Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Business Blog VS. The Real Estate Website

As the parking lot of opportunity begins to fill, and more and more Realtors are grabbing their surfboard in an attempt to ride this wave of change called Web 2.0, one question rings most frequent: "What is the difference between a website and a blog." Sounds innocent enough.. but most still don't grasp the distinction.
Wikipedia insufficiently defines the blog (or weblog) as "a type of website where entries are made (such as in a journal or diary), [and] displayed in a reverse chronological order." Although, in essence, that's what happens on a blog, there is much more defining to do. If Realtors are going to recognize the value of blogging, they first need to recognize it's distinction from their personal website.

An analogy to help understand the difference: Think of your personal website as a brochure. Think of a blog as the editorial section of a newspaper.
The content within the website generally sits unchanged; static. The content on a business blog is (intended to be) ever changing and based on core categories or topics.
The website uses tools like MLS searching and listing databases to entice visitors to return. The blog gains readers with compelling content, and frequent articles. The two can work together, such that the attraction of the blog allows it to be a 'landing page' for access to the lead generating tools of the website. By offering links to the website's features from the blog, you can entice visitors to access those tools (MLS search for example). And vice-versa, the website can improve its traffic frequency and value by offering a link to the blog, in turn exposing visitors to the compelling and frequently updated content on the blog.

The brochure comparison reiterates that the website is seen as the fixed message and brand. Unchanging elements of the business are showcased in the website, whereas the blog is the platform for business's voice, news, opinions, announcements and knowledge in the form of posts (or articles).

Because of this distinction, search engines actually treat them differently as well. The website, which sits static, depends on SEO for its search engine success. The blog, also enhanced with proper SEO, really catches tread in the search engines simply through its frequently added content. You will find that your blog starts to come up in the search engines, not strictly because of your keywords and metatags, but also because of the content you create in your articles.

The ability to 'ping' the search engines with notification of newly published content also ensures its exposure. This is unlike the website, where the site depends on being 'spidered' by search engine webcrawlers. The frequency of spidering, and the pages that will be spidered are not something that you can control, as much as influence.

Another dramatic difference between the blog and the website is the element of audience participation. Website content because it is static, locks out visitors from making participatory comment, positive or negative. Blogs on the other hand offer the element of participation by encouraging readers to post their comments, in turn enhancing the content and creating a multi-partied conversation.

The experience of the visitor (apart from the participation element above) is also completely different. The website anticipates that the visitor reads the fixed content, in order to make a decision about giving in to becoming a (potential) client (read: lead). For example, if the website is offering the 'carrot' of accessing the MLS, or determining the value of one's home, the visitor will make the decision then and there to pass through the soft-barrier (email and name required) or leave the site for other avenues.
On the other hand, the blog is designed to be read; to engage the visitor. This is the soft sell of trust. Having a voice that speaks (regularly) to your audience, all-the-while revealing your passion, commitment, and knowledge, will earn you your audience's trust and in turn compel them to reveal their identity and implore your service.

**Warning** The content below may be hazardous to novices' comprehension of standard blogging definitions.

Features such as RSS, PermaLinks, TrackBacks, Categories/Archives, Blogrolls and social bookmarking are unique to the blogging platform.

RSS is an internet tool that has grown in popularity in recent months. Its main function is to immediately notify subscribers of the addition of new content to a blog or other frequntly updated source. My RSS subscribership accounts for nearly half of my daily traffic. The use of this tool in blogs creates another element of separation from the website. Having your recently published (and updated) blog articles appear instantly on readers' homepages (MyYahoo for example) alleviates the dependency on marketing efforts for daily traffic.
RSS creates the ultimate mind share effect for your audience with the efficient placement of your 'news' on their desktop.

PermaLink is simply the web address (URL) for each individual blog post (article). When someone links back to your article, they will use this web address. This web address is also used in the broadcast of blog articles in RSS, social bookmark tagging, trackbacks, and category sorting.

TrackBack is the exposure of another blogger's use of your article (PermaLink) in their blog. An excerpt from the article that is referencing your original article is posted at the bottom of your original article for readers to follow the conversation/topic that spans two or more blogs.

Categories and Archives are common ways that past posts are sorted.
When composing a post, it is given categories that define the topics in the post. All posts that have the same category will appear when a visitor selects a category to read.
Archives are sorted by either day, week, month, or year. A visitor can read past articles by selecting one of the former. "September 06" for example, will pull all articles written in the month of September, 2006.

BlogRoll is a running list on your blog of other blogs. Blogrolling is a counter intuitive linking strategy that is very common among bloggers. Most blogrolls are composed of lists of blogs that are similar in content or audience. The idea of linking to others (read: your readership competition) would seem unwise, given that your hard earned traffic may leave your blog to read other blogs. Although this is the effect, the result is such that you begin to share the cumulative audience of other's blogs that link back to you in a form of reciprocal respect. So instead of keeping 50 readers a day on your blog, you could effectively be sharing 1000's from all those that you have a reciprocal relationship with. This practice is seen as one of the most effective viral growth stategies in blogging.

Social Bookmarking allows readers of you blog to 'vote' for your compelling articles to be 'bookmarked' on a social platform. In English: If someone submits your article to a social bookmarking site such as del.icio.us then a link to the article (permalink) will be sent to the bookmarking account that they have set up on del.icio.us. The more people that recognize the value of the article, and 'vote' for it by saving it to their online bookmarking account, the more popular the article becomes on the bookmarking site itself. The more popular it becomes, the more prevalent the article becomes to the users of the bookmarking site (like del.icio.us) and the greater chance it has to be read, and voted on. If an article that you write makes it to the top of a list on a social bookmarking site like del.icio.us, you will have 10's of 1000's of readers in less than a day.

All this being said, I do want to make sure it is mentioned that there are websites that have built in blogging tools. And there are blogs that can act as full featured websites. The above distinction is meant as a guideline for understanding the difference between a standard real estate website and a standard business blog. Be aware, however, just because a website claims to have blogging options built into the site, it doesn't mean that this integrated blog will be operating on a blogging platform as described above. Having a section in a website where you can add content to your heart's delight, does not qualify as a blog and will not reward you with the benefits of consistent business blogging.

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