Is blogging all just hot air?
Social Media has definitely become the buzz phrase of the moment. A big, fat part of that social media sphere is blogging. And for those who've slept through the last few years, it's up there with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, SecondLife and a whole lot of other things too contrived to mention.
So, if you're sitting pondering whether Social Media is for you or for the dustbin, let's take a hot air balloon ride through blog country.
Well, seeing as how we're floating above reality for a bit, we should start by looking down on the big numbers that make blogging a buzzword of the moment. There are over 200 million blogs in existence in the world.
Ok, that's a lie.
Given that another commonly held stat tells us that there's 120,000 new blogs being created every day, that number is fast becoming a piece of history.
Estimates reckon that there are 1.4 million blog posts created every day and that too is a lot of new content.
But there's also the people that'll tell you that a huge proportion of these blogs lie dormant, twiddled with by a curious user and then dropped like a stone. Secondly, there's also a whole lot of people out there who valiantly start a blog and religiously add to it every day and yet nobody comes visiting. Inevitably, they too throw in the towel when they realise they're presenting to an empty theatre.
So who's right?
It's no surprise that many are cynical about many aspects of internet trends. We all remember how Second Life was going to be the next big thing and we were all running around in our virtual world looking like a virtual Adonis buying virtual sneakers from a virtual Nike store with real money. Everyone from IBM to Accenture wanted to have a presence there to join the 2 million plus users. Now, there's typically only 50,000 people on there. Is blogging going to turn into another vast virtual landscape to sink your real money into, only to find there's no-one there?
Well, thankfully not. Not quite anyway...
Simple websites made well
There are a number of key aspects to blogs that give them longevity and strength. At their most basic level, they offer the user a really fast and simple way to get a web presence. A quick visit to Wordpress or Blogger and you can have your own basic website up and running in 5 minutes. No need for hosting, domain repointing or FTPing - just a simple interface that allows anyone to get a web presence. They are easy to build, easy to administrate and easy to dress up. Wordpress has dozens of different 'themes' to give the blog a nice look and, if you choose to host the blog on your own server with the free Wordpress MU software, then you can customise it down to the finest detail. And when you consider that some of the FREE themes out there could pass for megabucks websites, the low-cost, high-speed attraction of blogs suddenly becomes fiscally tangible.
Search engines like a good blog
Secondly, the structured way in which blogs are technically designed makes them fine fodder for the search engines. Everything about a blog is generally SEO friendly... they are content-rich, they are structured into hierarchical themes, information is tagged and collated and, at a technical level, the HTML that they're built from is well-ordered and Google friendly. So, getting a blog (or blogs) out there guarantees you a presence somewhere on the search engines pretty quickly. At Equator, we regularly use blogs as a core part of our SEO strategy, both on and off the client's site. This approach ensures we can develop quality links to the site and it also extends the client's site. Ok, so we don't set out to expect humans to read them every day, it's more for the benefit of the search engines, but a number of our bloggers are becoming personalities in their own right as the blogs themselves get followed by readers with a genuine interest in what we're blogging about!
Blogs can genuinely extend your site
For all people who want to rank in Google, everyone knows content is king. And this can sometimes be hard to achieve with a typical commerce site. Realistically, you want to present the customer with the information they need to buy the product in a sales-focused fashion and piledrive them into the buying engine. It often doesn't give you a lot of space to add the content you need to get ranked. Staple a blog to the side of your site and all of a sudden you have a place to add rich content that can be linked back and forth to the main content of your site. As well as this, the blog can take a conversational and informal tone that would be inappropriate to your main site and help give your brand the personality it needs.
So where can you go wrong?
With all this opportunity and ease with blogging, why is it that there remains so many blogs that are left abandoned and so many corporate and consumer blogs gathering dust in a dark corner of the web? It comes down to their strongest point being their weakest. Their innate ease of setup and ease of use means they can become throwaway. People get a blog, build it and start to dump content on it without thinking what the ultimate purpose of it. If you're just going to get on there and tell everyone what you had for breakfast, what got on your nerves or how great your company is, it's not going to get traction. Equally, if your blog has no obvious or consistent topic, it's never going to rank for anything.
To genuinely make blogging work for you, you need to give it AND yourself a solid objective. What purpose does the blog serve? Who (or what) is your audience? What is the point you are trying to make? If it's intended for humans, what benefit do you expect to give them?
If you can't answer these questions don't bother starting. The only thing worse than not having a blog is having a bad / empty one. Talking about your day does not court controversy and social interaction unless your life does that on its own. Roaming on and off topic makes it hard to read and hard to follow - it doesn't give a reader any reason to follow you and you wont build up a circle of followers and like-minded thinkers. And if you are not delivering anything tangible, be it information, news, social commentary or even just links to other sites, then you've got nothing worth reading and certainly, nothing worth interacting with - the crux of the whole social media thing.
Now, if you're also pondering Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or anything else in the social media world, you might want to consider those questions all over again. What is often wrong with blogs are often what is wrong with everything in Social Media. Someone tells you that you NEED a facebook page, you NEED a blog and why everyone else is doing it. But does anyone stop to tell you WHY you need it and WHY the world needs you to give it to them! Get Social but PLAN it first!