Blogging – The Twelve Step Program

Kristn.jpgIt’s a strange day on the blogging front. Greg at the Bloodhound and Ardell of Rain City Guide fame and of her own Searching Seattle Blog are going head-to-head to see who can be the first to log 101 posts in a single day. Many of you will find this amusing (myself included), but many more will not care. You have to have a blog of your own to “get it”.

Blogging is an addiction. And it is hard work. A frequent commentor here recently sent me an email asking for advice on blogging. This seems like the perfect time, in the wake of the Great Blogathon, to speak to the art of blogging.

Keeping in mind that I am no expert and what little “wisdom” I have was gleened from others, I have learned a ton in the past six months, much of it from my mistakes. So, here is my own 12-step program to blogging intended for those considering taking up the “habit”.

  1. Do your homework. Visit and read as many blogs related to your area of interest as possible. Believe me, it has all been done before, so find the blogs you like and emulate. We’ve all heard the saying, “If you want to be the boss, dress like the boss”. If you want to have a blog that gets noticed, research the blogs that are getting noticed.
  2. Learn at least a little bit about html coding. You don’t have to be a webmaster, but an at least limited working knowledge of code will be essential. Your blog will most likely be template driven, which means you will be using a shell that someone else has designed. Guaranteed, however, it will not have all the features you will ultimately see a need for. Further, you will need a very basic working knowledge of servers, rss, plug-ins, pings, trackbacks, etc. Don’t freak out. Just remove all children from the profanity zone and start Googling.
  3. Establish your intended audience. Many blogs are geared towards industry professionals, many the consumer, and the best (in my opinion) to both. If you fall into the category of the latter, as we do, you will have to make an ongoing effort to “mix it up”. Case in point: Much of our daily traffic has likely already quit reading this post. My next installment, therefore, will have to be something lighter or something more relevant to the home buyer or seller. Some want stats, some want amusing antecdotes, some want more thoughtful discussion on market and industry trends. Too much of one flavor is just… too much.
  4. Post often. This is the biggest challenge. Most mornings I find I have too much to say and too many demons I need to exorcise. When I’m fired up about something, the posts come easily. Other times, however, I have to work at it. Your readers are fickle. If they don’t find new content on a daily basis, they will lose interest quickly and move on.
  5. Have fun. If your blog isn’t a priority, if you don’t enjoy it, if you aren’t excited about firing up the computer each morning to check feeds and comments, find another hobby. Your readers sense your sincerity (or lack thereof), and the honest, uncensored nature of blogging is one of the biggest appeals. Reading your blog should leave your visitors feeling like they are having a chat over a cup of coffee, like they know you. Your unique personality should show in your writing.
  6. Don’t sugar coat. Be honest, be controversial, be unafraid. I am not suggesting that we all go get sued, but I am suggesting that you take some risks now and then. Ardell is famous for this. Your most popular posts will likely involve your most unpopular comments.
  7. Allow comments on your blog. I have seen a surprisingly large number of otherwise interesting blogs that had no mechanism for allowing the reader to comment. Comments allow discourse, and the “conversations” are what make a blog most interesting. You want to encourage readers to participate. Getting others to participate, like all good things, takes time, but once you begin getting the comments, others will feel more comfortable. It’s the old snowball effect.
  8. Your blog is not your website! Know the difference. I go nuts when I see a real estate “blog” which is monopolized by posts like “Just Listed” or “Open Sunday”. Real Central VA and the Real Estate Tomato both had good posts on this. Your website is a commercial venture; your blog should not be blatantly commercial. Sure, if done well, you may get some nice residuals in the context of improved credibility and exposure. However, nothing will turn readers off more than the feeling of being sold. On our blog, for instance, you can figure out who we are, who we work for, and how to reach us with a little navigation. But you have to want to know; we don’t beat you upside the head with it.
  9. Cross-market. So your blog is not your website, but a little back and forth traffic is a good thing. Promote your blog on your website front and center, and promote your website on your blog in a much less obvious way (see #8). If your intended audience doesn’t know you exist, what’s the point?
  10. Have something intelligent to say. Read, read, read. You will accumulate a list of five or ten or fifty great blogs that speak to you. These, in my case, include blogs by news services, agents, brokers, individuals, marketing firms, and other service providers. They include fancy, “prettiful” blogs and free, not so pretty sites. What they have in common, however, is that they all having something thought-provoking to say. Sign up for a feed service (Bloglines is a good example), so that you have a one-stop shop to visit each morning to catch up on the chatter.
  11. LINK, LINK, LINK! Link for fun, link to generate traffic to your site, link to improve your search engine rankings, link as professional courtesy, but LINK! Dustin at the Rain City Guide had an excellent post on this some time ago. Read it. Search engines love blogs. The content is dynamic and brimming with important key words. Within three months of the birth of our blog, our blog traffic had surpassed that of our eight-year-old website. Along these lines, comment regularly on other’s blogs (assuming you have something of value to say). Good bloggers will reciprocate. Add them to your blogroll, and they just may add yours to theirs. However, the good, respected bloggers have quite a following and quite a feed list already. So, make damn sure your blog is worthy, as in – well written, contemporary and thoughtful in content, and updated regularly.
  12. Devote the time, care deeply about your message and your blog, or kick the habit. Do not expect to delegate or it will show. Consider it a part of your daily routine. Real estate agents attend to their voice and email when on vacation; blogging real estate agents attend to their blogs as well. Done right, it becomes an addiction, and the community you become a part of becomes your group therapy. I follow bloggers and their blogs from Massachusetts to New York, from Utah to Arizona, from Seattle to Virginia to Minnesota, to name but a few, and I feel like I know each of them although we will likely never “meet”. Why do we bother? In my case, because I believe blogging is becoming an essential in the Real Estate 2.0 world (sorry, Redfin), because I have become much more informed and therefore (dare I say) effective in my work, and because I am having a blast.

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