There are dozens of reasons for real estate professionals to have blogs. If you’ve given some thought to having a blog, but don’t know how to get started, here’s a guide to help you sort out your options.
Decide Who Your Audience Will Be
For real estate professionals, the first thing you’ll need to decide is whom you’ll be writing for. Do you want a blog that connects you with other real estate professionals or do you want to write for consumers and the public? Several sites make it easy for real estate professionals to create blogs to be read and commented on by other real estate professionals. The best known of these is ActiveRain, but many agents also post on RealTown Blogs.
An ActiveRain “inside blog” is free and easy to set up, and with more than 150,000 members, it gives you great visibility among real estate professionals. RealTown Blogs also has lots of members—more than 130,000—posting articles about sales, technology, and other useful topics. Either one will give you a good introduction to blogging along with the opportunity to learn by reading the posts of other real estate bloggers. Consumers can find and read your posts on either site. But these blogs are primarily for real estate people to communicate and network with one another. If your purpose for having a blog is to demonstrate your expertise, build a following among consumers, and generate leads, you’ll need to move beyond these blogs aimed at other professionals.
Choose a Turnkey or Custom-Made Real Estate Blog
Turnkey solutions provide you with everything you need to get started. Select a design you like and the provider gets it up and running for a monthly fee. Your site will probably include a feed from your MLS so your visitors will be able to search for properties. You may also get syndication so your listings are automatically sent to sites like Zillow or Trulia. You’ll probably also get some kind of lead capture tool—a way for visitors to give you their contact information so you can follow up with them. Some providers will even write the blog content for you. For turnkey blogging solutions, look into Point2 Homes, ActiveRain’s “outside blog”, or KineticKnowledge’s RealEstate Blogsites.
Real Estate Tomato custom designs self-hosted blogs (see below). Each blog they create is different and uniquely designed to fit your business. They also offer training in how to use the blogging software and how to get the most from your blog. Because you’ll self-host the blog they create, you’ll pay a monthly fee to an Internet hosting company to keep your blog up and running.
Do It Yourself
Finally, there’s the do-it-yourself option. You can create a free blog at sites like Typepad, Blogger, or WordPress. Blogs like these are absolutely free to create and maintain, and you can write for the entire world to see. WordPress.com is the most popular of these blogging platforms; it’s easy enough to use that a beginner can have a free blog up and running in no time.
A free wordpress.com blog will allow you to establish yourself on the Internet and build your brand, but it has some major disadvantages for real estate professionals. A big one is that it won’t allow you to include a feed from your local MLS, so visitors won’t be able to search for listings on your site. In theory, if your blog is interesting enough, visitors will subscribe to it and read it anyway. But the fact is, consumers want information about properties. If you’re going to take the time to create a blog, you should probably create one that’s really going to work for you.
In order to include MLS listings, you’ll need a different kind of blog. You’ll need what’s called a “self-hosted blog”. The free blog from wordpress.com is hosted by the folks at WordPress. They host it for free, but they set limits on what you can do with it. If you want a blog that you control and that can include whatever applications you want it to have—including property listings from your MLS—you’ll need a self-hosted blog. The most popular self-hosted blogging software is offered at wordpress.org. (wordpress.org is different than wordpress.com).
A self-hosted wordpress.org blog is probably too challenging for a beginner to tackle, especially since blogging is not your main job. As it turns out, that’s what Real Estate Tomato does. They design your self-hosted blog, get it installed on the Internet for you, and help you learn how to use it. A self-hosted blog gives you the greatest degree of flexibility and creativity. It might be the perfect choice for a broker with a tech person on the team, or an agent with lots of computer experience. But if you’re new to working on the Internet, you may not want to start there.
If you’re a beginner, my recommendation is to keep it simple at first. Try out a free blog and see how it works for you. Once you get the hang of it and you’re ready to commit to writing articles and keeping your content up to date, then you can step up to something more sophisticated.