January 2007


While I would like to say that this has been a real life lesson in how to break one of the 3 main rules of blogging (ie. consistent posting), I’m afraid that it’s just not the case and I have been tied up on other projects which needed particular attention over the last week.

Back into the hot seat again now though and, I’d like to think, some interesting posts coming up over the next week which took me back to my formal marketing days. In the meantime, a couple of links for you to check out.

Recommended Link 1 – Biz Growth News

Firstly, I’d like to recommend having a look at Krishna De’s Biz Growth News blog which is an excellent resource for businesses and business people everywhere. Lots and lots of great content which is well worth subscribing to.

We have been doing some work together which will be completed this week and there will be a full review of this coming up in a couple of weeks time on The Blog Coach which is being restarted at the beginning of next week with lots of new information about the whole activity of blogging for business.

Also, the Irish Blog Awards are coming up soon and I really think that the Biz Growth News site is well worth an award there because of the incredible information it provides. So if you think so too, then why not spend a moment to recommend Krishna’s blog. Once you’ve starting reading it, I have no doubt that you’ll want to.

Recommended Link 2 – The Biz of Knowledge

Secondly a long list of excellent blogs courtesy of The Biz of Knowledge in the post 66 Successful Bloggers and What they can teach you. The list is extracted from the contributors to Ted Demopoulos’s recent book What no-one ever tells you about Blogging and Podcasting. Overall, you have an incredible set of blogs to check out full of really useful information!

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At the start of 2007, a piece of legislation came into force to bring the UK in line with European requirements, specifically the First Company Law Directive which controls the minimum information requirements which has to appear on company documents, including the website, as well as all written communications including e-mail.

In it, it states that businesses are expected to include details such as company registration details, company address, registration number and contact details on all company documentation including business letters, emails and of course websites.

An aide memoir from OutLaw.com gives us the details that needs to be included on the website, though not on every page thankfully:

The name, geographic address and email address of the service provider. The name of the organisation with which the customer is contracting must be given. This might differ from the trading name. Any such difference should be explained e.g. “XYZ.com is the trading name of XYZ Enterprises Limited.”

It is not sufficient to include a ‘contact us’ form without also providing an email address and geographic address somewhere easily accessible on the site. A PO Box is unlikely to suffice as a geographic address; but a registered office address would. If the business is a company, the registered office address must be included.

If a company, the company’s registration number should be given and, under the Companies Act, the place of registation should be stated (e.g. “XYZ Enterprises Limited is a company registered in England and Wales with company number 1234567”)

If the business is a member of a trade or professional association, membership details, including any registration number, should be provided.

If the business has a VAT number, it should be stated even if the website is not being used for e-commerce transactions.

Prices on the website must be clear and unambiguous. Also, state whether prices are inclusive of tax and delivery costs.

Although they are not specifically mentioned, we can assume that these business details should also be included on our business blogs since they are effectively a special type of website. So make sure that you are covered – after all, your blog is a key element of your business communications.

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If you are serious about developing your blog for your business then the likelihood is that you will be keeping a keen eye on tracking visitors to your site, seeing which posts are attracting most interest and which keywords are being used to find you.

There are a number of tools of the market which can help you in this, many of which are free. Most of these are generic tracking packages are aimed at websites in general, but there are also some excellent ones which are specifically aimed at blogs which should also be considered because of the additional elements they bring.

Blog Tracking Tools

There are four services that I have looked at specifically, though there are of course many more which exist in the market. The first two, MyBlogLog and Feedburner, were created with blogs specifically in mind while Statcounter and Google Analytics are general analytics packages, designed for a wider audience.

MyBlogLog: (recently acquired by Yahoo) is much more than just a tracking package. You are given a dashboard overview of where readers came from, what they’ve viewed and what they clicked on, as well additional more comprehensive details in the detailed area, but I believe that the real value comes from the community element it also offers.

With MyBlogLog, you get the chance to make contact with the people who read your blog, make contact and link up with others as well as join communities on individual blogs or sites (join the Better Business Blogging community here). You can see which members last visited your blog in your profile area on MyBlogLog and, through an easily installed widget, also display it on your blog encouraging others to join.

Overall, a nice set up combining relationship options and tracking combined, though I notice that the statistics reported are generally lower than through other packages.

Feedburner: Feedburner is perhaps best known for its RSS tracking and manipulation but during 2006 they also bought blog tracking company BlogBeat. This has now been integrated as a blog analytics element into their free StandardStats package which sits alongside their more familiar RSS feed services.

Following the familiar Feedburner look and feel, you get page and visitor tracking, entry and exit pages together with browser information and location delivered in a “tag cloud” format. There are also a couple of nice touches linked to the RSS feeds, insofaras you can identify sites where your content has been resyndicated including other blogs and directories and you can track downloads of podcasts etc.

Lots more integration to come by all accounts so definitely one to keep an eye on in terms of new developments.

Statcounter: Real time stats and a whole host of information about who’s doing what and where on your site. A comprehensive and very popular stats package which gives a whole host of information across every aspect that you might need, perhaps with the exception of detailed information on exit links clicked on. Other than that you have everything that you might need from Search Engine referencers, keywords used, visitor tracking, popular pages etc.

The free service offers all the functionality but retains only 100 page views to drill down into for detailed information – however, upgrading is relatively inexpensive if required. The interface is functional without being anything to write home about but the fact that it is real time statistics from the word “go” is a real plus if you need to know what is happening on your blog immediately.

Google Analytics: After a few initial teething troubles of its own making (I guess that’s what happens when you give away something like this for free), Google Analytics has settled down to be probably the most comprehensive free tracking package out in the market.

In some ways in fact, it’s possibly overkill for what most blogs require but it is certainly very complete in what it tracks, and it presents the information in graphic format as well as raw data. The click paths are particularly nice but there is going to be a lot of the functionality which will probably not be used.

Which to go for

All contain more than enough basic information in their tracking to satisfy most users, so it is really their individual specialist additions that make the difference where they play to their own strengths.

There is of course nothing stopping you using more than one package and this is the road I would probably recommend. If you use a comprehensive overall analytics package such as Statcounter or Google Analytics, then these will certainly cover all your indepth tracking requirements. But the community elements at MyBlogLog are an excellent addition and Feedburner’s RSS expertise offers tracking through your feeds that the others can’t provide, so incorporate these as well and get the best of all worlds!

One word of warning – it can get addictive! So try not to keep popping back to your stats every 5 minutes to see who’s visited, the information will still be there later.

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At the end of 2006 and perhaps prompted by Time’s lead article declaring “Person of the Year: You“, there was a lot of talk about user generated content, thats to say information on sites being supplied by those using the site rather than those who set it up and run it.

There are many good examples of websites which work primarily on content which has been generated by the users themselves. Sites such as YouTube and MySpace are ones which have attracted a great deal of press coverage at the social end of the spectrum.

Business and Networking Examples

In business, there are equally impressive examples. Amazon contains a huge amount of product information but arguably more valuable are the reviews written by people who have read the books. Similarly, sites such as TripAdvisor contain lots of information but the dynamic part comes from guests who leave their own opinions on the hotels and holidays mentioned.

In social and business networking, many sites are primarily online structures or shells which allow their members to post articles, share information and advice or generally interact in forums. Their challenge lies in creating something which is appealing and then attracting users with similar interests who will use them and participate. Many do this very well and it shows in their success and their growth.

Collaboration on Business Blogs

But it is not only sites of this size which can benefit from this trend towards online collaboration and sharing of information. Your company blog offers the ideal place for exactly this type of cooperation and community building after all, it is targeted at a specific group

So, for your own business, look at the benefit that you can accrue by getting some of the stakeholders in your company working with you:

  • Sales & Partner Networks: companies with non competing sales or distribution networks can use their blogs as a central source of information that their partners can use to increase their sales and coverage, as well as share their own experiences

  • Internal Communications: from a company perspective, tap into the collective ideas that bounce around inside of a company with nowhere to go. Give them an outlet and a chance to be expressed. Using an internal blog, you allow them not only to be put forward but also developed as others add to the initial idea

  • Market Research: tap into the combined ideas of your most valuable assets your customers. Give them a place (open or private) where they can suggest new ideas or show how they are using your products and services already. It may be quite eye opening

  • Product Development: in certain industries, particularly in hi-tech, allowing developers and customers to put forward new ideas extends the type of research and product marketing that you can achieve 100 fold. You also increase the chances of developing a group of product evangelists into the bargain

As you can see, you don’t need a site the size of Amazon to enjoy the benefits that collaboration can bring – your business blog has all the elements that you need provided that you focus it correctly.

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As ever, this time of year is when people look back over what has happened in the previous year and forward to what they think will happen in the New Year.

While Im not a great one for New Year Resolutions, I thought that I would add my own thoughts as to some of the trends that I believe we will be looking at in the arena of business blogging and social media.

In no particular order:

1. Blog Integration: Blogs will become more integrated with standard websites and indeed the norm will be to have the interactive elements of a blog for specific purposes as part of more and more sites.

2. Small Business Blogs: Small Businesses will recognise that simply starting up a static website will not provide them with the online presence and communication tool that they require. Those small businesses wishing to make an impact will move their current website on to a blog platform and will lead the way in this area.

3. Internal blogs: Dark blogs (or internal blogs) will step out into the light. Having used blogging as internal communications tools, larger companies will build on that experience to start to incorporate externally customer focused blogs into their customer relations programs. Smaller companies will start to use internal blogs more extensively as a central information and communication resource.

4. Corporate Blogs: The FTSE 250 will see over 15 externally facing blogs set up as corporate organisations start to realise and explore the different options that business blogs offer them.

5. Social Media: In the UK, there will become a greater acceptance and use of the social media tools that are available. In the second half of the year, we will see social media toolkits becoming an increasingly important part of a companys online marketing activities.

6. Old ideas will persist: Nevertheless, people will continue to explain how to use business blogs by starting with the phrase blogs are an online diary. Alas!

7. Social Bookmarking: social bookmarking will spread outside of the primarily technical audience that it currently serves and be used more extensively. There will also be the first steps in consolidation within this area creating fewer independent and viable players.

8. RSS: the use of RSS will continue to gain ground outside of the current user base. This will develop the very specific RSS channels though is dependent on the benefits being more clearly explained and communicated by those already using it.

9. User generated content: the trend will continue but will expand from the mega site focus down to the smaller individual sites and blogs which will create strong micro communities in industry and market segments.

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