Blog your way to more business - part one
The old adage says that you need to market more, not less, when business is slow. And it’s true; it takes extra effort to capture business when the pool of available clients is smaller. But paying for that extra marketing can sometimes be a problem when the economy is sluggish — unless you have an XSite. As you know, XSites already have a full range of features that allow you to promote your business. But to truly maximize your marketing, you have to use those features to their full potential.
It’s natural that the first thing you would do when you get your XSite is to configure it with your Web site content. But don’t let it end there. Once your site is up and running, the XSite blog feature should become your best friend. The approachable, personal nature of a blog can enhance the reputation you’ve established on your Web site, and even reach some people that your Web site might not. Also, people are interested in learning what the real estate market is like from local professionals. There are a lot of scared homeowners right now because all they hear is doom and gloom on the news about the market. Your blog could help counteract that negative influence. Not only that, your daily or weekly blog updates can give potential clients a window into not only your professional qualifications, but also how you think and interact.
A funny word for a powerful feature
Short for “weblog,” a blog is the place where a marketing Web site and a traditional diary meet. With such a weird name, it would be tempting to ignore this powerful feature if you weren’t familiar with its benefits. But you shouldn’t pass up this marketing opportunity, because blogs have proven to be effective promotional tools. One of the primary reasons for this is that search engines love content that changes all the time, and changing content is what blogs are all about. Also, you can never underestimate how much people want to read what other people are thinking! Blogs excel at presenting personal perspectives, even when they’re used for business marketing. And if you blog through XSites, you have the additional advantage of being listed in the XSites blog directory, which allows potential customers to search by geographical area. This directory provides yet another arena to highlight your services, but you won’t be found there unless you’re using your blog.
If you’ve already been blogging for a while through XSites, you know how easy it is. For those who haven’t tried it, you don’t even have to think about the technical aspects; those are already taken care of. All you have to do is write. Now, I realize that fact can stop some people in their tracks. But again, because you have access to the vast selection of XSites content, you don’t have to worry about writing. In case you didn’t know, all the content available for your Web site is also available for your blog. This gives you a powerful source of quality information.
Since XSite blogging is so easy, I won’t go into the physical details of how it works. I’d rather focus on how to give your blog a personal touch and provide information people want to read. First, let’s determine what type of blogger you are. Are you a writer or a non-writer? Obviously, we can all physically write. But if you don’t feel you write well, the time to admit it is before you start blogging. There’s no shame in being a “non-writer” because we all have different talents. And even if you can’t write well, you can blog; you just have to use a different strategy.
Before I go into the strategies, it’s probably a good idea for you to get an idea of what other people are doing with their blogs. To view other XSite blogs, go to the XSites Network site and choose a category from the pull-down menu in the “Mortgage Lenders” box. Choose a state and county, and you’ll be shown a list from that area. Looking at blogs in your area can help you understand what information other professionals think is important and how they’re reaching out to their readers.
For non-writers (or people in a hurry)
Obviously, you can always hire someone to write your blog or edit something you’ve written. But if you want to stick to no-cost blogging, the 106 pages of XSites content are a great starting point. You can use any of the articles as-is or you can modify them a bit. If you followed the suggestion above about looking at other blogs, I’m sure you found other companies that are geographically close to you that also use XSites content in their blogs. Since a potential client might look at some or all the blogs in the area, you might want to have your copy look a little different than anyone else’s. This is especially important because people can subscribe to get e-mail updates when blogs are updated, which could lead to a potential client receiving e-mails with the same information from two different companies.
So, if you’re not a writer, how do you customize your copy while also making it different from other blogs? It’s easy. Just choose an article on a subject you’d like to feature, and then use only some of the content. For example, the “401K for Down Payment” article under the “Provided” tab in the XSites Wizard has seven paragraphs. But if you use just the second, third and fourth paragraphs, instead of the entire article, you’ll have solid content that won’t look like anyone else’s. This is because the first thing people will see in other blogs that use this article will be the first paragraph, which won’t be in your copy. And if you add one or more photos (see this page for a free photography resource), you can differentiate your post even further.
To have this strategy work, you just have to make sure the paragraphs you choose stand alone and don’t read as if something were missing. It also would be advisable to identify the content as a “tip” rather than making it seem like a full article. This would allow you to add a teaser at the end to announce your next tip, which would help build interest in upcoming posts. In the case of some articles, you could even use other paragraphs to form a completely new tip for your next post. This would give you two blog entries out of one article!
This same strategy can be used with any number of article types. For example, you can pull a list of area attractions from the XSites local content or feature one of your recent listings. And if you have a professional XSite, you have even more options, including using stories from Inman News, which would give you a continual source of fresh content.
Sometimes the biggest hurdle when writing is getting started. XSites content can help with this, too, because just looking at the list of available articles could inspire you or provide a topic. When you’re ready to begin, keep these things in mind:
- Although a blog is a marketing device, the less you can make it appear like one, the better. This means you should focus on copy that benefits the reader. Some examples would be to provide updates on interest rates; the development of new loan types, or any other information that someone looking for a loan would find useful.
- Include keywords in your blog posts. Search engines deliver search results based on the words they find in your blog, so it’s important that you feature your keywords. It’s also important to know that people are actually searching for those words. But how do you know which words people are looking for? This topic is too detailed for this article; so click here for more information on doing keyword research. Once you find the best keywords, try to use them a few times per post, as long as they read naturally. Search engine technology has become so sophisticated; it can sniff out copy that has keywords repeated with no rhyme or reason.
- Check your work before you post. Although the XSites blog interface allows you to edit or remove copy even after it’s been posted, the e-mail announcing the new post will have already gone out to subscribers. So, it’s always a good idea to check your writing over thoroughly before you post. Click here for a checklist of things to review before you post. You might even want to add a few checklist items of your own.
- Above all, have a good time! Blogging is actually a lot of fun and a great creative outlet. While working toward mastering the aspects above, you can also allow your personality to come through. That can even mean being a little irreverent. You want to stop short of being offensive, of course, but if it’s in your personality to joke around, let that come out in your blog. It will give your writing a human touch that will set you apart from everyone else.
I think you’ll find it’s relatively easy to get blogging, even if you aren’t a writer. If you write well, though, you’ll probably find you enjoy the opportunity to express yourself. And don’t forget, once you’ve created your first blog post, you can use XSellerate to announce it to the world.
In part two of this series, I’ll discuss ways to be even more creative with your blog, as well as options for marketing it free on the Internet.
Carla Chadwick is a Web content specialist and the owner of . She also is the author of the , which provides free tips and tools for blog writers.