March 08, 2005
Call us cynics. Blogs may be hip and trendy, but they don't do diddly-squat for most people's businesses. After four years of research, MarketingSherpa reporters estimate only .03% of the 34.5 million existing blogs are driving sales or prospective customers to their bloggers. (That's less than 1,000 that we've been able to find.) Want your blog to be the one that works? Discover seven practical secrets from a real estate blog that gets prospects to raise their hands and beg to be contacted.
A little over two years ago, John Mudd quit his job in book publicity to try his hand at selling waterfront vacation homes worth an average $700,000 in Florida.
He quickly learned the Web was mission critical.
"People are more interested in the property than they are in the realtor. About 80% of home buyers go online long in advance of even looking at real estate in a certain area. They'll visit something like 20 different realtor Web sites and then they'll go with the first realtor who calls them back."
Mudd's Web site had to show up high in search engine results to get visitors, plus it had to convert clicks into hand-raising prospects he could call on.
But, his budget was small -- less than $1,000 -- and competition for real estate-related search visibility was incredibly fierce.
Mudd knew Google's crawlers were infamous for paying more attention to blogs than they did to most traditional Web sites.
"I had a blog when I was in PR and I noticed the blog ended up pretty high in Google for terms like 'Media Relations.' Pretty much anything I'd post would end up in the top five rankings for a while."
Tactic #1. Seed your blog posts with keywords
Each separate entry you post to a blog will be reviewed on its own by search engines. If that individual entry contains keywords your prospects are searching for, the search engine may include a link to that particular post in its results.
This means you can't just post keywords as part of your overall blog name or template and count on that to do much for you. You need to consider what key terms are critical to your audience, and include them in your postings.
However, you can only rank well a few times for a particular term, and prospects may search under hundreds or even thousands of different terms to find information like yours. Instead of using the same exact term over and over again, brainstorm a long hit list of terms to use. (The best will be incredibly specific, often with three to five words.)
Then as you blog over time, create posts focusing on each term on your list.
Tactic #2. Report exclusive news and insight
Many bloggers rely on linking to news sources and other blogs for much of their content. It's fast, it's easy.
But, it's also awfully me-too. Why should a search engine or a prospect notice you for writing about things that other sources online already cover? You want to look (and act) like a uniquely qualified expert.
Mudd decided to turn into a reporter for his own blog. His goal was to scoop the local newspaper on real estate items relating to his niche whenever possible. He networked for industry gossip and posted as many exclusives as possible. The stories didn't have to be huge, they just had to contain keywords folks were searching for and not appear anywhere else that search engines had previously ranked for the topic.
If he couldn't find a story, he'd write commentary instead. For example, he might dash off some notes on his experiences with a particular luxury condo building in the area that currently had some listings. What he didn't do is post off topic, or post general musings on real estate as a whole. The purpose of each listing was to get prospects ... and most prospects don't care about a realtor's musings. They want more details on properties.
Tactic #3. You don't need to blog daily
At first Mudd blogged as frequently as he possibly could, aiming to get a good posting up for his list of critical keyterms. Then he slowed down to just once a week or so, only blogging when he had a great item with a solid keyterm.
Fact is, most blog postings will show up in search engines for months or even years after you've written them. One or two highly ranked listings in each search term's results is all you need to get a stream of traffic for those terms.
Plus, Mudd wasn't shooting for lots of repeat traffic or trying to build a fan club or regular readers.
Why? "People are only going to buy new property every three to seven years. You're not concerned with creating new content for the same audience, you're trying to get a steady stream of new customers by posting content that's targeted to whatever those customers are interested in."
Tactic #4. Add easy contact links to every single post
Mudd wanted the maximum number of blog visitors to contact him so he could then begin a relationship. Instead of relying merely on contact info on his blog template and navigation to pull them in, he added a Contact email link at the bottom of every single posting.
This way he'd get impulse contacts from folks who might not want to search the page looking for the contact info. Most people won't work that hard.
Tactic #5. Jump on incoming leads super-swiftly
Unlike many realtors, Mudd checked his incoming email continually throughout the day and into the evening hours. He decided sitting in front of the computer was more important than driving around.
However, if he was out, he knew he could arrange to send email notes to his pager.
Tactic #6. Measure by qualified prospects, not total traffic
Mudd didn't spend much time reviewing site stats or promoting the blog on unrelated venues. The point wasn't to get loads of traffic, it was to get highly targeted traffic.
Why waste time responding to leads who aren't truly interested in buying what you're hoping to sell them? Mudd knew a successful blog for his niche should get hundreds, not thousands, of daily visitors.
Tactic #7. Blog elsewhere
As a former PR person, Mudd knew not to rely on one outlet alone to catch attention. He pitched a few other blogs on being a writer for them. While they could not be too salesy in nature, his postings on other blogs always included a link back to his main site.
Of the average 3,000 visitors who click to Mudd's blog each month, roughly 1% turn into qualified leads who contact him. The majority of these are baby boomers from northern states.
"Virtually anything I write about, I get phone calls or emails from people interested in buying that kind of property. I posted something about a condo conversion just recently and got three phone calls from investors who want to do condo conversions."
He adds, "When I posted my exclusive about Trump Tower Tampa, my email box blew up with inquiries about it." One of those inquirers went through Mudd to plunk down a hefty deposit on a $1.2 million condo.
Mudd has also landed guest blogging gigs with three sites, including the respected realty publication Inman News. His more than 3,000 hotlinks from these have helped push his main home site higher in search engine rankings and resulted in roughly 12,000 visitors per month.
Useful links related to this article:
View of Mudd's site and blog as they appeared when we wrote this Case Study: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/jmudd/study.html
Inman News: http://www.inman.com
Mudd's Blog: http://insiderealestatejournal.blogspot.com
Mudd's site: http://www.HomeInTampaBay.com