Forgive my keenness, but I am firm believer that blogging is one of the most amazing developments in personal communication in decades. It has opened mass publishing to the world in a multi-user, multi-conversational way. We are very lucky to be alive now and not 100 years earlier.
Not only has blogging opened many doors to the majority, the rapid development of free and low cost technology has made it possible for every site to be made unique and transformed from a basic run-of-the-mill looking location into a tailored home. It is possible to use blogging technology to create sites for photographs, videos, writers, music, forums, sales pages, e-commerce stores and more. Truly amazing.
It is also possible to reach a very wide audience using a blog. Firstly, it is possible to syndicate content automatically via a tool called RSS. It is possible to use social media sites like facebook and twitter to spread the word. The major search engines such as Google and Yahoo! can provide visitors. Each of these can be a major source of new and returning visitors.
A landmark day for blogging occurred when Google bought Blogger in 2003 (information here). Until then blogging had been something of a niche activity for a relatively small population of the internet, but this purchase put it front and centre of the future of the web.
Since then blogging has grown rapidly. There are now blog platforms focused on specific topics like weather, pets, politics, sexuality and on and on. It has also enabled a growing number of people to promote and distribute products or services from anywhere, spawning the term “digital nomads”. It has also helped the growth and development of micro-multinationals (information here).
There are now legions of very niche service providers and product producers that could never have survived in the past, but thanks to the humble blog are able to reach their very specific audience worldwide. This concept was first described by Chris Anderson in his book The Long Tail. Needless to say, such changes are leading to a world of abundance where many products that were previously unable to survive now can.
In the home area of your author, there are a number of small businesses that use blogging and the web very well. The real estate sector has been quick to try and use new marketing ideas to make some more sales.
One of the keys to using a blog well – I believe – is to use it to pre-sell high-end services. You probably would not want to try and promote a sweet shop with a blog. But a law firm…
For this reason, inbound marketing (including blogging) is generally very popular with a wide range of service businesses. Some sites that use blogging technology that I know about and like include this one, this one and this one.
Because of the ability of a blog to reach very small subsets of search results and hard to find searchers, it can be an excellent method for long tail inbound marketing, especially if the product or service being offered is high value or high profit. For this reason, there are some very specific offers – such as this that can make use of a blog, as long as content can be produced on a reasonably frequent schedule.
For businesses with a wider appeal, blogs can also be useful. It is now legend that anyone with a travel blog can make money. It is not quite that clear cut, but it certainly used to be the case that travel bloggers could earn well while being almost anywhere and simply writing about it. Firms such as airlines, hotels and destinations were always keen for extra visibility.
However it is used, the key to blogging has not changed. Success requires high quality content, building a relationship with the reader, regular new content and some form of syndication. Different bloggers use different approaches for their preferred syndication, but each one needs to become skilled in at least one area. Most typically focus on search engine optimization (information here or here) because of the obvious power and potential offered by Google.
There are other types of blogging, not just via the written word. Firstly there is podcasting. These are audio shows, a little like a radio show, that is about one or a few specific topics. The content is typically downloaded onto iPods and iPhones and other “smart” devices via iTunes. Then there is vlog, which is a video blog. Needless to say, the required effort goes up dramatically for most people to do this (since they will typically still need a website), but so does the level of engagement from the audience members. After all, people get to see and hear the content creators and that is a much more personal experience than simply using the written word.
There have been a number of very successful business started by combining a podcast or video blog with a traditional written blog. One such company that we like a lot is Oulala, a new fantasy football start-up game that does some great stuff on YouTube and their blog.
One major factor is that there are far less podcasts competing for an audience in iTunes (though there are a lot) which means that the audience is magnified. Additionally, it is quite easy to subscribe to new episodes so that they are delivered automatically.
The iTunes audience and a blog also makes it possible for a local company to go global if they choose! It is that powerful.
The question is, if you have a product or service, do you have a blog? If not why not? And when will YOU start?