A blog is a website that allows authors to write, edit and share information in the form of text, images, audio, and video. People who visit the site can consume the content and, often, comment and interact with the author and other readers.
A blog is simply a series of web-based articles published in installments – an electronic newspaper. In fact, the world’s most popular blog is The Huffington Post, an online newspaper with many authors.
One of the key features of a blog is the date structure. Newer information is always displayed at the top of the page, “pushing down” older posts. Those older posts are still available, but the new post always leads.
Visitors can search a blog for keywords that might be relevant to their own interests. For instance, I wrote some months ago about “responsive design.” A visitor can enter the words “responsive” and “design” into the search field on any page of my website and find that post… and any post that contains those words. Categories and Tags help highlight general and specific themes that develop in a blog as the author writes more posts. I’ll write about search, categories and tags in a future post.
Why is a blog so important to your business?
Think of a traditional retail business – any business. That business has a front door and signage. The exterior of the building doesn’t look so different week-to-week. The colors of the building stay the same. There’s a sign and it’s familiar to all the customers who visit. It’s how they know where they are.
Customers walk in see all the items for sale. They see the staff walking around and chatting with the other customers. Perhaps there’s a new display of merchandise or a product demonstration. If you’re lucky, you might even get a free sample.
Your website homepage is your building exterior and front door. It’s a familiar, comfortable place for returning customers. To new visitors, the homepage is an attractive, new and colorful expression of your mission to new visitors. It’s an advertisement for all the good stuff they’ll find inside.
If the homepage is the front door, the blog is the warmth and sharing that happens inside. The blog is where the staff interacts with visitors, shares inside information, and builds relationships and trust. The blog is the place where a passionate business owner can display her expertise and generate customer confidence. The blog is the activity center for your business and it’s a reason for visitors to come back – they want to see what’s new.
But why call it a blog?
There are a lot of web professionals, including myself, who lament the introduction of the word “blog.” A “blog” is short for “web log.” The term “log” is a throwback to the days when ships captains recorded the events of each day in a diary or “log book.”
The difference between a traditional blog and a website is a little fuzzy these days. But back in the 1990s, when all this web stuff began, traditional websites were perhaps colorful and visually interesting, but they didn’t change often. It was technically difficult to add new content to a website back then. Blogs were the answer – the information could be updated easily and regularly, just like a log book. The blogs of the 90s may have lacked visual appeal, but they allowed authors to quickly create new content.
Today, modern websites, such as those by DecemberPress, are designed dynamically and beautifully, They include color and images and video and interactive forms. They also include elements that automatically insert new blog information throughout your entire site. So, essentially, there’s no difference between a blog and a website. The blog is now the part of a website where readers can go to find news and current information about the site owner’s subject. In fact, today’s blogs are reaching out to readers, not simply waiting for visitors to find them, but more on that later.
When I talk about your blog, I’m referring to the portion of your website that you (should) maintain on a daily, or weekly basis. Sometimes, it’s called a “journal” or a “news” page, but technically it’s a blog.
It’s easy to write a blog post. If you’ve ever used Microsoft Word or a similar word processing program, you know how to blog.
Do I have to blog?
If you’re a business website owner without a blog, you’re like a traditional business owner without any activity or presence in your own establishment. Your website is the place where many people will generate their first impression of you. How would you feel walking into a store where the staff is invisible?
While it’s possible that visitors will read about you and view your products and services, a blog gives visitors a sense that the business is run by real humans – that it’s alive and engaged and relevant; that the management is up-to-date on the latest industry news.
A blog is the voice of the website. Without a voice, your website – and your business – is missing an incredibly important element.
How often should I blog?
There are no rules about how often you should blog. Ideally, once a day or once a week for a small business blog. Minimally, once a month. Whenever you write a blog post, you give your customers a new reason to visit your website. So, how often do you want your customers to visit your website? I would not suggest blogging more than once a day. If you have the type of business or subject that involves frequent news and information updates, consider using Twitter, a “micro-blogging” tool that lets you (or your business) share short (maximum 140-character) posts to your site and followers. I’ll write about Twitter in a future post.
Basically, if you can write a post once a week, you give your customers plenty of reason to stay in touch.
In my next post, I’ll discuss how to create a simple blog post.