Should real estate agents blog? No.

The five must-haves for a real estate website are: who, what, when, where and why. Day four of this series on the 5Ws of Internet marketing answers the “where”—where should REALTORS® invest their time.

“Should I blog?”  Associate Broker Christina Ng asked.

Should implies judgment, peer pressure.

“Between phone calls, showings and hands-on client support, I just don’t have time,” she said.

How do you invest your most valuable asset—time?  What’s the ROI?

With 20 years of experience, Ng gets 80 percent of her business from referrals. So, should she blog?

My answer:  no. Don’t waste your time blogging on the World Wide Web when your sphere of influence promises a better rate on return.

Bertha Sandoval, a REALTOR® with Alain Pinel in Burlingame, knows (or has been told) to update her real estate website with community news. “But am I supposed to write the articles myself?” she asked.

My answer:  no.

Rule of thumb:  bookmark articles.  You are real estate professionals, not journalists per se. There is a difference between writing articles and blogging.  A blog is a conversation-starter in real time.  An article involves journalistic inquiry, interviewing, fact checking and above all:  meaningful content.

Blogging Backlash

Newsflash:  There’s a blogging backlash going on, and it’s undermining your best efforts to drive qualified traffic to your real estate website.

In his post today at TheAtlantic.com, political pundit Matt Yglesias spotlights the white elephant in chat rooms:

To gain any worthwhile information about any topic whatsoever, you need to be reading the work of someone with real expertise. To develop real expertise requires years of study, research, etc. And years of study, research, etc. can’t be adequately condensed into a blog post. Thus, blog reading is a completely worthless exercise and nobody should really engage in it.

The New Republic’s political blog echoes this sentiment in “The Greatest Blog Post Ever.” The money quote (via David Appell): “It would be a full-time job to really blog about a few serious issues on a particular beat, and who can possibly attract 125,000 readers a day and support yourself doing that?”

Tormented? Driven witless by blogging? There are search engine friendly alternatives. You can reap the benefits of blogging without actually blogging.

Alternatives

First and foremost, help a local reporter out rather than trying to become one yourself. You can sign up to be a source for a journalist at HelpAReporter.com.

Secondly, join a local reporter’s social network. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper invites industry leaders to contribute content in the form of reader blogs. A backlink from a newspaper to your real estate website outweighs the six to nine months of daily blogging required to see any tangible returns (i.e. leads) on your full-time investment.

Following suit, capitalize on your ability to provide a unique service that is of great value to the customer; go after a niche market and minimize short-term competition. Become the online mayor of your zip code with the help of SquidZipper: “Smart real estate agents … know more about their neighborhoods than anyone else — where to find the best coffee shops, what local businesses to support, where the best new homes are, which school districts to avoid, and lots more.”

To increase brand awareness online, develop a relationship with influential bloggers in your niche market and post a comment on their websites. By including a link to your real estate website in your comment, you automatically drive traffic back to your site. A relevant and informative comment can be as little as 140 characters and still have the desired effect. Proactively building quality backlinks is an effective alternative to blogging.

As for Christina Ng, we’ve found a happy compromise. We’ve built aninteractive newspaper that incorporates micro-blogging, social bookmarks and aggregates RSS feeds.

It’s optimized for search engine ranking. More importantly, it’s a resource that Ng actually uses herself.

“Thank you for posting the trail closures. As a matter of fact, I went to the Sawyer Camp Trail to find out that it was closed myself,” Ng said via BlackBerry today.

The final post in this five-part series answers “why”—why build a community hub.

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