Blogging can be more than a communications tool and networking platform for real estate professionals — it can convey personality, generate leads and boost business, say real estate bloggers.
“My whole business is blog clients. Most of my clients read the blog and then call me — almost all of them,” said Ardell DellaLoggia, a Seattle real estate agent who blogs at RainCityGuide.com and SearchingSeattle.com. “It became my main marketing channel.”
Ardell, who participated in an Inman News audio conference about blogging on Monday, also said this “is a little scary” because she never intended for the blog to bring in so many clients.
The number of blogs focusing on real estate has increased dramatically over the last year. Real estate agents and companies are using blogs to inform and connect with potential customers and to network with one another.
Clients who are blog readers tend to buy faster than the average online consumer, she said. “The blog clients that I’ve had almost always buy immediately, so it’s different than … lead-generation-type sites. By the time someone contacts me on the blog they are absolutely ready to go buy a house.”
Noah Rosenblatt, a real estate broker who created the UrbanDigs.com blog that offers tips for New York City buyers and sellers, agreed that blogs can be a powerful business tool. Prospective customers who reach out to him through his blog are often “ready to go,” he said. “They know they want to work with you. That, in itself, makes it a much higher quality of lead.”
Local content can be key for Realtors who are seeking to drum up business in their market areas, Rosenblatt said. “Real estate is local. (Consumers) need that insight into the market. Tell them what’s going on in your local market via your daily experiences.”
He also said that a blog can be a useful introduction to consumers — a sort of window into “how you work, how you think … It makes it a lot more transparent for a potential client for making a decision who to work with in real estate.”
While blogs can be effective marketing tools, bloggers should shy away from blatant self-promotion, Rosenblatt said. Proclaiming that you’re the best Realtor in your market area or promoting your own property listings can be inappropriate for a blog site, he said.
While some services offer to supply blog content written by other sources, Rosenblatt said these services can get in the way of an individual voice for a blog. “I happen not to believe too much in the ghostwriter or the buy-the-content formula. It takes away from the personality of what you’re trying to do.”
Joseph Ferrara, co-founder of not-yet-launched Sellsius Real Estate and a licensed real estate broker in New York who writes for the Sellsius company blog, agreed, “If you’re an agent (with a blog), like Noah, it has to be your voice out there. I don’t think there’s any dispute about that.” But a big company with a blog may find some success with third-party content, he said. “If you’re a big company it may not be a bad thing. Our philosophy: We’re pragmatists. We’ll try it and see what happens.”
Ferrara said it can pay to be experimental with a blog. “You have to think outside the blog. If you do what everybody else is doing it’s just too crowded a space to get heard above the din. Try everything and see what happens.”
Building a successful blog has everything to do with “B-E-E-P,” Ferrara said. “BEEP” is an acronym that represents four noteworthy aspects of blogging: brand-building, entertainment, engaging your readers and presenting useful content, he said. “We just try to educate people and do it in an entertaining way.”
It’s important to be very focused in crafting blog content, said Mary McKnight, the so-called “chief blogging evangelist” for the RSS Pieces Web site that provides Realtors with online marketing tools. For example, a blog post that offers advice about selling a home at the right price can be further narrowed to focus on improving the sales price in a given market area by a specific dollar amount. “Show the reader what they’re getting out of this post … specific and expressed benefits, not just implied benefits.”
McKnight and Ferrara noted the importance for real estate bloggers to network with other bloggers and participate at other blogs to find inspiration and expand their sphere of influence.
It can pay off to list a blog in several Web directories, as these links can help steer more traffic to the site, McKnight said. Also, bloggers can join blog rings such as MyBlogLog.com, she said, and participate in blog carnivals such as CarnivalofRealEstate.com to boost traffic.
All of the audio conference participants said that their blogs have generated business, either through advertising revenue or new clients.
To keep up with other real estate blogs, the blogging experts recommended RSS feed readers that can grab and channel blog postings from various sites to a central location and eliminate the need to surf multiple sites. Likewise, Ferrara said it’s good advice for real estate agents to offer a subscription to their blog as an electronic feed and to prominently feature this ability at their site. Ferrara said that the Sellsius blog feed is abbreviated to show headlines and a few sentences of each posting so that it isn’t easy for other sites to steal and reproduce the items in entirety.
While the Sellsius bloggers have chased down content burglars who post blog items at other sites, and DellaLogia also noted that there can be a lot of plagiarism among bloggers. “It isn’t really about being deceitful,” she said — in some cases people reproduce material because they don’t know how to provide links to the content, she said. “Linking to somebody’s article is the appropriate way to (refer to other content).”
McKnight said it’s important for real estate bloggers to remember that they “are not an island” in their blog, and they should provide links on their blog to other resources and other places on their own Web sites. McKnight and Ferrara recommended Copyblogger.com as a site with useful tips on creating an effective blog.
DellaLogia said there is a definite “culture of blogging” that can be unique for a given area, noting that unmoderated blog comments are the norm in the Seattle-area market. She also said that real estate bloggers should “embrace new technology to be successful,” as “the average person reading a blog is pretty much real estate- and technology-savvy.”