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By Joe Cooke

Don’t be too quick to shun blogging as a fad. Some people think that writing to a web log (blog) is just for kids, and that it is a waste of time. But done correctly, it can be a valuable prospecting and database building tool.

Real estate agent and Internet blogger Diane Aurit, of Lake Norman Real Estate in North Carolina, receives feedback and comments on her blog from a variety of sources. Sometimes it will be someone looking to buy or sell, but more often than not, it will be from someone she has written about or someone who knows something about the subject.

“I started getting my first e-mails from business and restaurant owners thanking me for writing about them,” Aurit reports. “Within two weeks I had a developer, two restaurant owners and a Martial Arts Sensei contact me either telling me the latest scoop about their future locations or asking me to visit.”

Blogging for Leads

“Blogging does help generate business,” says Sue Botelho of Northstar Mortgage Group in Destin/Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. “In fact, within a span of two days, I had two people call me that found me on the Internet, most likely as a result of my blogging.”

Although you may not always receive direct leads, the business contacts you accumulate from blogging can be valuable sources of future business and referrals. In addition, blogging has the added benefit of optimizing your search engine results.

“On a Monday, I searched Google for ‘FHA Destin FL;’ my website was on the 3rd page,” Botelho notes. “I added a lot of blog entries that week and then did the same search and my site showed up as the second result on the first page.”

Blogging for Search Engine Optimization

In order to get your site higher on the search engine results, Matt Cutts, a software engineer for Google.com highly recommends that you get other sites to “link” back to you. This is one of the most important factors Google considers when ranking sites. And one of the best ways to get other sites to link to you is to create a blog and post often.

According to Cutts, a good blog depends on good content, and good content is bound to generate both links from other sites and higher search engine rankings.

Here are three tips for setting up a successful blog:

1. Host Your Blog on Your Own Site
If you already have a Web site, you want to have your blog live on your own domain. Something like: blog.yoursite.com or www.yoursite.com/blog.

A tool like Blogger will allow you to FTP your blog onto your site. Installing a tool like WordPress on your server will allow you to set up your blog anywhere on your domain. Both of these are free and great. The key here is to have the blog reside on your own domain.

Many blog tools will allow you to set up a blog on a different domain that you don’t own. This makes moving to a new blog tool difficult. And all the links you get pointing to your blog give credit to the other domain.

2. Allow Comments
Businesses are often concerned about people commenting on their blog. However, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

Comments give you more content on your site that you didn’t have to create yourself. Plus, you position yourself as a company that is dedicated to listening to its customers. You also get feedback in ways that were never before possible. And you’re helping control the social media message being formed by your customers.

Most blogging software allows you to moderate (approve or even edit) comments before they are posted.

3. Participate in Other Blogs
The quickest way to get others to know about your blog is to comment and be involved in other blogs within your industry. You are often able to make your name a link to your Web site when commenting on blogs. If you write thoughtful responses to a blog, you’ll often find people coming to your site to read more of what you have to say.

As Cutts points out, there are benefits to having your blog built in to your Web site. Regardless, it pays to get started blogging right away. Don’t worry about results. Remember, some of the benefits will be indirect. Don’t worry about posting brilliant entries the first time out either, but do have someone proofread before you post, and absolutely use your spell-checker.

Blogging Basics
Although Cutts suggests hosting your blog on your own site with your own URL for branding purposes, that may not always be possible. If you don’t have the technical savvy right now to incorporate a blog into your business web site, independent blog hosting companies like Active Rain and Blogspot can get you started.

Remember to allow everyone access and to allow comments. Write about what you know and love. As for topics, “Everything is a potential topic for a post,” Aurit suggests.

Botelho adds that, “Anything you can write that is of interest to those readers you are expecting to read it, is acceptable. I have written about topics ranging from the local weather to information about my business.”

Make sure you are not insulting anyone though. Be thoughtful and considerate in the information you share. For instance, if you are showing before and after pictures of someone’s home, check with them before you post the pictures. If you don’t you may lose more business than you gain.

Aurit offers these three general blogging tips:
1.
The most common mistake real estate agents and brokers make is to try to use a blog to overtly sell themselves. If the content isn’t valuable, interesting and unique one simply will not spend the time reading them.

2. This is a long term commitment and it is a daily commitment. If you can’t make blogging part of your daily routine then it probably isn’t for you. Not only are you researching, writing etc. but the social networking is also very important!

3. Don’t let anyone else write your blog entries. The value of the blog is that potential clients get to know you…if you aren’t writing your own material it defeats the purpose.

Jay Thompson, broker and owner of Thompson’s Realty, is a chronic blogger, and for good reason. “As a real estate broker, my blog is responsible for generating 95% of my business,” Thompson says.

How many people are reading blogs regularly? No one seems to know, and often that statistic is cited as being irrelevant. What matters is how many people are reading your blog, and how that is contributing to your business. The only way to find out is to start your blog, start posting and to stick with it until you either find out it’s not for you, or, like Thompson, Aurit, Botelho and others, you find out that blogging is fun and profitable for you.

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