(This is Part 1 of a two-part series. Read Part 2, “Be the go-to blog for your real estate niche.”)

Blogging is about providing fresh content with a personal twist. If you’re sitting in front of your computer wondering what to write, the answer may be easier than you think.

Today many agents are struggling to find clients. Open house attendance is down across the country. Referrals drop when the market slows. Cold calling is harder than ever. Web leads take six to 18 months to convert. The one bright spot in all of this is blogging. Today’s consumers love interacting online. They love hearing about little-known-facts, current happenings, as well as what’s hot and what’s not. With print newspaper circulation declining, some people say that blogs are the digital answer to the local newspaper. In fact, blogging is rapidly becoming the leading way for individual agents to establish their credibility as real estate experts as well as to attract new business.

The challenge every blogger faces is what to write. If you are a typical agent, stay away from the big national issues such as the DOJ lawsuit, mortgage trends or discounting. Instead, carve out your blogging niche by becoming an expert either for a specific demographic or for your local area.

I recently spoke with Teresa Boardman who has two different blogs: St. Paul Real Estate blog and a blog she started for fun, The Real Estate Weenie. Although Teresa has been blogging only for about two years, she has managed to climb to a first-page ranking on Google for “St. Paul real estate.” In fact, her ranking comes up higher than the major real estate companies that serve her area.

What’s her secret? Fresh content every day that is specific to the St. Paul area. Teresa’s approach is to carry her camera wherever she goes. She’s constantly taking pictures of historical buildings, houses with interesting histories, or the local street culture. Her goal is to capture what it’s like to live in St. Paul. It’s relatively simple to take a picture of something and write a brief description. She mixes this with at least one fun post per week that lets her readers know who she is as a person. Her other posts are business-based.

To illustrate how this works, here are four examples of different kinds of posts.

1. Local color

I live in Austin, Texas, where many residents proudly proclaim, “Keep Austin Weird.” Bumper stickers and T-shirts all over town convey this message. In fact, there is an annual “Keep Austin Weird” street festival. This is an example of what could be a regular category for a blog. Each week you could have the weird photo of the week and post it with a brief description. You could also invite your readers to submit their own photos. Either way you’re building readership and having fun as well.

2. When disaster strikes

Recently Marble Falls, Texas, received 19 inches of rain in just 12 hours. The devastation was substantial. Capturing the pictures of this event can actually be important historically. You could also photograph the dams and the wide open floodgates or the placid little stream in your neighborhood that currently looks like a major river. Better yet, post a video.

When catastrophic events occur, you can also use your blog to give people information about how to contact loved ones, types of assistance needed, as well as how your readers can protect themselves in the future. For example, many people are unaware that their homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover certain types of wind, water and fire damage. Remind your readers of the types of policies available as well as resources for those who lack insurance.

A catastrophic event can sometimes be a source of humor. Following the 1994 Northridge Quake in Los Angeles, a building that had been completely devastated had the following sign painted on the front of it: “The Fat Lady has sung.” The picture alone would have made a great blog post.

3. Fun spots

Are there any free concerts in your city or special plays for children? If so, provide your readers with tips on where to obtain a gourmet picnic basket to make the outing extra special. Build your business by interviewing the owners of different entertainment venues in town. Share your favorite picks for the best local brews and burgers. Take pictures. This is a terrific way to build your referral network while supporting your local business community as well.

4. Live like a local

People who live in an area often don’t visit local tourist attractions. On the other hand, many visitors want to discover where the hidden local gems are. Where do the locals go when they want a great meal? Who has the best patio dining? Share your city’s “best-kept secrets” with your audience, ask for their feedback, and you’ll have them sharing their tips as well.

Need more help creating content for your blog? 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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