Small business owners considering a blog to enhance their website should review the different methods of integrating the content into their main site. Three options for blogging will be reviewed with suggestions to help you maximize the value to your visitors and search engines. A blog is an easy method for adding fresh content to your site without paying a web developer for each new page created.
Blogs, aka weblogs, first began as personal daily journals. An online diary with what you had for lunch does not seem like a practical way to promote a small business. The vast majority of blogs are still personal and non-commercial, while others have become monetized by including advertisements. Blogging for business is a trend that deserves attention.
Times have changed. Small business blogs are a great opportunity to provide your customers advice, news, and reviews. The value a blog provides to small business owners is fresh content that you may easily add to your site. Websites that are launched and collect dust without growing will not be search engine magnets. A good blog should result in your site being visited and indexed by the major search engines frequently.
It’s important to understand the structure of a blog compared to your commercial website.
The big difference between your site and the blog is how each is created. Most websites are done in HTML. Individual pages are usually created by a web designer with a significant cost per page. Blogs use templates which allow the owner to easily create posts from a control panel. Each post becomes a new page, so adding one a week adds 52 pages to your website per year. Several major online service companies allow you to create a free blog, and you may begin adding content immediately.
For the small business owner, the template and control panel with automatic uploading makes it easy. Where you choose to host determines how your content is integrated into your site. This can be a critical decision when part of your goal is search engine optimization.
Here are 3 common methods for hosting your newly created blog content, and explanations of each.
1. Free hosting by the blog service provider. Blogger by Google, WordPress and TypePad are well known.
2. Setup a sub domain of your main www domain which replaces the www with “blog” in your web address.
3. Setup a subfolder “blog” below the root directory so the address would be your www domain plus /blog.
Free hosting is the method of choice for owners of most personal blogs. Very small commercial businesses may use free blog hosting to take advantage of the zero cost startup. The free blog is fine. Reconsider hosting. If you have a website and host your blog with a free service, your content is remotely located without any connection to your main site. For most small business owners, the other options will yield better results.
The sub domain option attaches your blog to your main www domain. For the sake of clarity, the sub domain can be any word, and I used “blog” here as an example only. The normal address with www followed by dot and then your domain name, and finally dot and the suffix com, biz, info, etc. becomes a similar address with blog followed by dot, your domain, dot, and the suffix. For your main website to grow and benefit, the new blog content must be integrated with your original site, and not viewed by search engines as a completely new website.
The subfolder “blog” creates a longer www name, but the disadvantage is minimal. The major advantage is your content is no longer remote or separate from your domain. When search engines visit your site to index content having the blog content in a subfolder means it is indexed as part of your main site. With the other methods, if your original website was launched and never changed, it remains stale. Instead of a dynamic new addition, you have a dusty commercial site in one place, plus a separate advice, news or review site that grows and grows.
Tip: Consider paying for a custom template to match your main website. Blog templates are provided by each of the major service companies that offer free blog hosting. A person can sign up for a free blog with free hosting and be publishing in minutes. The limited choice of color schemes is unlikely to match your existing website, so a near or exact match is preferred.
In conclusion, you may want to search for blogs related to your business and see what other people are doing before you jump in and regret choices later. Consider your purpose. Avoid blatant self-promotion and provide visitors with valuable news, advice, or insight into your business to help and inform rather than sell. Link to your main site from the blog and keep the hard sell there.
Finally, other add-on options for your blog are available as free services to allow visitors to subscribe to posts, notify blog directories each time you post, plus other methods to promote your blog. Check the help files and forums of the services you are considering to learn as you go. Happy blogging!