Website or Blog - here's my advice
Are you thinking of a website or blog for your Internet business? They're a bit different and each has its place as part of an Internet business strategy. Let's take a look at what they are and how they might be used.
If you have a well-rounded approach to your Internet business strategy, you'll make good use of both websites and blogs to get your message out and attract customers. Nevertheless, you'll probably focus on one format as being core to your business interests.
Blog - the web log
Blogs are a combination word that stands for web log. Early blogs were people logging their daily activities much like one might do in a diary or journal. Entries are logged at some frequency for readers to view and comment on. Blogs typically have a theme to them that is made clear by the name or subheading.
The idea behind a blog is to regularly post news, articles, events, activities and such. The most recent material on a blog is always on the first page, and it changes frequently, so this makes blogs a dynamic place on the web. Blogs are also a place for collaboration - multiple writers can contribute to a single blog.
One of the claims to fame for blogs is the conversational nature of the format. The idea is to generate discussion instead of simply having pages available for review. This aspect of a blog is engaging for many and perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of the format - you get to participate with the author and readers, not simply read, watch and listen.
One of the distinct advantages of a blog is that it doesn't require structure to be interesting and engaging. All of the articles you post should be related in some respect, but they don't have to flow together in sequence or hierarchy. This provides opportunity for impromptu writing and makes blogs especially useful to address current events.
Material on a blog tends to appear and then disappear. An article today pushes an article from yesterday and last week deeper into archive. This means you need to link pages together and provide a means of researching material through categories and tags (keywords), and a search feature.
The big drawback of a blog is the lack of "real estate" for advertising and product promotion. With tag clouds, blogrolls, category listings and archive listings, much of the usable space on a blog is consumed and it limits the commercial opportunity for an Internet entrepreneur to sell ad space and promote products for affiliate sales.
Blogs also have a double-edge sword. You have to be there to keep it moving almost on a daily basis, much like a talk show. If you're not creating new material, then you're moderating comments and responding to readers. With a blog, you have to keep your readers engaged - that's why they're there in the first place. Remember, your readers also have a choice of website or blog, and if you operate a blog, then you have to live up to their expectations of it being a dynamic place.
Website - more like a reference book
I think of websites as something more along the lines of a book. Your reader uses navigation bars, search features and links to find pages with material that is of interest. It should be well organized, because that's what your readers are expecting.
Unlike a book, a website can be updated with ease, and reorganized as necessary to present material in a more user-friendly manner. I like the improve-as-you-go aspect of a website. Essentially, a website is a living reference book that is typically created and maintained by a single writer.
Websites are expected to present topics in a comprehensive and detailed manner so it's a useful reference to the reader - something worth bookmarking. This is a strong point for websites. A drawback of sorts is that websites are like any book that you might pick up from the library - it's a one-way conversation with the writer presenting material to you, and you having little interaction with the writer and no interaction with other readers.
I see the big advantage of a website being that it provides a better platform for advertising. Much like a magazine or newspaper, websites offer substantial "real estate" to put to good use to earn income.
Another advantage of a website is that it can be built at your own pace and still offer value to readers. You can also let it lay fallow for a while without consequence - readers keep themselves engaged with your content, not your presence. Remember, it's like a book, not a talk show.
Website or Blog - let's use both
When it comes to deciding between a website or blog, my preference for the core business is a website. Naturally, your decision will hinge on what kind of business you're going to operate, but for most enterprises, a website will likely work out best.
My preference for a website is simply because it affords a format that is more conducive to organization of material for presentation. Think of the appeal that books have, and you'll understand why a website has more appeal to those of us who need structure for the material we're presenting.
A website or blog can provide a platform for advertising, but a website offers a better platform. Each page has a bit more "real estate," whereas a blog typically has its prime real estate on the home page, and much of it is taken up with archive and category listings, tag clouds, blogrolls and other features to help the user find what they're looking for. Blogs that are replete with advertising can look very busy - not so with a website.
Nevertheless, I don't think it's a question of "do I operate a website or blog," but more a question of how to use both formats to your best advantage. The conversational appeal of a blog can't be dismissed, and their popularity speaks to the need to make use of such a format.
The way I address the issue of "website or blog" is to engage others on blogs (not necessarily my own) and thereby attract attention to my websites. I have also created a separate blog that helps point readers to my websites. In this way, my readers can make good use of my website or blog, and I make good use of both formats as well.
In any event, I treat my website readers just like a blog. If they write in with a comment or question, I always respond with a personal note back. It's my way of "being real" and keeping my readers engaged. Just use the contact form to drop me a note to say hello, and you'll see what happens.
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