Blogging Can Boost Visibility, Drive Visitors to Your Web Site
This is the latest in a series on social networking and marketing new homes.
Blogging is no longer just the preserve of activists, political junkies and struggling writers. In fact, many home builders today blog as part of their Web marketing in order to expand their online presence.
Home builders have started blogging generally for two key reasons.
First, they blog because they discovered that blogging is an excellent way to improve their corporate Web site’s organic search engine positioning. Links from a blog to a corporate Web site are considered relevant, high-quality links — the type of links to Web sites that search engines favor when ranking Web sites. So blogging will move your Web site higher up the search engine list, making it easier for prospective buyers to find you.
Home builders also blog because blogging provides an additional online “street” to drive traffic to your corporate Web site — another path that leads prospective buyers to you and your homes.
Search engines today tend to rank blogs high in the organic search results — even ahead of corporate Web sites. So, potential home buyers searching the Internet may find your blog before they find your Web site. If your blog is well done, interesting and professional, they will click over from your blog to your corporate site.
Other great online “streets” that drive traffic to your corporate Web site are social networking tools like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. But you don’t have to use them all.
Instead, choose the networking tools that best fit your target audience and are intuitive to you. It’s considerably better to use one or two of the social networking sites consistently then to try to do all of them poorly.
Whichever social networking sites you choose, a blog will serve you well as the hub of your social media marketing and campaigns because it will enable you and your prospects to generate fun, compelling content. You should use the other social media sites to drive traffic to your hub.
There also are several other great reasons to blog, including giving prospective buyers a chance to interact with you through a different format than face-to-face meetings, phone calls and the like. In addition, the viral nature of blogging lends itself well to building your brand online.
Carol Flammer, MIRM, is a managing partner at mRELEVANCE, a public relations and Internet marketing agency that builds and moderates home builder and industry blogs. mRELEVANCE created a blog for Bowen Family Homes, an Atlanta-based builder.
“A well-built blog should be one of your main Web site’s top referral sources. The Bowen Family Homes blog was one of their Web site’s top five referral sources within 20 days of launch — and the content on the site continues to attract browsers who might not reach them through other avenues,” said Flammer.
“Your properly built blog serves as the foundation for a successful social media strategy and plan,” she continued, adding that two of the top 10 referral sites to the Bowen Family Homes Web site are blogs — the builder’s own blog and the Atlanta-area’s most popular real estate blog, www.atlantarealestateforum.com.
Factors to Consider When Getting Started
Builders considering establishing — and maintaining — a blog should consider several factors before getting started. These include;
- Who will write the content and maintain the blog?
You have several options; you can manage and write the blog in-house or outsource part or all of the work. If you outsource the content creation or blog management, you will still have to provide the blogger with the core content to blog about.
No one knows your business or your target audience as well as you do. Think carefully about who in your organization can focus the time and energy necessary to provide the blogger with core content on a consistent and frequent basis.
Another option to consider would be to write the content in-house but outsource the management of your blog to a blogging and search engine optimization (SEO) company. SEOs help increase the success of blogs and help keep them updated regularly.
Jim Dietch, of Southern Crafted Homes in Tampa, Fla., writes and maintains the Southern Crafted Homes Blog. He believes that, to get the most out of a blog, builders should post on it regularly, at least once a week, but preferably several times a week.
“I post one article on a topic of high interest that will gain plenty of page hits and mix the postings with articles of general interest and, of course, a balance of self promotion. I also include a link to my company Web site and use Facebook and Twitter to promote the blog," Dietch said.
- Should you use a free template blog or pay to create a customized one?
There are plenty of options for both and each choice has its merits.
The best Web sites to build a free template blog on are Blogger.com and Wordpress.com. To get started on either site, just sign up for an account and then use fairly easy online editors to customize the template with your logo and other graphics. While you can customize these sites, you don’t own your blog and are subject to its SEO, rules and regulations.
However, if you want your blog to match your corporate Web site and other marketing materials and don’t want to be subject to outside rules and regulations, then you will have to hire a professional Web site design firm that also designs blogs and can coordinate with your existing marketing to either host your blog on a proprietary blog platform or an open source platform like the paid version of Wordpress (found at Wordpress.org).
Which one is right for you? The answer lies in your budget and level of commitment. If you see blogging as a vital part of your long-term Web marketing strategy, then make the up-front investment with a customized blog.
Subscribe to Blogs — RSS Demystified
Are you confused by blogs that invite you to “subscribe in a reader” or “subscribe by e-mail”?
In the blogging world, visitors subscribe to a blog to be proactively notified of a new post. If visitors don’t subscribe to the blog, the onus is on the visitor to constantly check the blog for new posts.
Many blogs that enable visitors to subscribe in a reader have a bright orange icon, as pictured, denoting the blog’s RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed address. Visitors can then bookmark the blog and visit it through their Internet browser, or they can access the blog through a “reader.”
A reader is a Web site that provides and aggregates all of your blog subscriptions into one account and brings the latest postings from these blogs to your desktop.
To use it, simply log onto your reader account and you’ll be able to see the latest postings on the multiple blogs you have subscribed to on your desktop. Using an Internet browser or a reader to alert you to new posts and aggregate the posts is a lot faster than going to each blog individually to see if something new has been posted.
A third blog subscription option, and probably the easiest one to understand, is to subscribe to a blog via e-mail and receive an e-mail every time there is a new blog post.
When you create a blog, be sure that your blog has an RSS feed and an e-mail signup form so you can build a following and keep visitors informed. Place the icon and the signup form as high as possible in your blog’s sidebar and promote the blog on your corporate Web site and in your e-mail campaigns.
Track Visitors to Be Sure Your Blog Is Working?
The beauty of Web marketing is that it is easily tracked and measured. If you have a free template blog, the blog platform generally has free basic-level tracking available that enables you to monitor the number of visitors, what sites refer traffic to your blog and what posts are the most popular.
If you have a paid customized blog, you can install more advanced tracking like Google Analytics to give you an in-depth review of the blog’s performance. Review your reports on a monthly basis and adjust your blog as necessary.
There is an art and science to blogging. The blogosphere has its own language and culture, and perhaps the best way to get started is to subscribe to several great blogs — and then read, watch and learn.
The worst thing you can do is start a blog and be perceived to be out of touch with what bloggers consider to be cool and blog worthy. Once you monitor a few blogs for a while, the next step is to start posting comments on those blogs.
After you get comfortable posting comments and interacting, you will be ready to start strategizing who will manage your blog, what type of blog will work best for you and what type of content you will want to blog about.
Once you start, however, don’t stop.
Post consistently and frequently and, above all, have some fun and don’t sell too hard. Entering the blogosphere with your own ride is sure to be an incredibly educational and worthwhile ride.
Meredith Oliver, MIRM, MCSP is the president and founder of Meredith Communications, a sales training and e-marketing consulting company based in Orlando that delivers marketing services to builders and developers nationwide. For more information, e-mail Oliver, call her at 321-285-1660 or visit her Web site, www.CreatingWow.com.
How to Write a Blog Post That Rocks
By Kelly Fink, regional Internet marketing manager for Bowen Family Homes
The following are a few pointers on how to write posts for your blog that will have readers coming back for more.
- Think outside the box — All blog posts do not need to be centered on selling homes. Your goal should be to not only provide interesting and helpful information about your business or industry; you should also provide interesting stories to attract visitors to your blog for other helpful information.
For example, on the Bowen Family Homes blog, we post stories about what is happening in Atlanta and near our communities. Sometimes we post purely fun, seasonal information. Last July 4th, for instance, we posted a map with local fireworks locations. That particular promotion drove a ton of traffic to the corporate Web site.
People who may never have heard of Bowen and may have never had a reason to go to the corporate site learned about who we are and what we do.
- Don't be so formal — Have fun. Each blog post doesn't have to be the great American novel. If you are in a master planned community or selling a neighborhood in an area with lots of local flavor, take pictures and film short videos of people enjoying the lifestyle. Post you photos and video and summarize the community flavor in a few sentences and key phrases that can improve your ranking with Internet search engine.
- Be conversational — Have you ever read a blog post that was more like an instructional manual? Don't lose your visitors by talking at them or boring them.
An easy way to get started writing is to brainstorm a list of questions that your prospective buyers might have about the local area, building a new home, financing, selling an existing home, decorating trends and any or all of the above.
Write one blog post to answer each question on the list. If you write as if you are speaking out loud and answering someone’s question, you will be sure to write in a conversational tone.
- Get visitors to interact — Invite visitors to post comments on each story; ask for their suggestions, personal experiences, etc. Consider running a fun contest to encourage visitors to post their favorite (and appropriate) picture or video of life in their new home.
You can offer giveaways and incentives to those who post and interact in a positive way.
- Some builders fear that a blog will foster negative comments. If a customer is so angry over a perceived lack of service or product defect, you can bet he will post his frustration somewhere online. So, why not allow him to post it on your blog — where you can not only monitor what is written, you can also respond and recover?
If angry home owners post their feelings somewhere else, you have no chance to respond.
Also, if you are absolutely against allowing negative comments to appear, you can always set up your blog to moderate and block them.
- Links, links and more links — Make sure your blog links to your corporate Web site, social media sites and other industry sites that would provide additional information for your visitor. Also, ask other sites to include links to your sites as well to create ongoing reciprocating links.
Just like you have to build traffic to your corporate Web site, you have to build traffic to your blog. Whenever you post a new blog, post notices on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media sites to let your “friends,” “fans” and “followers” know there is new information on your blog.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel — You can occasionally blog about another blog. For example, if you see a great blog post on the first-time home buyer tax credit, it’s okay to talk about that blog as long as full credit is given to the author and there is a link back to the original blog.
Not giving credit is plagiarism. The only case where it wouldn’t be okay to re-blog is if the content is on a paid membership site. If it is “paid content,” the publisher won’t appreciate you giving it away for free.
- Don’t sell, sell, sell — A blog is not your corporate Web site. Blogs are not meant to be pure selling machines. The hard sell turns visitors off.
Blogs are supposed to be informative, educational and fun. Of course you can mix in some self-promotion, but your blog should not be all about selling.