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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Blogs: Frequently Asked Questions

Blogs are all over the news and all over the Internet. How can a blog help your business? How do the search engines treat blogs? Keep reading for the answers to these and many more questions.What are blogs anyway?

A blog is a regularly updated website consisting of regular article postings. Links to and from other blogs and traditional websites are a prominent feature of most blogs. A blog tends to be focussed on a single topic or issue, and usually invites comments from readers on the posted articles, starting a conversation between the writer (called a blogger) and the readers. A blog usually reflects the personality of the writer, and is most often written in a personal and informal style.

Isn’t a blog just an online diary?

An online diary, or personal blog, is only one type of blog. Along with personal blogs, there are many types of business, technology, and professional blogs. The personal blog was once the predominant form of blog, but that is definitely no longer the case.

Are there different types of blogs?

Blogs can be in the form of written blogs, hosted on a blog server or on the webmaster’s own site. Blogs can also be found that use audio postings rather than written posts. There are blogs for every type of business, profession, and technological concept. Writers, lawyers, accountants, real estate agents, search engine optimization experts, marketers, and public relations professionals are just a few of the professions making use of blogs in their businesses.

What value does a blog have for a business?

A blog opens up the lines of communication between the blog writer and the reader. By becoming accessible to the public, a business can be seen as more than simply a faceless company, but a group of real people. The blog provides a powerful element of personal contact with the reader, building trust and confidence in the business and its personnel.

What type of businesses could benefit from a blog?

Any type of business that requires communication with potential readers in the general public can benefit from maintaining a blog. The public can be current and potential customers and clients, the news media, other business or professionals in the industry, or simply casual readers interested in the topic.

What business uses does a blog have?

A blog is ideal for opening the lines of communication between the business and the current and future customers. Communication builds levels of trust that go far in the areas of marketing and public relations. The blog puts a human face on the company and builds trust. People are far more likely to purchase products and services from other people whom they know and trust. A blog is also a very powerful tool for improving search engine rankings because of the keyword rich fresh content and the abundant incoming links.

Are blogs a useful networking tool?

Because of the intensive personalization involved with writing blog posts, the blog is a natural networking vehicle. Readers interact with the writer through blog comments and by e-mail. The contacts often lead eventually to many shared business opportunities. Successful business arrangements formed between two blog owners, and between a blogger and a reader, occur very frequently.

How could I start a blog?

A blog can be started readily by opening an account with the many free and fee based blogging platforms. Most are very user friendly and a blog can be underway in a matter of minutes. Most blog hosts allow the business to FTP the posts to the company’s own website, providing additional onsite keyword laden content.

Can I start a blog for free?

There are a number of free blog hosting companies. The best known free blogging platform is Google-owned Blogger http://www.blogger.com There are many other free hosts as well, including tblog http://www.tblog.com and blog-city http://www.blog-city.com. As with all free hosts, there are limitations on services and features, so careful examination of the blog hosting service and its policies is recommended.

Can I host a blog on my own website instead of with the blog host?

It is very popular for businesses to host the blog on their own business website. Most blog tools feature an FTP that enables the file transfer of the blog posts directly to the main business website. The post is entered at the blog host, and then printed on the business website. The additional content and inbound links provided by the blog, along with the additional traffic generated to the business site, are the main reasons for the file transfer to the main site.

Where do I get ideas to write about in the blog?

A business blog can include articles about industry and company news, new products and services, research and development efforts, business tips, and product reviews. Ideas for selecting and using the industry’s products and services are also good topic idea generators.

What value are blog comments?

The comments section of the blog post is very important. By providing feedback from the blog’s readers, the blogger can build a conversation with the customer base. The readers’ comments are also an excellent source of product and marketing ideas and mini surveys. The comments section of many business blogs is often the most widely read part of the blog. The opinions of the readers can help steer a company away from some bad marketing ideas, and often toward some very good ones. The comments section starts that business and customer interaction in a very positive way.

What is an RSS feed?

RSS stands for either Rich Site Syndication or Really Simple Syndication (no one agrees on the definition). RSS provides an instant update of the latest blog posts. To send an RSS feed, the blog must use and be coded for broadcasting an RSS feed. It is very easy to set up an RSS feed, so coding is not really a major concern for most website owners. The RSS feed is read from an RSS aggregator, which collects the feeds in the subscription. They are read by the subscriber in a manner similar to reading e-mail.

Should a blog have an RSS feed?

A blog should definitely include an RSS feed. The feed increases the blog’s readership to include many subscribers who would not otherwise visit the blog. The ease of reading an RSS feed increases the likelihood of the blog enhancing the site’s sales, marketing, and public relations efforts. The RSS gets the message out in a timely way to the general public, including the media and prospective customers.

Do blogs have value in the search engines?

A blog component to a website is a powerful search engine optimization technique. The combination of fresh theme relevant content and incoming links is just what the search engine algorithms ordered. The strong Google PageRanks displayed by blogs, combined with frequent blog updates, ensure that a blog is crawled and reindexed often by the search engine spiders.

Why do blogs perform so well in the search engines?

Blogs perform well in the search engines for several reasons. First of all, blogs are updated regularly with fresh keyword rich posts. The posts tend to be centered around just a few major themes, making the entire blog strongly themed for those keyword phrases. Incoming links from the vast majority of other blogs and websites share that same theme, providing the blog with the full power of their link popularity boost and Google PageRank transfer. Links from within the posts on other blogs are not only powerfully theme related, but often contain some desirable keyword laden link anchor text.

Are blogs posts classified as theme relevant content?

A blog post is usually very theme relevant, since most blogs are written around very few topics. A blog tends to be very focussed in its subject matter. For that reason, blogs have high keyword density for their most important keyword phrases. Not only are the blog posts theme relevant, but most incoming and outgoing links and link anchor text are theme relevant as well. Even though blog posts scroll off the blog’s home page very quickly, they are replaced by other theme relevant posts, maintaining the blog’s overall themes and topics.

Can a blog be optimized for the search engines beyond links and content?

Blog title tags can be optimized to contain the most important keywords. The h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, and h6 tags are part of most blog templates offered by the many blog hosting companies. Search engine sensitive code can also be used to ensure ease of spider crawling in the same way as with traditional websites.

Are there different types of blog links?

There are many types of links found on blogs. First, there are the links to other blogs on the link list, referred to as a blogroll. Second, there are links to other blogs from within the blog posts themselves. Third, there are internal links from one referenced blog post to another, either from within a blog post or as categorized and archived links. Fourth, there are links from blog comments.

Are blog links downgraded by search engines like guest book links?

Because there are many types of blog links, there is often confusion about their treatment by the various search engines, most notably by Google. The links from the blogroll and from within the posts are treated like any other inbound, outbound, and internal website links. They are awarded Google PageRank transfer and link popularity value in accordance with the search engine algorithm. The links that are being downgraded are links sent out from blog comments as a result of spamming activity by other webmasters. Normal blog links are not affected.

Can a blog be listed in any free Internet directories?

There are many free Internet directories that are open only to blogs. Not only do the blog directories provide link popularity value, and Google PageRank transfer, but they are known to also supply some regular fresh visitor traffic. Blogs are also eligible for inclusion in the many free Internet directories designed for traditional websites. Because a blog is simply another type of website, blogs are deemed acceptable for submission and inclusion in the mainstream Internet directories.

Do the DMOZ and Yahoo! Directories accept blogs?

As with any other type of website, blogs are eligible for inclusion in both the Open Directory Project (DMOZ) http://www.dmoz.org and the Yahoo! Directory http://dir.yahoo.com/. The DMOZ Directory has recently created a blog specific category to accommodate the many blogs submitted, while also including many blogs in the standard website categories should their subject matter be suitable.