Garron Selliken, owner of Portland, Oregon real estate company M Realty, asserts today that blogging, at least in the real estate industry, is dead. Obviously when Garron says that he doesn’t mean that no one is blogging about real estate anymore. Instead, he’s saying that blogging lacks business value for the real estate practitioner.
This view could probably be shared across more industries than just real estate. For some time now there has been a cacophony of voices encouraging “blogging” as the future of getting a positive return on investment for making a website.
A shortish history of blogging
Initially, the activity of blogging was just keeping a diary or log on the web. The first wave of bloggers were just writing about whatever they felt like writing about.
With the enthusiasm of first time competitors at a poetry slam they encouraged everyone else to do the same. As more people began to keep blogs and link to each others blogs a form of status emerged (you may recall a lot of talk about who is an “A Lister” and so on).
This is where the roots of being “authentic” or “transparent” came about. People who bare their souls tend to produce content that is more compelling and arresting to other people. Being “authentic” and “transparent” were tactics employed to increase status within the blogosphere.
The important takeaways from this shortish history of blogging:
- Originally, the activity of blogging did not have a business objective.
- People who blog, being human, value personal status.
- A status-based popularity ranking began to serve as an objective for blogging.
- “Transparency” and “authenticity” are recognized traits of blogs which tend to rank higher in popularity with other people.
Here is a strategic perspective that evolved from this kind of non-business blogging:
- Objective: Increase status ranking (ex: become an A-lister).
- Channel: blogging peers
- Primary Tactic: create “authentic” and “transparent” content
Note that there isn’t an especially clear path for generating revenue after achieving an increased status ranking. This isn’t a problem for most bloggers because they tend to be hobbyists. Those who get more serious about it tend to try a variety of advertising models to monetize their efforts. Either that or they become consulting gurus. 😉
Blogging for business
The tactic of creating and publishing content on a regular basis has become confused with blogging. This has happened because quick-to-deploy and relatively-easy-to-update sites are often built using technology originally made for bloggers (Movable Type and then WordPress, for example).
The tool has been mistaken for the tactic.
Which is, of course, a frightfully common occurrence (*cough* social media *cough*).
In the beginning of his post, Garron throws down the gauntlet:
When it comes to generating leads from search, the past, present and future of real estate sites is SEO, not blogging, transparency, authenticity and finding your voice.
What he’s really doing is stating a specific strategic perspective:
- Objective: “generating leads”
- Channel: “from search”
- Primary Tactic: SEO (search engine optimization)
So for Garron, the creation and publishing of content serves to attract new visitors to his site. Specifically, he’s interested in new visitors who are searching for something he can help them with.
Blogging to reinforce existing relationships
There are, of course, some great blogs focused on real estate. These blogs focus on a neighborhood or some other facet of the business that the blogger is passionate about. But these blogs are successful because the content creator’s passion for the topic shows in the quality of the content.
The meaningful blogs often lack a specific strategy. Sometimes the owners of these sites wear their lack of strategic perspective as a badge: “I just write stuff and people read it and sometimes I make a sale.”
If a strategic perspective were to be assigned to the meaningful real estate blogs it might look like this:
- Objective: Deepen relationships with existing customers and prospects
- Channel: social media and/or customer database
- Primary Tactic: create meaningful and/or useful content
This strategy is not as aggressive as the one laid out by Garron. But it’s certainly valid if you know that the best way you can grow your business is through deepening your existing relationships.
The real estate blog may never have been alive in the first place
Though I don’t have any data to back it up, I’d wager that for every solid, compelling and meaningful real estate blog there are twenty zombie real estate blogs: packed with stolen/poorly crafted/duplicate content that is either devoid of purpose or stuffed to the gills with SEO keywords.
The zombie blogs have no strategic perspective. They are often the result of someone throwing money at a problem or failing to commit the resources to learn the techniques. They rarely perform well because no effort at understanding keyword research was spent. Even less effort gets spent on finding common tasks for the website owner and the website visitor, resulting in low conversions and high bounce rates.
Even though there is no strategic perspective for zombie blogging, if we were to ask a zombie blogger the right questions we would get something like this:
- Objective: Make a lot of money!
- Channel: I don’t care where they come from as long as it’s cheap!
- Primary Tactic: I’ll try anything for two weeks as long as it’s cheap!
Avoiding zombie blog syndrome
The problem with the zombie blogs is that the writer may not know she is making a zombie blog. She might think her blog is meaningful and that she’s applying all the “best practices” but in reality the blog is a little bit living dead.
The best way to avoid being a zombie blog is to have a strategic perspective.
Garron’s post lays out good rough outline for a strategy. It might not be the right one for you, but you’ll want to be able to describe why you’re making content for your site in at least as much detail as he’s shared.
At the very least be prepared to discuss these things:
- Where is your audience coming from?
- What is your audience looking for?
- Are you in the business of providing that? (if not, revisit your business model)
- How will you convert your audience from content consumers into meaningful business?