t have to pay for a Web designer. In fact, many blog hosting sites are free. Even the professional sites such as Typepad.com cost as little as $149 per year. All that is really required is your personal time commitment to do the posts.

Just as Web sites may become less important, blogging may soon replace newsletters as well. Like most Web sites, newsletters are static and do not allow for interaction. In contrast, blogs thrive on interaction and reader comments. Furthermore, many newsletter readers have older computers that are not compatible with certain HTML feeds. This means that these readers see all the code in addition to what you wrote. In contrast, what you post to your blog appears the same to everyone just as your Web site would.

You may be so busy that the thought of marketing in an entirely different way may be overwhelming. Blogging is not for everyone, especially if you don’t write well or if you lack the discipline to make regular posts to your blog. Nevertheless, blogging has so many advantages that anyone who plans to be in business five years from now should seriously consider making the necessary effort. The benefits of blogging are listed below.

1. Blogging improves Web rankings

Spiders (the technology that search engines such as Google use to “crawl” and index Web site information) love the steady stream of fresh content found in blogs. In contrast, Web sites are static. Once the spider catalogues a Web site, it only catalogues the site again when the content is updated. Blogs also link to other blogs, posts and articles, whereas most Web sites do not. By linking your blog and your Web site, you improve your search-engine ranking. Each time that you post an entry to your blog, you create a new URL. This in turn serves as an additional link to your Web site. The more links that you have and the more fresh content that you generate, the higher your ranking will be. When other bloggers link to your posts, you create even higher rankings.

2. Blogs are easier to work with than Web sites

Blogging is not any more difficult than sending an e-mail. It’s easy for agents to post their own updated listings, sales, recent neighborhood information, etc. In contrast, changing your Web site usually requires a Web designer, as well as a change fee.

3. Blogging allows consumers to get to know and trust you

Given that today’s typical Web consumer begins a property search six to 18 months prior to the time he/she is willing to take action, your blog becomes a way for the consumer to get to know you in a safe, nonthreatening way. Remember, most people prefer to remain anonymous until they are ready to take action. Potential clients who regularly read your blog learn to trust you as a valued source of information. This in turn helps to establish you as an expert in your area.

4. Blogging lets you establish yourself as an expert in a specific niche

If you do geographical farming, starting a neighborhood blog for your farm area is a way to distinguish yourself from competitors who are still relying on postcard and e-mail marketing. What makes your blog different from their marketing is that your farm area now has a forum where they can post meaningful content, comment on local events, or simply let neighbors know about a special birthday or anniversary.

5. Blogs are an excellent way to reach younger buyers and sellers

Blogs are particularly attractive to those under the age of 30. The under-30 crowd grew up with computers and prefers to communicate via texting rather than e-mail or phoning. This group loves digital communication and sharing their comments with each other. In fact, MySpace.com, which Rupert Murdoch originally paid $540 million for, is now valued at about $15 billion. Like MySpace.com, blogs are the perfect environment for this group to communicate in the way that they prefer.

6. Blogs are easier to write and publish than newsletters

A final benefit is that blogs are less formal than newsletters, shorter, and easier to write. A typical blog post is five to 10 sentences. Some are even shorter. You can make a single observation about an event, provide a useful tidbit of information, or link to another blog post or Web article that you believe your readers would enjoy.

Are you ready to venture into the blogosphere? If so, don’t miss next week’s article.

Bernice Ross, national speaker and CEO of Realestatecoach.com, is the author of “Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters” and “Who’s the Best Person to Sell My House?” Both are available online. She can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com or visit her blog at www.LuxuryClues.com.

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