“Hi Darren, I’ve got a website at www._____.com which I’ve had for a few years and not really done much with. I’ve heard that blogs are a good way of building traffic and making money, should I change it to a blog?”
I get this type of question on a weekly basis so I thought that I’d tackle it as a post.
There are a number of factors to consider when deciding whether to change an established website into a blog.
6 Reasons to Consider a Blog
Much has been written on the topic of why blogs are a medium to consider for your website but here’s some that I’m particularly attracted to:
1. Blogs give Individuals, Companies and Brands ‘Voice’ – 5 years ago I was a guy with a ‘voice’ that reached a few hundred people on any given week – today what I write and say is sneezed out to hundreds of thousands of people on any given week. My blogs are the vehicle for this.
2. Blogs are Conversational – both in the style of writing, the way they interact with one another and the way that they are designed with comments at their heart blogs are all about the conversation.
3. Blogs build Trust – as a result of being a relational/conversational medium a blogger can build trust with their audience (something that most businesses would kill for).
4. Blogs build Profile – looking to become an ‘expert’ (or at least be perceived as an expert) in your field. Blogs have the ability to showcase your expertise and help you become the ‘go to’ person in your field. Just today my blog brought me the opportunity to appear in Australia’s national newspaper – the result has been numerous other opportunities.
5. Blogs are Immediate – blogs are a great way to communicate with people because they are so quick to use. Have a thought, write it down, hit publish and within minutes it can be being read and commented upon by your readers.
6. Blogs are a doorway to Search Engines and Social Media – one of the great things about blogs is that they are indexed so well by search engines which love sites that are focused upon a topic, updated regularly etc. Social media sites (particularly bookmarking ones) also love blogs.
The list of reasons to blog goes on and on. Of course everything I’ve mentioned above can also be achieved with other types of websites and just because you have a blog doesn’t mean the above all falls in your lap (it takes work – see below) – however these are some of the attractive aspects of having a blog.
5 Reasons why a Blog May Not be for You
Some bloggers tend to build blogging up to be the answer to every problem you might have online without giving a full picture. Let me shed a little light on the flip-side of blogging and why it might not be the right medium for you.
1. Blogs Take Time to Mature – one of the misconceptions that many new or ‘PreBloggers’ come to blogging with is that they just need to set one up and people will come reading it in their thousands. This is rarely the case. Unless you get extremely lucky or have some existing profile or traffic source to leverage a new blog takes considerable time to build up when it comes to readership. When I surveyed Technorati’s Top 100 blogs last year I found that on average they’d been running for over 3 years to achieve their prominence (it’d be more now).
2. Blogs Take Daily Work – the key to successful blogging is to post quality content on a regular basis. Most bloggers post on a daily basis, many of the top blogs post numerous times per day. Combine this fact with the last point (ie that it takes years for a blog to mature) and you have this question to ask yourself:
“Can you write something of high quality on a daily basis on your chosen topic for the next 3 years?”
That’s 780 posts if you post each weekday for the next 3 years – 1560 if you post twice each weekday…..
3. Blogs Take More than Writing – I’m not trying to depress you but there’s more to successful blogs than writing posts. Bloggers face a lot of other practical challenges on their way to success. These include moderating comments (blogs are the targets of spammers and occasionally ‘trolls’ (trouble makers), design (making your blog look unique can be an important element in it’s success), marketing (new readers don’t just appear – it takes networking, self promotion etc) and more. The list of jobs that a blogger needs to do can be overwhelming to a new blogger. Of course a lot of these skills develop over time and become a natural part of your working rhythm – but it’s worth counting the cost of this before you get into blogging.
4. Bloggers Can be Anti-Trust/Profile Building – I mentioned above that a blog can be a wonderful tool for building your voice, profile and trust. However the flip-side is that you can actually hurt your reputation in your niche if you don’t use your blog well. Everything that you do on your blog has the potential to either build or destroy your reputation in some way. Remember that what you ‘publish’ online is permanent. While you might delete it from your actual blog there will be a record of it somewhere online. So publishing untruths, writing while angry, being manipulative or not being transparent on your blog can actually come back to bite you and hurt your reputation. The vast majority of bloggers have positive experiences from blogging but do enter into it with a little caution and care – the blogosphere can be a very unforgiving place if you give it reason to turn on you.
5. Blogs Rely Upon YOU as a Conversation Starter – I was chatting with a new blogger recently about their experience of starting a blog and they reflected back to me that they didn’t realize how draining it could be to be the instigator of conversation. They’d come from a background of using online forums previously – a medium where the community kicks off conversation. Blogs are similar to forums in that they are conversational, but where anyone can start a conversation on a forum a blog relies upon you to do it. This takes time, energy, creativity and a certain skill.
Once again, this list could go on (and on) but I’ll leave it at that and invite others to add their thoughts in comments.
My hope in exploring some of these themes is that those with established websites might have a better picture of some of the pros and cons of switching from their current website to a blog.
Blog or Website OR Blog and Website
The last question that I’d pose to those considering the switch from a website to a blog is that it’s possible to do both.
My challenge to most people who ask me the question about making the change is to think about whether they really need to replace their current site with a blog or whether they could just add a blog to their established site. In some cases the established site is fairly poor and deleting and replacing it can be the best move – but if you have a site with some level of presence in search engines, traffic and reputation then it can sometimes be better to simply add a blog to it and let what you’ve already developed remain.
The thing is that we’re now seeing many bloggers add other types of websites to their blogs (forums, social networks, static pages etc). Bloggers are realizing that blogs are not the best medium for every situation and that there are opportunities to reach different people with different types of sites – so keep your mind open to the possibilities of keeping what you’ve already established and adding to it rather than replacing it.
As I wrote this post I was reminded of a previous one that I’d written that I’d highly recommend those considering starting a blog read. It’s called 23 Questions for Prospective Bloggers – Is a Blog Right for You? This post explores some of the above themes plus numerous more and is designed to help you work out whether blogging might be the right medium for you. It’s one of the first posts in my series – Blogging for Beginners which is also worth a read if you’re at the beginning of your blogging journey.