Blog Sense

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Blog-based Sites vs. Traditional Sites

Blog-based Sites vs. Traditional Sites

So you want a website for your business. Why should you use a blogging tool rather than a page-based content management tool?

Blog-based sites have a number of advantages over a traditional static site or a site driven by page-based content management systems.

Blog-based Sites:

Build Credibility:
Research shows that business build credibility on the web by showing that there is a real company and real people behind the website.

Blogs make it easier to be more personable. No, there's no "be personable" button or checkbox in a blogging interface that would force you to abandon third-person corporate speak, come out from behind the curtain, and be personable on your web site. Many businesses are simply using blogging tools to power their press or news room area on a traditional website, taking advantage of blogs low costs, highly usable interface, RSS feeds, built-in archiving, etc.

But blogging does encourage a first-person, more "business-casual" style than a traditional website, mostly due to bloggings roots as a personal online journal. The Cluetrain Manifesto's main point was that with the advent of the Internet, markets are now conversations. Blogs are perfect tools for allowing and encouraging businesses to be part of that conversation.

Businesses that use blogs to reveal themselves as real people with names, faces, opinions, interests -- and yes, some flaws -- will ultimately be more successful online that those who choose to remain faceless, nameless, and third-person.

Are Able to Handle Smaller Chunks of Content:
This is a tough one to get your head around. Typically we think of websites as a collection of "pages", linked together by a navigation bar. Many CMS systems support this paradigm - you log in, find your "page" and edit the content that exists on that page. Pages become the "unit of measure" for a site - if someone asked you how big your site is, you'd answer with the number of pages it contains.

The unit of measure for blog content is a "post". Each new entry is a post, and usually contains (at the minimum) a title and a body. Sometimes there is also an "extended entry", which is used when you see a "Read More" link.

Typically the home page for a blog is a collection of the most recent posts. Each post might also have it's own unique page - otherwise known as a permalink. Posts often get assigned to a category, and a category might have it's own "page" that contains links to all the posts in that category.

But a post might also be a product in an online catalog, a single link in a list of favorite sites, one event in a historical timeline, or contain an image that gets randomized in the site header. A single web "page" may contain posts or lists of posts from one or multiple weblogs. Sidebar content chunks may come from a seperate weblog than the main site content. One post might contain your site copyright date that gets used on every page in the site.

By breaking the traditional "page model" of websites, blogging tools offer the capability of serving up a variety of content types, entered and maintained through a single interface. Adding a product to the online catalog can use the same interface and process as a new image header or a new chunk of content.

Smaller chunks of content are also more resuable. A single product might get pulled from a product catalog and featured in the sidebar of another page. One event of a corporate timeline might get randomized into a "related information" section on a products or services page.

Are More Likely To Be Updated:
Well, maybe. ;) With a blog-based site there is really no excuse for not having up to date content - all you need to do is put a title and some body text into some fields, and click "Update". The site will handle all the navigation changes, page additions, archiving, categorizing, etc. Posts can be smaller than typical web pages, so it doesn't matter how small your update or news item is, stick it on the site.

Are More Affordable:
Depending on what blogging tool you choose, $300 can buy you a software license and a year of hosting. And no, that's not limited by users or seats or CPU's. And yes, that includes email and server traffic reporting tools, etc. Try to beat that deal with any halfway capable commercial content management system.

Are More Search Engine Friendly:
The blog development community keeps a closer eye on search engine optimization than the page-based CMS developers. When Google announced their new sitemap program, there were add-ins for Moveable Type and ExpressionEngine available that day. URL structures, semantic markup, permalinks, RSS Feeds, other blogs linking to you...these all drive search engine positioning.

Blogging also offers the advantage of building a site with a larger footprint. Imagine how large your site would be if you updated it weekly or daily with something new about your area of expertise? Google sees over 800 "pages" of content here on Boyink.com, a distinct competitive advantage over a similar company who puts a 12 page site online and never adds to it.

Are More Scalable:
What would happen to your website if you actually started to add content daily? How long would the current navigational model hold up? Would your menu bars be able to accomodate a new chunk of content every day?

Blog sites are designed, by nature to hold an ever-increasing amount of content. Many blogs add new content weekly or even daily. Blogs use date and category archives as scalable containers for this content.

Are More Likely to be Standards-Based:
Blogging tools have appeared on the scene in the last 3-4 years, so don't have the table-based legacy that older CMS systems have to work through. Blog designers also wanted their sites to be easily "skinnable" or personalized, and being based on CSS makes that easier to do.

Are History-Builders:
By not deleting "old" content, blogs can build a corporate history. For some companies this is a requirement -- a corporate lawyer might need to know what was on your site two years ago as part of litigation. Do you have backups of your current site?

A searchable corporate history might also prove useful to new employees - giving them a sense for how the company came to be where it is today.

About the Author

Michael Boyink specializes in developing blog-based business websites, Internet Strategy and Information Architecture.

Find out how your company can 'Get Boyinked!' by visiting www.boyink.com.
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