how to start a real estate blog

How to start a real estate blog for lead generation

If you don’t have a real estate blog, you are missing out on one of the biggest opportunities to grow your business.

That’s a pretty strong statement but, then again, blogs are pretty powerful tools.

And real estate and blogs go together like peanut butter and jelly. Cake and ice cream. Coffee and doughnuts.

OK, you get the idea.

Real estate is a local business and homeowners have lots of questions – not just about the home buying or selling process, but about their local community, home ownership and maintenance – and a blog is your opportunity to answer those questions.

To be their local hero.

But maybe you don’t know how to start a real estate blog.

Don’t fret. In this article I will explain how to create your blog, what to write about and how to promote your blog so your audience grows.

Let’s start with why you should have a blog.

Why you should have a real estate blog

There are three important statistics from the National Association of Realtors that point to why having a blog is a necessity for your business;

  • Only 4% of homeowners found their real estate agent through the agent’s website.
  • An agent’s reputation is the most important factor when selecting an agent – 47% higher than the agent’s trustworthiness and honesty.
  • 72% of homeowners will interview only one agent before listing their home.

Let’s look at how starting a real estate blog can help you in each of these areas.

Blogging helps your potential clients find you online

If I Googled “real estate services in (your community)”, would I find you in the search results?

I would submit that with thousands of agents in your market, the likelihood of your website appearing in search results without very strong SEO (search engine optimization) value is highly unlikely.

Having a blog can provide the SEO value to help you get found on the Internet.

Every time you write and publish an article, it increases the number of indexed pages on your website. This helps popular search engines such as Google and Bing find you online when your target audience searches for the keywords you write about.

Blogging helps to establish your expertise and authority

You face a lot of competition from the agent community on your chosen market.

Yet most homeowners see all agents as being pretty much the same.

I’ve written lots of articles on how to stand out from the competition, yet I think blogging consistently is one of the most underutilized opportunities in real estate.

How do you build a strong reputation in your market?

In addition to providing great service and results, you can build your reputation by having a niche market focus, knowing the unique wants and needs of your target audience and writing helpful, educational articles that answer the questions they have about real estate.

Here’s an example of a missed opportunity;

I used Google to search “How do I challenge my Cobb county property taxes?”

This is a question many homeowners have and a represents a huge opportunity for a proactive real estate agent to provide an answer that positions them as an authority in their local market.

But there was no link to an article by a real estate agent.

It would have been easy for an agent to sit down with a local closing attorney who also handles property tax appeals and get the inside scoop on how it’s done.

Blogging helps you to generate leads

The more traffic you drive to your website to read your blog posts, and the more helpful and educational content you provide, the greater your reputation as a knowledgable agent grows.

Homeowners in your chosen niche begin to see what makes you unique.

By reading your articles, they begin to know, like and trust you as a reliable source of information about real estate and the community.

This familiarity increases the likelihood of your readers responding to any call-to-actions you make.

That top-of-mind awareness is what can help you get the call, and the listing, when homeowners in your niche decide to sell.

There are numerous ways, as we’ll see in a moment, to insert call-to-actions into your blog post that draw readers into your sales funnel.

Using your blog to generate leads requires mapping out the process you want readers to follow to go from visitors to leads and leads to clients.

That begins with having a blogging strategy.

Developing your blog strategy

There is a difference between writing just to fill blog pages and writing for strategic reasons.

The purpose of your blog is to write helpful, educational articles, for a very specific target audience, with three goals in mind;

  • To keep your name in front of your target audience
  • To solidify your reputation as a knowledgable Realtor
  • To generate leads

Your strategy, therefore, should be to provide regular content that answers your ideal client’s questions and use the credibility you gain to ask the reader to take additional steps, moving them further down your sales funnel by making offers of additional information, or services, that would appeal to them.

Before you can start writing those articles, you must know who you are writing for – and just as importantly, who you are not writing for.

Who is the ideal reader for your blog?

You don’t want everybody to read your blog.

You want to write for a very specific audience where you can develop a thorough understanding of their wants and needs, as well as their lifestyle.

The more focused your blog, the greater your results will be.

In most cases, you should limit your blog to a single audience. For example, I would not encourage you to write for buyers and sellers, investors and builders within the same blog as it would attempt to target too many different groups with very different needs.

If you have already selected a niche market, your next step will be to identify what the homeowners want to know more about. I’ve written about how to survey your target audience to identify their unique wants and needs.

It is also helpful to create personas for your target audience. Personas are fictitious people who represent your ideal client.

Your personas should identify, at a minimum, the following;

  • Who is your ideal client – are the male, female? Married or single? What is their age? How much do they earn? Do they have children?
  • What are their lives like?
  • What interests do they have?
  • What goals do they have? What frustrations or fears do they struggle with?

Let’s say your chosen niche is an established community of young families in an urban area.

Your perfect client avatar may look something like this;

Her name is Christy. She is 34 years old and has two children, age 3 and 7. She is a full-time mother and volunteers at her children’s school and other local charities. She is always looking for things for her children to do, such as birthday party ideas, classes and more.

Her husband is an investment advisor, age 38, and earns $150,000 per year.

They enjoy travel, exploring new restaurants and casual entertaining with friends.

They have lived in their home for 8 years and dream of buying a bigger home one day, but aren’t sure where, and when, to move.

Christy is also concerned that if they do decide to move, what steps should they take to get their current house ready to sell.

Having this avatar enables you to write like you are speaking directly to Christy, although she is just a profile of the typical homeowner you’d like to have as a client.

It is perfectly normal to have multiple avatars that each represent different segments of homeowners in your chosen niche.

Your next step in building your real estate blog is to provide the content that will appeal to your target audience.

Creating a content plan

In developing your content plan, your first set of articles should be to address, in detail, the most common questions from your target audience.

The articles you write to answer their questions about buying or selling a home will become the foundation of your blog.

You could not only educate Christy about how to get the most for her current home, but you could help her understand how to select the best area for her next home.

Fortunately, this information rarely changes. As such, we call these articles “evergreen” as they remain relevant year after year.

Write them once – use them forever.

A perfect example of this is an article about how to challenge high property tax assessments.

Once you’ve written the article you can promote it every year when property tax bills are sent out, providing on-going value to homeowners in your niche. There will always be some homeowners who are upset with their tax bill and your article will provide the insight they are looking for.

It’s these articles that will help to establish your credibility in your chosen market.

Consider Christy’s situation. She wants to know how to get her home ready to sell, how to get the highest possible price so her family can buy a larger home and where they should consider buying their future home.

You could write a series of articles that help Christy, including;

  • How to improve the curb appeal of your home
  • How to get your home organized
  • The benefits of staging
  • The benefits of a pre-listing appraisal and inspection
  • How the home selling process works in your market
  • How the home buying process works in your market
  • The top-rated schools – both public and private – in your market
  • An explanation of the various types of mortgages and the pro’s and con’s of each.
  • How to challenge your property taxes

These topics represent what homeowners, like Christy, want to know about. By providing detailed, informative articles, you position yourself as an authority in your market – long before the homeowners are ready to talk with an agent.

The second set of articles you write will be more time bound.

These include market updates with specific suggestions for buyers and sellers on how to take advantage of the current market conditions.

They may also include articles on mortgage rates and how to get the best home insurance rates.

Mix in community news with real estate articles

Keep in mind that homeowners don’t want to read about real estate 24/7.

People buy a home about as often as they buy a water heater. Would you read a blog about water heaters?

No, you wouldn’t.

You should provide a mix of articles that appeal to their other interests as well. A good mix is to write about 60% of your blog posts about non-real estate related subjects, 30% about real estate and 10% of your posts promoting your services or offering lead magnets such as reports, how-to guides or ebooks.

Using your avatar, Christy, as an example, you could write articles about the following;

  • Children’s birthday party ideas, including venues, vendors and more
  • Unique travel destinations in your region – both for couples and families
  • Entertaining ideas – you can get some great content from Pinterest
  • Local events and charities
  • Profile local service providers and boutiques

Ben Hirsh, an agent in Atlanta, Georgia, does a great job of this with his website, Buckhead.com, as shown below.

Writing your blog articles

Creating consistent content is where many agents fail with blogging.

They get off to a great start and then fizzle out after several articles.

The demands of the job, and fear of writing, take their toll and keep agents from reaping the benefits of a vibrant blog.

And while writing may not be your greatest strength, with a little practice you can produce engaging content.

Here’s the outline I follow when writing articles for this blog;

  • Select the topic you want to write about and identify the keywords you want to optimize the article for.
  • Create an outline of the key points you want to make
  • Identify 3-4 ideas for each of your key points
  • Select your images
  • Identify opportunities for lead generation

Let’s examine each of these in detail;

Selecting your topic and keywords

When writing your articles, keep in mind the keywords that your target audience is likely to use to search the Internet.

You can use the Google search tool, as shown below, to see what suggestions the search engine has for commonly used search phrases.

I begin by typing in “Buckhead’s best neighborhoods” and Google came back with the following suggestions.

These suggestions could be used as the titles of your blog articles since there are already people searching for this information.

Here’s another example of a local real estate company using the term “Buckhead”, which is a local community here in Atlanta, in their title so that it shows up in the search results.

I found this article by searching “Selling my Buckhead home”. They also used the keywords “Buckhead” and “selling” in the title and “sell” and “Buckhead home” in the meta description.

You can write an article that has mass appeal, such as how to sell your home, and help it get local SEO benefits by simply adding the name of the community to the title of the article.

To learn more about how to optimize your blog posts for search engines, I recommend this helpful guide from Google.

Create an outline of the key points of your article

Let’s say you’re going to write an article about what steps an owner could take to get their home ready to sell.

One outline idea could be to focus on the following points;

  • The importance of staging
  • How to identify and prioritize repairs
  • How to de-clutter

These become the major sections of your article. All you have to do now is to expand on each of these topics.

Identify 3-4 ideas for each of your key points

You will expand on each of the key points by identifying 3-4 ideas that provide more detail.

For example, on the importance of staging, you might write about;

  • How staging depersonalizes a home, enabling the potential buyer to visualize themselves living in the home
  • How you only get one chance to make a positive first impression
  • How staging makes rooms look larger and provides the illusion of more storage space

I then set a goal to write just one section of the article every day.

Doing this enables me to create one new blog post per week without spending hours every day writing. By breaking the work into smaller tasks, you can work a little each day and still produce over 50 articles per year.

I also recommend creating a file for your blog post ideas and resources.

I use Evernote to categorize every possible blog topic and save articles I find that I can use as resources when I write.

Selecting your images

The images you chose for your articles should capture the attention of your reader, help them understand the content and break up large blocks of text.

As an agent, you probably don’t have time to take your own photos for every blog post, so you have to rely on online stock photography vendors.

There are many sources you can use to find royalty-free images for your blog as outlined in this article from Hubspot.

The key is to never use an image where you do not have written permission.

I see agents do this regularly, assuming that if it’s on the Internet, it must be free.

That is certainly not the case and the fines for unauthorized use are sizable.

An agent here in Atlanta also happened to be a very accomplished photographer.

Several years ago, she had amassed an impressive collection of images on Flickr, the photo website. Many agents used those images without her permission and were successfully sued. The agent/photographer won over $400,000 in damages in a single year.

The lesson here is this – if you don’t pay for it, or have written permission to use it, don’t.

Identify opportunities for lead generation

Once you have gotten the reader to your site to read your latest blog post and you have established some credibility by providing helpful information, now is the chance to convert them from a reader to a lead.

Let’s suppose you are writing about what steps a homeowner can take to get their home ready to sell.

You might include a call-to-action in your article that mentions a free guide you offer that goes into more detail and provides helpful checklists. You provide a link that uses an opt-in form, such as a Leadbox from Leadpages, to collect their email address in exchange for the guide.

Now you have a lead.

You can create an automated follow-up campaign that moves that lead through a funnel and hopefully to becoming a client.

Or, you could create an in-line ad, such as the one below, where you offer a no-obligation assessment of the reader’s home to help identify the steps they should take prior to listing it for sale.

The ad links to a contact form where the reader can request that you contact them to schedule an appointment.

One you have written your blog post, you must promote it so that it can be found by your target audience.

It may take several weeks, or months, depending on numerous factors before your blog is found organically, meaning through the search engines.

While that organic traffic is nice, you need traffic now!

Promoting your real estate blog

Creating a real estate blog is not a case of “build it and they will come.”

They won’t.

You’ll have to put your articles where your target audience is already spending time.

Fortunately, there are dozens of ways to share your recent articles.

Email your articles to subscribers

As you build your email list, you can ask your subscribers if they’d like to receive useful articles from you.

This is a great way to keep your name in front of your subscribers by providing information that benefits them – and indirectly benefits you.

I see far too many agents who send me emails about listings they’ve gotten in cities that are hundreds of miles away from where I live, yet they never send anything that benefits me or helps me learn something new.

If this is the only way they’re using email marketing, they’re are missing out on a huge opportunity.

Your subscribers have trusted you to send them helpful, relevant information.

Unless they have specifically asked to receive emails about your new listings and open houses, you are abusing the relationship.

When emailing your subscribers, keep it short.

Simply let them know that you have a new article and thought they might be interested. Give them the key point and provide a link to the article. Let them know that if they have any questions, you’re always available to help.

Facebook

After you publish a new article, the first thing you should do is to create a Facebook custom audience for the people who read the article.

This will enable you to promote related content to those readers in the future or reach them with highly-targeted ads.

Once you have created your custom audience, you can post the article to your Facebook business page.

I recommend waiting a minimum of one to 24 hours after publishing your post to your Facebook page before you pay to promote your post.

This enables your post to gain some organic traction before spending money to reach a wider audience.

Unfortunately, organic reach isn’t what it used to be. If you want to reach your Facebook business page fans, you have to pay.

I recommend optimizing your posts for reach when targeting your fans. I typically pay about $5 per day and run the promoted post for one week, until the next post is published.

If you’ve been creating Facebook custom audiences, you can also promote your latest article to people who have recently interacted with your Facebook business page, people who visited your website, people who haven’t visited recently – as a way to re-engage them – and many more options.

If you see that the post you are promoting are getting good results, through likes, shares and comments, you can create an ad to reach “cold” traffic by targeting homeowners in your market who are not fans of your Facebook page or are not in your custom audiences.

This enables you to expand your reach and introduce your helpful content to a much wider audience, driving both likes on your Facebook page as well as traffic to your website.

If you’ve interviewed a local business owner, you can tag that person in your Facebook post so that the post becomes visible on their profile page. This enables that person’s friends to see your post, driving traffic to your website.

Other opportunities to promote your blog

While I’ve mentioned two ways to promote your real estate blog, there are countless other ways you can explore.

In fact, here’s an article from CoSchedule that presents 107 ways to promote your blog.

Conclusion

Starting a real estate blog is a relatively low-cost strategy for building awareness and generating leads.

If you are just starting out as an agent and don’t have an established track record, you can use blogging to share your knowledge and attract clients.

If you’re an established agent who hasn’t created a real estate blog for your community, I encourage you to start.

The key is to focus on a niche, provide content that addresses their wants and needs, share your knowledge of the community and be consistent with your posts.

Most importantly, keep at it. It will take some time before you see results, but if you write great content – and do it regularly – you’ll soon reap the benefits.

Agents often ask me, “How often should I blog?”

I usually respond with, “How often do you want people in your target audience to remember you?”