Big BuilderA big fat “thank you” to Sarah Yaussi, the Executive Editor of Big Builder for her participation in the Blogging lesson in the Social Media Boot Camp series. She also did a great wrap up and agreed to re-post here. Be sure to let her know how awesome she is by leaving a comment and following @bigbuilder on Twitter

Last week, I participated in an online seminar called “Social Media Boot Camp: Blogging – Building Your Home Base.” I was invited as a guest speaker by Mike Lyon of fame, who hosted the event. (I still love that he called me a social media ninja, although it means I may have to start dressing the part.)

I thought the topic of blogging was a particular good one because it seems as though builders are starting to catch on to the idea that blogs are an effective search engine optimization tool. Now, let me just talk about SEO for a second. Even though I can’t see you, I know some of your eyes are glazing over at the term. The kindergarten-level explanation is that a blog, like other social media outlets, can help your name pop up higher on the list of possible matches when someone does a Google search for something generic like, say, “new homes in Dallas.” (For a much more detailed and yet easy-to-read explanation, I suggest checking out this blog post; it does a great job explaining it all in plain English.)

But being able to stack the deck in your favor when it comes to search results is just one benefit to a blog. Others include:

  • Simple to implement (there are many user-friendly templates)
  • Low cost (some blog hosting services are free)
  • News focused (fresh content drives Web traffic)
  • Authoritative (looks very professional)
  • Highly interactive (comment features are king)
  • Spread easily (think RSS feeds)

Given this rather long list of benefits, I’ve been noticing a lot of builders launching blogs, both separate from their corporate Web sites and integrated into their existing sites.

But with a growing number of builders sold on the blog idea, “now what?” seems to be the big question. Many builders seem to be struggling with the content part of the equation–what to post, how often to post, how much to write, what kind of voice to have, and so on. If that sounds like you, let me share with you some of the advice, suggestions, and ideas that were doled out during the seminar.

  1. What’s the best blog format? While some of the seminar participants used Blogger, most liked using WordPress. We built on a WordPress template and have been pretty happy with it. It’s not too hard to figure out how it works, and there are a ton of different template styles and themes. (A word of caution here: Some of the coolest looking blog templates require an enormous amount of content, so you may want to rein your imagination in to make it more manageable.)  
  2. How often do I need to post? That’s a good question, and there’s no right answer. But remember that search engines absolutely love all that is fresh and juicy content, so the more often you post, the more likely you are to have success in driving traffic. Me personally, I’m trying to step up my blogging to two to three times a week. It’s a far cry from some of the best bloggers who post multiple times a day–one of my faves is Calculated Risk, who at the time I wrote this post had posted five times on his blog–but I think that’s a good goal given that my day job has a few other responsibilities. The bottom line: Content gets moldy fast, so new posts a couple times a week are probably the way to go.
  3. What should I write about? I totally feel you on this one. There are definitely times when I open up a new Word doc, and it sits there blank for quite some time. And I’m sure it’s worse for people who aren’t naturally prolific writers. But that’s really where I say, “Loosen up!” Your next blog post is not your opus. (I have to remind myself of this all the time because as a journalist my natural tendency is to write stories with facts, figures, and quotes in them, and you don’t have to do that with a blog. A blog is more about personality and perspective, in my mind.) The shelf life of a blog post is so short that it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. I liken a blog post to a paper cup; you use it once and then throw it out. Of course that doesn’t mean they should be messy and riddled with typos and grammatical errors. It just means stop stressing and get typing.

    As for topics, there are a million things to write about. Here are eight ideas that are a little more imaginative than “home for sale”:

    • Real estate/home building
    • Local economy
    • Green building
    • First-time buyers
    • Financing
    • Local events
    • School districts
    • Your employees (I think this is a good one that is hardly ever used)

We covered off on a lot more, but I think that’s pretty much the meat of the session. As a follow-up, I asked participants to point me to some of the blogs they were working or thought were good examples. Take a look!