We won’t be the first people to extol the virtues of blogging, and we won’t be the last. It’s entered common parlance, and many of us will follow at least one blog. But it’s worth having a think about exactly why blogging and business has become such an interesting partnership.
The personal we(b-log) was brought about as a simple system where anyone could host a personal website, made up of posts, responses, and XML based RSS feeds which would notify anyone following the blog that content had been updated. So far so simple. The ‘blogosphere’ became inundated with personal blog sites from ordinary people to Hollywood A-listers. Blogs became diaries, methods of revenge, portals for corporate whistle-blowers and much more besides. Again, nothing revolutionary just yet.
What is interesting however is the impact that this has had on the corporate world, and vitally on the future of search itself. As the web has evolved consumer behaviour online has changed dramatically over the first ten years. Consumers are faced with far more options online than offline, with competitor sites only a click away. Search engines put thousands of sites at your fingertips where consumers can compare products, services and prices. Browser technologies can block advertising and junk marketing emails. In short, the online marketer’s job is an extremely challenging one.
And so it was that over time people began to use the web as it was originally intended. As a community for like-minded individuals to share ideas, share thoughts, and vitally share opinions on things. On products. On services. On their thoughts relating to particular companies and brands. And these communities of like-minded individuals began forming forums, websites and ultimately blogs (although the moniker itself was a long way off) and these began shaping the future of products. Adobe sought feedback on products from forums of ‘beta testers,’ Microsoft from similar groups, and many more besides. What we now take for granted had begun; the opinions of peers and like-minded individuals became key in forming consumer decisions online.
The so-called second incarnation of the web, or Web 2.0 further cemented this. Brands and service providers openly invited users to post comments, good or bad onto their sites so they could better address issues with their products before the consumers began talking them down elsewhere on the web. User generated content from the public became the basis for all the greatest web advances in the last 5 years, from Wikipedia, to Facebook, to Twitter and Last.fm. People, talking about products, to other people.
With this in mind, the threat to conventional search became clear. No longer was Google able to rest on its laurels, thinking that its algorithm (no matter how clever) was going to deliver the results that people wanted on the web. It was after all a machine. What we want are sites where real people post links to great content, and other users visit, explore the links and then vote or feedback as to how good they think they are. We want a place where like-minded individuals can share great content and where bad content is voted away. We want blog sites. Forum sites. We want sites like Digg, Delicious Stumbleupon and countless others.
Blogging for business therefore seems to make more sense all of a sudden. The first person tone of voice, collaborative, community based and open-to-all nature of the most successful blogging sites on the web creates an atmosphere where we are encouraged to share opinions and experiences, and makes the web personal. Something that after ten years, we are only just learning to achieve with conviction.
Google has had a blog search facility within its homepage for some time now, and with the recent advent of genuinely user-friendly blog tools such as WordPress, Moveable Type and Blogger, it is within the reaches of anyone to start a blog up. If your blog is seen as having regular, relevant content added on a regular basis, search engines will return with increased frequency and your rankings will become vastly enhanced. Encouraging your audience to post and especially to post links to other interesting content will improve your link popularity and your visibility on search engines will improve yet again. Content is king, and the sites that rank highest on Google and have the most traffic will be those who provide relevant and engaging content, rather than those who have invested the most in search engine optimisation.
The future therefore, is a collaborative one. Be where your consumers are when they look for a service, and be where they are when they need to speak to you. It’s old-fashioned marketing common-sense, it’s old-fashioned customer service, but it’s taken us a while to get here. A great blog will index well on search engines and provide an easy interface for client contact, client responses, and for brand ambassadors to sing your praises.
Don’t be afraid to join in. Blog about you, before others do. (see the Jellybean Blog below)
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