Blogging and Business

Posted April 4th, 2007 by Mike Cherim

If you were to ask your typical business owner if they plan to add a web log or “blog” to their web site the last answer you’d probably get is an emphatic “yes.” Instead you might get a quizzical look, a frown and a scoff, or even an emphatic “no” instead. That’s a shame because a blog has the power to increase the main site’s traffic, page rank, and general appeal — it can even stand alone and be the site. Blogging is a powerful communication medium if the right software is used, it’s properly designed and maintained, and it’s put to use. Let’s take a closer look:

Objections Through Misunderstanding

A business owner, unless web savvy, may not understand the concept of blogging. They may not see it as the communication medium it is. That may be a result of their personal exposure to this medium — or lack thereof. They may see their kids on MySpace and think that’s what it’s all about. They may see it as a so-called “cool” personal overexposure that has no place in the world of serious business. They may think it’s a kiddie thing or some sort of online diary. It’s not — even though it can be. A web log is what you make it. You define it, it doesn’t define you. If you’re a business owner and don’t fully understand blogging, it’d be best to not hastily pass judgment on it until you know all the facts.

A Web Log’s Uses

As I wrote, a blog is a communication medium that you define. So what would a serious business entity use it for? How about using it to make company announcements? A newsletter? A tool for sharing client experiences? Informative industry-related articles? Tips and tidbits? Or how about even allowing visitors to lend their own insights by way of feedback through commentary? The latter can strengthen your relationship with your existing and potential clients if done right — in other words if you take their comments the right way, show your appreciation for the value of their feedback, and be generally responsive. Accepting comments, though, does not define what a blog is nor is it mandatory. In fact, accepting comments is purely optional with little to no bearing on the benefits of blogging. Want to see an example of a blog being put to use as a company web site? Check out this East Texas plumbing company, Innerline Plumbing, which just launched its blog a couple of weeks ago. In due time this move will be of great benefit to this company. Anyone can do this.

Syndication and Loyalty

A web log is an ever changing canvas, or it should be anyway. Once a week or so something interesting or of some value should be posted. Doing this may require some imagination, perhaps a little effort, and it may require you broaden your way of thinking. But, if you offer decent content, it may become a regular stop for visitors… a resource. Furthermore, you may find you enjoy the power of self-publishing. Since most blogs feature support for RSS or Really Simple Syndication — and being that this is becoming widely adopted and understood by your average Internet user — getting the information out there in broadcast form is a reality. Your company’s blog could very well develop a regular following.

ROI (Return On Investment)

Aside from hosting and your time posting content, there are actually no expenditures involved with blogging. The software I will mention is free. Ready made themes are free. Plugins and add-ons are free. Not to say you can’t spend a little money. You may choose to contribute or donate to the sources in gratitude for their hard work, and you may want to hire someone to help you get off the ground, make a custom theme, etc. But you can start blogging without spending any money on anything but hosting — which happens to be an inconsequential amount for the smallest of businesses, by the way.

Search Engine Love

Because of this constant publication of content, search engines will probably index your site well and update regularly. This, of course, can be of huge advantage, especially if your business is in a competitive field in which you need to stand out. But in order for this to become a reality, you must ensure you choose the right tool for the job, have an understanding of how it works, and maintain it in such a way that the utility’s inherent benefits are retained.

Choosing the Application

While blogging in itself can be beneficial for the reasons mentioned, it’s imperative that the tool you use is the best for the task at hand and capable of performing. First of all you want something professional that’s self-hosted so you can own it and maintain full control, then you want to be sure that the application you’ll be using will be capable of providing all of the benefits I’ve outlined. I would suggest an application like WordPress (what I use) or Movable Type (has a fee for commercial use). I haven’t used the latter, but it’s used by Roger Johansson so I suspect it must be pretty good else I doubt Roger would use it. You might also consider an accessible CMS, or Content Management System, as many have blogware modules you can quickly add.

Quality Retention

If you’re with me so far I must add that the application on its own, while mission critical, can be rapidly degraded by what you add to it or do to it. Case in point: The theme or template. I speak of WordPress because it’s what I know best, but you can substitute it with your application of choice. The rules remain basically the same. One of the first things you’ll do after you or your developer installs and configures your new blog is apply a theme or template. This can be custom made to match your existing site, but there are many themes available from which you can choose. Be forewarned, though, some of these themes degrade WordPress by impeding its inherent accessibility and search engine optimization. You want to make sure you choose something that enhances these aspects of the application.

Getting Started

I’ll get right to the point since I’ve already provided you with some decent resources. You need to do it. Today, not next week or next month. Now. Starting is the hardest part. And that part is painless and pretty easy, and it doesn’t need to take very long. Being that I’m experienced with WordPress I can create the database, install the application, configure it, theme it, apply the appropriate protections, and activate a few select plugins in about thirty minutes. Like most things in life, the task isn’t the hardest part, it’s the battle we wage with our internal procrastinator. To make it so, you must begin.

15 Responses to: “Blogging and Business”

  1. Joe Dolson responds:
    Posted: April 4th, 2007 at 1:19 am

    In fact, convincing them that a blog might be valuable is often an unwinnable argument, unfortunately. I don’t argue very hard — generally, I feel that a person who doesn’t actually see the value of a blog won’t reap the advantages from it. Mostly, this is because they just won’t keep it up!

    And, as a side remark, Movable Type is a pretty solid system: the templating is quite flexible, and it provides a decent amount of value. The online documentation is, if you’ll pardon my French, “le crap,” unfortunately. Overall, although I do respect it as a solid blogging solution: I loathe working with it…so I never recommend it to clients!

  2. Ronald Huereca responds:
    Posted: April 4th, 2007 at 1:59 am

    Good advice Mike.

    One thing I have found problematic is with Government agencies (GAs). It is rather difficult to assume that all GAs will be able to run certain blogging platforms with the appropriate databases. Furthermore, it is difficult to secure publicly releasable information in a timely manner without having to go through the red-tape and bureaucracy (i.e. public affairs) that GAs are known for. I truly hope blogging catches on for GAs, but it’ll more than likely be in the Intranet (or behind the firewall) form rather than public. There is also the political environment to keep wind of.

    I agree with you as far as expenditures on the blogging platform/architecture, but one thing you forgot to factor in was the salary of the person blogging (especially if the blogger is from a GA or a corporation).

    Thanks Mike for the great post.

  3. David Zemens responds:
    Posted: April 4th, 2007 at 11:01 am

    I couldn’t agree more with how important a blog is for a business, Mike. However, I agree with Joe just a bit in that many of my clients just don’t see the use, no matter how much I talk. In fact, the only client who allowed me to install a blog has not posted since September 2006. So much for that effort. I guess it’s cool because they paid me for the work, but it seems ashame that they do not avail themselves of the benefits.

    I am about to launch my second WordPress client application - if the client will *ever* get me the content! But that’s a story for another day!

  4. Gill responds:
    Posted: April 4th, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    I think the people who are most likely to use them are the charities, church groups etc who want to get information out cheaply. They tend to be very motivated to keep them up to date. I’ve tended to use Joomla for them up until now but for the non computer literate the backend of that can be a bit daunting, plus until 1.5 is released it’s not very accessible.

    I may well do the next non-profit that comes along with WordPress as having just set one up for the first time, I’m pretty impressed with the ease and speed. Just my luck that I do it 2 days before they release an upgrade but, hey, how hard can it be. (No, please don’t tell me how hard it can be, I’d rather remain in ignorance)

  5. Ben responds:
    Posted: April 4th, 2007 at 8:44 pm

    Regardless of how you update Wordpress, its about as simple as anything gets. Of course, it would be nice if Wordpress gave an uprade solution other than overwriting all files.

    Wordpress also happens to be my blogware of choice. I’ve yet to come across anything that I like remotely as much as Wordress.

  6. Gill responds:
    Posted: April 6th, 2007 at 7:30 pm

    Thanks for the optimism. I’ll find out about the WP upgrade this weekend as soon as I’ve done upgrades to an SMF forum, three Joomla sites and some Zen Cart plugins. Can’t wait. :-(

    The site I’m finishing off now was lack of content city. I couldn’t even get an email address out of them for 3 weeks, then they sent a huge attachment with all the stuff they wanted on the site. It would have rivaled Amazon. The grammar was really bad so it had to be rewritten and about half an hour after it arrived, they called to say it wasn’t on the site yet.

    I love this business.

  7. Gill responds:
    Posted: April 6th, 2007 at 7:42 pm


    Awaiting content. I’m starting to think I should get that up-front before starting a project

    That happened to me once and only once. After I’d picked myself up off the floor and gone through it, I had content for each page I’d suggested, photographs, each one attached to a post it with the photo details, a list of the order he wanted the photos and a sheet with some additional bits and pieces that I could use if I needed any fillers. The site took me 8 hours from start to finish. It makes a huge difference.

  8. Hong Kong internet marketing responds:
    Posted: April 9th, 2007 at 1:58 pm

    That’s true. While we think everyone is blogging. However for traditional business owners that might not be the truth. I knew a business owner who doesnt’ even know how to turn on the computer. His secretary does all the paper work, so… They still have a company website though because his stuff told him that was a hip..

  9. Blogging and Business (Beast-Blog) / Web Words / WizarDev responds:
    Posted: April 9th, 2007 at 4:57 pm

    […] Read […]

  10. Adam Messinger responds:
    Posted: May 14th, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    Since I (finally) started a blog early this month, my site’s “bounce rate” is way down — people are staying longer and reading more pages. This was something I knew I should do long ago, but kept putting it off because I “didn’t have time.” Yeah, I was incredibly stupid.

    The strong resistance to business blogging really does baffle me. I recently watched the video from the American Express Open Forum event, where one of the audience questions covered methods of online business promotion. Only 2% of respondents said they blog or have blogged. Even more alarming was the host’s take on the practice. After posing the question to the audience, during the wait for responses, she said “I am not blogging, I am never blogging. No blogging.” What? Why?

    The upside of all this irrational blog-fear: the companies who do blog have that much more of an advantage.

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