Easy as Falling Off a Blog
By Janis Joseph
Blogs (Web logs) have come a long way. While in 1999 only a handful of people
published them, today there are millions. Just as websites have become a necessary
tool for modern companies, blogs are now becoming an integral part of these
WHAT IS A BLOG?
If you're not familiar with the concept or format, click over to AtarChef for
an example. This is a food/humor blog I hammered together in less than an hour
-- partly to illustrate this article, but also to see if the process is really
as easy as claimed.
The first bloggers were, by necessity, of the geek persuasion -- since only
they had the requisite skills for producing Web pages. But user-friendly new
software has made blogging easy for even the least technically inclined. Since
all writing, formatting, and uploading is conducted from within your browser,
producing Web content is now as easy as reading it.
What are blogs about? Any topic you can name. Many are still faithful to the
original concept: an intimate, no-holds-barred online diary. Subjects range
from confessions and obsessions to politics, technology, hobbies, and topics-defying-definition.
But all share a personal tone of voice far removed from corporate babble. Another
prominent feature is a column with a list of links to other recommended blogs
on similar topics.
But perhaps the most compelling feature is the high degree of interactivity
that popular blogs achieve. Most encourage visitors to post their own comments.
The resulting online "conversations" -- or arguments -- often rival
the original post for interest.
BLOGGING FOR PROFIT
Blogs are not the sole domain of geeks or exhibitionists. They have tangible
benefits for commercial companies and even non-profit organizations: Blogs
boost search engine ranking; furthermore, they enhance credibility and foster
a sense of personal connection, huge considerations for achieving customer
interest and loyalty.
Search engines reward sites with a large quantity of incoming links and lots
of fresh content. This is exactly what blogs provide. Because adding content
is so simple, it's done more frequently. And many blog directories have a high
ranking, so simply registering your blog can have a significant effect -- which
will be further augmented once you start getting links from other blogs.
The personal connection provided by blogs pays many dividends. Surveys on
website credibility state that visitors are favorably impressed by transparency,
which they interpret as honesty and reliability. The Guidelines for Web Credibility,
published by Stanford University, advise: "...show there are real people
behind the site and in the organization...For example, some sites post employee
bios that tell about family or hobbies."
A typical blog entry leaves no doubt about the character, interests and personality
of the person behind it. Even if the main section of the site is more businesslike
and impersonal -- with an emphasis on transmitting either facts or a particular "image" --
the blog section is frank, casual, infinitely more friendly. This unique voice
can encourage a casual site visitor to actually contact the site owners directly,
a primary goal for most sites.
Blogging also facilitates exchange among members of a particular group or
profession. A good example is the Air
Conditioning Contractors of America's blog. This trade association, with
4000 member companies, maintains its blog in addition to a traditional site
and weekly newsletters. This is how the now thriving blog was introduced to
members, a group not noted for being particularly Web-savvy:
"ACCAbuzz is a new way we will be communicating with our members and
the entire HVACR industry. It gives us an easy way to post quick news items,
commentary, and links to articles of interest…it's here that our staff
and members can keep everyone in the loop, ask questions, and get real-time
feedback. In announcing this new site to our members, we called it a "daily
newsletter on steroids," because it just keeps growing, all day long!"
Joining the "blogosphere" can kick your business website into high
gear -- greatly increasing your site's interest, credibility and responsiveness
to your target audience.
Blog search engines and directories:
Copyright 2005, Janis Joseph, All Rights Reserved
Janis Joseph owns AtarTec, an Israel-based design shop that specializes in websites and corporate identity for mid-sized businesses and organizations. She also writes the "WWW 4U" column, on web design issues, for the Jerusalem Post.