A blog (web + log) is a type of web site that is typically maintained by a person or group. Many personal blogs are akin to a diary, whereas a company's blog may look and behave exactly as a standard web site. The owner(s) of the blog create the pages by posting a constant flow of entries written as commentary, descriptions of events, or reviews of noteworthy subjects or products. Blogs can even include multimedia, such as images, illustrations, video, or sound. These pages (articles, posts, or stories), are generally displayed in reverse-chronological order.
There was a time when blog sites were deemed second-class citizens in the web world, but today, you'd be hard pressed to find any news site that is not based on some type of blog technology. Blogs are also especially appealing to small businesses because they require no more investment than the cost of a hosting account and, if you're designed challenged, a template. There are other benefits to starting or switching to a blog:
- You're in control.
Unlike a static HTML site that requires more than a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS and a full understanding of FTP, blog sites are accessed using any web browser. There are a few different types of blog and some are more difficult to set up than others. WordPress is arguably the most popular blog technology and even a beginner will find it easy to install, customize, and set up.
Joomla and Drupal are also blog technologies. Both of these open-source applications are easy to use once the set up is done, but the installation and customization of your site can be a real challenge. My recommendation to clients is start with WordPress and at the point where you are managing thousands of pages, switch to Joomla or Drupal.
This is not to say that WordPress cannot handle thousands of pages - it can - but just that Joomla and Drupal offer more flexibility for the management of a wide range of categories and articles.
- Regular contributions.
Once your site is set up, you contribute to your site by logging into the administrative dashboard using any web browser, sending your article to a dedicated email address, or posting articles with your SmartPhone. This high level of access means that you can contribute to your web site regularly - an important point when it comes to how well your site ranks in search-engine results.
When you have a web site like Tech Blog Insider or (or techbloginsider.com ) that has more current content than your competitors, it is a positive influence on the search engines when deciding in what order sites should be ranked. Of course, there are many other factors but the value of regular updates should not be underestimated.
- Easy updates.
How many times have you made an urgent call to your webmaster because you discovered a broken link or out-of-date content, only to find that [s]he is unavailable? No doubt you needed to make this call because you're not versed in the required software for web-site building. With a blog site, this is never a problem. Using a web browser, you can log in from anywhere and make any type of change quickly and easily.
- Easy to add multimedia.
Most sites today include illustrations, pictures, video, audio, and perhaps some downloadable resources, such as this white sheet or other PDFs. In the past, adding any type of media could be a challenge. There were all sorts of considerations: file size, playback, links, and more. With a blog, you don't need to worry about any of this. Simply click the correct icon for the type of media you wish to upload, navigate to the file, and click insert into post.
- Thousands of plugins for easy customization.
While blogs are simple, they are also very versatile. WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal have thousands of options for extending the power of the blog through plugins and extensions. These mini-applications will allow you to customize, enhance, or even limit your site in ways you wouldn't have thought possible - and in many cases it's completely free to do so.
Straight out of the box, WordPress does not offer a user-friendly site map, but I like to have one at the site to help visitors find their way around a bit more easily. Using a shareware plugin, Table of Contents Creator, I was able to generate and publish a site map for Winning at Web Marketing in less than five minutes. (Since the product is shareware, once I found that I liked its functionality I donated funds to the developer's continued efforts.)
At another site I published, QuarkAlliance, I needed a directory of our membership. This is a Joomla site and I chose the Mosets Tree directory extension. While this extension was not free, it was very inexpensive and unbelievably powerful - complete with advanced search options.
- Built-in features for keywords and keyphrases.
Most people using blogs don't have a lot of experience in search-engine optimization (the act of creating a site that is search-engine friendly). The great benefit of blogs on the topic of digital marketing for example provided by Digital Junkies is that optimizing your site is inherent to blog technology. Simply by filling out the fields for the excerpt and tags, you will be promoting your site within every search engine.
- Comments feature promotes customer interaction.
Blogs promote interaction too. Your visitors can leave comments on stories and articles that you have posted. This helps your visitors and customers feel as though they have a voice and that their business is important to you.
- Chronological posting and automatic archiving.
Another difficult task of traditional web-site management is the archival of stories. Blogs take care of this too. A blog is actually built on a timeline, so to speak. New stories that you post are automatically displayed at the tops of reading lists. Older stories are automatically archived into folders, but still remain searchable and just a few clicks away from anyone looking for specific information - including search engines.
- Easy install and updates.
Most blog applications are extremely easy to install and it's generally an automatic process. Many web-hosting companies, including GoDaddy.com, NetworkSolutions.com, FatCow.com, and others, have blog applications set up for one-click installs. You only have to name your site, choose a template, and you're published to the web.
Updating your tech blog Etalktech.com, you will receive a notice from the blog manufacturer when an update is available and one or two clicks will have your site updated and ready for public consumption.
One word of caution: If you have installed plugins or extensions, be sure that they support the updated blog version before you allow an automatic update.
- Automatic notification of pingbacks.
Pingbacks are notifications to you when someone links to your blog from their blog. Links between complementary blog sites are great ways to gain self-promotion - for both of you. Sometimes though, a site that is not complementary will link to you and through the receipt of a pingback notice, you'll know exactly who it is.
- Analytics provide visibility.
I think that analytics are a critical component of any site, whether HTML, blog, Flash, or a combination. For my WordPress sites, I use Google Analytics for WordPress. For my HTML sites, I use Google Analytics, and for my Joomla site I use the Google Analytics Tracking Module to feed my Google Analytics account.
Analytics are graphical or data representations that display tallies and visitor behavior within your site. Understanding this type of data will help you to create a better site. If 90% of your visitors come to your home page and leave immediately (bounce rate), then you are likely not capturing their attention, or your site's purpose is not clearly defined in search engines. Knowing this will alert you that you need to make a change.
- Thousands of templates for a custom look.
In addition to customization of features, you can very easily customize the look, color, and layout of your blog using professional and freeware templates. My favorite resource for this is Template Monster, because they have fabulous support and an outstanding library of beautiful designs.
Template Monster has templates for WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal and most are priced well below $100. Considering the substantial time-savings that a template offers, this price, while not free, is most certainly worth the investment.
If you're looking for an even better deal and you're using WordPress, install your site and use the appearance pane to add a new theme. Templates (or themes) accessed through this option are free.
If you have a bit of experience using CSS, you can find the template layout that you like and make it truly your own by modifying the CSS to create a custom color palette, font sizes, and more. With PHP experience, the sky's the limit as you modify the sidebars, widgets, footer, header, and behavior.