I’m often asked how I find the time to blog, or why I blog at all. The truth is, I maintain a pretty busy schedule and am with clients most of the time. So I write the blog after hours and on weekends, which is why sometimes the newsletter comes out on Sundays rather than Saturdays.
Here’s the biggest life lesson I’ve learned about blogging: If you put your heart into it, all sorts of good things happen.
When I started, I was pretty sure that I was talking to … no one, or myself. But I cared about my subject matter.
I wanted to deliver substantive advice and reviews about technology and marketing for real estate agents and brokers. I wanted to write articles for people who cared about their careers and professional development. Mostly, I wanted to write articles I wanted to read.
I didn’t have a big social footprint or a built-in audience when I got started. I put up a simple site in WordPress, using a modified template from Theme Forest. The first few posts got less than a dozen shares … combined.
But slowly and surely, things began to build.
Now, I’m very fortunate to have a vibrant subscriber list and growing readership. Traffic is up, and I’m attracting the right readers. I have made more friends as a result of the blog than I ever thought possible. (And, for the record, I’m an inveterate introvert and pretty shy to boot.)
If you’d told me a year ago that would be the case when I started, I’d probably have said that you were smoking some pretty good stuff.
My business has also exploded. I’ve gotten to know many, many more wonderful people because of the blog. Today, my clients include technology companies, MLSs and some pretty cool industry groups. That work is what supports the blog.
I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to speak about real estate, marketing and technology all over the country at industry events including Xplode and the T3 Summit. I’m even launching my own event series, Deliver 2014, about customer satisfaction in real estate, in partnership with Amitree. [Unabashed plug: please come to the first awesome free event in San Francisco, May 6. Register here.]
Every day, some new wonderful opportunity seems to present itself to me.
Respectable, Regular and Relevant
NONE of it would have happened if I hadn’t started blogging on May 1, 2013. So when people ask me if blogging is worth it, there’s absolutely no question that it pays off in spades if you produce respectable content on a regular basis that is relevant to your audience.
Remember that: Respectable, regular and relevant.
Keeping a blog has taught me so many important things:
Excellent content = excellent readers = excellent business.
- Write about content that you’re interested in. Otherwise you’ll produce boring content and you’ll quit before you even get started.
- You don’t have to be the greatest writer in the world. Seriously. Read my posts. Simple and straightforward does the trick.
- Have a point of view. This helps you with all sorts of things, like figuring out what to write about — and what to avoid. Before you start blogging, make a list of what you will write about for an entire year. If you can only make it to week six, reconsider your subject. Find something that’s interesting to you that you can write about year round.
- If you don’t want to read it, don’t publish it.
- Quality counts. Period.
- Be nice. Be accurate. Be original. Don’t steal. Attribute. Link appropriately. Ultimately, people get sick of flamethrowers and sloppy content.
- Excellent content = excellent readers = excellent business.
- No one likes bad content. And Google hates it.
- Don’t publish templated or stock content from someone else if you plan to use your blog to drive your business. Your blog should be yours, and yours alone. Besides, Google hates duplicate content.
- Publish regularly, since it helps you create a relationship with your audience.
- Associate your content with cool people. Then, cool people will read it. My most popular post was a compilation of predictions from top people in real estate for 2014.
- Don’t be beholden to post length. If it’s good content, and people like it and share it, it’s good content. Google will notice. Most of my posts are on the longish side — 1,200-2,000 words. This one is 1,721 words. Write substantive posts that are useful to your audience. If you can cover it in 300 words, great. If you need 3,000 words, that’s fine too. Just make sure it’s good stuff. Incorporate video and pictures as appropriate.
- Don’t steal pictures. You will eventually get in trouble. Just saying.
- You will attract people who are attracted to your content, and ultimately, you. Good blog content helps you polish your image and allows people to vet you before they meet you. Good content increases your visibility on Google. That’s why quality counts.
- Set up Google Authorship. It’s easy, free and helps your search rankings. Do it now.
- Publish regularly. Scattershot, or ad hoc, publishing is not effective. If no one knows when you’re going to publish, it’s unlikely they’ll take the time to come back when you do. Whether regularly means weekly or bi-weekly to you isn’t important; what is important is that you publish on some rough schedule so that people see your blog is active. No one loves a blog when it’s neglected, and the last post was published eight months ago. Personally, I think publishing every 2-3 weeks might be enough for most Realtors, but you really should not let it go much more than that. Otherwise, the blog starts to look like a ghost town.
- It is possible to take a break from blogging without losing your audience — for example, when you’re on vacation or have some other work commitment. You just have say when you’re stopping and starting again so your audience knows what to expect. (I learned this just recently, when I wasn’t’ clear and readers wrote me to ask about where their newsletter was. To me, that was wonderful and horrible. Great that my audience wanted my content — terrible that I hadn’t delivered.)
- You don’t have to be absolutely perfect when you blog. That means that you will inadvertently publish things with typos (yep! Been there, done that), or off schedule (see that note about publishing on Saturday or Sunday … or Monday). My experience is that your audience cares more about whether the content is any good rather than the exact day it’s published or it if has a minor typo. So if you’re not doing a blog because you feel like you can’t commit to a particular date or schedule, that’s not a good reason. You just haven’t worked it out yet. You can do it.
- He who has the stage, wins. People who publish quality content (and promote it) get more opportunities to do cool things (like speak at events or work with new clients). It’s an effort. It’s a pain. It’s hard work. It’s kind of like sticking to the Paleo diet. And yet, it works.
- Your posts will never be seen unless you promote them. Writing the post is 20 percent of the work; promoting the post is the other 80 percent. While no one likes to flog their stuff endlessly, it’s critical that you engage with your readers and prospective readers on social networks to drive traffic back to your blog. Share liberally and respectfully, and the people will come and subscribe. (By the way, this is an area I could stand to improve.)
- Make sure to choose a social counter/share utility that actually works. Mine is sketchy (it’s called Flare) and doesn’t always count properly. Social proof and shares are important to building momentum for your content.
- Capture emails so you can build a subscriber list! The reason to have subscribers is so you can engage with your readers every week. People spend 13 hours a week in their inbox — wouldn’t it be nice if they spent a little time with you? They will, if you ask them to subscribe to your fabulous content. And of course, treat those subscribers of yours with respect.
- Don’t get wrapped around the axle trying to do complicated backlink schemes to drive traffic. What you want is quality traffic from people who matter to you — not oceans of traffic that will never mean anything to you.
- There are formulas for various types of posts, and lots of suggestions about how to build your audience. But here’s the thing about formulas: They can be overused. So while they’re handy if you’re feeling stuck, change up your post style so that you’re not stuck in a rut. And it bears repeating: If you don’t want to read it, don’t publish it. Period.
- Search engine optimization is important, but I find it impossible to contemplate every nuance of it when I write posts, so what’s good now might not hold going forward. Besides, Google constantly updates and changes its algorithms. So I find the best recipe for the best posts is simply to publish good content that’s relevant to the audience you’re trying to serve. In other words, pay attention to SEO and keywords, but don’t be a slave trying to incorporate every single technique. You’ll go batty.
Personally, the Eight11 blog has enriched my life to the point where I can’t imagine NOT putting in the effort to make it happen every week. But on a professional level, the blog has propelled my career to a whole new level.
Is it Worth It?
So when people ask me, “is blogging worth it?” or “how do you find the time?” I can only say it’s a critical and integral part of my business, and the time MUST be found.
Over the next couple of months, I plan to invest in Eight11 to improve the overall look of the site, and to ensure it’s entirely responsive. I’ve also added my good friend Bill Fowler as a contributor to the site, so there will be even more rich content available about new technologies and marketing techniques for real estate.
We’re even planning some special surprises that will help our subscribers do more business with better tools going forward.
The truth is, I don’t watch much television anymore, and my evenings and weekends are pretty much spoken for weeks in advance. But I’ve never done anything personally or professionally that has contributed this much to my life before. I owe all of this to you, my readers and subscribers. Thank you — and onward to another great year on the blog!