One of the recurring I’m often presented with is “Trish, blog vs website?” And especially now in light of the popularity of social media, some people are even more confused as to whether either are relevant in our world of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram etc.
And today, it’s not just whether you should build a blog or a website, it’s how the definition of blog has changed and how you should build your site. More on that later.
First of all, I need to make this ultra clear ...a blog IS a website.
In fact, I want to take that a stage further and say that blogs are “dynamic” websites.
Dynamic, meaning that the content is updated frequently and there is more interaction by way of comments, news feeds (such as RSS) and social media. When it comes to using content management software such as WordPress to build dynamic websites, what you can do is actually really only limited by your ability and imagination.
You can even have static pages on a blog to advertise your products and services, and with some of the great blog software on the market today, it can sometimes be difficult to tell some blogs and the more traditional static html websites apart.
The software you download for free from WordPress.org for example, was always considered blog software – and purely used for diary type entries. However, WordPress has become a powerful Content Management System (CMS) and more and more people are building their sites using the software, even if they don’t want to blog.
For those of you who may not know what a blog is, it’s short for web log, and is a frequently updated website consisting of blog posts, or entries (more often than not, dated entries) that are arranged in reverse chronological order. So when a reader comes to your site, they see your most recent article (often called posts), first.
The advantage of using WordPress as a CMS is that it allows you to publish content such as written text, audio, video and images and have it online within minutes, unlike traditional static websites which can take hours to build and hours to update and which can cost you each time – unless you’re familiar with building or editing html sites.
Some years ago, I decided to put up a new website for one of my services. I was using a template (something I rarely do) and, it came with very clear step-by-step instructions.
Now, I hit some snags, which I eventually resolved, but the one thing I had to do which drove me crazy was sit at my PC for hours, writing content for the site since I couldn’t upload the site to the server until ALL the pages were complete.
And to me, this is the one of the biggest “plusses” of using a content management system such WordPress … Once you install the software, the site published, your write your first post (I always recommend 5 to start with though) and you are ready to do business online and invite the search engines to come visit your site, and of course show it off on the social media platforms you use.
I do also suggest you complete your About, Services and Contact pages too since people are naturally curious and will want to know more about you.
But, there is no need to wait until you’ve written those pages to publish your site for the world to see. You can build as you go … little by little, step by step … flexibility that doesn’t come with building traditional html sites.
This brings me to another Big plus of having a blog …
Each time you publish a blog post, you do what is called “pinging” the update services.
In other words, you automatically notify the search engines (sometimes indirectly) that there is new content on your site so “come and take a look!”
This gives the search engines occasion to come and visit your site to index it’s new content. So, another benefit is that blogs tend to be indexed much more often than traditional static websites and …
blogs show up ten times more often in organic searches than static websites do.
Then a blog is something you should definitely consider.
Generally, blogs are cheaper to build than static websites and even if you get your neighbour to build you a static site for free, you will still need a budget to maintain the site and keep the site updated.
Also, there is no “pinging” feature with static websites. This means you either have to manually notify the search engines of your presence or, you have to wait until the search engine spiders do their rounds, which could be months. However, with the explosion of social media, you could get the attention of the search engines faster than you could in the early days, even with a static html site, so let me not paint too much of a bleak picture.
But … don’t think just because you’ve paid thousands of dollars or thousands of UK pounds to have a website built that you’re going to get people flocking to your site.
In fact, I’m going to dare say that most designers have no clue whatsoever about search engine optimisation or how to get traffic to your site.
Their strategy is to make your site look good … “build it and they will come.” And, I’m not exaggerating here … I had my first designer tell me this! But, I’m not using that example as a generalization … just do a Google search for web designers and take a look at their offerings and you’ll find that most of them will sell you on “look good” rather than “get found.”
One more benefit (though there are many more) before I “bust” some myths … Bloggers establish credibility much faster than static website owners because blogs by their very nature build a stronger and more vibrant knowledge base and community.
Sure you can do this by adding articles to your static site but it comes down to cost again, and in my view, “findability”. Finding articles on a blog is usually much easier than navigating your way through a static website because of the additional navigation features such as post categories and date archives found in any decent blog software.
If you can use word processing software, you’re going to be okay.
Once your blog is installed, you log into your back office (or dashboard), write your blog post and click the “publish” button and your content will be immediately published on the world wide web ready for anyone who cares to read it. You can even categorize your posts making it easier for people to find your content and the built in search feature makes it super easy for them to find archived articles.
With a static website, you have to open up your editor, such as Microsoft Expression or Adobe Dreamweaver, write the article (and, I’m not even going to cover the potential complexities of adding videos or audio), update the page properties before uploading that page to your site using FTP (File Transfer Protocol) software. Once you’ve done all of that, you have to “wait” until the search engines do their rounds again, visiting your site to get the page indexed. This could take months, depending on the strategies that you employ.
I have had mine and my clients blogs indexed within 24 hours and less. One of my clients sites was indexed within 36 hours and all she did was post about 10 blog articles which were mainly snippets from her book. The crazy thing was that the posts were not even properly optimized and had zero keywords but, her blog got the attention of the search engines. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not enough to get traffic, but it’s a good start!
It’s interesting that blogs are used interchangeably with websites these days because so many small and large companies are using some form of content management system to run their sites.
Rather than just being seen as websites, blogs are now considered powerful publishing platforms, and the hub for all of your social media marketing.
Whilst some people have abandoned their blogs and have instead opted to publish all of their content on one or other of the social media sites, such as Facebook, I don’t recommend it.
I suggest that you have a base, your blog (hub) which gives people a home to come visit you on and a place where all of your services and products are neatly packaged. Then use the social media sites for microblogging, which is a great way to engage with your audience and build your credibility and trust factor.
If you’re building a business then the act of blogging or article writing if you prefer not to think about the term blog, should be an important aspect of your marketing.
So spending 2-4 hours each week researching and writing blog posts should be seen as a plus, not a negative. That is not to say you have to post so often … I don’t, but I had to in the early days to build my credibility.
Blogs are fads and will die away soon.
Boy … you would have thought these proponents would have cried off by now. But, let’s forget about them … just take a look at the direction the online world is taking and you will see that it makes sense to have a blog EVEN if you decide to build websites too (and, I do encourage both … more on that later) because blogs make podcasting, videocasting and social networking a lot easier, even if you are non technical.
Now, I will tell you what I would tell them if they were to give me that same “cookie cutter” answer today … “No one reads YOUR blog!”
If this is you, it’s time to spice it up. Give your blog a voice (some good quality content where you speak from your heart), not a corporate makeover! Remember, humans work in corporations so even if you’re targeting them, they have a sense of humor, they don’t all have MBA’s and use long “unarticulaterable” words (like this one I just made up) and, they want information they can use. So save the Guardian style editorial for your press releases but give them great tips in your blog articles.
I could go on, but I hope I’ve given you enough information to make an informed decision on whether you should have a blog or a website.
As a side-note, this site is built using WordPress and the StudioPress Genesis Theme Framework. I can make it look more like a blog, with my articles prominently displayed on the front page or, I can have it look completely like a static website, which I currently do. However, the look and feel you choose for your site should be very much dependent on your clients and prospects and their expectations.
So now you have a little more clarity about whether to set up a blog or a website, the decision you have to make really is one based on ease, time, cost and effectiveness as well as your technical ability. My personal suggestion would be to start simple and get fancy later. Focus your attention on getting your voice, your story and your message out there and then once you have visibility, you can start adding the fancy.
If I’m asked the question, “blog vs website,” I’m always going to suggest blog using the WordPress CMS, every time. And by this, I mean downloading the free software from WordPress.org, purchasing your own domain name and uploading the software to your hosting account.
There are some great alternatives to WordPress such as Tumblr and Squarespace, but I’m just not a fan of proprietary software since even with all the bells and whistles, there is going to be some limitation. That said, I know people who have successfully used these services, so don’t let it be a stumbling block to you broadcasting your message and building your business online.
If you need some help setting up your blog, check out my blog marketing coaching and my other coaching options.
All the best,
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