What do real estate’s smartest and most tech-savvy agents have in common with the least tech-savvy agents? Many of them no longer have a website!

I recently attended a webinar where the expert leading the session declared, "If you’re still using a website where you have to wait on your Web designer to upload content, you’re stuck in the 1990s."

There seems to be a strong trend among many cutting-edge real estate agents to dump their static websites and to replace them with a blog. There are numerous reasons for making this move.

First, website maintenance is expensive. In addition to hosting fees, most agents and companies have to pay a programmer to make changes in their site. This typically runs at least $50 per hour.

Second, unless you are a programmer, it’s not practical to update your website daily. This means that the content on your site is static. Obtaining high ranking on the search engines using a static website can be much more difficult than working with a blog. The reason is simple: The search engines catalogue sites only when the content changes.

Blogs are inexpensive and relatively easy to set up. They allow you to post fresh content on the fly from a host of different sources. You can post pictures and videos from your smart phone; you can use voice recognition software to convert a phone message to a written blog post; and you can also post directly from many of the social media sites.

Blogs also help you obtain higher search-engine ranking. Each time you create a new blog post, you are creating additional links to your blog site. These additional links can help your search engine ranking, provided that your blog is hosted on your personal website or URL rather than on the blogging company’s main site.

For example, my WordPress blog is integrated into my site at RealEstateCoach.com. On the other hand, my LuxuryClues blog is on TypePad. I have to manually link back to my main website from TypePad. That’s not an issue with my WordPress blog. The links automatically go back to my main website.

Are blogs an adequate substitute for websites? The "no" argument

On the "no" side of the argument, the general manager of our company shared this example. She was working with a client who had set up a blog on Blogger.com prior to its acquisition by Google. When Google acquired Blogger, the company informed the client that he could keep his current blog, but he would no longer receive software updates and he would no longer be able to customize his content.

Furthermore, his only option in terms of keeping his current blog was to host with the new site. This meant that anyone trying to access his blog through an old link would be unable to see the post.

In contrast, when you own your URL it’s relatively simple to change hosting companies provided that you have backed up your website content. Furthermore, any links that you have are still good as long as you don’t change your main website URL.

On the other hand, if you don’t own your own URL you have a much more difficult situation. To migrate your site, you must be able to obtain all your past content from the company that is hosting your website on its server.

Are blogs an adequate substitute for websites? The "yes" argument

I posed this question to Michael Krisa of ThatInterviewGuy.com. Krisa decided to dump his traditional website and to rely on a blog for his business. Krisa argues that having a blog site gives you increased control. Furthermore, because WordPress is "open source" and so many people are writing applications, the issues described with Blogger would be highly unlikely.

Rather than paying thousands of dollars to set up a new site, Krisa said he launched a completely customized site with landing (squeeze) pages for under $200.

If you elect to use a blog site rather than a website with a blog built into it, a major challenge you will face is how to organize your data. If you’re going this route, most experts insist you separate your marketing and listing data from your blog posts. Potential clients don’t want to wade through multiple blog posts to locate "properties for sale."

Are blogs an adequate substitute for websites? Maybe

I’m on the fence on this one. I believe that the marketing strategy that works the best has four components: print marketing, website, blog and social media. You use your print marketing to drive traffic to your blog and/or website.

Your website is for static content. This would include your multiple listing service feed, your personal listings, community information, your contact information, mortgage calculator, facts about purchasing, etc.

Your blog is the place to engage your sphere of influence as well as to attract potential customers. Blogging, however, always requires you to initiate the process by doing a post.

In contrast, the social media allow you to initiate conversations as well as allowing others to initiate conversations with you. Ideally, these work together for maximum results. You use your print marketing to drive prospects to your website, blog or to the social media sites where you are active.

What’s your take on this issue? If you have moved to using a blog exclusively to market your real estate business, please share your successes (and frustrations) with us.

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