I have had more calls lately on the topic of blogging than I could ever have imagined. Even my current clients are calling me saying “So you blog for that ONE client? Why aren’t you doing that for ME?!?!”
It’s a sticky situation for a writer and marketer who makes a living capturing and communicating the “voice” of her clients. Saying “I don’t recommend hiring someone to blog for you” has resulted in a slew of calls asking for me to do exactly that.
Go figure. (I think “reverse psychology” may be a marketing technique I should have pursued in the first year of my business – back when I was “hungry” and struggling!) Ah, hindsight…
So, what CAN I do to help you if you are new to the blogosphere? What WILL I do to help you launch your first blog? If you were to call me today for an initial consultation on launching a business blog, I’d begin our conversation by ask you the following questions:
- Is your current website functioning well and is it able to handle a blog?
- Do you have enough control to get a blog and an RSS feed added?
- Can your current host “drop one in” or can they give the information to a third party programmer so you can hire it done?
If the answer to any of those is no, I’d recommend that you either get a new website package that meets your expanding needs or start looking at off-site blogging engines. I’d also tell you that the most “bang for your blog” will be achieved with an on-site blog.
Larger websites with more information and quality content are going to spider better. To Google, size DOES matter, but so does quality. Placing your blog elsewhere is sending content traffic away from your main site.
NOTE: If you do plan to go offsite, be sure you can get backups of your content easily. What could be worse than having a couple years of blogging “disappear” because someone else’s server crashed? Even if you have onsite blogging, or any regularly changing content, you should have comprehensive backup procedures in place and working once a week.
Consulting clients usually have questions for me at this point. The most common questions are:
What do YOU use?
(Update note 10-31-2007: After several years with Geeklog, I’ve now switched over both my business site and my blog site to WordPress. I love it and recommend it for beginning and seasoned bloggers alike. I prefer to self-host my blogs, and use my own domain names.)
I use Geeklog (www.Geeklog.net). It’s not just for blogging. It’s an open source content management system and can serve as an entire website. I have customized mine to meet all my needs. I also use it for my personal blog. About three years ago I started using it for my main business website as well because I wanted a cross branded look, an easy-to-update website, and I wanted to have more control over the way my sites behaved without having to dive into HTML all the time. And, yes, I like it THAT much.
Do you recommend this Geeklog for a new blogger?
That depends on your level of expertise with programs of this type and/or your willingness to learn. If you just want to write, and that’s challenging enough, then Geeklog may not be the best option for you. There are a slew of options available these days. Geeklog is just one.I’ve heard great things about the TypePad blog engine, although I’ve not used it myself. This is a blog-only add-in for an existing site. If you want a fast, simple solution to begin blogging now, this may get you blogging quickly and keep you happy.
If you crave more flexibility and are willing to learn a bit about the system to gain it, then Geeklog is possibly as perfect for you as it has been for me.
How much you enjoy using Geeklog (or any similar system) will depend on how knowledgeable, how responsive, and how talented your tech support person (or programmer) proves to be. Mine is fabulous, so I have no worries. When I get stuck, she bails my backside out. I’ve looked at several options over the last few years, and I always come back loving Geeklog that much more… so far.
Warning to technology lovers like me: If you poke around in the guts of your system without knowing every tiny detail about what you are doing, you are going to make some messes. It’s a fact. Make sure your own techie has the time, the patience and the expertise to put things back in order and offer advice when you need it. If you plan to self-educate and tend to poke around behind the scenes of your websites, keep the techie on retainer and keep your backups current.
How much will it cost to get this up and going?
That depends on how you set up your blog. If you do it all yourself, it can be free. (But expect to spend many hours determining and weighing all your options). If you hire someone to do it all for you, the cost will vary based on their rates and how efficiently they work.Unless you want an exorbitant amount of customization or you have the tendency to change your mind a lot in the middle of a project, you should be able to hire someone to create blog that coordinates with your current site for under $500.
Over the last month, I’ve talked with a number of real estate folks that have been considering buying a “real estate blogging package” and the cost for these packages seems to be running about $1500+. Now, how can I say this nicely… *ahem*
What a crock! Run away! Quickly! Go!
You want to blog. It’s not supposed to be a huge drain on your wallet. But, as with many other “real estate tools” offered to agents and brokers, you may be offered a watered-down version of what you need for an elevated price. Website package providers have been doing this to real estate agents for years, and now “ blogging package providers” are joining in.
So how do I figure out what I need?
I’d recommend you go and do a bit of reading on the topic.
- If you want to do it yourself, her information will show you where to get the code and will offer guidance on setup.
- If you want recommendations on what type of blogging engine to use, she compares the best options available to date and offers the pros and cons of each.
- If you want someone to do the initial set up or to do a complete custom package, she can do that too.
Whichever option you select, be sure you understand what it will do for you, any limitations it may involve and the full cost to get what you want up and running.
Once I get this all set up, how often do I have to blog?
This is a question that is only asked by the blog-hesitant. The give-away phrase is “HAVE to blog.” First you should WANT to blog. If you don’t, you won’t succeed because a blog won’t write itself.That said, you should blog a minimum of once or twice a week. That’s my standard answer.
Why? Because that means that your blog stays fresh, it means that it changes often enough to keep people coming back to read it. It means it becomes a way to communicate rather than just the latest marketing “trick” on the Internet. And, yes, it also keeps the search engine spiders coming back to feast on fresh content.
How often do YOU blog?
Well, funny that you should ask. I recently did that calculation to have the exact figures on hand. On my technology blog and my personal blog combined, I have averaged just over 18 blogs per month for the last year and a half. That doesn’t include the articles I post here on WickedWordCraft.com or entries (usually comments) I make on other people’s blogs across the Internet. So, about two blogs per week. Some weeks are heavier, some are lighter. I seem, historically, to be more prolific in the Fall. *shrug*
How do you find that much stuff to write about?
I keep a notepad with me (it’s on my Tablet PC) and I jot down any ideas, snippets of conversations, thoughts and topics that are currently timely and would matter to my readers. When I’m surfing the web for work or play and I see something I think would be interesting to my readers, I cut and paste the URL into my notes. Or, I blog about it immediately. I often blog “on the fly” to capture a point.Surprisingly, my clients, peers and even my family send me “stuff for the blog” by email. Those who don’t really want to blog themselves still want to share information and I encourage them to send me their ideas.
I always blog about things that matter to me. If there’s something that I believe would benefit my readership, I tell them about it. If I’ve found something cool, useful or horrific – I share. Sometimes I rant, sometimes I praise. But I try to keep it engaging, helpful and entertaining. I want to be sure that my readers get to know me and want to come back. That’s what a blog should accomplish.
I’m not a writer, what should I say in my blog?
Ancient sage advice to any new writer… write what you know. You know real estate. You know your clients. You know your community. You know about local events. You know about the pros and cons of pending legislation that will impact your industry, your clients or your community.
Don’t be afraid to take a stand. Don’t go out of your way to upset people, but if you would voice an opinion face-to-face with a client or a peer, feel free to voice it in your blog. Maintain professionalism as much as possible, but remember that the blog should show the more “human” side of you. Don’t be afraid to be real.Blogging does NOT give you a license to misbehave. Some bloggers are ill-behaved and gain a following for it, but they seldom gain business by being unpleasant. Be honest, but don’t be brutal.
You can take more liberties with a personal blog. If, once you begin blogging, you find that a business blog is a bit constraining you may decided to have two! But beware of over-blogging and underperforming. BLOGGING CAN BE ADDICTIVE! And addictions are time consuming. For now, just work on keeping a list of ideas and thoughts to feed one blog – your new business blog.
How can I learn more about blogging before I start my own?
Explore the blogosphere! Go read some blogs. There are some great bloggers out there. If you want an easy place to start, check out www.Technorati.com. Search for any topic that strikes your fancy. Someone is blogging about it. Guaranteed!Consider each blog you read independently. Think about what you like and dislike about the format, the look, the blogger’s voice, the topics and how those topics are covered. Think of specific ways you can make your blog better by learning from their mistakes and successes.
Next time (once you get your blogging platform selected and in place), I’ll cover how to write headlines that spider well, how to take full advantage of blog placement on your website and where you should submit your blog to advance your online marketing efforts.
In the meantime, keep some notes on how you started your journey toward becoming a blogger – your trials, tribulations and triumphs – it will make great material for those early blog entries and may help other individuals across the globe who are trying to do the same thing!