We all want to be 'good' at writing blog posts, true?
Rich shares the secret to succesful blogging with his advanced (and simple) strategies.
Here's a re-blog.
Advanced Blogging Strategies
5 Ways to Enhance/Improve Your Blogging Success
Advanced Blogging Strategies: 5 Ways to Enhance/Improve Your Blogging Success
So you've been blogging here on ActiveRain for a while now. You've got a fairly good grasp on the basics of conversational blogging; compiled an impressive archive of published articles; garnered a respectable number of readers/comments; and amassed an equally impressive amount of points. But points don't bring home the bacon, do they Bucko?
Then it's time to step up your blogging game and begin converting your content into $$$!
Let me just begin by saying the any effective blogging effort is going to be the results of a balanced strategy consisting of good, relevant, helpful consumer content and proven SEO techniques. You can't have one without the other. Scary good SEO tactics may drive traffic and bring visitors to your site, but publishing boring content without providing anything of value will cause them to disappear faster than donuts in an office meeting.
In his best-selling book 'Shift,' Gary Keller states that the first two critical steps of action you need to take to in order to survive & thrive in a down-market are lead generation and expense management. Allow me to encourage you to sit down and map out a Social Media Strategy Calendar for the coming New Year. Plan your blogging activities and social media engagements for each week/month. This will help to keep you on task and hold you accountable to being more consistent/focused. Taking the time to plan and develop a well-conceived annual social media marketing plan (which includes your ActiveRain blogging activities) will enable you to generate/capture more leads and make sound, prudent marketing investments.
With that said, here are 5 strategies/ways to help enhance/improve your blogging efforts in the coming year:
1. Putting the "Hype" into Hyper-Local
Creating Quality Local-Based Consumer-Centric Content
Perhaps the most important element of effective blogging is creating/publishing content that offers value to your target audience. It amazes me how many people aren't more intentional about what they're writing and who they're writing for. If you want to attract and engage potential Buyer/Seller clients, then don't spend a lot of time writing stuff geared for ActiveRain members! Getting lots of comments from other AR members is a nice boost to your ego, but it doesn't pay the bills! Write for consumers! Put yourself in their shoes and ask "What information can I write about that would be the most valuable and helpful to them?"
Many people post a never-ending monotonous stream of listings on their blog. People can find listings anywhere. Differentiate yourself. Instead, share the stuff that's hard to find. What are the neighborhoods in your market like? Do they have Homeowners Associations? What utility companies service the area? Who is the best cable TV/Internet provider? Where is the best place to buy a mattress? Where can I find good teriyaki? Who does trustworthy auto repair? Which schools have programs for autistic children? And after you've written that awesome hyper-local post about the new skate park or the best Christmas Tree Farm, then you can include a 'Featured' property listing that just happens to be located in that specific area.
The more narrowly-focused, and specialized your content is, the greater your chances are for ranking well in the search engines. I call bloggers who are strategically focused on generating hyper-local content 'Blasers' - bloggers with laser-like focus.
One of the better examples of good hyper-local blogging is the St. Paul Real Estate Blog authored by veteran ActiveRain member Teresa Boardman. Another person who I believe truly understands effective hyper-local blogging is Heather Elias of LoCo Musings fame in Loudon County, Virginia.
Here's a couple of great articles on Hyper-Local blogging:
"5 Reasons to Start Hyper-Local Blogging Today!" by Real Estate Tomato Teacher, Daniel Bates.
"How to Write a Good Hyper-Local Blog Post" by Nicole Nicolay of MyTechOpinion.com
2. Understanding & Targeting Key Search Terms
Key Search Terms are KEY
A key component of effective blogging is understanding the importance of key search terms and determing/targeting those key search terms that are relevant to your readers.
Again, put yourself in the consumer's shoes. What key search terms would they enter to find information in your particular market area? Instead of using something like 'Seattle WA Homes for Sale' (which is an incredibly competitive search term and your chances aren't very likely that you'll rank well), use 'Floating Homes on Lake Union WA.' Now you've narrowed your search terms to a very specific type of property on a very particular geographical region. Remember, the more narrow and specific your focus (think longtail searches) the greater your chances of coming up in their organic search results.
Courtney Cooper (another veteran AR member) has done an amazing job of creating a hyper-local blogging niche here in the Seattle area. She specializes in Floating Homes or Houseboats on Lake Union with SeattleAfloat.comKeyword Density for DummiesAccording to Wikipedia, 'Keyword Density' is the measurement, in percentage, of the number of times a keyword or phrase appears, compared to the total number of words in a page. When a blog author takes keyword density to an extreme, it's called Keyword Stuffing, a practice that most consider very annoying and unethical.Of course, the big debate is what percentage of Keyword Density is the most optimum/effective? 5%, 8%, 25%? Unfortunately, if your Keyword Density is too high, your article doesn't flow naturally or read well, driving your audience to boredom. And their is some discussion that too high of a Keyword Density may actually result in your article being penalized by the search engines.Always read your blog articles 'Out Loud' before publishing them. Does it sound intelligible? Does your story come across clearly? Or do you sound more like Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to act?Here's a couple of tips to keep in mind:
- Always make sure when you review your blog post draft before publishing to replace the word 'it' with the actual subject/topic noun. For example, say you're writing an article about your new iPad and you state, "My new iPad is really amazing! It is so easy to use!" In this instance, you would say "The iPad is so easy to use."
- Many of us use 'teaser' posts or provide links within the body of our blog post to direct readers to additional resources. Typically, most people use something like, "To Read More, GO HERE." or "Click HERE." Instead, you should use your keywords/titles from the content you are linking to, such as "Read More about My New iPad!" or simply use the name of the site you are linking to, "Read More at SoundBiteBlog."What are the Key Search terms that consumer/potential clients are using in their online searches? There are many great tools available to help you identify those popular search terms and discover which ones and to also determine which ones have the least amount of competition. The Google Keyword Tool is one, and WordTracker is another.
More stuff on Key Search Term-nology:
3. Running the Marathon of Consistent Content
Publishing Consistent Content is Critical to Your Blogging Success
Effective blogging, like any worthwhile marketing endeavor, takes time, energy, and commitment.
To compete sucessfully in the 'marathon' that is blogging, you must develop a consistent, long-term, organized strategy for writing. While a certain portion of your blog writing will come as a result of creative moments of 'inspiration,' other portions should be planned or scheduled, and become part of your regular writing routine.
Here are some helpful suggestions to get your blogging marathon on!
Top Ten Ways to Feed Your Blog
1. Market Reports: I publish a real estate market report at the beginning of each month for all of Kitsap County WA. My reports contain 3 primary components - statistical data; my personal opinion or analysis of the current market; and a local business/interest story. Consumers don't want cold statistical data, they want your expert analysis and interpretation of that data. They also want a sense of what makes your area such a great place to live, work, and play.
2. Listings/Property of the Week: Utilize the ever-abundant tools of social media and create quality media presentations for your listings. During your weekly home tour, select the best value for the money and promote it on your blog. Be sure to obtain expressed permission from the Listing Agent first.
3. Neighborhood Showcase: This is where you can do a detailed overview of specific neighborhoods, developments, or communities within your market. Be sure to include lots of pictures, median home descriptions, school information, shopping, parks, etc..
4. Local Business Review/Promotion: What better way to build relational bridges with area business owners than to promote their services/products on your blog! Start off with recommendations of service-related businesses that new residents would find the most helpful.
5. Develop a Series: One way to keep yourself disciplined to blogging more consistently is to create a multi-part blog series. In fact, you're currently reading one right now! It can require a lot more work than usual, but it will become a worthwhile and valued addition to your blog archive.
6. Shell Answer Man: Trulia has done an excellent job with this particular approach by providing a forum where consumers can pose questions and solicit answers from local real estate experts. Provide a link on your blog where readers can send in questions, and those questions can become source material for future blogs. Or simply, make a list of the most common questions that Buyers and Sellers are constantly asking you, and turn your answer(s) into blog articles.
7. Local Attractions: Consumers can access listings from literally hundreds of websites, but what they really have difficulty finding is good relevant information on local entertainment, recreation, and attractions. What are the 'Must-See' points of interest in your area? What are the primary local sights and attractions that make your area such a great place to live?
8. Pictures are worth a 1000 words: Consumers are graphically oriented or 'picture happy' and are accessing the Internet in droves with searches of images for their destinations of interest. If your goal is to expand your digital footprint and increase the likelihood of consumers finding you, then creating photo galleries is one more effective methods to employ. In addition to creating photo galleries on your blog, also consider similar galleries on your Facebook Page, or on social networks that are dedicated to photos, like Flickr.
9. Invite a guest blogger: A great way to create additional content for your blog is to invite another proficient blogger to write a guest post on your blog. Mutual collaboration among fellow bloggers can be an effective means to drive new readers to each other's blogs.
10. Point/CounterPoint: Just about every avid blogger has an RSS feed (Google Reader) of other blogs they frequently read and enjoy. Find an article that contains an attitude or opinion that is contrary to your own, then state and defend your position. Or, you can find an article you feel is exceptional, and simply provide your analysis/editorial comments. Make sure that your contributed content well exceeds that of the other article. And, remember to provide adequate attribution to the original author and links to their full article.
For your further reading enjoyment:
4. The SEO of Blogging
Increasing Your 'Find-A-Bility' Factor
The technical side of blogging cannot be ignored. As stated previously, you need to marry good quality, relevant, consumer-oriented content with proven techniques for achieving solid ranking with the search engines. And it doesn't take a degree in computer science or unlocking the mysteries of Google algorithms to achieve noticeable results.
Playing the 'Name Game' - Making Your Images Relevant to Your Content
Let's say that you've just published an article on a new hot residential development in your local market, the luxurious Harbor View Estates! You went out and took some killer photos of the area, and have imported them into your 'Featured Neighborhood' blog post. When the search engine spiders crawl your page and come across a photo image, chances are this is what they see:
<p><img src="http://activerain.com/image_store/uploads/4/5/6/7/3/DSC3594039.jpg" height="221" alt="" /></p>
However, if you use key search terms in the Image Description Box and also in the Title Box, the spiders now see this:
<p><img title="Harbor View Estates in Tidewater WA" src="/image_store/uploads/9/4/3/9/2/ar132281292129349.jpg" height="204" alt="Harbor-View-Estates-Tidewater-WA" width="254" style="float: right; margin: 5px;" /></p>
When publishing articles to your ActiveRain Blog, you can name images using the Image Editor and entering your keyword-enriched terms into the Image Description box (this is the equivalent of the Alternate Text Box in WordPress), and the Title box. When people scroll over the image, the Title name will show up.
Remember to keep your image filenames relevant to the content of your specific blog article. Don't simply use images as a means of stuffing keywords!
Tantalizing Titles are Tantamount!
Blog post titles have a huge bearing on the what attracts readers to your blog and the 'search-a-bility' of your article content. It's one of the first portions of your post that the search engine spider crawls as it analyzes both the semantic & contextual components of your content, and determines their theme/topic.
Titles need to be good enough to grab your reader's attention and engage their interest. Many times your title will be the only thing the reader will see. As they scan down through their search results, does your title jump out and draw them in? Does it stimulate interest and intrigue? Does it distinguish your article from all the others?
Do your titles contain those key search terms found within the body of your article content? If you're writing an article about Billy Bob's Auto Repair, the title better say "Billy Bob's Auto Repair." You can even go so far as to incorporate 'geo-targeted' terms into your title - "Billy Bob's Auto Repair Bremerton WA."
Lastly, do your titles help to give your reader 'the Story'- an insight into your article content? In other words, does your title help to convey a sense of the articles's primary theme/purpose? Your titles should attempt to encapsulate as much as possible the essence of the story/message of your full article is communicating. For example: "Customers Love Billy Bob's Auto Repair in Bremerton WA" or "Billy Bob's Auto Repair gives Superior Service in Bremerton WA."
Some things to keep in mind as you formulate your titles:
- Search engines such as Google typically display the first 65 to 70 characters from your blog page title in their search results
- Remember to use relevant key search terms in your page title to help draw in more relevant traffic and to tell 'the Story.'
- Your primary key search terms should appear early in your page title (from the 2nd to the 5th or 6th word in)
Discover more about blogging SEO:
5. Discovering Your Inner Muse
Finding Your Unique and Creative Voice
For every blogger, there are times when it seems like writing becomes an arduous task or necessary evil. When we make it only a work-oriented marketing 'task,' we begin to take a lot of the fun and enjoyment out of it. Discovering and releasing your own unique 'Inner Muse' will help to ensure that your blogging stays fresh and rewarding.
In the midst of crafting market reports and publishing local statistical data, remember that our business is highly relational, and that it's okay to allow your writing to wander outside the realm of real estate on occasion. Your readers will appreciate the departure and welcome a peek into other aspects of your life.
What are your other passions besides real estate? What are other interests that excite and energize you? Many times, unlocking your Inner Muse is when you write for yourself, not necessarily for others. It's when something deep inside you yearns for expression. What you'll find is that regularly unleashing your Inner Muse will provide much needed reprieve from what can become a rather monotonous writing routine.
Don't pressure yourself into being the next Hemingway or Steinbeck. Your articles don't need to be literary masterpieces. Just let your thoughts flow freely. Some of the posts that took the least amount of time to craft have been my most popular and well-received.
When you find yourself struggling and lack the motivation to blog, take a short break and write something fast and fun. Keep a small notebook with you at all times (iPad or Smart Phone for you techies) and jot down topic ideas as inspiration hits you. When you're out and about, take some digital pictures of local interest/intrigue, and use those as a focal point of your Inner musings.
Somewhere along your blogging journey, you'll discover a style and voice that is wonderfully and uniquely yours. It will serve to better differentiate/set you apart, and enable you to attract your own loyal audience.
Releasing my Inner Muse:
Well, that's it. Hopefully, something I've shared here will prove to be of practical help and encouragement to you, and result in greater success in your blogging efforts. Remember our 5 points:
- Be Your Hyper-Local Yokel
- Key Search Terms are KEY
- Run the Marathon, not the Sprint
- Balance Quality Content with Technical Skill
- Have Fun!Here are some additional resources for those of you are relatively new to blogging and social media:
Also, don't forget to check out the ActiveRain University Class Schedule for a great variety of new and exciting webinars coming soon!
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Rich Jacobson is a licensed real estate professional with Keller Williams West Sound, providing knowledgeable empowerment and relentless representation for his clients of residential properties and vacant land throughout all of Kitsap County WA and portions of Pierce, Mason, and Jefferson Counties. You can also find him at KitsapLife, SoundBiteBlog, and Crabbing in the Hood, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org