WordPress, the popular blogging platform, is challenging its users to publish a blog post every day in 2011. The PostADay Challenge is designed to keep you writing and posting regularly. And because the folks at WordPress know that’s a tall order, they’ve also created a blog called The Daily Post that will offer ideas and inspiration each day to help you come up with something to write about.
Posting to a blog each day is tough for many real estate professionals. Yet, posting regularly is one of the best things you can do for yourself or your brokerage; the process of regularly refreshing your website with new material helps you rank higher in search engines like Google. Plus, publishing fresh and engaging material on a regular basis builds your readership and, hence, your visibility in the real estate world.
When real estate was hot and new properties were coming on the market every day, consumers didn’t have to be “enticed” to visit real estate websites. The interest was already there. Today, you have to offer something of value. Consistency is important, too. If readers perceive that your material doesn’t change very often, they have little incentive to visit your site. But if they know you have something relevant and interesting to share on a regular basis, they’re more likely to check in from time to time to to see what you have to say.
Consider it a form of prospecting. Traditional forms of prospecting like cold calling always took time but used to be essential for success in real estate. In fact, the most successful people in real estate usually got that way because they had the discipline to carve out a set number of hours each week for prospecting. For some, it was the first thing they did each day.
Think of your blog in the same way; it’s a form of digital prospecting. Therefore, it needs to be done as frequently and consistently as any other sales or marketing activity.
For all of these reasons, you should take the PostADay Challenge. If once a day is too often, WordPress is also suggesting a PostAWeek Challenge. I’m already behind but I’m committing to once a week for both of my blogs for the remainder of 2011. Will you join me?
This is one of those Do-As-I-Say-Not-As-I-Do blog posts.
It’s been 18 days since I’ve published an article on this blog. I’ve spent a great holiday with family, I’ve eaten lots of good food, and I’ve gotten plenty of rest. But I haven’t written any blog posts. That’s probably not such a good thing because consistency and predictability go a long way when you’re building readership for your blog.
So here, in retrospect, is a summary of what I should have done to prepare my blog for the holidays.
- Plan Ahead. Just like it’s not good to wait until the last minute to do your Christmas shopping, it’s not good to approach the holidays with no plan for your blog. Just like Christmas, you know it’s coming. So start preparing early. Write several extra posts and set them aside to be published while you’re on vacation.
- Keep it Short. You don’t have to write a lot. Chances are your regular readers are on vacation too, and will be spending less time than usual on the Internet. A handful of short, to-the-point articles is all you really need.
- Work in the Holidays. You may be writing in advance, but don’t forget that your readers will be reading during Christmas. So write about something that fits the season. You can even be specific by writing a special message to be posted on Christmas Day or a celebration-related story for New Year’s Eve. If your blog usually includes pictures, try to include winter and holiday-themed shots.
- Post in Advance. WordPress lets you auto-post your articles. That is, you can write and edit articles today and indicate the date and time in the future you want them to be published. (Don’t forget to check for messages while you’re on vacation and to reply to comments, if necessary.)
- Enjoy Your Vacation. Winter is often a relaxed time for real estate professionals anyway. So next year prepare your blog in advance and enjoy your time with family and friends.
Recently we wrote about the importance of making your real estate blog easy to read from a mobile browser. Today, we consider several tools that allow you to do this if you’re blogging with WordPress.
- Mobify is a web service that provides a quick way to optimize your site for mobile access. The basic plan is free and offers great controls over how your site will be seen in mobile web browsers. But because it requires some knowledge of CSS style sheet language, it’s not a solution for everyone.
- WpTouch Pro ($29 for a single-site license), is a WordPress plug-in that lets you create a separate mobile theme for your website. When a visitor comes to your site, WPtouch automatically determines whether the visitor is using a computer or a mobile browser and displays the appropriate version of your site. Images, captions, videos, and text are all scaled to make them easy to view on the smaller screen.
- MobilePress is a free, open source WordPress plug-in that adapts your blog for mobile viewing. You can customize your site by creating your own mobile theme or use one of MobilePress’ pre-designed themes. And because it’s open source, you’ll enjoy plenty of support from its community of developers and users.
Along with these “outside” resources are several traditional WordPress plug-ins:
- WPtouch iPhone Theme Plug-in. The free version of WPtouch Pro, above, WPTouch iPhone Theme Plug-in automatically transforms the mobile version of your blog into a cool iPhone-application style theme complete with iPhone-style icons and tap functionality. The iPhone-style theme works for iPhone, iPod Touch, Android, Opera Mini, Palm Pre and BlackBerry Storm users and gives them the option of easily switching to your regular blog theme if they need to.
- WordPress Mobile Pack is a comprehensive set of tools that includes mobile themes, extra widgets, and a mobile admin panel that lets you configure your site or post content from your own mobile device. Images, text, and videos are scaled to fit the viewer’s mobile browser and viewers can from switch from the mobile theme to your regular website theme if they wish.
- WordPress Mobile Edition transforms your blog into an easy-to-read version for mobile visitors. This is a great plug-in if you want something easy to use that you don’t have to fiddle around with. But beware: this plug-in has few setting to change since almost everything has been configured for you. As a result, there’s no easy way to alter the configuration or customize the viewing experience for your mobile readers.
How does your blog look when viewed on a smartphone browser?
Given the popularity of smartphones and the reality that prospects often need real estate information while they’re away from their computers, it’s important to be sure that your website is smartphone friendly.
The best way to find out how your blog or website works on a smartphone is to try it yourself. Navigate to your blog on your mobile phone and see how easy it is to read. Also ask yourself these questions:
- Do I write with plenty of paragraph breaks, or is my blog one long unbroken block of text? (Paragraph breaks make blogs easier to read on a computer and are a must for reading on a smartphone.)
- Do my pictures take forever to load? If you have pictures, their file sizes need to be reduced for quicker downloading from the Internet.
- Is my blog written in a traditional journalistic style with the most important information (the who, what , when, where, and why) in the first few lines of the article? Readers often don’t follow long blog posts all the way to the end and that goes double for readers checking your blog post from their iPhones.
- Is too much going on? If it’s a traditional website rather than a blog, be aware that flash intros and other “gimmicks” also take a long time to load and often don’t run at all on smartphones.
If your site doesn’t perform well on the small screen, it may be time for a redesign.
Maybe it’s a vacation. Maybe it’s a busy period with clients. Maybe it’s a family obligation. Anything can interrupt your regular schedule and make it tough for you to keep up your blog.
If you know in advance that you’ll need to take a break from blogging, there are several things you can do:
- Warn Your Readers. Post an article that tells your readers upfront that you’ll be away and when they can look forward to your return.
- Write Ahead of Time. Write several articles in advance so they can be posted during your hiatus. Articles can be published automatically; WordPress lets you set the future date and time your article will appear.
- Arrange for Guest Bloggers. Contact other bloggers in advance and invite them to post articles while you’re away. Guest bloggers raise your visibility and improve your SEO, so featuring them is a good strategy even when you’re not on vacation.
- Be Brief. Continue to post during your hiatus, but write short articles that are quick to write and easy to read instead of your usual content.