What’s the goal of business blogging? To trade your words for attention and sales. But the ‘selling’ must be done indirectly. A blog full of overly promotional posts, or a ‘catablog’’ with post after post featuring a product or service is not going to make the grade. Successful business blogs build credibility with their readers by providing them with value. Do this for long enough and you’ll cultivate such a strong relationship with your readers that when they’re ready to buy they won’t even think about contacting one of your competitors.
Here are some practical examples of how to use blogging to increase the profits in your business. Our sector is overseas property, but the insights hold true for other business categories. Five years ago we started a real estate blog and it has had a transformative effect on our business. Here are 4 changes we made, and how they added to our bottom line.
1) We revolutionized our listing copy
Blogging taught us the importance of good copywriting techniques. Our website statistics showed us that our most popular posts had compelling titles, a conversational style and a clear purpose. Story posts in particular, where we made a hero of one of our customers, always generated the largest number of comments and our list posts were the most regularly bookmarked.
We transferred this new knowledge of what makes an attention-grabbing post directly to how we wrote up our property listings. (This is transferable to any type of product page). We deleted the generic, watered down headline titles and replaced them with targeted messages explaining exactly what the property would deliver to a buyer. And instead of merely cataloguing the features of the property, we described the kind of lifestyle that would come with a purchase (e.g. becoming a better golfer, fulfilling a retirement dream, making money, impressing friends…).
The result: The bounce rate on our property listing pages went down and our sales enquiries went up.
2) We focused on the reader
Before we started blogging we used our website to communicate who we were and how special our business was. Our site was filled with pat-on-the-back comments about ‘putting the customer first’ and ‘delivering excellent service.’ Blogging taught us that the best writing targets the reader and puts them in the driving seat.
So we shifted the focus of our writing away from us and towards our readers. We developed opt-in tutorials for buyers providing insider tips to successful real estate investing and offered a white paper download explaining how to safely navigate overseas property markets. We included concrete feedback from customers and sprinkled the copy with testimonials on how this information translated to their bottom line.
The result: We began to build a mailing list of customers who gave us permission to contact them.
3) We used our blog to sell – indirectly
Instead of putting sales copy directly into the stream of posts we published, we created special landing pages promoting real estate tours in our region and then linked to these from the blog. In our experience it’s fine to have a ‘Buy’ button on every page of your blog as long as you use the posts themselves to forge a deeper connection with your readers.
The result: The sign up for our real estate tours increased significantly from blog readers.
4) We used the blog to make a stand
Good writing is often about standing for something and not being afraid to challenge the status quo. We looked hard at what was wrong with the overseas property market (no MLS, lack of official property statistics, weak broker regulation) and how it could be made better for our customers. This lead us to launch a brand new website – Reveal Real Estate – specifically to increase the transparency of the international real estate market in Central America by putting data in the hands of consumers.
The result: In the process of campaigning for more transparency, we’ve built a ‘community of interest’ on our blog and gained market trust.
Looking back, starting a blog was a turning point in our business. It radically improved our overall website, put the customer at the center of the experience and helped us stamp our knowledge on our niche. 5 years later we’re still trading words for leads. And to do that well we have to make sure our writing is good.
Claudia Gonella is an active real estate blogger covering international real estate in Nicaragua, Belize, Costa Rica and Panama.