Blogs and The Internet Marketing World
Blogs, along with RSS and news syndication, were the big talk this year at Search Engine Strategies and bloggers’ influence as opinion leaders has definitely turned some heads in the marketing world. Blogs are extremely current, contain newsworthy information, connect and influence disparate Web users, and can even successfully market a business. So, if you have the knowledge and commitment, why not create a blog of your own, right? Easier said than done.
Much as you wouldn’t want to throw together a web site you meant to be of value, nor should you treat the production of a blog you’d hope to attract web surfers. A good blog starts with a good foundation, and you should take the time to research and evaluate the different options of blog creation: paid, free or private hosting.
Let’s explore your choices.
Non-Paid Hosted Services
There are many free blogging services ready and willing to host your new blog. Xanga.com, TongueWag, and Blog-City.com are just a few examples. These free services are comparable to paid ones in terms of what you get with set-up. You can generally choose your own template, colors, pictures, etc.; but sometimes, because there are no fees, you do not have as many options or control over how your blog will look as you might with a paid service.
How do these services provide blogs for free? You probably have already guessed: they run advertising in your free blog. In some cases, such as with Google’s free service Blogger, a simple contextually targeted text advertisement is served at the top of the blog. In other cases, blog hosts may serve banner ads, text links, tracer cookies,or pop-up windows on their free blogging service. Such obtrusive, unrelated ads may swamp your blog and alienate your readers so bear this in mind.
Blogs with Hosting Fees
Sites like Salon.com and Typepad.com offer paid hosting services for bloggers. Rates run on average from $40 to $100 per year.
You may ask yourself “Why should I pay for a blogging service when I can do it for free?” Well, you get what you pay for. With paid blogging services, you can choose to implement the services’ blog templates, but you can also use the various tools to make your own blog more customized, attractive and easy to browse. You can change colors and fonts, add photo albums, links, blog security and more. These paid services are far more equipped to handle large files like photos and blog content databases since the fees they collect support the technology management.
In addition, many of the paid blogging services, generally on the home page of their sites, keep a running list of recently updated blogs, rank the most widely read blogs, show new blogs, and list newly added photo albums. These minute details are beneficial to the paying subscriber because they offer a glimpse into what topics are popular to blog readers. And, in some cases, these paid blogging services do receive higher search engine preference than other basic blogs, due to overall popularity. Search engines such as Google and Yahoo give preference to large web sites that host a diverse amount of content. Since these blog hosts are basically large content portals, in most cases they will naturally receive a boost to their initial search engine ranking.
For those of you who are familiar with HTML, php, FTP, and graphic design and are detail oriented, personal publishing of your blog may be your best bet. With services like WordPress, Movable Type, or Greymatter you can control every tiny detail of your blog. You can customize your layout, taylor your links, control comments, censor particular words or phrases, and even configure search output. All content and design within your blog is controlled by you.
With most of these private publishing services, there are no hosting restrictions or requirements. You do not have to include any advertising or any hidden icons. Building your own blog, like building your own web site, is like starting from scratch except that with these blogging tools, you have a bit of help in the process.
Businesses and Blogging
Individuals aren’t the only ones getting into blogging. Because of their power, blogs are becoming more and more popular in the business community as a marketing and communication tool. Here are a few examples of popular blogs which are run or approved by businesses:
Microsoft encourages its employees to actively blog about life inside the corporate tech giant: blogs.msdn.com
Google uses its Blogger technology to publish the Google Blog, a running public relations experiment on happenings within the Google Plex: www.google.com/googleblog
Jonathan Schwartz, CEO of Sun Microsystems keeps his blog running so customers and fans can pick his brain: blogs.sun.com/jonathan
Kodak uses the Ofoto Blog to get feedback and resolve issues with Brownie, a new beta Mac application: ofoto.typepad.com
CNN has partnered with blog search tool Technorati to give their viewers BlogWatch2004, an overview of the Democratic Convention blog coverage. This is helping CNN to further position themselves as a cutting edge news service:
A recent Pew Internet and American Life Project study showed that 11 percent of all Internet users have read the blogs of other users at least once. And one-third of Internet users have even posted material to blogs. As more and more blogs are created, these stats are certainly going to increase in the future.