Want to Get Your Message Out? Start a Blog
What would you think if I told you about a
guaranteed method to reach 100% of your target audience? Beyond
that, what would you think if I told you that you could develop
a base of prospects who would look forward to hearing from
you? You can do this, and more, by starting a blog. Since
the landmark CANN-SPAM legislation, I think the spam situation
has gotten worse instead of better. I continue to get more
new spam than I can effectively filter, and the "marketing
gurus" who send me newsletters from time to time, are
bemoaning the fact that as much as 46% of their outgoing e-mail
is never getting to its intended recipients because of spam
filters; either on desktops, or at ISPs.
Worse, in an effort to get through the filters and into your
inbox, those same gurus are reduced to sending their messages
using words like `s*p*a*m', or `f'ree', or `guar*an*teed'.
For me, this is a turn- off that makes their messages look
unprofessional, and in my eyes, costs them credibility. And
here is where a blog begins to solve those problems.
What is a Blog?
The word is a loose contraction of the term, "Web Log."
A blog is--at a minimum--"a journal that is available
on the web. The activity of updating a blog is "blogging"
and someone who keeps a blog is a "blogger," according
to the WWW Dictionary.
What is Blogging?
Blogging offers the opportunity for people to tell the world
what's on their minds, to share their passions, or to simply
inform them of current events--no matter how uniquely focused.
Or…to tell them what's going on in their business. A blog
is a hybrid e- zine/newsletter that keeps you and your contacts
in touch with each other.
Who is Blogging?
Who can you name? While technically not blogs, all the major
newspapers have created data feeds. Columnist Dave Barry has
a very popular blog. Now that Google has bought Blogger, it
has developed a blog to keep searchers up-to-date with ongoing
activities in Palo Alto. And in this election year, political
pundits are finding new and receptive audiences in the "blogosphere."
To find out who's blogging in your field, do a search at Bloglines
for some of the keywords that you use on your own web site.
I'm sure you'll be astonished at the results.
Blogging would be of little value if you had to depend on
the traditional methods for getting traffic to your Web site.
But a new piece of technology gives you the capability of
reaching tens of thousands of readers with the click of a
button. RSS--Real Simple Syndication—is a means by which the
content on your Web site--and not restricted to blogs--can
be translated and distributed to thousands of users who have
access to a "News Feed." All at no charge.
Perhaps the most amazing feature to come to the internet in
years, and the feature that allows your readers to make a
distinction between news and spam, is the news aggregator.
This is a software application that polls the world of blogs
at user-defined intervals, and updates itself whenever it
sees something new. Cori Rudl is touting this free technology
as the next "big thing," and has apparently already
figured out a way to make a buck at it.
With a news aggregator, you choose the sources you'd like
to read, and the software will poll those sources hourly,
daily, weekly-- as you've specified--and it will notify you
when one of them changes.
As you might imagine, several companies provide products or
services to give you access to news feeds. They fall into
Web-based News Aggregators
Two of the popular aggregators on the Web are Bloglines (http://www.bloglines.com),
and Blo.gs. (http://www.blo.gs)
Simply register with either or both services--at no charge--then
browse their database of blogs, and click the "subscribe"
link for any that interest you. They'll be added to your personal
space on the Web site, and you can make a bookmark to view
them at your leisure.
Desktop News Aggregators
If you'd like to have news delivered directly to your desktop,
you can download a news reader like Sharp Reader, or Feed
Like their Web-based counterparts, these products enable you
to specify which blogs (or news sources) you'd like to follow,
and they will update them when they sense any changes. There
is no charge for Sharp Reader. Feed Demon costs $29.00.
And if you'd prefer to get your updates via e-mail, News Gator
integrates itself with Microsoft Outlook, and will notify
you about updates via a familiar interface. News Gator too
How do I start?
Creating a blog requires special software that is available
either free, or for a nominal monthly fee. Even better, though,
blogging software is designed to flatten the learning curve
for all who have the urge to share their thoughts with the
rest of the world. It requires virtually no knowledge of HTML,
or CGI programming. Updating a blog is as simple as typing
words into a text editor, then clicking a button to publish
your blog to the world.
Among the most popular blogging applications in use today,
are Blogger (http://www.blogger.com),
Movable Type (http://www.movabletype.org/),
and Type Pad (http://www.typepad.com/).
Further removing the need to know HTML, blogging software
allows you to choose a template (which you can customize)
that gives all of your messages a consistent look. This could
help you in branding yourself.
Additional built-in functionality
Whatever software you choose will have built-in functionality
that will allow you to:
* Specify how many messages to display on a page * Specify
the Archive interval (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) * Provide
an area for readers to leave comments at the end of each blog
You can even configure the software to send you e-mail notification
when a reader leaves a comment. This gives you the ability
to provide timely responses, and to reassure your readers
that there is indeed a human behind the blog.
In addition, the software automatically attends to housekeeping
chores like creating directories, archiving old posts, and
displaying a particular number of messages per page, based
on your specifications.
If you have your own domain name, you very likely have your
own server, so you can host your blog there. If you prefer,
though, Blogger will host your blog on their "Blog Spot"
server at no charge. If you've subscribed to Type Pad's service,
they will host your blog there.
Blogs have the ultimate opt-in audience
Thanks to the news aggregators, blogs are available to a staggering
number of potential readers. Your task--at least initially--is
to see to it that your current and potential customers have
news aggregators, and that they have your blog listed in them.
When they see that you've updated your blog, you can have
a high degree of confidence that they're going to read what
you've written, because they voluntarily subscribed to your
news feed. As I said earlier, they will very likely be glad
to hear from you.
Beyond that, the blog world is loaded with "techno-geeks"
who enjoy nothing more than watching to see whose blog has
been updated recently. So you can count on some random traffic
Finally, the blog world is inhabited by a talkative bunch
of folks. Blogs, after all, are vehicles for communication.
So it's very likely that if you begin to post worthwhile content
to your blog, the word will get around. This is indeed the
case where "if you blog it, they will come." But
then it's your job to keep them coming back with high-quality
Once you've attracted a following, people will begin to seek
out your blog for your expert advice and commentary. Your
blog will become the go-to source for timely information about
your area of expertise. And it will be only a matter of time
before people will be compelled to drill down into your sales
page, or go to your sales site to buy your product.
If it is indeed true that a sale rarely gets made before the
seventh contact with a buyer, a blog can shorten the interval
between contacts from weeks to days.
A day in the life
So what is the precise interaction between you and the blogging
software that holds the potential to reach thousands of readers?
Well, when I post a blog entry, I begin by writing it in Microsoft
Word, text format. That way, I'm confident that I'm going
to get all the major spelling and grammar mistakes out of
the way quickly.
When I'm happy that I have a reasonably polished piece, I
log-in to my blogging service, and I click on the "New
Post" link. This gets me to a small text editor. From
here, I go back to MS Word, copy my text, and paste it into
the text editor.
Then, I select "Preview"" to view the document
in a window that, while not browser-quality, is better quality
viewing than raw ascii text editor. If I'm happy with what
I see, I click on the "Publish" button. If not,
I can go back to the text editor and make changes. And that's
all there is to it. My latest post, formatted, dated, and
ready for comments, is now in residence at Skip's Italian
Food Blog (http://www.skiplombardi.com).
At this point, Blogger notifies a service called Weblogs.com
and they post a message on their site, that Skip Lombardi
has updated his blog. But that isn't even close to the end
of the story.
Weblogs will tell all the people in their database that I've
updated my blog, but there are many, many more services that
do the same thing, and I want to reach all of them.
Seeing a need for bloggers to notify the blogosphere that
they've updated their blogs, a couple of like-minded bloggers
created a service called Ping-O-Matic (http://www.pingomatic.com).
This is a free service that "pings" or notifies
the most important news aggregators on the web that you've
updated your blog. Now, you have the potential of being noticed
by over 500,000 people. And not one of them will even consider
the possibility that you're sending spam.
If you can get to the internet, you can have a blog
You don't even need to have a Web site to begin blogging.
Simply subscribe to a free blog hosting service and have at
it. Google will list your blog the same way they list every
other Web page. And you don't even need keywords in your <META>
And speaking of Google, I've not seen any factual reports,
but I've seen a ton of speculation on SEO websites that the
spiders visit blogs more frequently than they visit traditional
Web sites, because the blogs are updated so much more often.
It certainly appears to be the case with my own blog. I've
made postings, and seen those pages in Google within days
afterward. So, at least by anecdotal evidence, blogging offers
the possibility to improve your page ranking in the search
Finally, blogs offer the ultimate opportunities for networking.
The attitude among bloggers is that "we're all doing
this together." So exchanging links with like-minded
sites is the norm rather than the exception.
Also, a company called Blogrolling (http://www.blogrolling.com)
makes it possible for people to link to you "on the fly."
it in your blog template, and when people come to your site,
they can click on the "Blogroll Me" link, and they
immediately add your link to their site.
A blog will never replace e-mail—on a purely personal level.
But a blog will help you to reach a larger audience than you
thought possible with opt-in e-mail. Whether you sell information
products, candles, or baseball cards, you'll find folks in
the blogging world who are seeking exactly what you have to
For me at least, a blog has provided the quickest way to reach
the largest number of people. And every one of them is interested
in hearing what I have to say next.