Since we’ve started running Digital Marketing Meetups, I’ve met a number of people in real estate who are eager to start blogging. And no wonder – writing and sharing insightful content on a blog is a great way to improve your credibility, and to improve your reputation as an expert in your area or speciality.
The good news is, it’s easy to get your blog started!
To do so, I recommend using WordPress. WordPress is blogging software – and in my opinion, it’s the best blogging software because it strikes a perfect balance between being highly customisable but also easy to use. In the following article, I’ll run you through how to set up a free WordPress blog using WordPress.com.
(Note: This article focuses on WordPress.com blogs, not self-hosted WordPress sites with software from WordPress.org. WordPress.org sites are a great idea if you don’t want ads, you want your blog to be part of your current website, and you’re prepared to pay hosting fees – but WordPress.com blogs are free and easier to set up, so I’ll be focusing on them for now.)
Step 1: Make an account
It’s easy to get started. Visit WordPress.com and click ‘Get started here‘.
Now, choose a blog address. This will be the address people type in to the browser bar to go to your site, so choose an address that is relevant. Good choices are your full name, or something to do with your area – for example, prominent Phoenix blogger Jay Thompson‘s address is phoenixrealestateguy.com.
At this point you can choose to purchase a .me, .com, .net, or .org address – but if you stick with the .wordpress.com address it’s always possible to purchase a different domain name later.
Once you’ve chosen a blog address, choose a username and password and hit ‘Create Blog‘.
After you confirm your account and log into your blog, give your blog a name and tagline under Settings > General. It’s also a good idea to fill out your profile by clicking your name > Edit My Profile.
Note: Now that you have a blog and an account, you have access to two new areas: your blog (yourblogname.wordpress.com), and the admin area (yourblogname.wordpress.com/wp-admin). Only you have access to the admin area, and this is where you’ll make all the changes and add new blog posts.
Step 2: Customise the appearance of your blog
WordPress allows you to completely change the look of your blog by changing the theme. You can change your blog’s theme under Appearance > Themes. Browse through the many themes there – both free and paid themes – and choose one that suits your purpose. Many themes allow you to change the colours and header image – you can check which ones let you customise various elements by clicking Details and looking for tags such as ‘custom-header’ or ‘yellow’, if you’re looking for a yellow theme.
Once you’ve chosen and installed the theme you like, you can play around with customising that theme if it has theme options. To do this, return to Appearance > Themes and and investigate the options the theme gives you – different themes allow you to change different elements. The theme ‘Fresh and Clean‘, for example, allows you to change the background or the header – other themes may have just one button that reads ‘theme options’, and others may have no options at all.
You can customise your blog’s appearance even more with widgets. Widgets are simply little pieces of functionality that you can choose to include in your blog’s sidebar or footer (widget areas). To add or change widgets, visit Appearance > Widgets and drag and drop the widgets you want into a widget area.
Example: Say that I want to add an image to my sidebar. I go to Appearance > Widgets, and find the Image widget under Available widgets. I then drag that image to the ‘Sidebar’ widget area and drop it in. Fill out the widget title (this is optional), the image URL, and any other required details, and click save. That image will now appear in your blog’s sidebar.
Widgets can be used to add all kinds of things to your sidebar or footer – including images, links, a bio, or a calendar of your posts.
Creating a page: You may want to add extra pages (not blog posts) to your blog – for example, and ‘About me’ page, or a ‘Featured listing’ page – click Pages > Add new. Adding content to this page is done in a similar way to writing a post (see step 3).
Step 3: Write your first blog post
To create a new blog post, go to Posts > Add new.
Enter a title for your blog post (see CopyBlogger’s How to Write Magnetic Headlines). WordPress will automatically insert this title into the permalink (web address) for your new post, or you can click the ‘Edit’ button to write your own address.
Next, write your blog post! Much like using Microsoft Word, you can edit the text you write in all the standard ways – highlighting text to make bold or italic, adding bullet points, or indenting paragraphs.
To add an image (or video, or sound file), click the small camera/musicnote icon above the main text box, next to the text ‘Upload/Insert’. A box will pop-up allowing you to ‘select files’ from your computer. Once you’ve chosen the image and uploaded to WordPress, add a title and other (optional) details, and ‘Insert into Post’.
Once you’re done writing, you should give your post a category and some tags. Both categories and tags are ways of organising your posts – posts usually have just one category and quite a few tags. For example, this post How to Start Your Real Estate Blog with WordPress, is under the category ‘Marketing’ and has the tags ‘wordpress’, ‘digital marketing’, and ‘blogging’. These categories and tags will appear above or below your posts and will help people find related posts.
Using the ‘Publish’ panel to the right, you can now save your draft, or release it into the world by hitting ‘Publish’!
To edit this post later, go to Posts > All posts, and click ‘Edit’ under the post you’d like to edit.
Congratulations – you’ve created a WordPress blog and written your first blog post! Keep the original content flowing, and work on building a following through social media. Here’s a couple of tips:
- Don’t blog your listings. Have a page on your website that features your listings if it suits, but the blog posts themselves should have more ‘meaty’ content. Ask yourself: what will people, even those who aren’t looking for a home right now, find useful or interesting to read about? Try writing about lessons you’ve learned through your personal experiences (eg. tips for home open inspections)
- Stuck for something to write about? Jot down a list of questions (silly or not) that clients have asked you. Each of those questions, and your detailed answer, can be a blog post of its own.
PS. I recommend having a clear blogging plan or goal. Jay Thompson has compiled a list of WordPress best practices for real estate websites: