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Blogging: The Basics From a Beginner

by Chicago Agent

By Ric Cox

We’ve addressed the topic of blogs a few times in Chicago Agent, but this time we’re starting from scratch and showing our readers the basics. Author Ric Cox told us that in one hour he started his own blog for free. You can do it, too, he tells us. But be careful, Cox warns, most blogs stink.

Recently, a tech-savvy neighbor, Peg Corwin, dropped by to help me with a computer problem. When finished, Peg, a counselor at SCORE Chicago, smiled and said, “Let’s set up a blog for you!”

Having once sat in on a blogging workshop for agents, I knew what a blog was, a personal journal (or log) on the Web that, in most cases, allows visitors to comment on the posts, fostering conversation and community. The panelists had recommended that an agent use a blog to demonstrate his or her expertise in a geographic area, the smaller the better. “Hyperlocal” is the buzz word.

I’m not an agent; I’m an editor-turned-entrepreneur who serves agents. Considering the constant challenges confronting my Web site, ChicagoCondosOnline.com, I had no desire to become slave to yet another terrifying tech tool.

But, with Peg in the driver’s seat, in an hour and for zero dollars I had a blog, one that aspires to be “Chicago’s Best Condo Blog.” My blog was bare, and Peg left me to populate it, which was actually fun. By 4:30 a.m., I had posted four articles with images. It wasn’t too hard. In two weeks, I posted 12 items and, with help from ads on Tribune.com, drew 800 unique visitors.

After visiting three dozen blogs on Chicago real estate, I agreed with the national expert who stated, bluntly: “Most blogs stink.” For some blogs that don’t stink, take a look at the sidebar below.

To help you decide if you want to dive in, here are answers to 10 basic questions about blogging:

How does a blog differ from a Web site? The key difference is that blogs are free. Many agents create blogs to establish a presence online without having to pay the cost, in dollars and time, to create a Web site. But a true-blue blog is dynamic, with frequent updates and ways to participate.

How much does it cost to create a blog? In dollars, nothing. There are no set-up or monthly fees for blogs. Do consider the cost of the hours it will take you to gather and post content and to market the blog.

How easy is it to set up? If you can follow simple directions (I usually can’t), it takes about an hour. Just visit the sites Blogger.com or WordPress.com and sign up. Be sure to disable your popup blocker. For design, pick a template and click to customize. Here’s a tip: black type on white is best.

How long does it take to populate? That depends, of course, on how fast you write and type. If you have it in a Word file, you can copy, paste and post content in minutes. Start with two posts: One stating your purpose and focus and the other giving real value to your audience. Set a goal to post at least one item every week.

What is its purpose? Determine your purpose, then list your goals to achieve it. Examples of goals include: attract and incubate buyers, build relationships, close one extra deal, enhance your brand, demonstrate expertise and increase traffic to your Web site.

What content works? If content is king, consumer-centric content is God. Include news, actionable information, particularly on properties and neighborhoods; practical advice; insight and analysis; photos and videos; and fun. All of your content should be delivered in a voice that reflects your personality. Can any canned material, or at least give it a personal twist.

How do you measure effectiveness? Set measurable, modest goals for your blog. In the first year, for an investment of perhaps 150 hours (three a week), aim to generate, 1,000 unique visitors, three listings and one closing. Use the blog to strengthen all relationships.

How do you attract visitors? Initially, don’t expect many visitors. Chicago alone offers more than 200 real estate blogs. Promote to your mailing list and add a hyperlink to your blog on your e-mail signature and all marketing materials. Successful agent bloggers we contacted said they attract 500 to 5,000 visitors a month. But even they emphasize that contacts and conversions (closings) are what really count, not visits.

Should you blog? One coach of agent bloggers estimates that less than one agent in 10 has the ability to create a blog effective enough to reduce other marketing expenses. If you believe you can be one of them, dive in. If not, wade in slowly.

If you’re undecided, consider Rubloff’s Eric Rojas, author of ChicagoRealEstateLocal.blogspot.com. In 2007, his second year of blogging, Eric converted $2.5 million in transactions from those contacting him directly from his blog. This year, from blog visitors, he already has two listings and a buyer for $1.4 million.

Where can you find more help? Go to Blogging on ChicagoCondosOnline.blogspot.com. There, you can find more tips and post questions and comments for others to read and respond. Also, contact Eric at erojas@rubloff.com to inquire about his class on agent blogging.

Ric Cox is president & CEO of Condominium Enterprises, an Internet-based content provider to Multiple Listing Services, brokerages, agents, lenders and consumers. He can be reached at Ric14@ChicagoCondosOnline.com.

Top Producers’ Favorite Blogs
By Chicago Agents
Bob Darrow, @properties:
ChicagoHomeEstates.com/agent_view/topic/the-agents-perspective

Eric Rojas, Rubloff:
ChicagoMetroAreaRealEstate.com and ChiTownLiving.com

Francesca Rose, Koenig & Strey:
WindyCityGuide.blogspot.com

Jeff Kerr, @properties:
GenoPetroCHE.blogspot.com
For more blogs, go to Technorati.com or
Blogger.com and search Chicago real estate.

COPYRIGHT 2008 AGENT PUBLISHING LLC

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