Blogging has evolved into a critically important website feature that virtually every organization can benefit from; however, many people still harbor negative perceptions that prevent them from taking advantage of the benefits blogs can offer. This article is intended to update people's perceptions by sharing eight key facts about blogs and blogging.
I recently started working with two new clients on website projects, and both of them were adamant that they did not want to include blogging on their sites. They viewed blogs as too personal, informal, and unprofessional, and were concerned they would attract spammers and trolls.
Their concerns have merit of course, and the negative perceptions are understandable given the original purpose and early applications of blogs (aka web logs). But the perspective of these clients on blogging, which is shared by many others, is grossly out of date. Today, blogging is more than just a thing some people do - it's evolved into a critically important website feature that virtually every organization can benefit from.
It's unfortunate that the term we use to describe this feature hasn't evolved as well. In fact, I've grown so uncomfortable with the term and its connotations that I now avoid using both blogging and blog post and refer to the things I write as articles and pieces instead. I have even gone so far as to try to eradicate the words blog and post from the Denovati website.
8 Things to Know About Blogging
Assuming we're stuck with the terms blog and blogging, we probably need to start changing our perceptions of what they mean and make an effort to better understand the capability and its benefits. Here are eight things everyone should know about blogging:
Blog posts create something search engines love: dynamic website content. Blogging is an efficient and effective way to add dynamic content to a website. This is especially true if an organization uses a website builder service like SquareSpace or has built a website using a content management system like WordPress (.org), Drupal, or Joomla. The underlying architecture and capabilities to facilitate blogging are already built in, so one can basically just "plug and play."
An organization can update key website pages (e.g., products and services) numerous times, but they'll get more organic SEO (search engine optimization) juice from a blog post describing those updates. Search engines treat "permanent" website pages as static, and give preference to new and fresh pages over existing ones. Regularly creating new content and improving a website's standings with search engines increases the flow of inbound traffic. SEO via organic search is a nice complement to - or substitute for - paid search results.
Blogging provides another channel through which to attract and engage people. Blogging should be viewed as an integral part of an overall marketing and communications strategy that complements other outreach efforts. It is a great way to attract new prospects and clients to an organization, while simultaneously adding value for existing stakeholders.
Blogging can produce both short-term and long-tail benefits by striking a balance between timely and timeless content. Timely content, focused on hot topics, can drive a lot of traffic in the short term and create great spikes in visits. Timeless content, on the other hand, may drive fewer short-term visits but will create a "long tail" of activity by continuing to provide value and driving traffic to a website long after its original publication (our two most popular posts, for example, were originally published in late 2013).
Blogging enables the creation, distribution, and management of "owned" content. Sharing and engaging via social media is great, but as social media engagement becomes increasingly challenging, marketers have realized the value of digital properties and content that are owned and controlled by an organization. Blogs give organizations a place to "house" their own content while leveraging social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. to distribute it. Sharing then becomes a digital tap on the shoulder, inviting people to an organization's website to learn more and explore.
Syndicating content on other websites and sharing links to blog pieces via newsletters and other digital channels are also great ways to drive traffic to an organization's website and further increase SEO.
You can blog without being a blogger. We have evolved past the point where blogs are online diaries, places for the expression of individual perspectives and/or (over)sharing the details of our personal or professional lives. They do not have to be chatty and informal... or fun or funny... or snarky... they can be whatever we need/want them to be.
Blogs can (and should) be thought of as long-form feeds (whereas Twitter streams and updates on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are short-form feeds). Although it is great to offer personal perspectives, share ideas and solicit feedback, or initiate dialogue, there is nothing wrong with simply relaying information, offering insights and/or demonstrating expertise.
Blogs can be multi-media. Many individuals and organizations hesitate to engage in blogging because they think it requires great writing skills. Although text is the most common (and preferred?) format, it is also possible to create posts using embedded videos, podcasts, single and gallery images, documents and slide decks, among other media.
Blogging is a great way to repurpose existing content. Virtually anything can be shared through a blog. In addition to original content, blog posts can include repurposed and/or re-leveraged content originating from other sources (including static website content). Press releases, for example, can be repurposed as blog posts, as can newsletters (in whole or in part) and company announcements. Repurposed content can also include client testimonials, case studies, links to press mentions, and more!
Blogging capability can be used to create other dynamic elements. These include portfolio samples, testimonials, events, and staff profiles. Many WordPress themes and plugins, for example, have leveraged the underlying blogging engine to enable these other features.
Blogging can be comment free. In my opinion, organizations should enable readers to share their thoughts and probably do not need to pre-moderate them. It is unlikely that they will be overwhelmed by comments, and the risks from trolls and spammers are pretty low. But maintaining a blog as a one-way communication channel is also possible. Turning comments off altogether, pre-moderating them, picking and choosing which posts people can comment on - all are viable options.
Learn More About Blogging
I have created a Blogging Beginner's Guide for people who want to incorporate blogs into their organization's digital engagement efforts but aren't sure where or how to begin. Individuals interested in blogging for personal and career management reasons may also find the guide useful. Its primary focus is on external blogs used for marketing, branding, and business development, but the tips related to blogging elements and creating content can apply to internal blogs as well. Click here to learn more and/or access the guide via our SlideShare channel.
As always, I welcome your feedback. What questions has this piece raised for you? What would you add to, change, or delete from the thoughts I shared?