The second round of CREST data has been a long time in coming, and for that I apologize. Frankly, the response to this second survey was not as good as I had expected, but we made the difficult decision to analyze the data we had anyway. And I’m glad we did. We have some really interesting findings to share.

As background, the second CREST survey (see results of the first one here) focuses on bottom line results of real estate blogging. You’ll see that most of the data centers on leads and clients earned from blogging based on certain cross-tabulations. We also took a peek into real estate bloggers’ use of social media to earn leads and clients. Let’s take a closer look at the findings. If you completed the survey you got the full two-page executive summary. If you didn’t, well, shame on you! Here’s the next best thing, a truncated one-page version. Use your copy of the executive summary to follow along with the following analysis.

Let’s talk blogging results, shall we? You’re not blogging just for fun (it is fun, though, isn’t it?). It’s a good thing that the majority of real estate bloggers are getting leads from their efforts. On average, real estate bloggers got 15 leads from their blogging efforts during the period we studied (January-June 2008), which equates to two or three leads per month. Not bad, especially given the current housing market. But here’s the bad news: Overall, 30 percent of all real estate bloggers reported getting ZERO leads from their blog during the study period.

The average number of leads converted to clients during the period was four. A little less than one client per month on average. Again, with the market the way it is right now, not too shabby. Furthermore, the average conversion rate for leads generated from a real estate blog is 27 percent. Compare this to the average conversion rate for leads from IDX registration (fluctuates between one and three percent), and it’s easy to see that real estate blogging is far more effective at moving prospects through the buying decision than other forms of marketing. But in a pattern similar to the trend identified above, 43 percent of our respondents said they gained ZERO clients during the period (keep in mind that nearly two-thirds of these had no leads to convert anyhow).

To understand why some bloggers could successfully gain clients from their blogs, while others couldn’t, we cross tabulated different characteristics of bloggers and their success in converting blog readers into leads and finally into clients.

  1. Blogging tenure. As you can see in the first chart in the executive summary, on all measures the most tenured bloggers enjoy the highest level of success gaining leads and converting them into clients. In addition, those who began their real estate blogging careers in 2006 or earlier report that almost 2/3 of their business comes directly or indirectly from their blogging efforts. Much of real estate blogging success seems to come down to how long you’ve been playing the game. The longer you’ve been at it, the more you’ve practiced, the more tricks you’ve learned, the more naturally good content comes to you, and so forth. Newbies don’t have this experience.
  2. Displaying listings. Many real estate bloggers display listings on their blogs, maybe in the sidebar, footer, header or even in posts. We discovered that those who display listings on their blogs got about the same number of leads, but failed to convert as many of them as those who didn’t display listings. On the surface, this seems counter intuitive. On closer examination, given the prevailing “don’t sell me” culture of the blogosphere, this makes much more sense. Social media marketing involves the fine art of soft selling.
  3. Writing about specific properties. Some bloggers shun the idea of composing blog entries about specific properties for sale. This bias is reasonable. Our analysis reveals that those who blog about specific properties for sale will garner more leads, but convert fewer of those leads into clients. As with the point above, because social media marketing is a type of relationship marketing, brazen selling messages may increase the number of leads, but will reduce the conversion rate to the point that bloggers get a greater number of clients by not writing about specific properties for sale. This may come as a shock for many (“a real estate blog that doesn’t display property for sale???”) but our data clearly demonstrates that displaying listings on a blog and composing posts about specific properties for sale is counterproductive to converting readers into clients.
  4. Social networking strategy. We learned that bloggers who syndicated their content to popular social networking sites gathered more than twice as many leads as those who did not, but converted far fewer of those leads into clients. We think maybe people who come across blog content through social networking sites are not as far along in the buying process as those who actively seek out content on the author’s blog. The most popular social networking outlets amongst real estate bloggers were Facebook and Twitter. Plaxo was a distant third.
  5. RSS subscribers. We found that those with the highest numbers of RSS subscribers captured more leads and converted more of them. As with some other analyses in this survey, those who had fewer leads from blogging to chase (i.e. those with the fewest RSS subscribers) had a better lead conversion rate than those with many leads from blogging (i.e. those with the most RSS subscribers).
  6. Site analytics. The greatest differentiator between the haves and have nots in real estate blogging is determined by those who make use of site analytics, and those who don’t. We found that real estate bloggers who use a site analytics package generated 23 times as many leads, and 16 times as many clients as those who didn’t. However, those who didn’t use a site analytics package had a higher lead conversion rate, perhaps because they had fewer leads to chase. The most popular site analytics programs were (in descending order) Google Analytics, Other, packages that are built into the blogging platform, Sitemeter, and Woopra. Simply using a site analytics package doesn’t mean that leads and clients will just fall in your lap, though. We conclude that using a site analytics package is an indication of a blogger’s commitment to their craft, and that those who are committed to it work hard at it and generate the best results.
  7. Hosting arrangements. The second greatest differentiator between the haves and have nots in real estate blogging is determined by one’s hosting arrangement. Our analysis reveals that those who self host their blogs get nearly three times the number of leads and more than double the number of clients. Again, we surmise that self hosting is an indication of one’s commitment to blogging, as it requires a greater investment of time and money to self host. Those who are more invested in blogging tend to work harder at it, thereby improving their skills and delivering better results.

We also discovered more evidence of the so-called RE.net echo chamber. We found that although 70 percent of the blogs in our study are written for consumers, less than half of our bloggers estimate that their  subscribers are “mostly consumers.” The majority say that their subscribers are either “mostly Realtors” or “about evenly split” between Realtors and consumers.

We determined that agents are more voracious blog readers than brokers. On average, agents regularly read almost twice as many blogs as brokers. Brokers report that 60 percent of the blogs they read are real estate specific, whereas agents report that only 55 percent of the blogs they read are real estate specific.

Finally, we analyzed the use of widgets. We discovered that the most popular widgets were:

  1. MyBlogLog
  2. Linkedin
  3. Feedburner subscriber count chicklet
  4. ShareThis!
  5. Twitter & Flickr (tie)
  6. Other widget
  7. Facebook
  8. YouTube
  9. Trulia, Plugoo & AddThis! (tie)
  10. GTalk, Zillow mortgage & Meebo (tie)

We found it noteworthy that the real estate specific widgets wound up so close to the bottom of this list.

So… Real estate blogging = results? Yep, we think so. What are your thoughts on these results? Leave a comment, link to this post, or link to VARbuzz.com/CREST to chime in.