Every year Realtors spend millions of dollars on print advertising, search-engine optimization, pay-per-click ads, toll-free call capture, and a host of tools in the hope of attracting clients who will work with them. There is another alternative that doesn’t take much of a shift from what you are already doing.

1. The tables have turned
The old sales model was "hunt ’em, tell ’em, and sell ’em." You know the drill. You have to go out and prospect for leads, then tell them how great you and your company are, and then close them on using your services, usually with some sort of manipulation.

Today, clients have turned the tables on us and now they’re the ones doing the hunting. They have absolutely no interest in being told what to do or being manipulated. Gen X and Gen Y (those born after 1964) actively search for information online before making any decisions. In fact, many will "stalk" an agent on their blog or on the social media for 12-18 months prior to contacting that agent about working with them.

2. Little competition
Only a small percentage of agents (maybe 3 percent to 5 percent, based on the audiences I see at real estate conferences) are actually blogging. The reason these numbers continue to be low is that most people perceive blogging to be exclusively about writing. Their rationale is that they’re not writers. Instead, their job is to generate leads and close transactions.

Nevertheless, blogging may be one of the easiest and most effective ways to generate great leads. Over time, potential clients get to know you. This is especially true for Gen X and Gen Y, who constantly search the Web as part of their decision-making process. If they like what you post, they will eventually identify themselves by saying, "I’ve been reading your blog for about a year and I would like to work with you."

3. RSS: More than just a blogging tool
RSS (really simple syndication) is an amazing tool for generating and capturing leads for your business. RSS feeds distribute what you post online to multiple Web destinations. The power in this approach is that an RSS feed allows people to subscribe to your blog, but it also allows you to syndicate (send information) to multiple web destinations.

Not only can it be used for blogging, RSS feeds can be used to send podcasts, videos, pictures, plus a host of other types of Web information. For example, TubeMogul.com allows you to upload a video once and then they syndicate it to 15 video portals including YouTube, Google video, Yahoo video, Vimeo, etc. Put the link on your blog and you not only attract more Gen X and Gen Y clients, you improve your blog’s ranking as well.

4. You are already doing it!
The first thing to realize about blogging is that you are already creating the content for hundreds of blog posts every year. The best place to start is by asking, "How many questions have I answered in the last month for clients, either face-to-face, on the phone, or in an e-mail?" In each case, you are creating content that could be used for your blog. Rather than answering questions for just one person in an e-mail, when you blog you answer the question for a group of people.

Many agents have opted to create a "Frequently Asked Questions" section on their website. While your Web visitors may appreciate having that information in a single place, a static list of questions and answers does little to help your search-engine ranking.

What really helps your Web rankings is fresh, relevant content. By making each question and its answer a single blog post, you build search-engine ranking. Furthermore, the more posts you have, the greater your credibility becomes in the eyes of the consumer. In fact, if you look in your "sent box," you may have a huge number of blog posts that are simply questions that you answered on a one-to-one basis for your clients.

5. Geekiness no longer a necessity
Blogging used to be a pretty geeky activity. Early bloggers needed to know HTML coding, plugins, widgets, and a host of other geeky concepts. Today, sites such as Posterous and Tumblr make doing a blog post as easy as writing an e-mail.

6. Tags are still important
"Tags" describe the content in your blog and help the search engines connect your post to users who are searching for that information. For example, if you answered a question about what happens when the appraisal comes in low for your buyers, you could tag it with your name, "buyer questions," "low property appraisals," "how to handle a low appraisal," "how to get a new appraisal," "real estate appraisal issues," etc. These tags help search engines direct users who are searching for this information to your blog post.

7. Pictures matter
It’s also smart to have a picture to go with your posts. You can take these yourself or use a service such as Clipart.com or IStockphoto.com to avoid copyright infringement problems. You can also use advances searches at Google and Flickr, for example, for images that are approved for commercial reuse and modification.

What else can you blog on? Check next week’s columns for more ideas.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success" and other books. You can reach her at Bernice@RealEstateCoach.com and find her on Twitter: @bross.


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