Everyone seems to be asking me about blogs. What is it? Do I need one? Where do I get one?
So I thought I’d answer some of these questions in this month’s newsletter. And specifically I want to answer the question…”Should I Blog?”
What is a ‘Blog’?
Simply, a blog is an online journal stored on a website. Just like with your bound journal, you make post entries into your blog. These entries are then recorded and posted to your blogging website. However, unlike a paper journal, what you write is available for the entire world to read.
Why would I want someone to read my journal?
Simple, because you have something to share. Blogs aren’t, necessarily, about your deep, inner personal thoughts (though they can be). They are about anything that interests you. That’s one of the beauties of blogging – you write about what you know or have interest in. So your blog can be about anything – a business niche, an area of expertise, even a hobby. The sky’s the limit. You’ll even find blogs that are simply links to the updates in other blogs.
You mean I can write about anything I want?
Yep, anything you want. It’s good to remember that the most successful blogs – meaning blogs that are read often by a large number of people – are written on a specific topic. Picking a topic that really interests you, business or personal, and then offering good, informative blog entries is the key.
Let’s say you own a bike shop. You have a nice website with usual pages – about your store, about the brands you carry, store hours and location, calendar of in-store and local events, etc. You have some well-written articles about how to choose the right bike, what accessories to consider and so on.
You’re passionate about cycling and you love talking about it. When someone comes in the shop you really enjoy sharing your years of knowledge, rides, good gear and tips with them.
With your knowledge and passion, you could have a really good blog. Imagine being able to share cycling stories, give updates to coming events, and provide info on favorite rides. You could review gear and even market upcoming in-store events and sales. Furthermore, your blog would let you answer questions that you get asked daily by people in your store. After all, there are plenty of people locally, and across the internet who have the same questions. So a blog is perfect for you – and it adds great benefit to your reader’s lives. And… a well-written blog could even increase sales.
So then, what makes a blog different from a website?
Well, a blog is a website. The difference is in how the site content is added, updated, sorted and managed.
Your website is made up of individual webpages that have your design, your navigation links and your content on them. Each page is different because the content is different. To update the content on a page you need to ‘open’ that page and edit its content. To add new content you need to create a new page, type your content and then link it to other pages. All this is done manually and often takes some technical know-how. This often leads to website not being updated all too frequently.
Blog sites are often updated quite frequently. They use “instant publishing tools” that make adding to, updating, editing and sorting your blog easy to do – even for the least experienced computer user. Instant publishing means that all you need to do is type your content into your blogging tool (software) you’re using (more on this later) and publish it. The blogging tool automatically adds your entry into the blog site’s design, sorts, creates new pages and handles all the upkeep itself. Entries are placed in date order and, often, sorted by topic categories you create. So a blog is often much, much easier to edit and update on a regular basis.
So why wouldn’t I skip the website and just have a blog?
A blog is organized by the date of entry, like the pages of your journal. A website, however, is organized in ways that lead toward specific goals. For instance, if you’re selling a service, you’ll likely have a few pages of content take your visitors through a sales flow. Not so possible with a blog.
Using a blog solely, that same sales process would become buried deeper into the site as you add entries. So while a blog works great as a journal, it’s not ideal – on its own – for a business simply because of how it organizes your content (entries).
So what else is special about this blog thing?
Two more points that need to be mentioned…Comments & Search Engines.
Very often bloggers (people who have blogs) allow users to add comments to their blog entries. This gives users a sense of relationship, community and that they are valued. Moreover, it creates a higher level of interest for users, who will often want to check back more often to view further entries or to make further comments. When the same people regularly visit and and place comments on your blog, this can lead to a naturally developing community – all about your topic – and all driven by your entries. You can dream away about how this kind of community might have benefit for your business.
Search engines just seem to love blogs. Especially Google. After all, blogs tend to be topic oriented – which search engines love. They also tend to be updated frequently – search engines love fresh content. And blogs tend to build traffic quicker than non-blog sites due to their community-type involvement – more traffic, higher search engine placement. Just remember that just like with your website, a blog is not the short rope for ranking #1 in Google for the search term of your choice. It still takes planning, effort, time, persistence and patience to build search engine rankings. And a blog can help with that.
Wrapping it up…
Hopefully, I’ve given you a clear overview of what a blog is and how it can aid your business. From this, you should be able to answer the question, “Should I Blog?” If not, or if you have questions or want to discuss whether a blog fits into your business needs, please contact me at any of the ways below and we can schedule a time to talk.
Probably the most popular blog tool on the web. Owned by Google. Free and fee-based services available. Lots of design templates. Can literally have a blog up in minutes. A good choice for the avarage user.
- Moveable Type
A very popular blog publishing platform you download and install on your own webserver, by Sixapart. Can be challenging to install, but once installed, is a breeze to use. Basic version is free with upgraded features available.
A subscription-based weblogging service that Six Apart hosts. You don’t install a thing, even if you use your own domain name. Service and features are fee-based.
Very powerful, very customizable blog tool you install and host yourself. Installation very easy. Many templates (called themes) available. Admin area very thorough and easy to use. Some basic file management needed to make some changes. May already be part of your web hosting package. WordPress is open source – meaning it’s developed and maintained by a group of programmers instead of a company. It’s also free.
- There are a lot more blogging tools like GreyMatter, PMachine, Radio Userland,
Blogspot(now part of Blogger) and many more.
Other Articles on Blogging
- Best Blogging Tools for the Mac
MacWorld article from Oct. 2005 comparing blogging tools available for the Mac. This article as very helpful for PC users as well as all compared tools can be used on the PC.
- Blog Tools
PC Magazine article from Dec. 2003 about blogging and what tools to use. Most information pertinent as of this writing.
- Blogs: An Introduction
Your Guide To Sharing Your Thoughts with the World. A July 2005 article in PC Today Magazine.
- Working Smart: How to Start a Blog
Simple, few steps on beginning a blog. He focuses mostly on hosted services like Blogger and TypePad.
- How to Start a Blog
A really nice beginners guide for blogging. Maybe a bit too technical for the average user, but good info, none the less.
- Deconstructing the Blog
An Apr. 2002 article in PC Magazine listing eight sure-fire ways for blogging success.
- 11 Quick Tips for New Bloggers
Some good tips. Though his opinion on Blogger and Blogspot being “old and busted,” itself, is outdated. Other 10 tips are pretty good, though. If you look at any of the other content on this site, just remember that it’s called “Right Wing News.”
- Blogging: Genius Strategies for Instant Web Content
I think this is the best book out there on blogging. Biz Stone really knows what he’s talking about. Highly recommend this book.
- Blog Marketing
Pretty good book about using your blog to market your business. If you’re leaning this way, a must read.
- Blogging for Dummies
Part of the “…for Dummies” series. Easy to understand, a good beginning source.
Wikipedia (the free encyclopedia)
Vast resource for anything related to blogging.