To Blog or Not to Blog — the Real Estate Agent’s Question – Part II

Last month we talked about whether or not a blog is in your business future. If a real estate business blog is on your horizon this month’s column will show you how to get started!

Blogging should be a joy, not a chore. Selecting the best blogging tools for your level of expertise is the first step. If you must wrestle your technology to begin, your chances of effective follow-through diminish.

Let’s face it… you are busy! You want to blog, you want to inform potential clients about local real estate issues, you want to keep a good “front line” as a resource – the place to turn – but you can’t afford too much time away from revenue-producing activities to do it. Make blogging easy to help ensure your success.

If you aren’t a geek, and you want a quick easy-to-use blog format, consider a blogging platform hosted elsewhere. Some remotely hosted blogging options are free, some require a small monthly fee. Either way, these will permit you to blog without knowledge of HTML, database setup or any other technical aspect of “how it works.”

The following information on blogging tool options was compiled by Jodi Diehl, a database driven website specialist:

Remotely Hosted Blogging

Bloggerwww.blogger.com
Blogger has been around since 1999 when it was first launched by three friends looking to make their mark on the Internet. Purchased by Google in 2002, Blogger is now one of the largest, free blog engines available.

Key features:

  • Free for all users who sign up
  • No programming required
  • Instant access upon sign up
  • Mobile option for posting on-the-go
  • Templates available for selecting colors/layouts to suit your needs Syndication options (exports to RSS / XML file for distribution)


Yahoo! 360
– 360.yahoo.com

This is a new service Yahoo! has recently launched. The service is still in Beta mode, meaning changes are inevitable as a result of user feedback during this period. The Yahoo service allows
multiple profiles assigned to one master ID, letting you keep your business and personal identities separate.

Key features:

  • Free for Yahoo! users
  • No programming required
  • Mobile option for posting on-the-go
  • Photo album integration
  • Multiple permission settings to control visitor access
  • Syndication option to create RSS 3.0 feed for distribution

MSN Spaces spaces.msn.com

Offered by MSN, the MSN Spaces offer blogs, photo albums and “favorites” lists. This service is also still in Beta mode, meaning you can expect some changes and tweaks after the initial Beta period.

Key features:

  • Free for MSN users
  • No programming required
  • Mobile option for posting on-the-go
  • Photo album integration
  • Customizable color, layout and themes
  • Multiple permission settings to control visitor access
  • One-click access through MSN toolbar

Locally Hosted Blogs

Geeklog – geeklog.net

Content management system

Geeklog is distributed under GNU General Public License, meaning it can be used, modified and shared among users at no charge. It is the content management system I recommend most often to my clients. The learning curve is less than the other scripts available and the tools included in the core package are ideal for the small business owner.

The basic package includes the ability to create topics, post articles, display a public calendar of events, post polls and manage a web links directory. Additional plugins available (requiring separate installation) include http referrer tracking, photo albums, forums, live chat and many more.

Requirements:

  • PHP 4.1.0 (or higher – Web programming language)
  • mySQL database


WordPress
wordpress.org
Blog engine

WordPress is a basic blog engine I recommend for users wanting only a blog engine for their own website. This script provides an easy-to-use interface, including formatting options similar to a word processing program.

While the basic packages offers only blogs and links, there are several hundred plugins available offering everything from moblogging (posting from your WAP-enabled mobile phone) to click counter to monitor traffic.

Requirements:

  • PHP 4.1 (or higher)
  • mySQL 3.23.23 database (or higher)
  • Apache Server Software (recommended)

Additional free PHP blog scripts available:

NOTE: All locally hosted scripts will need to be installed on your hosting account. Check with your hosting company to ensure your account includes the required items. To minimize installation problems, it is recommended you hire an experienced PHP programmer to set up your selected script.

What I use and recommend

There are many options, but these give you a great place to start. If you want more control over your blog, and are willing to host it locally, I highly recommend a custom solution.

Personally, I use Geeklog – I love it! And, although I’m a geek, I hire
Jodi Diehl
(www.SunfrogServices.com) to do my Geeklog customization and security
upgrades, to add in new plugins and options, and to develop any custom scripts I need. She’s the person I call when I have a question, a problem or want a new bell or whistle on my blogs.

I tend to be a little demanding where my blogs are concerned. I want my blogs to work – that’s a given, but I also want it to be easy…to the point of intuitive. And, I like to have a lot of ontrol over the way my text appears and the way my visitors can use my blog site. Since my blogs are only a small part of my overall business model, and they don’t produce direct income, I can’t afford to spend income-producing time to learn how to do everything there is to do with Geeklog. Jodi stays on top of how it works and keeps my sites singing. I spend my time tweaking layout, adding content and making sure all my sites “play nice” with each other.

If you aren’t willing to go this far, begin a blog on a remotely hosted site and pull the RSS feed over to your main webpage to get exposure for your blog and to enjoy the Internet marketing benefits of regularly updated text on your main site. Later, you can get a custom blog hosted locally. The most important thing is to begin blogging – sooner rather than later.

Blogging on the Fly

If you want to be able to blog from the road (something that’s important to me) you need to be sure that option is available and compatible with your blogging tool. Depending on which platform you select, and which device you plan to use to blog, you may have a conflict.

I use my Treo to enter blogs on my Geeklog without any problems, but I did have an access problem in an earlier version of Geeklog – so you may want to test before a set-up.

If you are set up to do so, and your blog platform can accept entry from a mobile device, the “time-cost” of blogging can be kept extremely low. I use “lost” time to blog. If I’m stuck somewhere, I can pull out my Treo and blog right then, right there. A lot of blogging can be done in this type of “found” time. If you are set up to do so, and make your decisions based on the ability of your blog platform to accept entry from your mobile device(s), it keeps the “time-cost” of blogging extremely low.

Where to Submit Your Business Blog

Once your blog is up and running, you will want to take full marketing advantage of the blog. Like a website, your blog will need to be advertised to be effective. You can do this by submitting it to blog-specific and RSS-specific search engines, directories, and indexes. A few resources to review include:

DMOZ Open Directory List of Blog Directories

Now you are ready to pick a platform, start a blog and submit it to the search engines, indexes and directories. Blogging is a commitment, but it can pay big dividends in your online marketing and in service to your clients. Just remember to keep the blog process simple and easy to use, hire the help you need to get things set up the way you want them, and then blog regularly.

Happy Holidays and Happy
Blogging!

Note: This article was orginally published in the January 2006 edition of ePOWER! News.

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