So you’ve decided you really need to find out more about this whole blog phenomenon to try and decide if your business really needs a blog or not. (Hint: It does.) But you say learning all that new blogging stuff is a bit overwhelming?
How can you make informed decisions when you don’t even understand what those bloggers are talking about?
Well today is a good day for you because we’re here to help at SuccessCREEations. Welcome to Business Blogging 101 where we’ll try to explain some of the basics about blogging so that you can feel more comfortable entering the conversation.
This series is not meant to be the final word on anything, but like those 101 level courses in college we’ll just be introducing the various topics and point you to some additional resources so you can bring yourself up to speed as quickly and painlessly as possible.
So lets get started with today’s lesson!
What is a Blog?
Odds are you’ve probably made some purchases on line from Amazon.com or maybe you are an Ebay addict.If that’s the case then I have some good news for you. You already have the basics you need to get a good grip on this blogging thing.
Because blogs are in reality simply just web sites. Sure they are a bit different than your traditional web site. The main difference is how easy it is to add stuff to your site without needing to understand all the programming junk that people go to school for years to learn.
If you’ve ever typed an email, filled out a survey or a form online, or bought something online, then you are familiar enough with technology to get started.
The stuff that gets added to blogs usually comes in small chunks of “content” called “posts”. The content of the posts is most often a bunch of words (just like what you are reading here.) But it could be made up of pictures (called photo-blogs), audio files (called Pod-casts thanks to the popularity of Apple’s iPod) or even video clips (video-blogs. Go figure).
One thing to keep in mind as we go through this is that blogs are relatively simple to change and customize. So as we go through these various features understand that some bloggers choose not to use some features for reasons that can be mysterious indeed. So if you get tired of my saying usually, normally and things like that it’s just that I’m trying to hedge against all the possible variations out there.
Blog software usually arranges the posts based on the date (and time) they were posted with the most recent post being at the top of the front page and the earlier posts following beneath the recent one in reverse chronological order.
Most times you will see more than one column when you look at a blog, although there are single column designs. The posts will be in the widest or main column. Any additional columns will contain all kinds of extras that the blog author wants to display.
Now besides the normal reverse chronoligical display of the posts, you might be able to go hunting through the archives which usually are arranged by month or some other time period. Most blog programs let the author assign the posts to different categories to make it easier to find related content. You can think of categories like the folders you use to arrange your documents in your computer.
Another way that posts can be organized is with tags. Tags are even more powerful than categories because they can be more specific, and you can apply multiple tags to the same post. Tags are like stick on labels for your posts, you can stick more than one label on it, but you normally don’t want to put it in more than one folder (although some blog programs let you do that too).
Tags are especially nice because they track along the lines of association the way people think. If you are consistent with the way you tag your stuff, it can make your posts remarkably easy to find down the road.
Another basic difference between traditional web sites and blogs is the ease and frequency that linking happens. I put in four quick links to major web sites at the top of this post with just a couple mouse clicks each. I didn’t need to use some complicated web site programming code to get them there.
Because blog programs make linking easy, bloggers tend to link to things they find interesting and readers can then see what the author was talking about with a simple mouse click on the link. That makes it easier to see the information first hand and allows conversations to flow from blog to blog to blog.
Linking with traditional web sites is much more cumbersome. Getting a link in place can be a chore and if there’s a bad link on a traditional site, it might not get fixed for a while.
But blogging software makes it easy.
And it’s a good thing too because links are the currency of the blogging world. Bloggers have ways to track who is linking to them (we’ll cover that topic in another lesson) and they crave links from other bloggers.
Most of the search engines look favorably on web sites that have lots of incoming links. And that leads to higher search engine rankings, which means more people going to the blog (and lots of people equals lots of traffic).
The down side of the way search engines treat links is that there are a growing number of unscrupulous folks out there who try to game the system by taking advantage of the next thing that makes blogs different from traditional web sites…
The ability to leave comments is one of my favorite features of blogs.
At the bottom of each post there is normally a place to respond to what the author wrote with what is called a comment. The comments are where blogging really comes alive. This is where conversations start. Comments are a way to engage in an exchange of ideas that hopefully enriches both sides.
This is the place where your customers and potential customers can reach out and connect with you. And if you are smart you will engage them in dialog. It is an opportunity not only to engage that one reader who responds, but a way you can enrich all your other readers too.
It is not unusual for the comments to be much more worthwhile than even the original post. In fact there are some blogs that seem to exist much more for the comments than for the posts. On those blogs, if the comments dried up, hardly anyone would read the blog at all.
Bloggers crave comments. Everyone likes to know someone is actually reading what they put up. Comments are one of the best ways a new blogger can get feedback.
Leaving comments on other blogs is also a good way to get to know other folks. If you develop a habit of reading other blogs in your niche, and then leaving comments that add value to their blogs then it probably won’t take long for people to come on over to your place to check out more of what you have to say.
A good rule of thumb with comments is to be generous, positive, and complimentary whenever possible with your comments. Over time it will pay dividends for you.
There’s much more to learn, but I think that will do for today’s lesson. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment, or you can send an email via the contact page. (The link can also be found as the “Contact” link near the top of the page.)
And if you are an experienced blogger, please feel free to clarify or add to anything here. Like I said, the comments are where the action happens!