One of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to setting up a business blog, and certainly one which I have been asked on a number of occasions recently, is whether it is better to have a blog as part of your website or to set it up as a separate site on its own domain.

I would love to be able to give a brief one line response to this, however, I don’t believe that there is one which will fit all circumstances. So, true to recent form, I have to say that the answer to this will depend on a number of different factors, all of which can contribute to the final decision.

And what are these factors, I hear you ask. Well, the main ones I would look at are:

  • Branding requirements

  • Intended use of the Blog

  • Target Audience

  • Focus of Blog

  • Domain Name Selection

  • Search Engine / SEO Requirements

  • General Marketing Requirements

If we look at these in more depth, we can see where the tipping points are likely to be in each of the areas and therefore what will influence your final decision:

Branding requirements
If you are looking to reinforce your main brand, then keep all the information supporting it together and include the blog as part of your website rather than dilute it by dividing the content onto two separate sites. However, if you are considering a Product Blog to focus on and around a particular product or range, or you are looking at a sub-brand of some description, then these would benefit from having a separate domain and standalone image which would allow real focus and input from users and advocates.

Intended use of the Blog
If you want to use the blog for something which complements the rest of your website, such as an FAQ section or an online media centre, then integrating it in the website is ideal, as it will re-inforce and support all your company’s activities. If, on the other hand, the blog needs to present you as an independent source of information and advice, then you would be better to distance it from your website, so that you can be seen as objective in this role rather than as part of the company which has interests in the area.

Target Audience
If your blog and your website are designed to appeal to the same audience then, all other things being equal, it makes sense to combine them in one location which gives extra value to your readers and adds to the appeal of the website. However, if the blog deals with a specific area which is directed solely at a particular subset of your website’s target audience (or a different one altogether), then it would be better to maintain it on a separate domain rather than risk alienate customers not interested in that subject. The alternative, and better solution, is to create a series of specialist blogs which offer additional value to each individual group.

Focus of Blog
By adding your blog to your website, it will not be able to stray too far from the general topics and direction that the website already has. As a result, you may be restricted in terms of what you can write about, as the blog will be closely connected with the information presented on the rest of the website. A separate domain will give independence from the original site and hence allow you greater freedom in terms of your stance and commentary on issues.

Domain Name Selection
Setting up your blog on a separate domain will allow you to choose a new domain name which is specifically relevant to the blogs aims and goals, and which adds to its SEO potential, for example by including your main keywords. On your current website, you would not have this flexibility although you would still be able to choose something relevant either as the subdomain or the directory, according to the set-up you select.

Search Engine / SEO Requirements
Putting the blog on your website will add both content and value to it in the eyes of the main Search Engines and its development should increase it status and the number of incoming links to your website, as other blogs link to you. With a separate domain, however, you can set up all aspects properly from the start although you may have to go through Googles “sandpit” which can restrict rankings over the first few months. The links that come into this separate domain can then be focused into your main site and will have additional value because they come from an external site with good quality and relevant content.

General Marketing Requirements
You may not have the resources to fully market a totally separate blog which would effectively require its own marketing and promotional activities push. It would, however, create a whole new focus to the company’s activities which would potentially attract a new target audience. If, on the other hand, it sits on your current website, then it can benefit from the current marketing efforts used to promote the website and link from there. Whichever route you choose, you use, you should incorporate blog specific marketing as well as the more general online and offline elements as you promote your blog.

This seems like a long list and there are no doubt a number of other factors which could be added to it. However, in reality, although the list of factors might be long, there will generally be one overriding element which will end up dominating all of the others. It could be technical in nature or one of the commercial/marketing elements mentioned above but the outcome will be the same – the best solution for you in your particular circumstance will effectively select itself!

So, how to summarise all of this advice? Take your blog back to basics and examine what was the real trigger moment that made you decide that you needed or wanted to have a Business Blog – look at that reason and what you wanted the blog to achieve and then work forward from there.

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