Practical Ecommerce

Choose A Platform And Blog, Blog, Blog

Because search engines tend to reward blogs in several ways, corporate and ecommerce sites ought to look at the possibility of adding one or more blogs. As Stephan Spencer underscores “SEO: Blogging Your Way To The Top”, search engines’ ranking algorithms revolve around links, and the blogosphere revolves around interlinking. As a result, adding corporate blogs is a great way to garner links.

Search engines also love fresh content, and blogs, by definition, are constant sources of new content. If written correctly – or more specifically interestingly – blogs can also provide wider link bait and garner links from outside the blogosphere. Search engines, of course, reward for good, inbound links regardless of whether they’re from other blogs.

So, where does a company begin if it wants to add a blog to its website? The answer: Choose a blog platform. (Next month, we’ll discuss the importance of knowing who will blog, how often, and about what.) While free services like Blog.com and Blogger.com offer simple-to-build interfaces, a company is better off using a platform that lives on its own servers and is under the same domain as the corporate site. Some of the best ones are free. Both MovableType and WordPress offer free software that can be run from most common servers.

Although MovableType is fine, my personal recommendation is WordPress, because – currently – it seems to have more SEO-friendly plugins (small upgrade programs that add functionality to the main software) that make blogging faster and easier. For instance, my company, Netconcepts, offers three free WordPress Plugins that provide various shortcut functions and software upgrades. The most popular is SEO Title Tag which allows users to uncouple post titles from title tags. There are many other SEO-friendly plugins out there, most of them free. Taken together, they cover the majority of blogging issues.

Finding factual substantiation for a post or making references to support an expressed view are common elements of blog writing. Use of graphics can also be a concern, especially when you’re attempting to verify that you have the right to use a given image. To help, Yahoo! has developed Yahoo! Shortcuts for WordPress. This plugin finds keywords in your post as you type and integrates a preview of potential links for those keywords. If the link is applicable, you can opt to automatically link the corresponding text to the content. If the link doesn’t fit or you don’t like it, you reject it and it disappears.

In addition, the Yahoo! Shortcuts for WordPress plugin also recommends Flickr images, based on your textual content. As with the text links, if you like an image, you can choose to embed it into the post, without copyright worry. Since the plugin references Creative Commons licensing graphics, it suggests on only sharable Flickr images. The plugin bases these choices on the key themes of your post, and it includes proper attribution to the original image creator, automatically. Unhappy with a suggested graphic? Give it the ax, and the graphic won’t appear again.

While it’s true that Yahoo! has a financial agenga behind this plugin, it’s also true that the Yahoo! Shortcuts for WordPress plugin is a fantastic option for corporate or personal bloggers. This is especially true if the blog is not designed as a direct revenue stream, but as a way to add fresh content and quality link bait to an ecommerce site. If this plugin seems too impure for you, don’t use it. The point here is this: Having a blog is an important element of any corporate site, and the Yahoo! Shortcuts for WordPress plugin can make the experience fast, simple, and valuable.

Jeff Muendel

Jeff Muendel

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Comments ( 18 )

  1. Legacy User February 5, 2008 Reply

    An interesting article, but your recommendations for an in-house blogging platform are only really applicable to websites that are already well established.

    Surely it makes sense for smaller sites to use blog.com or blogger.com and ensure they link back to their site from the blog. These established blogging sites are more likely to be indexed regularly than the small little known site and it provides a easy way for the site to gain visibility.

    — *Stuart B*

  2. Legacy User February 5, 2008 Reply

    I believe that blogs are great and useful; but, I also believe there are certain business or audiences for which blogging will not be a worthwhile investment. Why hasn't someone address the topic, "When Not to Blog."

    Here's an example. I recently put up a web site for an interior designer and explained what blogging was. We talked about starting one for her. She explained that her clients come from very affluent neighborhoods and would probably never have the interest nor the time to spend blogging with a designer.

    On the other hand, I think designers should blog among themselves since the exchange of ideas could benefit them.

    Furthermore, she said the value of her web site is not so much to get picked up by these people who are searching the web for a designer; but as a reference to send potential clients to who contact her another way and want to see examples of her work.

    Has anyone else recognized the futility of blogging in other situations? Please share those with me. GB

    — *Gene Bowen*

  3. Legacy User February 5, 2008 Reply

    So first, Let me reply to Gene Bowen on inappropriate blogging situations. I don't believe there is ever an inappropriate business blogging situation.

    Blogging is about telling your story, sharing your expertise and basically humanizing your organization or business. You interior decorator is missing a key point (unless she doesn't want to grow).

    You designer could do great by talking about her projects, profiling her clients (with or without naming names), displaying pictures and video and basically telling a story.

    The most sucessful sales tactic of all time is the "Similar Situation". The more stories you tell, the more likely prospects have to find a story that "feels" like them.

    What social networking is teaching us is that humanity matters in marketing. Blogs are the best way for any organization to express their humanity.

    — *Chris Baggott*

  4. Legacy User February 5, 2008 Reply

    WordPress is the way to go and sure blogging helps in networking and getting traffic to the site… I took up blogging so I can earn while traveling and am fulfilling my dream now through http://www.reviewsaurus.com.

    — *Rajat Bhadani*

  5. Legacy User February 5, 2008 Reply

    I agree with Alex regarding WordPress. I had been using that before I started using moguling free business blog for my business, It has built in SEO tools and integrated with a social media platform, I was able to generate quite a few new leads after using it for a month. The thing what I like about moguling is regular new addition of seo and marketing features to help users get good results for their business, though WordPress also does that but from seo point of view and business blog point of view i would go with moguling. http://www.moguling.com is where its available for free.

    — *Alex*

  6. Legacy User February 5, 2008 Reply

    I agree that there is no inappropriate blogging scenarios. If you have a point of view and expertise to share (interior designer example) then you should absolutely be blogging.

    Share your ideas, share your successes, in the case of a designer, share pictures of your work or even videos. What you are doing when you blog is putting content out there that is already (if done correctly) optimized for SEO more than most websites that small business owners put together.

    If you put similar content on your website and on your blog, I almost guarantee that the blog content will get picked up faster and rank better.

    In terms of in house blogging vs using blogger or hosted WordPress, I have seen both strategies mentioned. I personally would rather have the blog generated natural search traffic coming to my domain instead of to a free blog site and I would rather see the natural SEO juice benefiting my site than Blogger.

    I have a client now that I would love to see blogging because the kind of content and stories he has to tell are very timely – not to mention that the navigation offered by a WordPress blog would be night and day above the navigation offered by his site.

    — *Wade Tonkin*

  7. Legacy User February 5, 2008 Reply

    Thank you for this article. After reading it I think I will add one to my design sites and see what happens. I have lots of clients and I think they also would like to add their 2 cent to the blog about the projects I've done for them. If it works well, I will offer blogs to my web customers to add function, info, and SEO (linking) to their sites.

    My site should have a blog up in a week or two. http://www.jeidedesigns.com.

    Thanks again for the great information.

    — *Jeide Designs*

  8. Legacy User February 5, 2008 Reply

    Regarding when not to blog, or when to blog…

    I have been debating for a while about adding a blog to my website, and so far the main plusses seem to be that it is a good source of backlinks and that it provides new content regularly.

    Regarding the new content, is there a difference between new blog content and new other content? I add new articles regularly, so is this just as good if I would blog at the same rate as I add new articles?

    Any thoughts?

    — *Ruth*

  9. Legacy User February 5, 2008 Reply

    WordPress is a really good blogging platform. It does have a steep learning curve, though, especially for people who don't know much about blogging (like me). There's lots of documentation, but it may as well be greek for a non-techie like me. Tech support is non-existent. You can ask questions at the wordpress forum, and maybe you'll get an answer. Apparently all the people there are volunteers, and some are none too friendly.

    That said, once you figure it out, it's really a fantastic way to put up a blog, especially if you self-host. I've had two websites, but they've gone by the wayside. Blogging is the only way to go, if you ask me. I have one blog already, and I plan to start another one soon.

    I tried the Yahoo Shortcuts, but it never came up with any pictures from Flickr for me, just weird links. So I deactivated it.

    Darlene Norris
    http://yourcatcareguide.com/wordpress

    — *Darlene Norris*

  10. Legacy User February 6, 2008 Reply

    I've been reading a lot lately about how adding a blog to an ecommerce site can add quality backlinks. But, being a non-techie and a new website owner, I'm still trying to put the pieces of this magnificent puzzle together. So let me ask specifically and simply- How would blogging generate links to my ecommerce site? Isn't a blog a separate domain entirely?

    Thanks,
    Derrick Gentry

    — *Derrick Gentry*

  11. Legacy User February 9, 2008 Reply

    Careful, WordPress is an incredibly robust platform, but building a WordPress blog is not for the faint of heart or those short on time. Many merchants don't even know what ftp is, much less how to use to do upload templates and plugins. If you are comfortable with crawling in forums for answers, WordPress is great. If you can hire someone to do it, even better. If you just want to put up some content and have easy access to some decent plugins, Typepad is a great option. An extra but very underrated benefit is that Typepad actually has customer support. Many good blogs (Guy Kawasaki and Seth Godin, for example) use this platform.

    Both of these blogging platforms have worthless WYSIWYGs, so either get familiar with Dreamweaver or download another WYSIWYG if you actually want what you write to show up the way it is supposed to. I've used a WordPress WYSIWYG that actually deleted the tags I put in the code of a post. What's up with that?

    — *Michelle Greer*

  12. Legacy User February 6, 2008 Reply

    I've often thought about ways to add customer interaction on my website. Thanks for offering up how a blog can do this while also adding new content that the search engines will look favorably on.

    I'm going to look into WordPress and see if I can integrate into my site, http://www.recycledcreations.com

    Thanks again!
    Jeff

    — *Jeff*

  13. Legacy User February 12, 2008 Reply

    Now, how about the security risks involved in allowing blogs on one's site…the possiblility of dropping some java script into the blog and then have the ability to monitor the carts of your bloggers…..grabbing information as they come and go…..I have not seen anyone address this issue yet….

    — *Mitch*

  14. Legacy User February 24, 2008 Reply

    I agree with Michelle Greer about setting up WordPress. Most small biz owners probably don't have the time nor the technical inclination to do a self-hosted blogging solution. In addition to Typepad, I would also recommend using Blogger.com BUT setting up the FTP option so the blog is published at your own domain.

    @Mitch – Blogging software/platforms take security into account by only allowing very basic HTML code. For example, commenters can usually format text (bold, italics) and insert links, but not insert images or Javascript.

    — *Gregory Go*

  15. Legacy User March 5, 2008 Reply

    When to blog and when not to blog…

    As a business consultant in a number of industries, I get this question fairly often — business owners see all of the hype surrounding blogging and wonder if and how they should participate. My answer is never about appropriateness — blogging has a lot of virtues and values for most types of businesses.

    But there is the matter of priority.

    For many of the businesses I deal with — even some e-commerce companies — there are dozens of other things that should take much higher priority over blogging because they simply have greater impact on the performance of that business.

    With limited resources and time, businesses need to be very careful to focus their efforts where they'll have the most impact — and sometimes blogging can be pretty far down the list.

    — *Rafe VanDenBerg*

  16. Legacy User March 23, 2008 Reply

    I have tried various blogs over the past 3 years and all have one consistent result….NO TRAFFIC!!!

    Why?

    I now have 2 blogs, 1 on wordpress and 1 on blogger. I followed all the steps in submitting the blogs and increasing my seo.

    Nothing.

    Any help is appreciated.

    — *Steve Floyd*

  17. ryannagy September 9, 2008 Reply

    Jeff – This is a great article. It would be nice to have some more specifics from you. For example, when you note:

    "There are many other SEO-friendly plugins out there, most of them free. Taken together, they cover the majority of blogging issues."

    How about a list of your favorite plugins?

    thanks – Ryan

  18. dovemarketplace October 8, 2008 Reply

    Anyone know about the ftp setup for blogger to use my own domain…Is that for a fee. I just opened my blog dovemarketplace.blogspot.com and I used blogger for an ease of use standpoint and all I can say is that I am more than pleased with the template selection and easy to use gadget tools and selection

    Dove Marketplace