I couldn’t resist picking up the gauntlet dropped by Louis Cammarosano over at HomeGain. In his post, an excellent outline of all the questions one should answer before embarking on blogging for real estate or for any business, he asks in point #3

Is blogging a cost effective use of time?

Ask yourself, why spend time blogging (unless you like to) when you can spend time engaged in other activities that help you sell real estate? Indeed, blogging will probably cut into your leisure activity time too.

This is all the hook I needed to put together this how-to on answering this important question. I advise everyone to apply similar discipline for the “other activities that help you sell real estate” (or whatever else you may sell) as well. If you measure it, you can improve. Here we go:

Step 1: Determine the value of your time

You know best how to determine the value of your time. But it would be nice if you kept it realistic. If you’re at a loss, look at last year’s tax return and take your income and divide it by the number of hours you worked last year.

Step 2: Determine your fixed blogging costs

Do you pay a fee to have your blog hosted? Did you pay a designer to make a nice theme for your blog? Any one-time costs and fixed-recurring costs, get those numbers accounted for as well.

Step 3: Make a spreadsheet

Ok so we’re going to need to do a little math to measure the ROI of your blogging efforts. But I promise to make this as painless as possible. In fact, I set up the spreadsheet for you already. You will need a Google Docs account (free) to get it, but feel free to download the Blogging ROI Spreadsheet. Note that there are comments on the cells to help you out. The spreadsheet is set up for a 16 week study. Why 16 weeks? See the end of this post.

Step 4: Set up a time-measuring tool

This could be as simple as a stopwatch or it could be some fancy computer tracking thing. The main point is to keep track of how many hours you spend blogging. This includes managing your blog, responding to comments and so on. It does not include the time you spend in the normal sales process. Once a person is a lead, the time you spend with them is no longer tracked as blogging-related. That’s the same time you’d spend if they walked in your door or called you from the phone book. Later, if we want to get fancy, we can track the sales-process time for blog-generated leads.

Step 5: Start blogging and tracking

Track the time you spend in blogging activities. Track your lead generation. Track your sales. Enter the data in your spreadsheet.

Step 6: Review your performance regularly and calculate your ROI

As you enter the data into the spreadsheet you’ll get a clearer picture of the return on your investment. Just like a branding-focused print campaign, you are unlikely to see results overnight. The general objective is to move your readers along the spectrum from attention to action. Ideally you will track an entire selling season this way to accommodate for seasonal fluctuations.

Advanced tips for improving your blog-related ROI

There’s a phrase used for people who really like to win: Continuous Improvement Process. This is for people who actively market and improve their performance. People who like to learn from mistakes. Continuous Improvement Processes can be simplified into the following steps:

  1. Observe/Measure
  2. Analyze/Orient
  3. Decide
  4. Act
  5. Repeat

If your observations and measurements are honest and your analysis is direct you should be able to make changes that improve your ROI. If you are interested, see my series on Site Optimization for Real Estate for a sense of the sort of things involved in enacting a Continuous Improvement Process (yes, you get bonus points if you recognize the OODA loop). The time spent on CIP should be tracked against your blogging efforts and any money you spend implementing and for an analyst should also be tracked against your blogging efforts.

An offer for one lucky real estate blogger

If you are an active real estate blogger (active meaning you’ve written at least one post a week for the past six months) I will help you track and determine your ROI for the next sixteen weeks. The lucky real estate blogger must meet the following requirements:

  • Have a history of writing at least one post each week for the past six months
  • Commit to publishing at least one post each week for the next sixteen weeks
  • Provide value of your time
  • Provide fixed costs for blogging software etc
  • Provide accurate and ongoing data on time spent on blogging activities
  • Provide access to your analytics package (if you don’t have one, no worries we will start fresh)
  • Provide an answer for each of the questions posed by Louis in his post
  • Agree to have the results of the study published (anonymously if you wish, but I would prefer otherwise)
  • While this is open non-Union Street clients, I will have to decline anyone who is a competitor of our clients (it’s better for everyone that way)

Time I spend on the project will not be billed, but will be tracked in the ROI as if you were paying for it. The goal of the study is not to prove that blogging has a positive ROI, but to show that tracking it can be done. The secondary objective is to see if you agree with me that it isn’t that difficult to implement. Leave a comment with a link to your blog.