February 2006

Seminar FAQsThe posts in this category will be a selection of those questions that we get asked most frequently with regard to setting up a Business Blog or a fully fledged Corporate Blog site and which warrant a short answer all of their own.

Where relevant, we will add links to other posts on the Better Business Blogging site and other relevant blog information sites.

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Technorati continues to add new elements to its set of services with a “Your Favorites” page as one of the options within your Technorati account.

You can add up to 50 blogs to your Favorites and then be kept informed as to when they are updated and be able to search through them all as well. It’s also a way to share your favourite blogs with others as all of the Technorati Favorites are public so you get a specific URL that you can pass on to others.

As a blog owner, you can also make it easy for someone to add your blog to their Favorites list using a choice of buttons which you can add to your site. Any way that you can help people to find and keep updated about your blog is beneficial so take it on board – oh, and in case you’d like to add Better Business Blogging to your Favorites, here’s the button!

Add this blog to my Technorati Favorites!

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In a nutshell, RSS is a technology which allows you to have exactly the information you want to read from the internet delivered straight to you. Effectively, having found a source of information that you are interested in, RSS will let you know every time a new piece of information is available and send it to you rather than you having to revisit and check all of the sites looking for it yourself!

What does RSS mean?

There are two commonly held views of what RSS stands for – Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary. Each of these touches on one of the key uses of RSS. It provides the publisher with a way for other sites to use and hence “syndicate” news and content that has been created and, for the reader, it gives a summary of the updated contents of a favourite site.

If you want to subscribe to and read an RSS feed, then you will need to have an RSS reader (also known as an RSS aggregator) which will either be one that you have installed on your PC or one which you access online. (More info on RSS Readers here) Then, when you wish to subscribe to an RSS feed, you simply copy the relevant URL of the feed into the reader and everything else is done for you. Couldn’t be simpler!

Publishing your own RSS Feed

If you want to publish your own RSS feed so that visitors to your blog can receive an automatic update when you add new posts, then you are in luck. Most blog software creates the feed automatically for you, so all that you have to do is tell people where they can find it – this is usually done with a small orange box with “RSS” or “XML” in it although a new orange icon is likely to become the standard as it has been taken up by a couple of the major players going forward. You will also find branded buttons from Newsgator, Yahoo and the like (as you will see on this site) for people using those RSS readers – however, they all supply the same information so you are just making it easier for your readers to subscribe.

So, should I use them?

I would certainly advise using them, both as a reader and a publisher. RSS feeds are a fabulous way of providing information and spreading the word. From the reader’s point of view, they can save hours of work revisiting sites looking for new information and, from a Business Blog’s perspective, they provide a simple way of promoting your blog by sharing the great information directly with the people who want to receive it. A match made in heaven!

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When you update your Business Blog, then clearly you want to tell people about it so that they come to read what you have posted. There are a number of Search Engines which deal with blogs and also RSS feeds – RSS feeds must < I repeat, must > form a part of any blog worth its name. In order to inform them that you have new information for them to index, the best way is to “ping” them so that they can visit your blog and retrieve the new information and make it available to their users.

The best way to do this is to incorporate an automatic “ping” into your blog but if that is not available then they are a number of services which can take the pain out of this for you by “pinging” a number of the Search Engines for you. Two of these are Pingomatic and Pingoat which will inform a number of the relevant engines for you. Another option is to use a relatively new service introduced by FeedBurner called PingShot which is part of their free service at the moment.

Whichever way you decide to do it, you need to tell the Search Engines that there is new content available so either integrate this into your blog or get into the habit of POSTING and then PINGING!

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There are lots of different opinions and descriptions of what a blog is, so it would seem sensible to start with a brief overview.

The name comes from a contraction of web log and it started life as a personal online publishing system. The blog would be a place on the internet where the author (normally an individual) could publish their thoughts and opinions on whatever subject they liked. These would then appear in chronological order.

Start Point

A good place to start for some background on blogs is Wikipedia. They describe a blog as:

“The term blog is a shortened form of weblog or web log. Authoring a blog, maintaining a blog or adding an article to an existing blog is called “blogging”. Individual articles on a blog are called “blog posts,” “posts” or “entries”. A person who posts these entries is called a “blogger”.

These are all true and yet only provide half the story. A blog is effectively a special type of website which has allowed people who previously had no real access to publishing on the web to write and express their own opinions. There are also now very important marketing tools for businesses (see below).

Special Characteristics

So what are the special characteristics that blogs have which make them so great both for personal use and for business use. Well, the main ones are:

  • No technical knowledge required: you dont need technical expertise to write a blog. You add pages or articles through a “Windows” type of interface so there is no need to rely on a web designer to update it for you.

  • Readers can leave comments: your readers can respond to your posts so that you can start see whos interested in the same areas as you or as a business open a conversation with potential clients, suppliers or partners. The perfect opener to developing a relationship and a network!

  • Automatically organised: ‘categories’ and ‘archives’ are integral parts of a blog and each post will automatically be placed correctly according to the selection you make. This gives great organisation and structure to a blog which is perfect for visitors and Search Engines alike and allow you to concentrate on the content

  • Search Engine magnets: with regular posts, categorised content and search engine friendly links and addresses, business blogs become ideal places for Search Engines to find the type of content they love and you can rank very highly!

  • Multiple Authors: not only can one person add content but you can allow access to any number of people so that you have several authors contributing to a topic or a series of topics. It also opens up the possibilities for blogs as tools ideally suited to internal communications within a company.
  • Internal and External Links: blogs thrive by links and referring to other articles so that conversations and ideas can be taken up and developed. At its best, this allows a viral effect in terms of promotion and helps develop both relationships and networks.

  • Permalinks: every post and every category has its own individual address, forever! This means that you can refer to them in articles, emails, newsletters etc safe in the knowledge that they will always be found. Another great feature for the Search Engines.

Business Blogs

However, over the past 12 – 18 months, this technology has been adopted to a much larger extent by businesses as a new and very powerful marketing tool which has allowed them to communicate with their customers, enter into dialogue with them and helped to create relationships and networks online. As a result, many companies has successfully used them to help to dominate their niche and market themselves more effectively to customers and prospects alike.

To learn more about Business Blogs and how to use them, you may find our own Business Blogging email course to be useful. It’s free but very good! :)

Personal Blogs

A personal blog is generally set up to allow the author to discuss their views on anything and everything, so the topics change with each post according to mood or inclination. This is where blogs started and it is essentially a personal diary or scrapbook, which can be great fun to both read and write.

There are now tools which are freely available to allow anyone to set up a personal blog quickly and simply – while these are not advised for a Business Blog simply because they offer less control over a tool which will become key to your business. The most well know is Blogger, owner by Google, though there are others which are as good if not as well known.

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Towards the end of last year, Google has launched its Blog Search Engine which works in the same basic way as the normal Google Search Engine, except that it only indexes blogs.

If a blog publishes a site feed in any format and automatically pings Web.logs, then Googles Blog Search Engine should pick it up more or less immediately and certainly so far it seems to be doing a good job in that respect. An added feature, which is particular to the Blog Search Engine and certainly very relevant to blogs, is that it allows you to sort the results not only by relevance, but also by date.

However, this is not to discuss its relative merits but rather to highlight some of the special search operators that it has over and above those that we already have available from the main Google Search Engine a list of these main operators can be found on Googles site.

In addition to these, Blog Search supports the following new operators of its own:

Every blog has its own title as part of its set-up and this is what is searched through to return results. This does not refer to all that is in the Title tag which will vary according to the page or all that is included in the URL.

This searches through the titles of the posts which are made in a blog – again this is a specific field you create when creating a post in your blog, and it is important for this and other reasons to choose an appropriate one.

This will return anything where the authors name corresponds with the search term. For example, a search such as – emarketing inpostauthor:Mark – will return posts containing the word emarketing which have been posted by people named Mark.

This does not return words which are only present in the main domain name of the blog but in the rest of the URL. In many blogging systems, this is likely to return similar results as a search using inposttitle

There is an alternative way to achieve this by using the Advanced Search option which is accessible from the main Blog Search page and will allow you to sift through the results in the same way.

All useful stuff and certainly makes it clear of the importance that Google places on the role that blogs are already playing which will no doubt develop further.

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