Published on March 28, 2014
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 1 The Real Estate Blog Book How to Use a Real Estate Blog for Marketing, Lead Generation and Business Growth By Brandon Cornett www.RealBlogBook.com
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 2 Share This Book With Others (Copyright and License Information) Summary: This book is licensed under the "Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0" license issued by Creative Commons. This means you can share the book with others, as long as you don't modify the work or attempt to profit from it. You must credit the original author (Brandon Cornett), and may not claim the work as your own. You can learn more about this license by visiting: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/ Details of this license: You are free to share this e-book with others. You may copy and redistribute this e-book however you wish, and to whomever you wish. Example: A real estate company could distribute the e-book to all members of their organization, as long as they do not (A) modify the book or (B) attempt to profit from it. Attribution: If you republish this e-book online, you must give appropriate credit and provide a link to the Creative Commons license mentioned above. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in a way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use. =============================================== Here is an example of an acceptable attribution: The Real Estate Blog, by Brandon Cornett License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/ =============================================== General restrictions: Non-Commercial — You may not use this e-book for commercial purposes. You may not sell it or otherwise attempt to profit from it. It is freely available to all. No Derivatives — You may not edit, transform, or build upon the material. No additional restrictions — You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits. When offering this book to others online, a link back to the publisher's website (www.RealBlogBook.com) would be much appreciated, but is not required. Thank you!
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 3 Free Newsletter Full of Blogging Tips If you like the book, you'll love the newsletter. Each month, we publish useful tips and tutorials for real estate bloggers. They'll arrive in your email inbox once per month, with no effort from you. Just like the book, our newsletter is completely free to use. Our newsletter will help you create a more successful blogging program. It includes: Tips for writing blog content, identifying topics, etc. Housing news and other relevant information you can blog about Tips for increasing traffic to your blog (SEO, PR, promotional methods, etc.) Updates about new tools and technologies related to real estate blogging How to join: You can subscribe for free by visiting www.RealBlogBook.com and clicking the "newsletter" link in the main menu.
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 4 Table of Contents Introduction ……...................………….............................. 5 1. What Is Blogging .......................................................... 6 2. Blogging as a Real Estate Marketing Strategy ……..... 9 3. Benefits of Blogging ..................................................... 11 4. Tech Matters: Getting a Blog Up and Running ............ 18 5. Best Practices of Blog Marketing ................................. 21 6. Real Estate Blog Topics and Ideas .............................. 30 7. In Depth: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) .............. 34 8. In Depth: Real Estate Lead Generation ....................... 40 9. Bonus: 39 Ways to Increase Your Blog Traffic ............ 51 10. Summary and Conclusion ……………….................... 58 11. How We Can Help You …………………..................... 59
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 5 Introduction "Nine in 10 home buyers today rely on the internet as one of their primary research sources, and 52 percent turn to the web as their first step. In fact, real estate related searches on Google.com grew 22% year-over-year." -The Digital House Hunt, a joint study from The National Association of REALTORS® and Google Consumers use search engines like Google and Bing to research a wide variety of real estate topics. Most real estate agents know this. They also know it's important to have good search engine visibility. But what they may not know is that consumers search for thousands of real estate and housing-related phrases every day, covering a broad spectrum of keywords and topics. This gives real estate professionals a chance to connect with a huge audience online, simply by publishing a large volume of quality content. That's the core concept behind blogging. The purpose of this book is to introduce the idea of blogging as a real estate marketing strategy. It is intended for "newbies" and veterans alike. Regardless of your current skill level, you will benefit from reading this guide. The book is divided into the following chapters: 1. What Is Blogging? 2. Blogging as a Real Estate Marketing Strategy 3. The Benefits of Blog Marketing 4. Technical Matters: Getting a Blog Up and Running 5. Best Practices for Blog Marketing 6. Real Estate Blogging Ideas 7. In-Depth: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) 8. In-Depth: Real Estate Lead Generation 9. Bonus: 39 Ways to Increase Your Blog Traffic 10. Summary & Conclusion 11. How We Can Help You If you're new to blogs and blogging, I recommend starting on the next page for a brief introduction. If you already publish a blog, feel free to skip ahead to Chapter 2.
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 6 1 What Is Blogging? Before we go any further, we need to cover some of the basic terminology used throughout this guide. Here's a crash course in blogs and blogging, as they relate to your real estate marketing program. A blog is simply a website that is built around a blogging program. A blog consists of individual entries or pages, more commonly referred to as "posts." The posts are presented in reverse chronological order, with the most recent entries shown at the top. Most blogs are updated on a regular basis. In fact, the whole point of blogging is to publish new posts regularly, to provide information to a specific audience. Blogging is the act of publishing a blog, either for personal or professional reasons. The blog program or "platform" is what makes it all possible. These content-management systems allow you to publish content onto the internet, quickly and easily. Some of these software programs are free to use; others charge a fee. The three most popular blogging programs in use today are WordPress, Blogger and TypePad. The first two programs are free to use. TypePad requires a monthly fee, which varies based on the features you want. The term blogger can mean one of two things. It can refer to a person who publishes a blog. It can also refer to the Blogger program, which is owned by Google. You can usually discern the meaning based on the context and/or capitalization, as in the following sentence: "I publish a blog, therefore I am a blogger [lower case]. But I do not use the Blogger program [upper case], as I prefer the far superior WordPress program instead." Side note: We use and recommend WordPress because (A) it is open-source software, (B) it is sophisticated yet easy to use, and (C) it can be installed on any web-hosting account for free. An Easy Way to Publish Content Online Simplicity is one of the biggest advantages of blogging. If you can type and send a basic email message, you already have the skills needed to publish a blog. The technical barrier is very low. That's because the blogging program handles all of the technical details for you. All you have to do is type the blog post (think of an online article) and click the "publish" button. The blogging program does the rest. It will convert your text into HTML website code so it can be displayed online. It will update the home page to reflect the new post. It will assign a date to each of your posts, for archiving purposes. It will categorize your blog entries however you want, and all at the click of a button.
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 7 This is why so many real estate people use blogs as part of their online marketing strategies – they are incredibly easy to use. Below, you will see a screenshot that shows the simplicity of a blogging program. This is what it looks like inside the WordPress program, when you are writing a new blog post. This is a "blank slate" that has yet to be filled in. You would simply write a blog title in the space provided, write the blog post in the larger box, format the post as needed, and then click the blue "Publish" button in the lower-right corner. The blogging program handles the rest. As you can see from this image, the WordPress interface is clean and easy to use. There's a box for the title of my blog post, and a box for the body. There are buttons for making text bold or italicized, and buttons for adding images to the post. It's all very user-friendly. We will talk more about the benefits of blogging in Chapter 3. How a Blog Is Different from a Website We just talked about the simplicity of blogging programs. These programs make it easy to publish content online. Because of this simplicity, blogs are typically updated on a regular basis. When you visit the home page of a blogging site, you might find a summary of the most recent entries or posts, presented in reverse-chronological order. This is the primary difference between a blog and a regular "static" website. Blogs get updated on a regular basis, usually daily or weekly.
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 8 This is also what makes blogs popular among readers. They deliver fresh content, instead of stale or static content. Of course, the freshness will depend on the blogger who publishes the site. A blog can become stale too, if the author stops publishing entries. The bottom line is that bloggers who take blogging seriously publish new entries on a regular basis, in order to engage their readers and increase their website traffic. Some of our clients publish daily, with our help. They enjoy the traffic and lead-generating potential that comes from an aggressive publishing schedule, so they update their blogs with new content on a daily basis. By the time you are done reading this book, you too will see the value in this. Next chapter: Blogging as a real estate marketing strategy
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 9 2 Blogging as a Real Estate Marketing Strategy Do you have 50 - 100 pages of original, high-quality content on your real estate website? If not, you're missing an opportunity to generate dozen of leads and inquiries per month. You can solve this problem by implementing a content-based marketing and lead-generation strategy. And blogging is a great way to do that. Many real estate agents, brokers and companies rely on other providers for generating leads. They get leads from referral partners, or by purchasing them from lead-generation websites (such as the big home-search websites). In many cases, the leads are "non-exclusive," which means they are being farmed out to multiple agents who then have to compete for the person's attention. This is a form of "dependent marketing." With this model, you will always be dependent on other providers for your leads. You will never generate your own. With content-based lead generation, you can develop your own lead channel on your own website. You can generate exclusive leads. You can encourage people to contact you, personally and directly. Over time, this will reduce your dependency on other lead sources. It could also save you a lot of money by reducing your marketing outlay. Definition: Content-based lead generation is when you increase your organic website traffic, inquiries, and leads by publishing quality content on a regular basis. "Content" in this context could be real estate articles, tutorials, housing market news, etc. The idea is to create an ever-growing volume of content that produces an ever-growing volume of leads. Each article adds cumulative value in the form of long-term lead potential. Each article or blog post has an "evergreen" quality that will contribute to your traffic and lead volume over a long period of time. For instance, an article you publish today could attract 10, 20 or 30 visitors per day, for as long as it exists on your website. Now multiply that potential by 50 - 100 individual articles, and you get a sense of the long-term value of content-based lead generation. Blogging makes all of this easier. With a blogging program, you can publish more content with less time and effort. If you're serious about content-based marketing, you need to use some kind of content-management system (CMS), such as a blogging program. Blogging as a Lead-Generation Strategy Lead generation is a primary component of any real estate marketing program. We will discuss it in detail later on, in Chapter 7. But it needs to be touched on here as well.
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 10 When you publish a real estate blog, you can generate leads in several ways: When people are motivated to contact you directly (most common method) When people inquire about a particular property you have blogged about When people leave comments on your blog When people subscribe to your blog's RSS feed (least common) Most of the leads generated from your blogging efforts will come in the form of emails and (probably to a lesser extent) phone calls. But there are other ways to generate leads as well. In Chapter 7, I'll offer some tips for increasing your conversion rate to generate more leads online. For now, just know that blogging and lead generation go hand in hand. We've glossed over some of the benefits of a blog-based marketing program. Now let's look at them more closely.
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 11 3 The Benefits of Blogging An entire book could be written on the benefits of blogging as a marketing tool. In this chapter, we will examine some of the biggest benefits, with an emphasis on real estate marketing in particular. So, without further ado: Blogging is an easy way to grow your real estate website Blogging allows you to "feed" search engines with relevant content Blogging helps you increase your organic search-engine traffic Blogging helps you position yourself as an authority in your local market Blogging adds valuable content to your site, which keeps people coming back Blogging keeps people on your site longer, when it is done properly Blogging has the potential to start a dialogue with your audience Blogging has the potential to generate valuable leads and inquiries Blogging is one of the most cost-effective forms of real estate marketing From a marketing perspective, the biggest benefits of blogging are the website visitors and leads that can result from it. Your blog will not turn strangers into clients. But it will help you generate leads from people who, with a proper amount of follow up, might become clients. By publishing original, high-quality content on your website, you will eventually see an increase in your website traffic. This in turn will increase the number of leads generated through the site. You can't generate your own leads until you have a steady stream of traffic, day in and day out. Here's the typical path to lead generation with a real estate blog... Visibility >> Traffic >> Conversion >> Leads >> Follow Up >> Clients Blogging addresses the first two items on this list. It helps you increase your website visibility and traffic levels. It sets the stage for an effective lead-generation program. So the primary benefits of blog-based marketing are (A) greater website traffic and visibility, and (B) a higher number of leads generated each month. But those aren't the only benefits...
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 12 Unlimited Potential for Traffic and Leads Another great thing about blogging, and content-based marketing in general, is that it can be repeated endlessly. It is scalable, to borrow a buzzword from the corporate world. There is no limit to how far you can go with a real estate blog. Trust me on this – I'm still blogging after nearly a decade. Whether you realize it or not, your prospective clients (home buyers and homeowners) are searching thousands of housing-related phrases in Google, Yahoo and Bing. By putting more of this content online, you are giving people more ways to find you. You are essentially aligning your website with the search patterns of your audience. There's a lot of traffic and lead-generating potential in such an alignment. Here's a fun little exercise you can do right now. Get out some paper and a pen. Draw a small box about half the size of a matchbook. Now write "20/2" inside the box. The box represents one real estate blog post or article. Maybe it's an article about home-price trends in your local area (great topic), or new neighborhoods being built (another great topic). One box, one topic. Here's what the "20/2" means: The first number, 20, represents the number of people who visit this particular page every day. (If you live in a large metro area, it could very well be 30, 40 or 50 visitors per day. But let's remain conservative for now and stick with 10.) The second number, 2, represents the daily number of inquiries or leads that come as a result of this article. So this particular blog post / article generates 20 visitors and 2 inquiries per day, on average. Now draw more squares. You don't need to fill them with numbers this time. Just make more squares. Lots of squares. Dozens of them. Put them close together. Squeeze as many onto the page as possible. How many do you have now? I managed to fit 120 onto my page. Each square represents a particular topic that can be developed into a full-blown article, via the blogging program. Now let's assume that each square – each blog article – generates 10 - 15 visitors per day, and one lead per day, on average. That's a lot of leads. More than a hundred. More than a single real estate agent could handle. Enough to fuel a medium-sized real estate brokerage. This is not some pie-in-the-sky scenario I've cooked up. These are the kinds of results I've seen from past clients, with a well-executed blogging campaign. We will talk about what makes a "well-executed" blog-marketing campaign throughout the course of this book.
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 13 In some ways, this is an oversimplification. In some ways, it's not. Generating topics and writing articles is fairly straightforward, once you have a blogging program up and running. The search engine visibility and traffic components are a bit more complicated. Your search engine rankings will depend on a wide variety of factors or "signals." So your overall success with this marketing strategy will partly depend on the strength of your website, or wherever your blog is located. The point is this: Blogging is a low-tech, straightforward way to generate a large volume of keyword-rich content. This kind of content can help you attract a steady stream of visitors online. A portion of those visitors will become leads, and a portion of those leads will eventually become clients. There is no limit to how far you can take it. This alone makes a blogging strategy worth considering. Low-Cost Marketing Another benefit of real estate blogging is the cost, or lack thereof. Blogging is a low-cost marketing strategy. You can install the WordPress blogging program onto your existing website for free (it's an open-source software program). You can research and write your own blog posts, again for free. So there is zero startup cost. Of course, if you're not much of a writer, you might end up outsourcing some of the content writing. You may also need help getting the blog program up and running. But aside from that, there is virtually no cost beyond the time you spend creating your content. Blogging will also make you less dependent on "pay-as-you-go" marketing techniques, such as pay-per-click (PPC), direct mail, and third-party leads. If you turn your website into a consistent lead generator, you won't have to rely on other sources. You'll have a self-sufficient marketing system. Versatility Versatility is another benefit of real estate blogging. There are many ways to use a real estate blog in support of your marketing objectives. Here are just a few: 1. Provide market updates for local buyers or sellers. 2. Conduct ongoing seminars for home buyers or sellers. 3. Publish home-buying tutorials, articles, and other educational materials. 4. Engage in a two-way dialogue with your audience. 5. Turn your website into "The Source for Local Real Estate News." 6. Increase your search engine visibility with keyword-rich content.
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 14 7. Publish online property listings, details, photos, etc. 8. Provide relocation advice for people moving into town. This is a partial list. But the point is obvious. A real estate blog can support just about any marketing or communication objective you can imagine. The technology is simple to work with. The platform is flexible and expandable. The possibilities are infinite. Blogging Goes Hand-in-Hand With Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Blogging is also an excellent way to advance your search engine optimization (SEO) campaign. If you're not familiar with the term, SEO is the act of improving a website's visibility and rankings within the major search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo). Once you get past the technical aspects of a search engine optimization campaign, the real work comes down to two things: You need to publish quality content on a regular basis. You need to promote your content in order to attract links from other websites. Now, a blogging program obviously can't help you write your content. But it can greatly simplify the online-publishing process, saving you a lot of time and energy. So when you blog for SEO purposes, you'll be much more efficient in the long run. You'll get better results in less time. After all, with a blogging program installed on your site, you can publish new content as quickly as you can type it up. The Buzz Factor Good real estate blogs create a following. If you create a blog, for instance, that offers timely information on your local real estate scene, people will see it as a reliable resource. It's not just a website anymore – it's a news feed. When people find something useful online, they tend to share it with others. They can subscribe to your blog, email it to a friend, Tweet about it on Twitter, post it on Facebook, etc. If you integrate your blog with your existing social-media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram), you'll enjoy even greater buzz potential. The Authority Factor A real estate blog can also help you position yourself as an expert, provided that you use it in an authoritative (but engaging) manner. This can help you convert website or blog visitors into clients, regardless of how they come across your blog.
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 15 Real estate is a knowledge-based business. You are not selling tangible goods like toasters or TVs. You are selling your knowledge of your market, your negotiating skills, and other intangible traits that will make your clients more successful when buying or selling real estate. In a knowledge-based industry, those who are perceived as having the best knowledge and skills will get the most calls. Of course, your audience must know you exist before they can perceive you as an expert (which is why we keep coming back to things like search engine visibility). But once they do know you exist, they have to trust your abilities enough to take the first step and contact you. Blogging on a regular basis can help you earn this trust. Benefits of Using the WordPress Blogging Program The three most popular blogging programs are WordPress, Blogger and TypePad. If you want to publish a real estate blog under your own website domain / URL, you are better off using WordPress. WordPress is a freestanding, open-source software program. That means you can install it onto your web-hosting account for free. You can put it onto a web domain of its own (e.g., www.BrandonsRealtyBlog.com), or add it onto an existing website (e.g. www.BrandonsRealtyWebsite.com/blog/) – whichever suits your needs. Here are nine more reasons why I recommend WordPress: 1. It is by far the most sophisticated and technically elegant of the three programs mentioned above. 2. The WordPress program is updated often with new features created by a team of experienced and dedicated developers. 3. WordPress is an open-source blogging program. This means you can download it for free and install it under any website domain, or even multiple domains. 4. You can customize the program however you want, in order to suit your real estate marketing and publishing needs. 5. There are thousands of free WordPress themes available. A theme is a pre-designed layout or template for the blog. Themes allow you to change the look and feel of your blog with the click of a button (literally). You can also buy premium, high-end themes designed specifically for real estate blogs, or have one designed from scratch. 6. There are thousands of plugins available for WordPress. A plugin is a tool that gives your real estate blog some kind of added functionality (such as a photo album, a contact form, or a spam blocker). In most cases, they can be installed with the click of a button. For instance, you could install a photo-gallery plugin to make it easier to manage and showcase property photos on your real estate blog.
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 16 7. WordPress is incredibly flexible. You could use it to create a standalone blog, or as a content-management system (CMS) to power an entire real estate company website. 8. There is a wealth of support online for WordPress blogs. There are legions of dedicated users who willingly donate their time to help others who are less familiar with the program. Most of this support is free. 9. WordPress simplifies the publishing process for you, leaving you with more time to create great content. This makes it ideal for content marketing strategies. The two go hand in hand! After reading this list, you might think I'm being compensated in some way to promote this blogging program. That's not the case. This is not a paid plug. It's an honest review of what I feel is the best blogging program in the world. If you are planning to start a real estate blog soon, and you want to do it right, I encourage you to consider the WordPress platform. Summary of Blogging Benefits 1. Search Engine Visibility – By default, blogs do many things well that can help them achieve search engine visibility. They are well organized, right out of the box. They provide multiple paths for search engines to crawl (categories, archives, etc.). There are many SEO- related plugins available, to further improve search engine visibility. A blog is also easier to publish than a regular website, so you can publish content more frequently. Search engines like websites with frequently updated content. 2. Easy Online Publishing – If you can create and send an email, you can post content to a blog. It's a simple matter of entering your content and clicking "Publish." This simplicity makes you more inclined to publish content regularly, which keeps people and search engines coming back more often. 3. Positioning Power – Blogs tend to be closely associated with an individual author. So if you make your blog an extension of yourself, it becomes a readable manifestation of your knowledge, personality and professional talents. In this way, you can use your blog to position yourself as a "thought leader" in your market area. 4. Potential for Dialogue – Blogs are part of the social web. Web publishing of yesterday was mostly a one-way affair in which the publisher spoke to the reader. Web publishing today is more of a dialogue, where publishers and readers speak to each other. With their reader- commenting capabilities, blogs support the concept of an online dialogue. 5. Blogs Foster Trust – When you publish a blog in your own true voice, you encourage people to trust you. This is especially true when people read your blog over time. You become less of a stranger and more of a trusted resource. This increases the likelihood of conversions (an email, a phone call, etc.).
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 17 6. Potential for Leads – You stand to gain a lot from the interaction and trust mentioned above. When you interact with your blog readers in a positive way, you have a much greater chance of turning them into readers, followers and clients. 7. Fill in the Blank – This is just my own list of reasons why real estate professionals should engage in blogging. After a month or so of blogging, you'll be able to add to this list with reasons of your own. Due to their versatility, blogs can mean different things to different people. What value will you build into your blog? There are no limits.
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 18 4 Technical Matters: Getting a Blog Up and Running This book is more of a strategy guide than a technical manual. So we won't be going too far into the technical weeds. Still, a brief discussion of blog setup is in order. Different blogging programs have different features, but they all do essentially the same thing. They convert plain text and images into an HTML-coded web page known as a blog post, and they do this at the click of a button. You simply type up your blog post, add links or images as desired, and click a "Publish" button. The blog application will then publish your post onto the web, making it a part of your blog. You have several choices as to where you want to host your blog: 1. You can have the blog hosted by a blog company such as Blogger. 2. You can make the blog an extension of an existing website. 3. You can give the blog a website domain of its own. For real estate marketing purposes, I recommend using either option #1 or #2. Here are the primary differences between all three options: Option 1 - Host your blog with a blog company. With this option, your blog will reside under the blog company's web domain. For instance, Blogger's web domain is blogspot.com. So if Jane Doe sets up a blog under this domain, it would look something like this: www.JaneDoe.blogspot.com. Jane will never truly own this domain, because it is part of Blogspot.com, which is owned by Google. That's one of the down sides of this particular blog-hosting option. Option 2 - Make the blog an extension of your website. With this option, your blog resides on your own web domain, but as a sub-directory of the main website. In other words, the blog is an extension of your website. For instance, I publish a mortgage blog on the Home Buying Institute website. The blog resides in a sub-directory of the main website. So it can be found at www.HomeBuyingInstitute.com/mortgage/. The "/mortgage/" part of the web address is the sub-directory where the blog "lives." Option 3 - Give the blog a domain of its own.
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 19 With this option, your blog will reside in the top-level (or "root") directory of your website domain. So the blog becomes the website. When somebody types in the root web address ending with ".com" … they land on the blog itself. Which option is best? The strategies outlined in this book can be applied to any of the three scenarios above. But they will likely work best for option #2 or #3. But it's a personal choice. Launching a Blog with the WordPress Blogging Program In the previous chapter, I explained the benefits of the WordPress blogging program. If you decide to use this particular program, you'll find the following information helpful. Here's a step-by-step approach for launching a WordPress blog. Step 1 - Register Domain Name and Get Web Hosting If you have an existing website, you can install WordPress as a sub-directory of that site (like we talked about earlier). If you want your real estate blog to have its own web domain, you will need to register the domain through a "domain registrar." This can be done in about one hour. Domain registration costs $10 - $15 per year, on average. You'll also need to set up a web-hosting account; this is where you will actually install the WordPress program files. Web hosting costs around $8 - $15 per month, depending on the features you choose. Step 2 - Install a MySQL Database on Web Host This sounds complicated, but it's a five-minute operation with most of the big web-hosting companies (they do all of the technical work for you). WordPress needs a MySQL database to function properly. You cannot publish a WordPress blog without a MySQL database. Step 3 - Download WordPress and Install It on Your Hosting Account You can download the WordPress program for free by visiting WordPress.org. Next, you would upload all of those files to your web-hosting account (see step #1 above). Step 4 - Launch and Configure WordPress When all of the WordPress files have been uploaded to your web host, you are ready to run the installation process. This takes less than a minute. Step 5 - Customization and Appearance WordPress blogs are pretty "vanilla" straight out of the box. So you'll want to customize the design and layout to suit your needs. If you're installing the blog as an extension of an existing website, it might be best to take the "look and feel" of the main site and apply it to the blog.
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 20 You can learn more about installing WordPress here: https://codex.wordpress.org/Installing_WordPress Now for the good news. There's a much simpler way to install WordPress. You could have your web-hosting company handle it for you... The Alternate Route (If You're Lucky) These days, many website-hosting companies will install the WordPress program for you. All you have to do is tell them where you want to add the blogging program, and then choose your username and password. They do the rest. Here are some web-hosting companies that offer some form of "auto installation" or "one- click install" for WordPress blogs (at least at the time of publication): GoDaddy Bluehost HostGator DreamHost So before you go through all of the steps outlined above, check with your current hosting provider. See if they can add a blog onto your website for you. It's the no-hassle solution. A Few More Technical Tips 1. Blog posts can be categorized into topics or subjects. This is a built-in feature of all the major blogging programs. For usability reasons, it's best to limit the number of post categories. Most real estate blogs can get by with only a handful of categories, if they've been properly planned out in advance. More than ten categories on a blog, and you begin to create an information-overload situation for your readers. 2. In the main navigation menu, include links to your blog's home page, "About" page, and "Contact" page – at a minimum. Regardless of where somebody enters your blog, they should be able to find the home page (to get oriented), the About page (to learn about you), and the Contact page (for obvious reasons). 3. If you want people to subscribe to your blog's RSS feed (an automatically updated list of recent blog posts), you need to make it super easy for them. I recommend offering a "subscribe by email" option on your blog. This allows your readers to receive email notifications whenever you add a new post to your blog. Pretty handy! Do a Google search for "RSS to email" programs. Or check out the one offered by MailChimp – a personal favorite.
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 21 5 Best Practices for Blog Marketing Let's be honest. There are some excellent real estate blogs out there. There are also some real stinkers. What separates them? Hard work! A blog by itself will not propel your marketing program into the next dimension. A blog is only a tool – a very useful tool, but still just a tool. Getting a blog up and running is actually the easy part. The harder part is making your blog stand out as a useful resource for readers. Your success as a real estate blogger will largely depend on the time and effort you put in. Here are some tips for creating a successful blog, one that helps you attract more visitors and generate more leads. Define Your Purpose Before You Start Blogging. Why are you starting a real estate blog? What do you hope to get out of it? Who is your audience, and what kind of information do they need? These are some of the questions you should answer before you try to publish a blog. The writing process will be much easier if you spend some time thinking about your blog's intended purpose. There are good and bad reasons to start a blog. You want to make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. Bad reason: I want to start a real estate blog because I've seen other agents doing it. It seems like the thing to do these days. Good reason: I want to start a real estate blog to educate people about the local housing market, the home buying / selling process, etc. I want to answer their questions. I want to help my readers understand a certain topic or achieve a certain goal. I'd also like to attract more visitors through the search engines, and from other referring websites. You should never launch a blog just because other people are doing it. You won't get very far if that's your only motivation. You should have a specific goal for your blog, like the one presented in the second example above. This person knows exactly what she is trying to accomplish through her blogging efforts. She has a very specific goal in mind. Actually, she has several goals, which is even better. Blogging can serve many business and marketing purposes. Before you launch a blog, you should have some idea what you are trying to accomplish. For example, you might start a real estate blog to…
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 22 Increase website traffic Improve search engine ranking Simplify the web publishing process Teach people about your local housing market Support your PR program Build a larger volume of web content Make your website fresh, dynamic and useful Encourage interaction from your visitors All of the above! These are just a few reasons to start a real estate blog. Over time, you might identify some reasons of your own. The point is you need to consider the purpose before you begin. Write for People. Optimize for Search Engines. We talked about the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) earlier, and we will discuss it in more depth in Chapter 7. But it's worth mentioning here as well, since we are talking about writing content for a blog. With a basic understanding of SEO, a real estate blogger can pull more traffic through Google and other search engines. But at the same time, you have to remember that people are your primary audience. You need to create content that is useful and engaging for people. The search engines should be a secondary consideration. Once you've written some good content, you can always go back and optimize it with certain keywords and phrases. But this optimization should never interfere with the quality of the content. You've probably encountered a web page in the past that was overly optimized. It repeated a certain word or phrase to the point of sounding ridiculous. This is bad writing, plain and simple. This is what happens when people develop "SEO tunnel vision." They become so focused on search engine optimization that they forget about the quality of the content. This creates a bad first impression for readers, which is the last thing you want. It's okay to write a blog post with a certain topic or phrase in mind. In fact, I highly recommend it. This is the first step to creating highly focused website content. But you should never optimize your content to the point that it reduces readability. Use the LASSO Factors of Blog Writing Success I've developed an acronym to help you achieve real estate blogging success. It's called the LASSO model, and it describes the five key ingredients of a successful blogging program.
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 23 LASSO stands for length, audience, scope, schedule and optimization. Here is how they relate to your real estate blog: 1. Length Each blog post should be long enough to explore its topic in detail. This is good for people and search engines alike. No one wants to read an article that glosses over the subject. Most people prefer in-depth and useful information. Write your blog posts with this in mind. There are SEO benefits to this, as well. With all other things being equal, a longer web page will generally outperform a shorter one in the search engines. Additionally, a well-researched and comprehensive article is more likely to attract links from other websites, which also improves your search engine performance. 2. Audience Before you write your first blog post, you need to know your audience. Specifically, you need to know (A) who they are, and (B) what they are trying to accomplish. What kind of information do they need from you? What kind of solutions do they seek? How can you help them understand a certain topic or achieve a certain goal? I recommend that you create an audience statement before you start writing your blog. It doesn't have to be complicated. It might just be two or three sentences on an index card. It should answer all of the questions listed above. Keep it on the desk where you plan to do your blogging. Refer to it every time you start writing a new blog post. This will help you stay laser-focused on the mission at hand, and the people you are trying to reach. 3. Scope It's best to keep your individual blog posts tightly focused around a certain topic. If the scope is too broad, you run the risk of losing the reader. Remember, it's incredibly easy to publish new content with a blog. So you don't have to cover all of your ideas in a single post. You can give a separate post to each idea or topic. This allows you to fully develop each idea, and to cover all of the pertinent details. If you write specific blog posts about specific topics, you'll win the favor of people and search engines alike. People will appreciate the fact that you've written an entire blog post around the one topic they are currently researching. Search engines will reward you with better visibility for the very same reason. 4. Schedule This is the second 'S' in the LASSO acronym. You should establish a blogging schedule for
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 24 yourself, and stick to it as best you can. You don't have to be slavishly devoted to the schedule. But it does give you a sense of purpose and direction. The whole idea of blogging is to publish new information on a regular basis. This is why blogging programs were created in the first place. You don't want your blog to become stale or outdated. This doesn't serve anyone's interests, least of all yours. I recommend that you write a new post at least two or three times per week. If you can do more, great! Again, this is good for people and search engines alike. (Are you noticing a pattern with this statement?) Nobody wants to visit a blog and find outdated information. In the digital age, people expect fresh content. We have been conditioned to expect up-to-the-minute information, and to ignore anything that's more than a week old. If you want your real estate blog to be successful in the long run, you must keep it fresh. Frequent publishing will also support your search engine optimization goals. The more information you put online, the more ways people have to find you through Google, Yahoo and Bing. Consider the difference between a static 5-page website, and a rapidly growing blog with 100 pages and counting. The second site will show up for a lot more search queries than the first one. It offers a lot more content, so people have more ways to find it when researching certain topics online. 5. Optimization Real estate blogs and search engine optimization go together like peanut butter and jelly. That's why I've dedicated Chapter 7 to the subject of SEO. Blogging is a great way to improve your performance in the major search engines. Search engines reward websites that publish new information on a regular basis. SEO-savvy publishers have known this for a long time. That's why most SEO companies have blogs that are updated daily or weekly. Build a large base of quality content, and your website will appear for a broader range of keyword searches. This is the undeniable math of SEO. Keep these "LASSO" factors in mind as you write your blog posts. Create in-depth material that covers the subject in detail (length). Think about the people you are writing for, and what they need from you (audience). Try to limit each post to a specific topic or idea (scope). Publish new information on a regular basis to keep things fresh (schedule). Include relevant keywords and phrases to help with search engine visibility (optimization). Basic Model of a Blog Post Over time, you will start to develop your own blogging style. The "shape" of your blog posts will evolve to support your marketing objectives as well as your personality. You'll become more confident as a writer and blogger. You'll learn how to write a great blog post with less time and effort. It gets easier as you go. I promise.
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 25 But in the beginning, the task may seem overwhelming. How do you begin a new post? What points do you need to cover along the way? And how do you know when to stop? The following model should make things easier for you. This is certainly not the only way to structure a blog post. But it does give you somewhere to start. If you follow this model, you'll be off and running in no time. This is the title of my blog post. It is descriptive, factual and keyword-rich. The first paragraph explains what the rest of my post is about. It might identify a certain problem that I'm helping people solve. It might announce an upcoming event. It might feature a particular neighborhood, or offer an update on local market conditions. Whatever the topic, it should be introduced right away. Get right to the point. Bullet points are also helpful when writing for the web. They make your content easier to read. You can use bullets to explain the different benefits of something, the various steps in a process, or the individual reasons for something. Just don't go overboard with the bullets. Your blog post should include some regular paragraph content as well. Use your instincts to create a good mix. Add some more paragraphs to expand on the points you made above. Don't be afraid of length. Write as much as necessary to cover your topic thoroughly. You can always go back and edit later on. "This is a relevant quote. You can enhance your blog posts by including quotes from subject-matter experts, news stories, manuals and user guides, etc. You could even include a client testimonial, if it's relevant to the blog post you are writing." Write a conclusion at the end of your post. This might be one or two short paragraphs. Summarize the key points that were made. Tell people where they can go to learn more. Link to a related article on your blog. About the author: If you have multiple authors writing for the same blog, you might want to include an "about the author" statement at the end of each post. You can skip this item if there's a single author.
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 26 Frequency of Publishing: More is More Forget about "less is more." When it comes to real estate blogging, more is more. It's simple math. You'll generate more traffic if you publish new content as often as possible. Of course, it helps to blog about popular topics in order to maximize your traffic potential – and we will discuss this at length in the next chapter. But with all things being equal, an active blogger will generate more traffic than a sporadic or stagnant one. Frequent publishing helps you in several ways. It adds value to your website. It keeps your readers coming back for more, and keeps them on the site longer. It shows the search engines you have a fresh and dynamic website with a strong emphasis on content generation. All of this adds up to greater visibility, more traffic, and (ultimately) more leads. As mentioned earlier, the blogging program will do most of the technical work for you. You write your content and click the publish button, and the blog software does the rest. This allows you to spend more time writing quality content. That's where you should be spending most of your time, on content development. Quality is the most important factor when publishing information online. But quantity is also important. If you want to succeed with your blog marketing campaign, you need to combine both of these factors – quantity and quality. You need to publish information your readers will find useful, interesting and engaging. And you need to give them new content on a regular basis to keep them coming back. This will help you with traffic generation, visitor retention, keyword proliferation, link building, and overall search engine visibility. All good things! The Importance of Keyword Research This is a dual-purpose blogging tip. First, it will help you generate new ideas for your blog posts. Secondly, it will help you maximize your traffic and visibility by focusing on topics and phrases that are most frequently used by your audience. If you master this particular skill, you'll never be at a loss for blogging ideas. Step out of your real estate shoes for a moment. Imagine you are a home buyer or seller in your local area. Imagine you are going online to research the local housing market, homes that are available, neighborhoods, etc. What words might you use when describing them? Plug some of these words into a keyword-research tool (like Google's or Wordtracker's), and then generate a list of keywords / phrases. What you end up with is a list of phrases people are typing into Google, Yahoo and Bing to find the services you provide – or at least when researching topics that relate to your services. If you write about these topics, you'll have a better chance of pulling in relevant traffic. You'll attract the kinds of people who are searching for what you provide!
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 27 And remember to always include your city or town name when doing keyword research. Real estate is a local business. The modern consumer is tech-savvy enough to zero in on local conditions when using the search engines. They'll append their city or town to all of their internet searches. There are several keyword-research tools available online. I recommend that you start with the free keyword-research tool provided by Google. The benefit of using this tool is that it makes other suggestions based on the keywords or phrases you start with. So it can help you identify other topics to blog about, in addition to the ones you have in mind. It will also tell you how much search volume is associated with each of those keywords and phrases. (Side note: In 2013, Google changed the name of this tool to "Keyword Planner," and they also changed the functionality a bit. But it's still a useful and free tool for keyword research. It is more than sufficient for real estate blogging. You'll need a Google account to log in and use the Keyword Planner, but you can create one at no cost.) You could also use the search engines themselves to identify blogging topics. Google, Bing and Yahoo have "auto-suggestion" features built into their search engines. You've probably seen this before. As you start typing a word or phrase into one of the search engines, they will automatically suggest search topics based on actual user searches (i.e., topics with real- world traffic potential). Start typing your city name, followed by either "housing" or "real estate," and see what you come up with. Keyword research and topic selection are services we provide to our real estate blogging clients. So if you need help with it, refer to the "How We Can Help You" section at the very end of the book. Whether you outsource it or handle it yourself, this task must be done. Keyword research is an important aspect of search engine optimization and blogging. It will help you pull in targeted web traffic by building content around popular and relevant search phrases. Remember, the more topics you cover, the more visitors you'll attract. The more visitors you attract, the more leads you'll generate. There is no limit to how far you can go with blogging as a real estate marketing strategy. Here are some keyword strategies you could use to increase your blog traffic over time: "Best places to live in [your city]" General city data (population, economy, etc.) Reviews of popular neighborhoods in your area New construction / development
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 28 Information about local schools A list of relocation resources (movers, utilities, etc.) Home values and home sales data for your area Foreclosure activity in your city Other real estate stats and trends with a local angle All of these topics can help you attract local people who plan to buy or sell a house in the near future. In other words, they can attract prospective clients. This is a smart way to increase blog traffic in the short-term, while also working toward your long-term SEO goals. And speaking of the long term, let's discuss the value of "evergreen" content… Using "Evergreen" Content to Generate Traffic and Leads Over Time You can generate more leads through your real estate blog by publishing quality content on a regular basis. Real estate content comes in two forms – timely news, and "evergreen" articles. Evergreen articles and tutorials don't "expire" or become dated the way news stories do. Examples of evergreen articles for a real estate website: Reviews of local neighborhoods Home-buyer programs in your city and state A mortgage guide for local home buyers Things to do in your city or town (entertainment, activities, lifestyle, etc.) This type of website content remains fresh, useful and relevant for a much longer period of time, when compared to news content. Evergreen articles have more traffic and lead- generating potential over the long term. I call this "fire-and-forget" blog marketing. If you work hard on every blog post, making it the best it can possibly be, you can publish it and then forget about it. You can move on to the next article, knowing the one you just published can stand on its own legs for months or even years. I speak from experience here. My primary home-buying website has several articles / pages that generate hundreds of unique visitors per day. Some were written years ago, yet they keep performing day in and day out. An article published in 2009 is one of my top performers, in terms of traffic. This is evergreen content. They are fire-and-forget traffic generators.
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 29 Focus on Lead Generation Lead generation is an important aspect of real estate blogging. It's so important, in fact, that I've dedicated Chapter 8 to the subject of generating leads. But it also deserves to be mentioned here, while we are discussing the best practices of real estate blogging. Over the years, during the course of countless consultations and evaluations, I've learned that many real estate agent websites get more than enough traffic to support their marketing goals. But they do a terrible job capitalizing on that traffic. They fail to generate leads. Visitors go in one side, but nothing comes out the other. No phone calls. No emails. No point. When a client or potential client says they want to increase the amount of traffic to their website, I ask two questions right off the bat: 1. How are you measuring your traffic now? You'd be surprised at how many people say, "Well, I don't really have any way to do that." If you don't measure your traffic, how do you know you're not getting enough? Most website server logs will give you basic information on traffic volumes, traffic sources, etc. More advanced programs, like Google Analytics, will tell you everything you want to know about your website visitors. And knowing is the first step to analyzing and fixing. 2. How are you capturing leads or prompting a response? Once again, you'd be surprised at how many people offer blank stares at this question. That's a poor way to play a numbers game that is based on attrition (which is exactly what online lead generation is). What's the point of increasing traffic if you're just going to hope that people contact you? Hoping will not deliver results. Real estate internet marketing is a process of attrition. You start with a large number – potential clients who use the web. Then the number gets smaller, because only a percentage of the first number will find your blog / website. The number shrinks yet again as people visit your website (statistics show the majority of website visitors leave without taking action). When the odds are stacked against you in this manner, you have to do everything you can to generate leads. Getting people to your website is only half of the equation. Once they get there, you need to offer some form of reciprocation to get them to "raise their hands." They need to perceive something of value, some compelling reason to contact you over all of the other agents in town. This is the essence of lead generation. And we delve further into it in Chapter 8.
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 30 6 Real Estate Blogging Topics & Ideas Writing blog articles is one of the best things you can do to increase your search engine traffic and web-based lead volume over time. It's cost-effective. It offers long-term marketing value in the form of traffic and visibility. It's fairly straightforward and requires little technical skill. We've covered all of this already. But what do you write about? How do you come up with real estate blogging topics? By the time you finish reading this chapter, you'll never be at a loss for ideas! 100 Pages of Content By This Time Next Year If you write two blog posts per week, you could have roughly 100 keyword-rich articles at the end of the year. That's a lot of web content, and it gives people a lot of ways to find you online. Remember, people will use a wide variety of words and phrases when researching their local housing markets online. That's not to mention all of the collateral phrases that relate to your business – neighborhoods, mortgage loans, lifestyle, etc. By adding a large volume of quality content to your site, you can account for all of these variations in search behavior. Broader visibility means more traffic, conversions, leads and clients. Let's recap some key points before moving on. Writing blog articles is a great way to generate keyword-rich content efficiently. You are essentially turning keywords into content, and content into traffic. Website traffic is the first step to generating leads and attracting clients. So it all starts with quality content, and blogging is a great way to produce such content. For Starters: 21 Blogging Ideas for Real Estate Agents Here are 21 ideas for adding fresh content to your real estate blog on a regular basis. In doing so, you'll also be improving your search engine rankings, traffic levels, readership, lead generation, and overall marketing success. 1. Repurpose your email content. Think of all the questions you have answered for your clients through email. Each one could serve as a blog post, if expanded a bit. Why delete your old emails when you can use them for real estate blog content? 2. Blog about current events and how they relate to your readers. Do you primarily help buyers? Then use your blog to help them make sense of the current local economy, as it applies to home buying. 3. Use a keyword-research tool such as WordTracker to identify real estate topics that pertain to your market area. This research will show you exactly what your target
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 31 audience is typing into the search engines each day. Your list of phrases can serve as a content plan for your blogging efforts. 4. Let your readers dictate your blog content. You could put an "Ask a Question" box onto the side of your blog, or at the top of each post. 5. Create a blogging series such as "21 steps to buying a home," where each item in the series serves as an individual post / article (with liberal use of your city / town name). 6. Here's another idea for a blog content series. Create a list of reasons to buy real estate in your city or town. Example: "25 Reasons to Buy a Home in Sarasota, Florida." Each reason is a separate blog post. You don't have to know them all in advance ... just identify (and write about them) as you go along. Post one reason per day, two per week, or whatever works for you. 7. More ideas for a content series: 50 little-known facts about your city. 25 questions to ask your agent about buying real estate in your city. 15 things to understand about the current economy. Once you have a plan, the blog material practically writes itself. 8. Get out a piece of paper and brainstorm. Right down your city name (or cities) along with the word "real estate." Jot down relevant topics that come to mind. Blog about the home prices in your area, as they compare to other parts of the country. Blog about the local schools or neighborhoods. Answer common questions. You get the point. 9. Set up some Google Alerts for real estate phrases related to your city. When news breaks online about your chosen topic (press releases, news articles, etc.), Google will send you an email with links to the source. Hello, endless stream of blogging ideas! 10. Follow the media. Nothing drives internet search patterns like the mass media, particularly the TV news channels. If you keep pace with real-estate-related news topics, and address them on your blog, you stand to gain more traffic and visibility. 11. Blog about real estate developments in your area, such as new neighborhoods being built. If you "get in early" with your blog content, people will easily find your blog when doing Google searches for the name of the new neighborhood. And thus, they will have found you as well. 12. Blog about new homes listed in the area. This is a modern, web-based take on the "Just Listed" postcards that real estate agents have used for decades. You could even make your blog the place to go for information on new homes. Break out your digital camera and get to it! 13. Do profiles on local home builders, with their permission and involvement. 14. Invite guest authors to contribute to your blog, such as local builders, home inspectors, mortgage folks, etc. You can motivate your guest authors by explaining the value they get out of it (free exposure).
Real Estate Blog Book www.RealBlogBook.com 32 15. As a twist on the content idea above, you could even create a multi-author real estate blog focused on your city. The WordPress blogging program makes this easy with their "multisite" feature. It could be a joint effort between you and other motivated people who realize the value of internet visibility. 16. Explain the pros and cons of various real estate topics, with a local angle. The pros and cons of certain types of mortgages, the pros and cons of different neighborhoods in your area, the pros and cons of renting versus buying ... you get the idea. 17. Create a second blog with a different angle from your current one. For example, create a lifestyle blog that covers a broader range of topics for your area (in addition to real estate topics). Of course, you would feature your real estate services in the main menu area. Two popular blogs are better than one. Twice the traffic, twice the exposure, and – ultimately – twice the business. 18. Publish an update on your local housing market. How has it rebounded since the national housing collapse and subprime mortga
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