Elsewhere on the internets

What the Blog? Blog Basics

by Jennifer Simpson

WHAT EXACTLY IS A BLOG?

A blog is a website in the form of an online journal or log of events and commentary. Originally called a “web log.”

The most prominent feature of a blog is that new content (called “posts”) is added regularly (often daily) and generally displayed chronologically, most recent post first.

Another standard feature of a blog is a display of links to other blogs that the web author reads.

Allowing visitors to the blog to add a comment to the blog post, or “trackback” by commenting from his/her own blog is a standard feature that adds a an interactive component.

Because content is added regularly, blogs are very search engine friendly. In other words, Google, Yahoo, Ask, MSN and other search engines will be able to find you.

Blogs can be also be created easily utilizing a free or low-cost blog generator tool like Blogger.com, WordPress.com or Typepad.com (the three most common). The blog can be hosted either at an original domain (like CarmenElectrode.com or JoeWelder.com) and can be either the main page, or a sub-page of the website. It can be hosted for free at a shared domain site like blogspot.com or wordpress.com.

Other types of blogs include social networking blogs such as those found on MySpace.com, tribes.net, Friendster.com, orkut.com, blogher.org and Yahoo360 to name a few. These sites allow visitors to join the network (sometimes by invitation only such as with orkut) and create their own page, upload their images, comment within the network, etc. This is an enhanced version of the old BBS or bulletin board forum type sites. Many of these social networking sites explicitly forbid use for commercial purposes.

Market information on blog readers supports utilizing this channel in any marketing mix. Blog readers are 11% more likely than the average Internet user to have incomes of $75,000 or more. 30% more likely to live in a household where the head of household is 18-34 years old. 30% more likely to buy products or services online.

BUILD A BETTER BLOG PLAN

If your blog is simply a place for you to play online, or vent, or noodle creative ideas you may not need a blog plan. However, if your blog is in any way related to your professional life and goals, you may want to consider putting together at least a basic blog plan.

Your blog plan should include first and foremost, the goal of your blog. Your goal(s) may include:

1. Search Engine Optimization for affiliate site, or to generate ad revenue for the blog itself
2. Customer Outreach for affiliate site or company
3. Personification of affiliate company
4. Positioning Person as expert
5. Create buzz about affiliate company, website or other project
6. Serve as a Destination Website for social networking

Your blog plan should also include the frequency of posts, and maybe even some ideas for content (especially for those days you’re struggling to come up with a post).

Blogs can accomplish several things, so keep YOUR goal in mind when setting up your blog plan.

PERFORMANCE METRICS

In order to ascertain whether or not you are meeting your goals in regards to your blogging efforts, you need to make the most of available statistics analysis tools.

Search Engine Ranking

The actual algorithm each search engine uses to determine rank varies and is a well-guarded secret, however, a couple of basic rules apply.

1. Content is king.
The best way to achieve top rankings for selected key words is to continually refresh content and have lots of very relevant content on the target web page. Give the “customer” what they are searching for, in other words.

2. Inbound links are considered highly relevant, and blogs are an opportunity to create inbound links to affiliate website(s). In addition, commenting on other blogs’ posts is another way to generate inbound links.

Number of web visitors

Number of visitors can be tracked through Google’s analytics (a free tool) or the web statistics package available through your web hosting company, or through a site meter available through a blog generator tool.

Additionally, using a service like an RSS feed burner to generate a newsletter (see details below on RSS feeds) you can also use the feed burners tools to track subscribers to your blog/newsletter.

Referrals to Affiliate Website

Tracking where visitors to an affiliate website come from can also be tracked through the analytics tools.

Number of comments on posts

Although many web users are not educated in the use of commenting, a good rule of thumb is that for every comment you get, you should expect that 100 people actually read the post. You can encourage commenting with some online tutorials, and also offer Contact Us forms in addition to the commenting feature of the blog.

Number of trackbacks to your blog posts

Trackbacks and pings are much like comments, and only your more tech savvy visitors will do this. Expect even fewer trackbacks than comments.

PLAN FOR SUCCESS

Comments

Read and comment on other blogs. Always include the URL to your own blog in the signature line. And, if the blog allows, you may be able to post it in HTML and make it a hyperlink.

Example:

<a href=””http://www.carmenelectrode.com””>CarmenElectrode.com</a>

becomes

CarmenElectrode.com (clickable) when it is posted.

The more you post linked comments on other blogs, bulletin boards (etc) the more visitors will come to your site to check you out. People are curious, and will want to check out your website when they see a comment by you– especially if your website URL or your screen name looks interesting.

Fresh Content

In order to maximize the benefits of blogging, you need a continuous stream of content added to your blog. It doesn’t need to be daily, but it does need to be done regularly.

Content can be as simple as passing along a tip, or a brief commentary on a news item, a book review, a comment on another blogger’s post….

You can also ask guest bloggers to write content, invite readers to send in tips, run a contest, or request content from affiliates and colleagues.

Something Viral

This is harder to define, or to create, but creating content that folks will want to forward to a friend, is a great way to get noticed. This could be a downloadable PDF (white paper) a video or an interview…. fun game, or cool online tool

PR / Affiliate Marketing / Advertising

You need to actively promote your blog(s) through traditional channels as well as online channels. This might include press releases to magazines or of course the requisite sock puppet SuperBowl ad.

You’ll want to pursue link share opportunities with other like-minded blogs, referred to as a Blogroll in the blogosphere.

You may also consider partnering with an association or publication.

RSS Feeds

Offering RSS feeds for your web visitors allows them to read all the updates to your site through an RSS reader (also called a news or content aggregator). Your blog readers can learn about new content without having to come to your website, but rather only visit when they want to read the whole post. As shown below in the Google Reader, the post shows only the Title and the first few lines of text. On the left are all the most current posts on websites that I’m following, and have not yet read.

Other popular aggregators include Bloglines, Feedburner, Feedlounge, Blogburst, Newsgator.

Some content aggregators (Feedblitz.com) allow you to publish your blog postings as a newsletter, to maximize your content and attract those readers who are not regular surfers or who don’t use RSS Readers.

Keep in mind that the post title (think newspaper headline) and first paragraph should be attention grabbing.

NOW GO FORTH AND BLOG!


Jennifer Simpson is the director of Marketing and New Media for Arc-Zone.com®, Inc. She is the editor for the corporation’s two blogs, www.CarmenElectrode.com and www.JoeWelder.com and she blogs for personal pleasure at http://www.akajesais.com/

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