Q: I would like to create an area for our customers to read articles or news about our industry and our company. Should I institute some kind of blog format so that customers can comment on stories or articles? Will this be complicated to set up? Is there any advantage over standard web pages for posting articles?
A: Many people wonder whether to use a blog format for posting articles online, or whether a classic, tree-structured website navigation is better. We’d look at this situation from a few angles: where it fits into your conversion goals, your available labor, inbound link potential, and target audience preferences. Here’s a bit more on each of these:
If you are developing content that is clearly helpful in driving conversions, such as “Perfect sizing tips for your baseball cleats” or “Which is the right softball for you?” then we’d argue that it belongs on your site as an article. This is our gut feeling, because we think this type of content is generated less frequently and tends to appeal to a newbie audience, so it’s just better suited for a static page within your global navigation.
On the other hand, if you have “newsy” content – promotions, events, etc., that is meant to engage interested visitors and spark return visits, then it would be perfectly reasonable to post the content in a blog format. Similarly, if you often post brief commentary and observations, industry notes and links, rather than longer, essay-like research and articles, a blog would provide a better venue.
Do you have both conversion-minded articles and news items? You can always create a hybrid situation in which you use the blog primarily for news, but create a post on the blog containing a “promo” for, and a link to, every new article you create.
Your Available Labor
You sound concerned about technical work involved, but what about writing work? Do you have the writing staff to keep a blog current and populated with compelling content? Is blog-style content generation realistic for your particular industry and company? A lot of companies use blog authoring software to post their press releases, which is perfectly kosher, but that kind of arrangement rarely comes close to using the blogosphere to its full potential.
Inbound Link Potential
We think it’s reasonable to assume that a well-written, interesting blog will generate more links than articles, because you can generate more discussion on a compelling and dynamic blog than in a static article.
Notice how we went overboard with the adjectives there? “Well-written, interesting, compelling, dynamic?” Just a friendly reminder that content is king no matter how you add it to your website.
In order to gain the full benefits of integrating a blog into your existing site, you should make sure it is part of your domain, i.e. yoursite.com/blog. Then, start linking out to other relevant blogs. The blogosphere is a two-way street: you should link out if you want to get links in.
Think about your target audience and how comfortable they would be with your choice. Would your internet-savvy audience find a classic navigation boring and old-fashioned? Or would your more traditional or newbie audience get lost trying to use page tags as navigation? Keep a clear eye on your target audience and your long-term business goals, and make your choice accordingly.