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Your Blog Is Bait - How To Use Blogging To Generate Leads

A comment by a left by reader (we'll call her Angie) inspired this article.

Angie expressed that her blog, although noteworthy (30+ hits a day) on a daily traffic scale, was failing to produce leads.  So much so, that after more than a year of regular blogging, she and her partner were losing their zeal as daily contributors to the real estate blogosphere. It seems that she was at the right fishing hole with pole in hand, but not a bite to speak of.  Where were all the leads?  How could thousands of hits have produced not even a fish tale? 

Leads are generated when a visitor feels compelled to contact you requesting either a direct service or access to a service.  Blogging is not the service.  Blogging is the bait.  Blogging is what you use to attract traffic to the platform where you must present your services.

Blogging creates traffic.  Traffic does not equal leads. 

A quick overview on generating traffic through blogging:

Advertising, Participation and Search Engines are the main vehicles with which you expose the blog's content and value.
    In your advertising, you  need to create incentive to visit your blog/website.  "Sacramento's Most Active Voice In Real Estate" or "Your Home's Value, and Every Reason Why Zillow Has It Wrong" make for nice pitches to come and read your blog.  For more on the topic of creating incentive to drive traffic to a website, read this and this.   

    Your participation helps you get the word out among not only your peers, but it also gives you a fighting chance to generate some relevant readership.  Participation is the effort of reading and commenting on other blogs that are writing around similar core topics as your blog. 

Your comments (when intelligent) will be read and offer a link back to your blog.  2 Big benefits here:
1. Readership from a friendly and relevant audience. 
2.  The link back to your site helps the SEO (Search Engine Optimization). 
For more on Participation read here.

    The search engines seem to handle blog content as something that deserves preferential treatment.  Relevant, unique, consistent, linked and pinged content seems to be the formula that starts to attract the search engines to your articles.  This topic deserves more than a few lines to fully grasp the idea, so for more, keep reading here and here.

Angie was doing all of this, and it has been working great for her.  But still no leads.

A little over 3 months ago I started the Real Estate Tomato with 3 goals in mind

1.  I enjoy writing and wanted an outlet for my creativity. 

2. I teach Realtors how to embrace the tools of technology in an effort to better their business.  None of the little talks I gave nor the step by step training had been documented.  I needed a destination for people to read me, not just hear me. 

3.  I saw the blog as the next phase in successful internet marketing, and as a self proclaimed internet consultant I felt that if I failed to embrace the blog, I would be left behind.

I figured at best the blog would be a nice tool to educate new clients and leverage the title I use in my email signature: consultant

3 months later I have found myself in the middle of a great fishing hole.  But what to do with all the traffic?
As I followed a formula to generating great traffic for this blog, it became apparent that others would like to know what I have learned.  I just had to give them the opportunity to ask me.  Up went the form and TomatoBlogs was born.  Before the this, some 22,000 visits to the Tomato, and not one potential client contacts me.  I give the fishing hole a chance to bite and BAM I get 2 in less than 12 hours.  Since then, there has been a steady stream of interest.  It is now very clear that there was a 4th reason for getting into blogging: To help others join the community, and embrace this newest tool that will make them more successful.

Angie's site, full of hundreds of articles, all relevant to her industry, was offering no opportunity for readers to feel compelled to contact her.  Links to the Local MLS, Home Value Reports, and a Newsletter, all potentially good lead generation opportunities, were left to link back to the homepage. No lead generation form.  No reward.  No destination.  The missing component to generate leads through the blog was simply an online form. A soft barrier if you will.  Earn your readership through consistent blogging and participation.  Earn your leads by giving them an opportunity to exchange their contact info for your services: Email Newsletter, IDX MLS Search, Detailed Home Value Report, Email Blog Blast, eBook For Home Buyers, eBook For Home Sellers... just offer something.

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Comments

Thank you Jim, we're in similar but complementary businesses in that, over just the past few weeks, I also have become very active getting my Realtor clients who I think will be successful bloggers up and running on their own blog. I'll try your TomatoBlogs idea...

Wow. great post. The barriers in converting visitors to leads on a blog can be daunting. It's more than just good content- you need lead generation tools. A contact form is good, but I also like interactive generation tools like a free CMA offer or Open house signup. Give people multiple ways to interacvt with your site and you will generate the leads.

Dead on as usual! I have a home valuation form on my blog and have gotten several leads through it. I think I'll add a find me a home form. :)

Jim: You've got me thinking about lead generators, networking and more...,

Good blog!

I would say that there are 4 things wrong with blogs.

1. Most are not incorporated into the c-level of the broker or agent domain, and as such, are separate websites from the core website that was designed to generate leads and traffic. As such, most blogs are out buildings that are not part of the online real estate office itself.

2. Most real estate bloggers are writing about information that do not generate consumer leads - ie. real estate community blogging vs. blogging your listings

3. To date, real estate blogs do not have any lead capture tools integrated into them.... (more to come on this as we have just structured a deal with Real Estate Blog sites to cure this).

4. Real Estate blog sites by agents and brokers are typically not very active - I think that the answer to this is that Brokers need to "own" the blog and each office should encourage the agent who is at the "up desk" to enter something - that would equate to 3 posts a day at most offices.

Victor,

I can see myself agreeing with you on all 4 points. However, I think that they are all easily overcome, with some guidance.

1. Yes, most blogs today are not incorporated into their domain: i.e. blog.realestatetomato.com or realestatetomato.com/blog. The reason for this is obvious to me: everyone already has a website, and those websites were not built with a blogging platform. So rather than trashing the site and starting from scratch, while this whole blogging phenomena is in it's toddler years, agents are jumping the bandwagon using the resources that are available to them - typepad, wordpress, blogger etc. However - this doesn't have to be a make it or break it challenge. A simple link into the lead generating pages of their standard RE website from the blog/sidebars/posts etc and viola - lead generation!

2. I'd love to hear (read) some more of your thoughts on this. Are you saying that general real estate topics such as community or neighborhood blogging won't work as well as blogging your listings? I have covered both topics in previous posts:

http://realestatetomato.typepad.com/the_real_estate_tomato/2006/07/riding_the_long.html
and
http://realestatetomato.typepad.com/the_real_estate_tomato/2006/09/blogging_your_l.html

There are great benefits to both. My take, as long as you are blogging with unique, relevant content and do so on a regular basis then you are
1. Establishing consistency
2. Growing your long tail
3. Developing a fantastic resource for your local readers... who will catch on sooner or later.
--

3. Lead generation forms are a snap. If you are using a blogging platform that has no lead generation tools, go sign up for a very robust and affordable service called: Intellicontact. For less than $10/month you can have custom lead generation forms, drip marketing, client CRM, autoresponders, polls, tracking systems, RSS feeds, email blog blasts... etc etc. Great service.

4. The level of activity a blog has will forever be a challenge. I like your idea about the office having a blog that the 'up' agents are to contribute to. This could however present some sticky issues (credibility, validity of content, abuse to name a few). But a good idea nonetheless.
When it comes to the discipline of regular blogging on an individual's site, one needs to recognize the direct correlation between active blogging and active traffic. No effort, no reward. But that's the nature of any marketing.

don't you mean "your" blog is bait instead of "you" blog is bait?

SixPack -
Thanks... I did mean "Your"
I was wondering what the typo others were referring to was....

Jim:

Great post ... you and I are like-minded. ;-)

Victor made some good points - let me pile on by responding to your comments with additional observations and data. ;-)

"Yes, most blogs today are not incorporated into their domain..."

With our clients 99.9% of them *are* incorporated into their primary domain. We approach blogsites as a brand-intensive proposition and we recommend that our clients allow us to skin their blogsite to look and feel like the domain it is incorporated into. We do the same for companies that use our Enterprise RSS services (e.g., http://rss.intel.com).

"I like your idea about the office having a blog that the 'up' agents are to contribute to."

Imagine a brokerage with 100 agents in 6 localities. At a physical level you have contributors scattered everywhere in the organization. However, at a logical level, the brokerage must have the agility to display what amounts to virtual blogsites at the local and brokerage level. But the broker wants to control the content scope and the brand reputation/image.

In our world, we achieve this through filter associations, an architecture not present in typical blog tools (none that I'm aware of anyway), but may also be achieved through custom development.

The benefit of bringing "associations" to the picture make it possible (through configuration) to help our real estate customers leverage articles contributed from localities serviced by the agent as well as more general posts intended to serve the brokerage. Content can come from anywhere in the organization, but how it's presented is arbitrary and easily managed at a higher level.

We specifically designed the MyST Platform (the foundation of Real Estate Blogsites BTW) to suppport the idea that business blogs require some degree of "roll-up" functionality. One aspect of this is the use of another capability known as "system keywords" - ostensibly name-value pairs that allow users to control internal finctions.

With this architecture, roll-up agility can be used to provide many types of solutions -

- status report roll up to managers that need one blog post from each office per week that's private (i.e., blogging inward).

- declaring the target publishing scope of a post based on name-values (i.e., dallas:mortgage).

- declaring types of posts (i.e., vacationhome:vail/beavercreek).


bf

Dear Jim,

I just finished up reading your "email interview" with the author from BloodhoundBlog. I apologize for posting a comment 3 months after this article was written, but you linked the bait to the interview blog and here I am typing away. Of course, I also finished reading your bait post and thought to myself, "am I on the right path?" The Tomato took 3 months to get where it's at...that’s impressive. I am beginning to reconsider my marketing efforts with my current web site for the following reasons:

1) I have become completely addicted to blogging
2) I now read articles all day long, while enlighten myself.
3) I have seen the engines grab my blog by the neck and suck the life out of it on a daily basis
4) Its not only beneficial, but fun to try and make a presence for myself with all the "ripe tomato’s" out there

I also was conflicted with the post I made earlier today about the "Yankee Blog Swap." Do you think this is considered stealing, as I have taken the famous Christmas present and added it to my blog? The main reason I did this was to provide myself with all the beneficial topics everyone is generating and I have actually tried this type of campaign in the past through realestatewebmasters. Anyway, great articles and the Tomato is on my blog for good! I also almost purchased a shirt tonight...maybe in a few more weeks.

Oh, I'm a realtor in the Virginia Beach area...

Vincent,

I welcome comments any time; no one is ever late to the party. By the looks of your list, I'd say you are on the right path, we are all learning as we go.
Regarding the "stealing" concern: certainly not. The present was for all of us to use, as a way to promote the Yankee Blog Swap.

If you do purchase a Tomato T, please send a photo so I can add it to the fan collage I have been putting together.

Jim,

I had not read this post before, but like always it was great. It points to the most fundamentally overlooked aspect of marketing. Have a call to action and an actionable method for prospects to contact you on impulse.

Along those lines, have you thought about addiding a Skype or IM tool to the Tomato for better access from prospective clients?

-4MySales

Barrett,

Regarding the IM and Skype, I have tried the IM. And chose to not continue using it. We seem to be a very popular and yet, well oiled machine at this point, and need to work on an appointment basis with inquiries and clients. Trying to be available to answer questions via IM seemed a bit difficult to manage...
RE: Skype... that is a good idea, and I may just look into trying it out. Thanks.

While I realize this post was written some time ago, well, I wasn't blogging then. I've enjoyed your insights and hope to put them to use as my barely two month old blog gets traction.

My Hawaii real estate site gets about 1500 visitors a day. We do pretty well with conversion, but there is always room for improvement. We just started our blog in hopes of increasing our conversion rate. Our content is limited so far, but we hope to build that over time. You've put some great info together in this blog. I look forward to continuing my reading here and learning more. After reading this post, my job tonight will be to think of things I can offer to our visitors. I need some bait!

Thanks for this great post , you list some good point , also the visitors list some other good point , I think these point can lead us to our target , but we agree that you can get more visitors to your web site using blogging.

Like your site, and all the great tips that are mentioned on it, it has really helped out. Thanks!

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