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					       Insider’s Guide to
            Blogging

                                         Dave Taylor
                                       taylor@intuitive.com

                             http://www.blogsmart.com/


                             http://www.intuitive.com/blog/
                              http://www.askdavetaylor.com/




Please note that everything in this workbook is © 2006 by Dave Taylor. You are granted permission to disseminate
the workbook itself to colleagues and friends, but the material herein cannot otherwise appear online or off without
permission from the author. Thanks for your cooperation: as you know, intellectual property is one of the most
important topics surrounding the Internet and blogging in particular.




© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                                                  Page 1
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                                                                                          2006 Edition


About Dave Taylor
Dave Taylor has been involved with the Internet since 1980 and is widely recognized as
an expert on both technical and business issues. He has been published over a thousand
times, launched four Internet-related startup companies, has written twenty business and
technical books and holds both an MBA and MS Ed. Dave maintains three weblogs, The
Intuitive Life Business Blog, focused on business and industry analysis, the eponymously
named Ask Dave Taylor devoted to tech and business Q&A and The Attachment
Parenting Blog, discussing topics of interest to parents. Dave is a top-rated speaker,
sought after conference and workshop facilitator and frequent guest on radio and
podcast programs. You can find his training courses online at
http://www.Blogsmart.com/


Contents of this ebook:
WHAT IS A BLOG? .......................................................................................................................................................... 5
WHAT ARE WEBLOG TRACKBACKS? .................................................................................................................... 6
WHAT'S AN RSS AGGREGATOR? ............................................................................................................................. 7
HOW DO I KEEP TRACK OF PEOPLE BLOGGING ABOUT ME? .................................................................... 9
HOW DO I SUBSCRIBE TO AN RSS FEED? ........................................................................................................... 10
ARE LONG BLOG ENTRIES BETTER THAN SHORT ONES? .......................................................................... 12
THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR BLOG COMMENT STRATEGY ...................................................................... 13
WHO DECIDES WHAT WEBLOGS ARE "IMPORTANT" ANYWAY? ........................................................... 16
WHEN A BUSINESS SHOULD NOT BLOG ............................................................................................................. 17
WHY PODCASTS WON'T HELP PROMOTE YOUR BUSINESS ....................................................................... 19
JOURNALISTS VERSUS BLOGGERS: THE DIFFERENCE IS FACT CHECKING?.................................... 21
THE CHALLENGE OF BLOGGING ABOUT GOOD NEWS: BOEING ............................................................ 23
TECHNORATI TAGS: GOOD IDEA, TERRIBLE IMPLEMENTATION.......................................................... 24
GROWING YOUR BUSINESS WITH GOOGLE ..................................................................................................... 25


SPECIAL BONUS CONTENT:
             CHAPTER 15, CONTENT, CONTENT, CONTENT, FROM DAVE’S BEST-SELLING BOOK
             “THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO GROWING YOUR BUSINESS WITH GOOGLE”




© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                                                                                                     Page 2
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                  2006 Edition


      Exploding Your Business with Blogging
      ** The Most Important Workshop of the Year! **
      Because More Traffic + Recognized Expertise = More Sales
This eight week workshop with blogging and business expert Dave Taylor and SEO
expert Brad Fallon is the most comprehensive information on business blogging that’s
available anywhere at any price! Even better, you’ll learn everything you need to know
to gain traffic, become a recognized expert and increased your sales. We guarantee it!

The package you’ll receive includes ten information-packed 60-75 minute lectures on
audio CD that answer all your most critical blogging issues, including:

   ⇒ Blogging Tools: Confused with all the jargon and acronyms in the blogging space?
     You won't be after this course...

   ⇒ Learn how you can use other people's blogs to gain visibility... even before you
     have your own blog!

   ⇒ Customizing the look of your weblog: learn which tools to use, what they are
     capable of, and how to customize your blog to make you more money, faster

   ⇒ Discover how to optimize your weblog for the search engines one time so that
     every new page you create will automatically be ready to be spidered and placed
     highly in search engine results

   ⇒ Why writing for the Blogosphere is different than creating a web page or writing a
     good article... and why it's critical you fully understand the difference...

   ⇒ How to effectively find good content online that will keep your readers coming
     back for more... without ripping off content

   ⇒ How to monetize your blog, including our secrets to producing thousands of
     dollars each month in Google AdSense revenue

This course also includes special bonus sessions with legendary copywriter Joe Vitale
and Marketing Sherpa direct Anne Holland, a class workbook, a complete transcript of all
calls, six months of access to the monthly Business Blogging Mastermind teleconferences
and two one-on-one coaching sessions with blogging expert Dave Taylor.

             **** Sounds like a great deal? It is! ****

© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                       Page 3
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                   2006 Edition



Clients pay $350/hour for Dave’s time and over $400/hr for Brad’s time, and frequently
pay thousands to attend all-day blogging workshops that don’t cover as much material as
is included in this popular course.

There’s no risk, either: your investment is protected by a 100% 30-day money back
guarantee: if you don’t feel it’s worth twice its price, let us know and your entire
investment will be cheerfully refunded with our appreciation for giving it a try.

Whether you are just thinking about adding blogging to your marketing and sales mix or
you’re ready to take your blogging to the next level, this is the perfect course for you.


      Sign up for the Business Blogging Workshop at Blogsmart.com

                        Don’t forget to use the special code

                                     “subscriber”

                              to save $50 on the course!



         All courses include an unconditional 100% money back guarantee!




© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                            Page 4
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                       2006 Edition



WHAT IS A BLOG?
Dave, not to ask a ridiculously obvious question, but what is a blog? And what's the
future of blogs and blogging?

By a remarkable coincidence, Steven Streight just asked me the very same questions
about the definition of blogs on his own site, so rather than write something new, I'm just
going to quote what I wrote for him:

What is your definition of a "blog"?

A blog isn't what everyone thinks it is.

In fact, on this very page, you have a pile of definitions of blogs that I disagree with.
Why?

Because everyone likes to focus on the *presentation* of information and blogs are really
all about the *management* of information.

Here's what I mean: if you think that a blog is a web site characterized by frequent
articles displayed in chronological order, typically with timestamps, a la a journal or
diary, you're missing the forest for the trees.

Weblogs, instead, are just the facade that we see of considerably more powerful content
management systems that really revolutionize the maintenance of Websites.

Look at it this way: if you're not using a blog to help manage your site, when was the last
time you added any new content or revised an existing page?

When you do add content, do you make sure to link it into all the other pages on your
site, including your sitemap?

Sure, there are other software solutions for managing Web sites, but none that are as
flexible, easy, inexpensive, and SEO-friendly as weblogs.

What is the future of blogs?

Having said that, I think that blogs are going to go the way of the dinosaur, evolving from
an animal we spot into the petroleum we use to fuel our journeys, without giving an iota
of thought to the source of the petroleum.

It's not that blogs aren't cool and interesting, but just as geeks used to learn PostScript so
they could work with printers and display systems and now...



© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                             Page 5
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                               2006 Edition


...have no idea that PostScript is the underlying language of many devices, so we'll find
that we can focus on our sites, how the information is displayed and how we utilize it for
our needs.

After all, the bottom line is the same as it was before the blogging "phenomenon":

How do you find the best, most useful and valuable information on the Internet for any
given question, problem or query?


WHAT ARE WEBLOG TRACKBACKS?
Dave, I've been looking at a lot of different weblogs in the last few weeks and notice that
while some list "Trackback" or "Pingback" right on their index page, others have that
information on individual entry pages, and yet others seem to have either hidden or
completely removed trackbacks altogether. What are trackbacks and "trackback pings"
and why would I want them on my blog?

Trackbacks -- also known as pingbacks in some blogging applications -- started out as an
ingenious method of having two different Weblog articles cross-reference each other
automatically. It's best explained by example. Say you'd written an article on your site
about trackbacks. I could point to it here on my Weblog with an explicit link, then people
who read my article could ostensibly click through and read your piece too. If someone
started out at your site, however, they'd never know that I also wrote about the same topic
and that I had linked to your article.

So what if when I submitted my article to my Weblog management system (Movable
Type, in this case) it automatically notified your Weblog that I'd included a link to your
article within my own? That's useful because you definitely want to know what people
say when they respond to you and link to your article.

The next level of sophistication, though, is for your Weblog management system to
automatically include a pointer to my article at the end of your own article, so that people
who start out on your site know that I've written a response or reaction to your article on
my site too. Smart and sophisticated, a real proof of the dynamic and fluid nature of
information publishing in the 21st century, right?

And yet you can't trust trackbacks because software doesn't differentiate between your
legitimate weblog article linking to my own and a spammer sneaking in more inbound
links to their site with spoofed trackback pings. I kid you not. In fact, just this weekend I
got a trackback ping on one of my other weblogs that looks legit, but isn't:

       prom and homecoming dresses
       Excerpt: That sounds basically right. What do I know though, i run a silly designer prom dress
       site.


© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                                     Page 6
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                     2006 Edition

       Weblog: Prom Dress Patty
       Tracked: January 16, 2005 01:23 PM

If you were click through to the site link (which I haven't included because this person
doesn't deserve the link) you'd find that it actually points to the home page of a cheesy
ecommerce site and there's not only no article, there's not even a weblog involved.

You can read this and see it's obviously a bogus link (the fact that it has nothing to do
with the article it's "trackbacking" is a pretty overt clue), but my Weblog system dutifully
added it to the trackback links page and gave these losers a new inbound link from a
popular, high PageRank site. At least, until I deleted it.

The other issue with trackback pings is the same one that plagues Web sites with little
counters on the bottom of the page. Don't you think about the site differently when you
see "You're visitor 36" than if you see "You're visitor 137597" at the bottom? Of course
you do, because more links, more comments, more trackbacks are all an indication of
popularity, and popularity piques public interest in a circular sort of way. So some sites
play down the trackback links because, well, they just don't want to say "no-one
responded to this article in the entire blogosphere", "no-one responded to this one either",
etc etc.

That should tell you why these trackback links appear in various spots -- if at all -- on
different weblogs. With many weblog tools the author has control over where or if it
appears, but with others it s stuck and you just have to hope that you can delete the
trackback spam before one bogus one attracts a herd of others and subsumes your
thoughts and earnest writing completely.

As an ironic post-script, I actually just turned off the trackback feature completely on the
blog in question, because I'm not using it much anyway, and, well, it never got into the
public eye and never saw many legitimate trackback pings anyway.



WHAT'S AN RSS AGGREGATOR?
Dave, I keep hearing about RSS, XML and RSS feeds. I just barely have a clue what they
are, but when people then start talking about RSS aggregators, what are they talking
about and why would I want one? Do you use an aggregator, and if so, which one?

Ain't jargon fun? RSS is Really Simple Syndication and it's a simple data-only version of
a Web page or, in the case of a weblog, Web site. Why is that interesting? Because it's
then easy to write programs that track this XML formatted data stream and let you know
when there's new material added to the site.



© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                            Page 7
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                   2006 Edition


For example, if you were tracking the Ask Dave Taylor RSS data stream then when this
article "went live" on my site, you'd receive notification and be able to read it within
minutes of it arriving. Maybe not so critical for my tech and business Q&A, I admit, but I
also track a number of different business newswires and was reading about the Proctor &
Gamble acquisition of Gillette at least a day prior to my colleagues. How do I know that?
Because they've told me that it was my own article on the subject (P&G buys Gillette for
$57 billion, but how much is that in human terms?) that alerted them to the $54 billion
transaction).

Helpful Hint: If you'd like to track my RSS feed and you have a browser with RSS
support, you can click on the cute little button. If your browser doesn't know what to do
with that and instead shows you a cryptic page of text, you'll need an RSS reader or
aggregator. Keep reading, but remember that you can also "right click" (or Ctrl-click for
you Mac folks) and copy the link address to your buffer, then paste it into a 'subscribe'
field in your reader.
The problem is, I don't want to check 100 RSS feeds any more than I want to visit 100
Web sites every day, and that's where aggregators come in. Whether they're standalone
programs, plug-ins for your favorite Web browser or email program, or Web-based
services, RSS aggregators remember your subscription list, check each site on a periodic
basis, and alert you to any new articles that have been published.

If you're not thinking "wow, very cool" then you are spending too much time visiting
Web sites! To scan the headlines of just a dozen sites on an hourly basis would probably
be a full time job and if you need to keep abreast of your industry, as I do, then you
wouldn't have any time to actually do anything, which would obviously be deleterious to
your career long-term! :-)

So there are programs you can download that are RSS aggregators (or RSS readers,
basically synonymous) for Windows, Mac and Linux/Unix systems. A few of the most
popular are BlogExpress and FeedReader for Windows, NetNewsWire and NewsFire for
Macintosh and Lifera for Linux.

Don't like having yet another application running? You can graft RSS capabilities into
your Web browser (or run Firefox or Safari / Tiger, both of which have elegant built-in
RSS capabilities) or your email program. Notable entries in this category are NewsGator
(grafts into Microsoft Outlook on Windows), Pluck (grafts into Microsoft Internet
Explorer on Windows) and Safari Menu (add-on for Apple's Safari browser that includes
some RSS support).

Finally, you can subscribe to an RSS aggregator Web service which gives you a custom
Web page that includes the newest information from your hand-picked RSS feeds. The
highest profile solution to this is My Yahoo, which recently announced support for RSS
feeds as additional personal home page information sources, though it just shows you a


© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                         Page 8
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                        2006 Edition


rolling 'latest five articles' from each source, so it doesn't work for me because I'd still be
left trying to remember which I'd read or not. Other possibilities include AmphetaDesk,
Bloglines, and Feedster.

Instead of those, however, I use a great Web-based product called NewsGator Online,
which gives me the ability to track as many feeds as I like (fellow blogger Robert Scoble
tracks over 1200 in his NewsGator Online account) along with the flexibility of keeping
in sync at home, in my office and on the road.

Whichever solution you choose, I promise you that once you start traveling down the
road of RSS feeds and RSS aggregators, you won't turn back. In fact, you'll find that
every time you go to a Web site that you like, you'll immediately start hunting for the
"syndicate" or "rss" or "xml" button. i certainly do, and I'm more plugged in now than I
could ever have been in the past.

It's a rolling sea of information out there, and an RSS aggregator gives you a sail and
GPS navigation system. It might just save your life out there!


HOW DO I KEEP TRACK OF PEOPLE BLOGGING ABOUT
ME?
Hi Dave. Like you, I'm a blogger, and sometimes I bump into other bloggers who have
written about one of my postings, but somehow I haven't gotten my trackbacks to work on
my site. I don't care too much about trackbacks, but tell me, how do you keep track of
other bloggers citing your material on their sites?

When you look at the number of weblogs out there, and think about the thousands of new
entries written each and every day, it's immediately obvious that no-one can possibly
subscribe to everything and though trackbacks are an interesting idea (see my article on
blog trackbacks for more info) they aren't completely reliable, one reason being that not
every weblog management system generates them.

Instead, I use a really slick feature of NewGator Online (a free RSS news aggregator) to
create what they call smart feeds and let their system do all the heavy lifting.

Here's how it works, step-by-step.

First off, sign up for NewsGator Online at http://www.newsgator.com/. Then, once
you're logged in to your account and click on the "newsgator manager" tab. Click on
"Add a Feed" and you’re almost there. Now, click on "Smart Feeds" and, finally, you're
ready to create an automatic blogosphere search. Now you have two alternatives. If you
want to do just a straightforward Keyword Search, type in your domain name directly and
ignore their directions. For example, I'd search for askdavetaylor.com. If, instead, you'd


© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                              Page 9
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                      2006 Edition


rather use a "URL Search", which is probably a smarter move, then click on "URL
Search" just below the tabs shown under Smart Feeds.

Here you'll want to type in a fully qualified domain name, but unless you want to track a
specific page, just use the address of your home page. Here I'd search for
http://www.askdavetaylor.com/ rather than just the domain name shown earlier.

Type in the base URL address, click "Add" and you're ready to go. Now, when there's a
match, you'll see something like the following in your 'My Feeds" area:

       NewsGator: Related to
       http://www.askdavetaylor.com/ (17)

There are, of course, other ways that you can track the blogosphere, notably including
Technorati and Bloglines, not to mention professional, corporate level tools like My
Smart Channels and Umbria Communications.

All of these tools let you answer the critical business (and personal) question who's
talking about me, and what are they saying?


HOW DO I SUBSCRIBE TO AN RSS FEED?
First off, what is an RSS feed? I think I understand it, but I'm not sure. Also, how do I
subscribe to an RSS feed and why would I want to?

This is a wonderful question, because it's one I have heard time and again from people.
So let's have a stab at this...

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and it's basically a computer-readable
summary of the content of a Web page. This summary might be just the headlines of the
articles on the page, the headlines plus a sentence or two excerpt of the articles, or even
the headlines plus the entire articles. These are known as "headline only", "headline +
excerpt" and "full text" feeds, respectively.

There are, of course, nuances, because RSS is now used for a lot more than just Web
pages comprised of a set of articles (e.g., weblogs). For example, the New York Times
has a set of RSS feeds that let you subscribe to just the movie reviews or just their
business news.

Typically, you recognize an RSS feed because there's a cute little orange or blue button
labeled "XML", "RDF" or "RSS".

The differences between them, and the "Atom" flavor of RSS syndication, are something
that us mere mortals can ignore: if you see any of these options, or even a text link


© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                           Page 10
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                    2006 Edition


labeled "syndicate this site", then you're looking at an RSS-enabled Web site and/or a
way to tap into the site's RSS feed.

The real benefit of subscribing to an RSS feed from a site is that you no longer need to
visit the site itself to stay up-to-date on what's being discussed. You might be quite
interested in the Q&A here at Ask Dave Taylor, but are you going to pop over to the site
every day? I doubt it, especially a month from now. Subscribe to the RSS feed, though,
and your RSS Reader will do all the work, showing you only what's new since the last
time you've checked the RSS feed. And that's the real value of RSS: to be able to stay
current with dozens or even hundreds of Web sites, quickly and efficiently.

So that's one side of the equation: RSS feeds offer a succinct machine-readable version of
a Web page, often a weblog or news wire. You can view the RSS feed information,
written in a markup language called XML (which stands for eXtensible Markup
Language, if you're curious), with your Web browser (click on the "movie reviews" link
to see what I mean), but it's not going to make any sense to you or your Web browser,
most likely. If you see a blank page, try using File --> View Source to see the XML
source.

The other side of the equation, the program that does know how to both read and keep
track of your favorite RSS feeds is called, logically enough, an RSS Reader, or an RSS
Aggregator.

There are a ton of different options for RSS Readers, ranging from standalone
applications to plug-ins for popular email programs like Microsoft Outlook, to plug-ins
for Web browsers like Firefox. Apple's latest Safari browser for Mac OS X Tiger
includes an RSS reader too, for example.

The category of RSS reader I prefer, however, is Web-based, and of the different choices,
my favorite is the free Newsgator Online. There are a number of reasons why I prefer a
Web-based reader, but the main one is that I can stay up-to-date on the 140 RSS feeds I
track from any Web browser, anywhere, even an Internet café or borrowed laptop. It's
also elegant, fast, simple, and easy to master.

In fact, let me step through how I add an RSS feed to NewsGator Online so you can see
how you go from seeing an orange button on a page to having that RSS feed included in
your RSS subscription list!

I'll pick my friend Rajesh Setty's "Life Beyond Code" blog, since it's not just worth
reading, it's worth subscribing. To do that, I need to find the XML button, RSS button,
RDF button, Atom button, or "Syndicate this site" link. On Rajesh's site, it's an orange
XML button, and that button points to the URL
http://blog.lifebeyondcode.com/blog/index.xml.



© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                        Page 11
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                     2006 Edition


The easy way to grab this URL is to right-click on the orange button itself (or control-
click if you're on a Mac). You'll see a menu of options.

Choose "Copy Link". Now you have the RSS feed Web address in your copy/paste
buffer. Time to flip over to NewsGator Online and add the feed to your subscription list.

Subscribe to NewsGator Online if you haven't yet done so, then click on "Add Feeds" on
the NewsGator page, and you'll see a set of feed subscription options.

As you can see, there are a lot of ways to find cool and interesting -- and professionally
helpful -- feeds, but for this situation, we want to just click on "URL & Import". Now
click into the text input box, then choose Edit --> Paste from your browser menu. The
URL from the Life Beyond Code RSS feed should appear. Now click "Add Feed" and
you're done!

To read what's new at Life Beyond Code, intermingled with all your other RSS feed
subscriptions, just click on the "newsgator online" tab, the top-middle tab in the main
navigation area, and, finally, you'll be reading all of your feeds in a single, coherent
format.

That's basically it. Notice in this screenshot (shown online) that my subscription list goes
far, far down the screen. There's no way I could keep track of half the news and weblog
discussion I do without my RSS reader. Whether it's NewsGator Online, Sage, Safari,
NetNewsWire, Pluck, Bloglines or any other RSS reader, I promise that once you start
using an RSS reader, you'll never look back!

I hope you not only have a sense of why RSS feeds are so valuable but also can see how
to use an RSS reader to grab a feed and add it to your subscription list: the process is
remarkably similar regardless of what type of reader you're using.


ARE LONG BLOG ENTRIES BETTER THAN SHORT ONES?
After having attended one of your great Blog Smart workshops, I've taken the plunge and
am now starting a weblog of my own. What I'm not sure of, however, is how much to
write in each entry. I've seen some weblogs that have one-liners, lots of them, and others,
like your Intuitive Life that has much longer articles. What's your recommendation?

This is one of the holy wars in the world of blogging, as far as I can tell. I read a wide
variety of blogs on dozens of different topics and find that the articles therein range from
so-called linkblogs, one line 'Here's a nice article about X' type of entries to blogs where
the author or authors clearly view their blog as a magazine and each entry as a feature
article.



© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                          Page 12
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                     2006 Edition


My colleague Debbie Weil blogged about blogger Pat Cleary's own guidelines for his
National Association of Manufacturers blog, including the comment that "he tries to keep
his entries short but finds that a natural length for him is 500 words. Too long for a
typical blog post..."

But, of course, who decides what's too long and what's too short?

If you said either "the reader" or "the writer", give yourself a pat on the back. You're
exactly right. There are no editors, no layout people, no standards body, nor government
regulators involved here. And thank goodness for that!

I'm reminded of a common piece of advice from good development editors in the
publishing business about how long a chapter or book should ultimately be: write just
enough to cover the material at the appropriate level of detail, then stop.

As you've noticed, my tendency is towards long postings. I find that 2-3 paragraphs is
just starting to wrap a context around the point I want to make. But I'm a professional
writer and can produce 750-1000 words on a topic without even adding any adjectives. :-)

Personally, I don't subscribe to weblogs where the typical entry is less than about 250
words, because I'm not interested in discoverability, that is, what other pages on the Web
I should be checking out, but in why the blogger thinks the page, article, site, entry,
whatever, is worth my attention.

It's darn surprising to me how few bloggers explain their motivation behind a link,
however, so we are surrounded by a sea of frequent, ridiculously succinct blog entries
like "Dave has some good thoughts on blog entry length."

In summary, I'm not the arbiter of entry length, I can only share my personal preferences
and explain why my own weblog entries are atypically long. I think that the most
important thing is for you to find a length that matches your topic and writing style, then
give yourself the freedom to vary on a per-article basis.

I'm pretty sure that Stephen Streight, blogging as Vaspers the Grate, has done some
research on average blog article length, so perhaps he'll pop up and share some of his
findings in this regard?

And for the rest of you, dear readers, do share your preference: lots of short, succinct
entries, or a smaller number of longer, more thoughtful articles?


THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR BLOG COMMENT STRATEGY
After working in the computer industry for decades, I'm used to the most seemingly
benign topic exploding into a passionate - and sometimes even vitrolic - debate, from

© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                          Page 13
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                        2006 Edition


which editor you use to what operating system, programming language to which HTML
mark-up standard you work towards.

In the blogging world, surprisingly, the big debate isn't about what blogging tool to use,
and it's not about design or layout. It's not really even about whether to include
advertising or not, as far as I can tell. The two big hot-buttons are about RSS feeds,
whether to have a "full feed" or a "partial feed", and about your blog comment policy.

In this article, I'm going to talk about the latter topic, and I promise I'll address RSS feeds
in a different piece (and at length in my Blogging 101 workshop at Blog Business
Summit).

First off, let me state categorically that I believe it's critical that all business blogs allow
comments to be added by readers. Without it, you miss out on the ability to establish a
dialog and have only made the smallest step from a static Web site. It's still The Voice of
The Company, and visitors still have no ability to add their perspective or response, it's
just a different tool in play.

Some business blogs don't allow comments, notably Clip 'n Seal News, but they're the
rare exception because much of the most interesting content comes from the comments,
not the original article. After all, even the best writer can only represent one primary
point of view, so how do you learn about other perspectives if not from the addition of
material from people who disagree?

The debate, however, isn't about whether or not to allow comments. Just about every
business blogger I know recommends enabling comments as a best practice, in fact.

The debate is about whether to edit, censor, screen or modify comments. Indeed, the very
language of the debate informs us of the passion behind the scenes: "censor" is only
loosely applicable in this situation, and while people argue "freedom of the press" and
other so-called Constitutional arguments, they don't actually apply to a private
publication such as a blog, with no obligation or legal requirement to represent all
perspectives and publish the views of all readers.
This question is nonetheless critical to consider before you launch your own business
blog, however: are you going to leave all comments pristine, untouched, and let
obscenities, fallacious arguments, racism, sexism, and other offensive writing stand or
fall on its own merits, or are you going to edit and control your content?

In fact, there are more nuances to this discussion anyway, because I don't know any
serious blogger who allows every comment to stand, because their site would promptly be
overrun by spammers adding nonsensical comments about Viagra and gambling sites or
subverted into a discussion venue for lowlifes or criminals.
So in fact, there's a continuum at work here, a scale where on one end people allow


© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                             Page 14
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                    2006 Edition


everything, don't blacklist, don't filter spam, don't remove duplicate comments, don't
touch anything, and at the other end of the scale where they tightly edit and screen all
comments, only allowing those that agree or represent specific alternative viewpoints.
Probably, you'd be hard pressed to find an example on either end of this comment
permissibility continuum, because we're all somewhere in the middle.

This helps illuminate the discussion because it helps clarify that when bloggers say "I
leave all comments" they really mean "I leave all relevant, on-topic comments." They're
on that continuum. And when other bloggers say "I control the comments on my site and
sometimes reject comments" they too are on that continuum.
My counsel on the subject is closer to the latter than the former view, perhaps
surprisingly. I'm a strong advocate of dissenting opinions and a healthy debate, and I am
okay - perhaps a bit begrudgingly - if subsequent comments pick apart an argument of
my own and make me look less than omniscient (just don't tell my kids, okay?)

I believe, however, that if a blog has a recognizable business sponsor or individual
shepherd, then everything on the blog has an implied ownership, a brand identity, of that
owner.

If I were to read a Nike blog, for example, and read ongoing discussion of how
sweatshops were actually good for Southeast Asian economies, I'd take that as a
viewpoint that Nike tacitly endorsed by retaining the entries on its site. A follow-on from
someone at Nike saying "we don't agree at all." just wouldn't cut it. A discussion of this
nature would far more appropriately belong on a separate forum not run or paid for by
Nike.

And maybe that's where the proverbial rubber hits the road here: business blogs are an
expense paid by the marketing, customer service, or public relations arm of a company.
In that light, I believe it's quite reasonable for the company to constantly ask "Is the
addition of this content going to make us a more successful company? Are we going to
sell more stuff? Attract more customers? Appeal to investors?" Without those questions,
a business blog is a corporate initiative gone horribly awry, and will quickly morph into
something that is not in the best interest of the company and a disservice to its employees
and shareholders.

I have always counseled companies to consider their business blog an interactive
magazine that they're publishing and managing for the benefit of their customers, market
segment, and shareholders. This makes it easy to decide whether someone calling your
blogger, or CEO, a jerk is submitting a comment worth retaining.
If you don't agree, ask this question: when you read the Letters to the Editor at a
publication like Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal or The New Republic, do you
seriously think that they've just pulled in the first four or five letters received, and
reproduced them unedited? Of course not.


© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                         Page 15
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                     2006 Edition



The same holds true for business blogs. Personal blogs live at almost all possible points
along the comment permissibility continuum, but business blogs need to be more
controlled, more limited, and more tightly edited so as to ensure that they serve the
greatest possible value for the company.


WHO DECIDES WHAT WEBLOGS ARE "IMPORTANT"
ANYWAY?
Jim Grisanzio of Sun Microsystems has an interesting article up on his site this morning,
a reaction to the recent Fortune article Blogs that Matter, in which Jim says: "the media
doesn't get to choose "who matters" for us anymore. We do."
My gut reaction was "You go, Jim!" but upon reflect, I think Jim's wrong in a quite
important way, actually.

Here's the problem: the most important weblogs are those that have credibility, and
credibility comes both from having something smart and coherent to say and being
granted marketplace credibility from other credible sources citing or linking to your
blog. It's a chicken and egg problem, because I think it's phenomenally difficult to get
credibility in the online world without the help of other sources, other already recognized
industry experts being involved.

That's where the established media does prove important -- and no, Fortune didn't deem
to list either my Intuitive Life Business Blog or Ask Dave Taylor blog -- because even
when it's flawed, the magazine and newspaper editorial process does increase the
credibility of its articles, particularly when compared to the never-ending stream of
"shoot from the hip" half-baked blogger pieces online.
We're starting to see a small circle of high profile bloggers who can ostensibly grant
some level of credibility to a new weblog (think Blog Business Summit speaker Debbie
Weil, for example) but I would argue that it's going to be a long time before a blogger can
grant the same level of credibility that an industry-leading publication offers.

It's hard to envision "As featured in Dave Taylors' The Intuitive Life Business Blog" but
it's darn easy to imagine "As featured in WIRED's Best of the Blogosphere" or similar,
isn't it?

I think this entire debate comes from an adversarial relationship between "us"
bloggers and "them" established media outlets. But it's a false distinction: a lot of
bloggers also write for more traditional publications, and a lot of media outlets are
dipping their toes into the blogosphere (with mixed results, but so what?)

So, Jim, in response to your question, we do get to decide what's worth reading, but we


© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                             Page 16
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do so based on both the recommendations of others online, our so-called circle of
influence and the recommendation of our trusted sources, publications like
BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal, and Wired.

The media doesn't choose who matters, per se, but they do still cast a very important vote.
It's just not the only vote for who matters in this new world.


WHEN A BUSINESS SHOULD NOT BLOG
Everyone likes to wax poetic about the million reasons why a business should get into
blogging, and why a weblog is the cornerstone of a smart Web site. Heck, even I'm not
immune, I've been writing - and lecturing - about this for years now.

But sometimes, truth be told, there are businesses that shouldn't be blogging, and there
are people in businesses who shouldn't be writing entries for the company weblog, and
even specific topics that just are not appropriate for a corporate weblog. Let's have a look,
shall we?

First off, let's agree that the goal of a good business blog is to raise your visibility in your
customer community or market segment, to increase your credibility as an expert and to
humanize your company and present yourself in the best possible light. Reasonable?

Are you a gardener? You could blog about taking care of gardens, flowers, plants,
fertilization, smart techniques for mowing lawns, winterization, etc. A funeral director?
Oh, that's an industry rife with con artists and shady businesses, so talking about funerals
and how to ensure that you have the death ceremony you want would be a terrific weblog
subject. Maybe you're the gal who drives the ice cream truck around the neighborhood?
Write about children, play, and the changes in our society you can see as you get a unique
glimpse into children, parents, and guardians (not to mention children's manners!)

So, seemingly, there's not a business you could be in where a blog wouldn't help you gain
visibility and credibility. But there is an assumption in what I'm saying here: that there's a
story and that you can figure out how to tell it online.

Imagine two opticians. One says "I take care of eyes. There's lots of medical info on eyes
out there, so my Web site will be a digital brochure, and that's good enough for me" while
the other says "I get the same questions from every patient, and there's so much confusing
information online, I'm going to try and shed some light on eye care and eye health by
writing about it. But not with a newsletter, how 90s!, but with a blog."

Now, a slight aside: I believe that the future of business is findability, and if your
business doesn't appear when your potential customer looks for you online, you'll
eventually wither and die. Given that, you can guess which optician I think is going to be
more successful in 24 months.

© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                             Page 17
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                        2006 Edition


Let's be frank, though. The first optician above should not blog. They aren't going to be
engaged, interesting, or informative, and they'll find that the exercise of setting up a
weblog and having a blank "input box" staring at them each morning will be more than
they can handle, and they won't stick to it and work on their blog for at least six months
before they ask "am I getting results?" Better for them not to start at all.

I actually encounter a lot of businesses that have this philosophy, what I call the "let the
customer come to me" approach to business. They'll pay for an 800 number, they'll print
up a newsletter, but the level of their engagement with their market is fairly minimal.
Many of them are also hourly professionals -- think psychologists, acupuncturists and
massage therapists, for example -- and their response is "I'm already booked, why would i
want more customers?"

If their goal is to fill up their appointment calendar, then they're right, and they certainly
shouldn't blog or, perhaps, even have a Web site at all.

But what if they could be selling their expertise rather than their hours? What if they
could be blogging about their profession and upselling high quality, professional ebooks
that cost them time + $500 to produce, and net them $25k annually? That's a smarter way
to look at these professions, isn't it?

Being completely honest, there are also people who lack coherent writing skills. They
may be delightful in person, but put them in front of a computer (or a podcasting mic)
and they freeze up, become dreadfully boring, or simply have nothing interesting to say.

That's a real problem, and is one of the rarely mentioned downsides of the entire
blogosphere. Put frankly, most bloggers stink as writers. If your company has these sort
of communicators, keep 'em far away from your blog! After all, it's more trouble, more
cost and certainly more ineffective to have a boring, dull, tedious blog than to just have a
regular old "brochureware" Web site.

Finally, there are specific topics that I believe you shouldn't blog about, even if you're the
most zealous and enthused of business bloggers. Personnel issues? Customers suing you?
Spouse just ran off with someone else? Kids thrown in jail? Have a strong partisan
reaction to political news? All of these are topics that should stay far, far away from any
sort of business blog. (this isn't to say that you shouldn't blog about them, but please,
keep it separate.

I blog about parenting at The Attachment Parenting Blog, but it's kept quite separate
from my business weblogs The Intuitive Life Business Blog and Ask Dave Taylor, for
example)

Some blog experts believe that you should follow the digital version of "let it all hang
out", writing about any and everything that strikes your fancy, but I think they're wrong.


© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                             Page 18
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                     2006 Edition


But then again, maybe they aren't, and maybe I'm wrong!



WHY PODCASTS WON'T HELP PROMOTE YOUR BUSINESS
I know a lot of people involved with the blogosphere are avid podcast enthusiasts, in fact,
some of my best friends are, yes, podcasters, but I have to say that I just can't find any
enthusiasm for podcasting, though I'm hugely bullish on blogging as a business
communications tool.

Frankly, I think podcasting is just a fad and will shortly vanish from the proverbial radar
screen, particularly for savvy businesses and entrepreneurs seeking smart and effective
methods of promoting their business or service.

Allow me to explain...

But first, quickly, how many of you are reading this because you've subscribed to the
RSS feed on the weblog? Ah, lots of raised hands. I thought so.

Those of you that aren't and are reading this on a standalone Web page, how many of you
came across it because of a link from another site or as a search engine result, either from
someone like feedburner or technorati or a more traditional search engine like Google or
MSN? More hands up, eh? Yeah, I kinda thought so.

Ya see, reading individual web pages and going back to sites time and again and even
bookmarking sites is rather quaint and, yes, obsolete. Every day I keep up on over 150
different RSS feeds, from a widely diverse set of sources ranging from this very weblog
to the United Nations, BBC World Service, Reuters, and dozens upon dozens of different
bloggers. There's no way that I'd visit 150 different Web sites every day and I bet you
couldn't do it either unless that was your full-time job.

Aggregation, automatic analysis of content and findability are all key concepts that are
driving the evolution of the World Wide Web and the Internet itself. Search engine
optimization is of interest purely because more findable material is more frequently seen
than hidden content.

Into this growing, surprisingly efficient and effective hurricane of textual information, a
veritable tsunami of data that never stops building, surfboard at hand or not, comes new
communications media, media that do not enjoy these same efficiencies of consumption.
Namely, podcasts.

And podcasts really just don't work.

Until we have high quality automated audio parsing and transcription systems to instantly


© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                         Page 19
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                         2006 Edition


index new audio content, we're stuck with the highly inefficient mechanism of actually
listening to the material to determine if it's of value or not.

This means that if I tell you "Hey, Molly has a superb interview with the W3C team
about standardization" you then have to figure out where in the MP3 download her
interview is, then listen 'real time' to find the nuggets that will hopefully be of value to
you.

Doable, but consider how inefficient it is when compared to my excerpting a paragraph
of a text interview and linking to Molly's site for the remainder? You can scan the excerpt
visually - in your RSS aggregation of my feed - in seconds and determine if it's worth
consuming or not.

That's the efficiency side of my problems with podcasting. The other side is whether it's
engaging or not.

And to share that, let me say that a good friend of mine emailed me excitedly, saying
"Dave, Dave! Download this podcast interview: I was the guest!" So I did, copied it onto
my iPod, got onto the bus from my office to go home, and pressed PLAY. Five minutes
later I was asleep and I actually came within seconds of sleeping through my busstop
entirely.

Yes, while a lot of people are darn interesting one on one, few have the stage presence to
be in front of a crowd and engage them and fewer still have the ability to sit behind a
microphone and talk into a computer recording device while sounding exciting, engaging
and interesting.

There's a reason that the number of nationally known radio talk show hosts can be written
on a cocktail napkin, and it's not because there aren't thousands of people trying to get on
the short list...

In a word, I think that podcasts are boring and are just not useful additions to my data
library. I can't excerpt them, I can't pull pithy stats out of a transcript, I can't forward it
along to colleagues or clients, and I can't even store them for later relistening (one 30
minute podcast takes as much disk space as thousands of blog articles).

But weblogs, well, weblogs are a natural, just made for effective business
communication, whether you're one of a three person firm, solo, or a member of a
Fortune 50 corporation. And that's why I'm taking the first day of the Blog Business
Summit to share with everyone exactly how to get the very most out of blogging for their
own corporate needs, from competitive intelligence to customer communications. And,
no, we won't be podcasting it. :-)

So what do you think? Am I blowing steam and totally clueless about the revolution in
audio broadcasting, or on target with my criticism of the current podcasting hype?

© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                              Page 20
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                      2006 Edition




JOURNALISTS VERSUS BLOGGERS: THE DIFFERENCE IS
FACT CHECKING?
I had the pleasure of being involved with a seminar on “Ethics in cyberspace — how to
do bloggin’ right" cosponsored by The Society of Professional Journalists and the Denver
Press Club. Bloggers in attendance include Rebecca Blood, Amy Gahran, David
Thomas, Chris Cobler from the Greeley Tribune and my pal Gil Asakawa from the
Denver Post. The discussion was interesting and engaging, but what most struck me was
the distinction that journalists made between bloggers and journalists.

Specifically, us bloggers are writing opinion pieces, basically, subjective op-ed type of
works, while journalists are trained professionals and one of the distinct differentiators is
that real journalists do fact checking. Specifically, Rebecca shared her belief that
bloggers don't want to be journalists because journalists need verifiable facts and
reproducible results. Note: I originally had the last seven words in quotes, erroneously
indicating that it was a directly quote from Rebecca. Read the comments to see how two
incorrectly used punctuation marks can set off a firestorm of discussion and debate.

Which is why the last two days of reporting in our local Scripps paper, The Daily
Camera, have been so darn amusing...

Front page story in the Daily Camera, 29 April, 2005: Middle School bans hugs:
Centennial students not keen about new rule on 'PDAs' in which reporter Brittany Anas
writes:

Administrators at a north Boulder school on Thursday banned hugs in the hallways,
which has some middle school sweethearts complaining that blooming spring love has
been nipped in the bud.

Centennial Assistant Principal Becky Escamilla said that some concerned sixth-grade
teachers asked the administration to spell out policies surrounding "PDAs" — jargon for
public displays of affection.

"There was some sixth-grade romance going on," she said. Escamilla said the school is
not anti-hug. "We just want our kids to be appropriate at school and focus on academics,"
she said.

No students were punished on Thursday for hugging at school, Escamilla said. It is
unclear what the punishments for public displays of affection will be.
Ellen Miller-Brown, the Boulder Valley School District's middle-level director, said most
schools have rules about showing affection. "At academic institutions, principals do their
very best to keep students focused on school," she said."


© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                           Page 21
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That was Thursday. Friday, 30 April 2005, front page news in the Daily Camera, reported
by the same Brittany Anas: Centennial Letter - Hug Ban a Rumor: Note says principal
trying to address tardiness issue. But it's the first sentence in this follow-on story that is
most entertaining in light of the "journalists check facts" argument:

Sixth-graders at Centennial Middle School spread a rumor that hugs were banned at the
school, administrators said in a letter they sent to parents Friday.
"We do not have a no hugging rule or policy," the letter says.

The story continues, and I'll get to that in a second, but there's something fundamentally
wrong with a story that's spread by children, picked up by an alert reporter, then reported
as fact in the community newspaper of record. That's not fact checking, that's not
professional journalism at all, in my opinion. It's rumor-mongering.

Centennial Assistant Principal Becky Escamilla, however, had told the Daily Camera on
Thursday evening that boys and girls are not allowed to hug at school, and she said there
was some "sixth-grade romance going on." She said that administrators talked with
students about inappropriate displays of affection at school.

I read this as backpedaling from the newspaper. They reflected on the actual quote from
the Assistant Principal and realized that there was a second possible interpretation, that
she'd talked with students about inappropriate displays of affection, but, um, err, never
actually stated that the school had instituted any new ban, rule or requirement that
students change their behavior. If anything, it's quite likely that there's already a rule on
the books regarding student decorum, but that's not news, is it?

"Many sixth graders picked up on the hug portion of the conversation and began to
spread a rumor that Centennial was banning hugs," the letter says. "In the lunchroom on
Thursday, students began to sign a petition they called 'Hugs, Not Drugs.'"

What's most fascinating to me is that there's no mea culpa on the part of either the
reporter or the newspaper. But it's clear that they got it wrong. Perhaps they fact checked
-- as all good journalists do, regardless of medium of publication -- but their fact
checking process failed to catch the rather significant nuance between an administrator
talking to students about the inappropriateness of public displays of affection during
school hours and an actual new rule instituted by the school district.

I may be one person working with my own journalistic rules, but if I hear about
something unusual or extraordinary, I check my facts and ensure that I'm getting the story
right. And if I do mess up, I admit it and post a correction.

What would be really nice would be if Brittany Anas, City Editor Kevin Kaufman, Editor


© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                            Page 22
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Susan Deans or Daily Camera Publisher Greg Anderson can explain to those of us in the
blog world what broke down in the newsroom for this sequence of events to occur? And
then perhaps one of these journalists can reiterate how bloggers are the ones that play fast
and loose with the news?


THE CHALLENGE OF BLOGGING ABOUT GOOD NEWS:
BOEING
In the last few days, there has been a flurry of media news about Boeing, including
today's story from the Wall Street Journal that Air India places 50 jet order from Boeing,
value $6 billion [sub required] and yesterday's similar news in the WSJ that Boeing beats
Airbus for crucial job: 96 jets ordered by Air Canada.

The challenge of writing about this turn of events also revolves around the first test flight
of the much lauded Airbus A380 tomorrow. The BBC reports, in Airbus A380 to fly on
Wednesday, that:

"European aircraft maker Airbus has scheduled the maiden flight of its giant A380
jumbo jet, the world's largest passenger plane, for Wednesday. The first flight of the
twin-deck aircraft has been keenly anticipated since it was unveiled at a glamorous and
high profile ceremony in January. Airbus has invested heavily in the A380 and hopes it
will defend its position as the leading passenger plane maker."

What catches my attention is the challenge that Boeing blogger (and VP of Marketing)
Randy Baseler faces now in writing about the events of the week, particularly given his
pointed articles about Boeing versus Airbus. (in The Game Changer he criticizes the
Airbus 350 as "derivative, late 1980's design, and limited composite design" when
compared to the "all new integrated design" of the Boeing 787, for example)

Oh, and to sprinkle another ingredient in the stew, the United States and European Union
are fighting about who has been subsidizing which company. The EU accuse the United
States of subsidizing Boeing illegally, while the US accuses the European Union of
subsidizing Airbus illegally. Diplomatic talks broke down and, as the Beeb reports, "it
looks as if both sides are heading for a showdown at the World Trade Organisation
(WTO)." This wouldn't be the first time the two companies sparred at the WTO either.
It's dry reading, but 2001's Airbus versus Boeing Revisited: International Competition
in the Aircraft Market [PDF] offers some interesting insight into the situation too.

So if you were Randy, how would you be framing your next weblog entry? Would you
write about the sales wins, the tens of billions of new orders placed by Air Canada and
Air India? And if you did, would you skip mentioning your primary competitor
altogether, or would you reiterate your product advantages and opine that they're what
tipped the scale in your company's favor?


© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                           Page 23
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                     2006 Edition


Writing about the WTO dispute is something that's probably more nuanced (and with
more legal pitfalls) than would work in a blog, whether or not blogging is "the next big
thing" or not. On the other hand, explaining Boeing's perspective on the subsidies it
receives from the U.S. Government and how it's different than the subsidies that Airbus
receives from the E.U. could be superb reading and an unusual opportunity to reach the
public with important Boeing communication.

In fact, Randy has written about the dispute, framing it as cheating in a poker game: Five
Card Draw. It's a good presentation of these issues (though perhaps a bit long for a blog
entry)

WTO or not, I'd definitely be writing about the sales wins for Boeing. It's a perfect use
for a corporate blog, even for a massive public firm like Boeing.

But that's just me.

What would you write about, if you were in Randy's shoes?


TECHNORATI TAGS: GOOD IDEA, TERRIBLE
IMPLEMENTATION
Here's an idea: what if when I wrote weblog entries about General Motors, I included a
special tag, a keyword tag, that let everyone who wanted to read blog entries about
General Motors read my weblog article, without otherwise having to subscribe to my
blog? Makes sense. Now, should it be "gm" or "GM" or "generalmotors" or "general
motors" or "General Motors" or "GM Corporation" or ... ?

Therein lies the fundamental problem with Technorati Tags, as promoted by the popular
weblog search system and utilized by a small percentage of bloggers.

Librarians are very familiar with this problem, though at a library it shows up as the
"keyword problem": having keywords assigned to a particular book can be very helpful
as long as you agree on the subset of all words that comprise the entire keyword
dictionary. Stultifying though the standards may seem, having a "use the formal company
name that appears on their annual SEC filings" or "search the tags database before
creating a new tag" rules do alleviate some of this trouble. But not all of it.

Instead, Technorati advertises that they're now tracking 466,951 different tags, which is
pretty darn impressive when you consider that a typical dictionary has around 75,000
entries (caveat: I'm relying on memory here, so I might be way off on this number).

Perhaps I don't get it. Perhaps the Technorati tags are actually working better than I think
because they're traveling as "memes": if I use and clearly cite a specific tag in my weblog
articles, then you'll use the same one so our articles are linked.


© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                         Page 24
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                   2006 Edition


But, surprise, that doesn't work either because you end up with subcommunities who are
standardized, but against a different de facto standard than other subcommunities. In that
situation, does one group then change their tags retroactively, or does the person surfing
for tagged articles have to know about both? Or three different tags? Or a hundred?

With almost a half-million tags and with an online community that loves to engage in
keyword and key phrase pollution to be more "search engine friendly", I posit that the
Technorati tags are a failed experiment and are just going to become increasingly
irrelevant as the namespace continues to grow without bounds.

But I could be completely wrong. Neville Hobson is clearly supportive, Technorati's
CEO Dave Sifry is clearly a fan of tags, and even lawyer J. Matthew Buchanan is a fan.

What's wrong with this picture? What don't I get here? What do you think?


GROWING YOUR BUSINESS WITH GOOGLE

This introductory note is from my best-selling book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to
Growing Your Business with Google. Don’t worry, though, it talks a lot about the need
for content and about blogs and how blogging can help your online presence grow. Tom
Peters, Chris Pirillo, Brad Fallon, Debbie Weil and lots of others experts have already
stated how much they like the new book, and Guy Kawasaki liked it enough to write the
foreword!

You know that there’s been a dramatic change in how companies are doing business, a
change that probably made you wake up in a cold sweat, wondering if your company will
survive the transition. You might think that it’s about building a Web site, but just as a
few popsicle sticks can’t build the Eiffel Tower, so a Web page or two won’t help you
rethink your business for the new online world.

In the 21st Century, successful business will be focused on findability, about creating an
online and offline presence that helps your customers find you.

Business and marketing used to be characterized by efforts to brand your company and
get in front of your customers, but that’s not what’s propelling the hot new companies,
the entrepreneurs who are already striking it rich in this new world.

You can no longer go to your customers because they’re no longer passively waiting for
you and your message. Your customers are actively looking for your products, searching
for your services, seeking your company right now! And they’re doing it through Google,
on mailing lists, through blogs, and a myriad of other online means.



© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                        Page 25
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                     2006 Edition


This book isn’t about how to write Web pages, and it certainly won’t explain how to
make text bold or link from one Web page to another. Instead, you’ll learn how to think
like an online entrepreneur and assess the risks and rewards of online advertising, search
engine optimization, affiliate programs and much more. You’ll find out about choosing
good domain names, what makes a good business Web site, how you can promote
yourself and become an online expert and how cutting-edge technologies like Weblogs
can dramatically improve your findability and help customers pick your company over all
your competitors.

We’ll also spend time talking about business fundamentals including how to identify and
reinvent your core business, how you can use Google to identify your competitors, and
the secrets of tracking customer whims and ideas online.

Most importantly, you’ll learn exactly why it’s critical that you add content to your site
with great frequency, and how the real secret to findability is content.

I’ve been involved with the Internet since 1980, when it was barely a dirt road, and have
grown and sold off a number of online companies. Throughout this book, I’ll be sharing
why my current Web sites have certain features and how they’ve improved my bottom
line.

As an entrepreneur, that’s what it’s all about. Your bottom line. You’re not an idiot for
checking out this book. In fact, buying it will be the best business decision you’ve made
for years…


Learn more at http://www.findability.info/




© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                          Page 26
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                      2006 Edition


Note: This is a chapter from the best-selling book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to
Growing Your Business with Google, written by Dave Taylor and published by
Penguin/Alpha Books in late 2005. The book’s Web site is at http://www.findability.info/
where you can learn lots more about the book and find out where to buy a copy of this
invaluable reference for your own library.



Chapter 15: Content, Content, Content!
In This Chapter

   •      Update Your Site Frequently
   •      Should you add a discussion forum?
   •      Considering games and surveys
   •      Finding additional content for your site
   •      Weblogs as content management systems
With billions of pages in its index, Google can't refine its relevance formula on a daily
basis. Instead, every few months Google does what insiders call a Google dance, where it
adjusts how relevance scores are calculated and essentially modifies the results list for
every search on the site.

The inevitable result of a Google dance is that some website owners complain that they
have a noticeable drop in traffic while others exult that their websites have quite a bit
more traffic than they're used to. Within a day of each dance web developers are trying to
ascertain what changed in the formula so they can update their sites and improve their
relevance scores.

Buzzwords

        The Google dance is a sporadic adjustment to the Google relevance
        formula that results in your pages being ranked higher or lower for
        specific keyword searches.

This entire approach is wrong, however, and illustrates the impossibility of trying to
"figure out" and "trick" search engines. It's like a Cold War military exercise, with the
search engine developers creating new formulas that promote legitimate sites to the top
and the search engine optimizers trying to figure out the changes and devise new
strategies to boost relevance scores. The losers in this exercise, of course, are both you as
the website owner who has a business to run, and people who use search engines to find
legitimate content on reputable websites.



© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                           Page 27
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                     2006 Edition


The long-term goal of all the tweaks and modifications to the Google relevance score
formula – and, by extension, to the Yahoo search and MSN search relevance engines – is
to be able to identify real content and present it as the best possible match for any given
search. This means that even if websites aren't ranked highly today, as time passes and
analysis improves, sites with lots of good, relevant content will continue to move up and
gain traffic and visitors.

This isn't to say that you shouldn't apply the techniques highlighted in this book to better
your chances of being identified as high-quality content, but to emphasize that it's the
content, your articles, information sheets, product literature, white papers, and even
commentary on industry events that is so important.

The Importance of Frequent Site Updates

When you introduce a new product in the market, announce a new service for clients, or
even just add new material to your website, it's terribly demoralizing to realize that it
might take weeks or months for that content to be found by the search engines and added
to their databases.

Tip

       Remember: The more frequently you update your site, the more often
       Google and other search sites will reindex your content, making everything
       more findable.

Earlier we talked about Googlebot, the software crawler that explores your site, finding
and analyzing all the pages thereon. What wasn't mentioned is that Googlebot doesn't
visit on a daily basis. It might not visit for weeks.

During this interim period, any changes that you make to your website, any updates,
press releases, new products, or updates to existing products, are unknown to Google and
therefore can't match a search query. Sometimes it can feel like hosting an open house,
just to stand at the door for hours waiting for someone to pop in and look around.

The exact details of how frequently Googlebot decides to visit a given website are
shrouded in privacy, but there are two reasonable conclusions that can be made by
observation:

   •      While PageRank (as discussed in Chapter 5) might not be important for
          improving your relevance score on a given search query, it is an indicator of
          how important Google finds your site, and therefore an important factor in how
          frequently Googlebot comes to visit.

   •      Also important in Googlebot's visits is how frequently your site changes.
          Websites that have been sitting untouched for years will find that their content

© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                          Page 28
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                      2006 Edition


          is ranked as less relevant, everything else being equal, than the same content on
          a site that has been updated more recently.

You can boost your PageRank by having more sites point to you, as discussed in Chapter
5, but that can be difficult to accomplish and the PageRank values aren't recomputed for
months at a time. An easier way to encourage Googlebot to visit more often is to change
your site frequently.

Tip

        Sites that change frequently have Googlebot visit more frequently too,
        which means new content is included in the Google database quickly.

My understanding of the basic strategy Googlebot uses for calculating how frequently to
visit sites is based on reading hundreds of different discussions on the topic. When
Google first finds a page, it starts with a 90-day visit cycle. Every three months,
Googlebot visits the site to see if it has changed. If it has, then Googlebot moves it into a
45-day visit cycle. The next time it visits, Googlebot will move it into a 22-day cycle if
it's again changed, and so on up to some busy websites that are visited on a daily basis. If
a page isn't updated between visits, the site probably moves back down to a less frequent
visit schedule.

This isn't completely accurate because it doesn't factor in that high PageRank sites start
out with more frequent visits than low PageRank sites, but it's a good starting point. The
importance of having a constantly growing, evolving, updating website is now clear. Not
only do active websites benefit from more frequent visits by Google and other search
engine crawlers, but their content is also ranked as more relevant because they're active
sites.

Which begs the question: Where do you get all this content from?

Adding Discussion Forums

One smart way to add content to your site is to create a user's group or industry
discussion forum on your site. Then your customers and potential customers are actually
doing the hard work of writing new material each day while you're reaping the benefit of
having a website with frequent updates.

Unless you have a strong readership and busy online community that doesn't already have
a discussion venue, however, adding a discussion forum could be a mistake. To have a
good discussion forum, you need at least 100 regular visitors, of which at least 50 should
make frequent contributions to the site.

Warning



© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                           Page 29
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                   2006 Edition


       Make sure you have the community to support a discussion forum before
       you add one: a forum without discussion isn’t appealing and can convey
       quite the wrong message to visitors.

The problem with a discussion forum that doesn't have enough people involved is that it
just languishes and looks dead. Worse, new people will be discouraged from joining the
community if they don't perceive it as already busy and interesting. This process is
exactly analogous to how busy restaurants stay busy while quiet, empty restaurants repel,
rather than attract, potential customers.

If you have a half-dozen people who track what you're saying and occasionally add their
two cents, you get some nice comments on a weblog and look popular, as I'll discuss later
in this chapter. If you go to a discussion forum where there are two discussion threads
and a typical message has three viewings and no responses, it might reflect the same
number of contributions from the same number of visitors, but it looks far, far worse and
is much less likely to cause someone to bookmark the site and/or recommend it to
friends.

To be fair, not everyone believes that a discussion forum needs to be busy, but a lack of
contributors will stymie your goal of the discussion forum producing frequently updated
content.

Should you add a discussion board to your site? If you don't already have a busy user or
client community, I suggest not.

If you do want to proceed, the fastest solution is to have the actual discussion forum
running on its own server. It can still be part of your domain, it would just be called
"forums.yourbiz.com" or similar instead of being part of the "www" server. (Having the
same top level domain name is important because the discussion forum should be an
integral part of your company website, not a completely separate entity.)

Two well-regarded discussion hosting companies are Invision Power Services
(www.invisionzone.com) and InfoPop (www.infopop.com)

Surveys and Games

Another approach that some business websites use to generate traffic and content is to
have daily, weekly, or monthly surveys. The survey box appears on every page on the site
and the survey results page, constantly updating as people vote. This can be a fun and
interesting way to generate some customer feedback, but just as giving away unrelated
services generates traffic but doesn't draw potential customers to your site, surveys
should be thematically relevant and of interest to your clients or potential customers.

An artist who specializes in murals might have a survey about what famous murals his
visitors have seen, a dog groomer might have a survey about favorite dog breeds, and the

© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                        Page 30
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                     2006 Edition


Porsche mechanic might have a survey about what Porsche visitors own. In all cases,
surveys should be written to be as inclusive as possible, so if the visitor doesn't have a
Porsche, the optional survey answer might be "None. Yet!" rather than leaving the visitor
feeling unwelcome.

Games can add content to a site too, but it's going to be a one-time addition (since a game
is unlikely to produce a steady stream of new content as a discussion board could) and it's
also potentially risky because you could end up paying the cost of hosting a popular game
without actually attracting any new customers to your site.

Tip

       If you opt to host a game on your site, be alert to higher bandwidth costs. If
       the game becomes popular, you could have hundreds or even thousands of
       people visiting on a daily basis. Your Web hosting company probably
       meters how much data you send out to your site visitors and this can easily
       push you into the next pricing tier.

This isn't to say that with some creative thinking you couldn't contract with a game
development company and have a game that is tied into your industry. Examples could be
an online version of the children's game "Operation" for a pediatric surgeon as a way of
making their site more friendly, a quiz where visitors are asked to match beer brands and
company slogans to promote a bar, or a shoe sizes of famous people quiz for a shoe store.

To encourage visitors to play the game, offer them an online discount or a printable
coupon that they can bring into your store.

Finding Content for Your Site

Many business websites now include the latest industry news on their websites as a way
of having constantly updated content and making the site look more topical. Large news
organizations like the New York Times offer the ability to include their news headlines
on your site for free, and many more news organizations offer RSS feeds that can be
transformed into news feeds on your site, too.

Figure 15.1 shows how easy it is to add a custom New York Times news feed to your
web pages. To sign up for this program, go to www.nytimes.com/gst/nytheadlines.html.




© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                             Page 31
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                    2006 Edition




Figure 15.1: The New York Times business news headlines can be easily added to your
website.

While news headlines constantly change, you aren't actually adding new content to your
site with each news story, so this is inferior to adding articles each week, writing a
weblog, or even adding a discussion forum in terms of actually adding content to your
site.

Note

       Industry news is a welcome addition to most sites, but if it’s too prominent,
       your visitors might well click on the headlines and leave your site without
       seeing your product line or services.



Weblogs as Content Management Systems



© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                            Page 32
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                     2006 Edition


To be honest, it's not easy to add lots of content to your site with frequency. After all,
you're busy running your business, whether it's fixing leaky pipes, sewing quilts, boxing
up products you've sold on eBay, or calibrating oven temperatures for your next batch of
gourmet snacks.

Relying on customers and your community seems like a good idea, but there are only so
many customers and there are lots of websites in any industry you can imagine, from
surfboard manufacturing to rock-climbing gear. There are also many industry
publications and community interest groups competing for those same folk, so most
businesses need a different strategy for creating content.

I suggest that this strategy is creating and maintaining a weblog, an online diary of sorts
that's focused specifically on your products, services, and topics of direct interest to your
customers. If you have someone on staff who is outgoing, engaging, and enjoys
interaction with your customers, he or she could be the perfect author for this new area on
your site. If there are a few opinion leaders in your customer community, they might be
quite interested in contributing to your weblog for a small fee or even for occasional free
merchandise.

Of course, you might be the best choice of all. You're enthused about your company
products and services and you are Internet savvy!

Note

       When the muse hits, I have added 3-4 paragraph articles to my weblog,
       creating a brand new page and updating a variety of other pages with the
       new content, in 10-15 minutes.

Just as there are both hosted discussion forum solutions where the actual forum resides on
a different computer and solutions that are installed on your server as part of your
website, so there are two choices with weblogs too. The two most popular options for
hosted weblogs are Blogger (www.blogger.com, a Google company) and Typepad
(www.typepad.com). Weblogs that are installed on your server and then reside on the
same computer as your website are more complex, but more flexible. Two of the leaders
in this category are Movable Type (www.movabletype.org) and WordPress
(www.wordpress.org).

Incorporating a Weblog into Your Site

Without going into the technical details of how a weblog works, the best and least
intimidating way to think about business weblogs is that they're a venue for you to send
communique[as]s to your customer and potential customer community. These messages
(articles in weblog parlance) can be a few sentences long, highlighting a new product, or



© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                          Page 33
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                    2006 Edition


they can be dozens of paragraphs, long essays on the state of the industry or the
implications of the latest world news.

Weblogs can be incorporated into your own website as an adjunct, as print publication
Fast Company has with its FC Now weblog (at http://blog.fastcompany.com) or they can
actually be the website, as with technology provider Myst Technology (www.myst-
technology.com) where they use a weblog to maintain every page of their site. Figure
15.2 shows the FC Now weblog; Myst Technology is shown in Figure 15.3.




Figure 15.2: Fast Company magazine's FC Now Weblog is an integral part of their
website and helps them add frequent new content.




© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                         Page 34
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                 2006 Edition




Figure 15.3: Myst Technology uses a weblog system as the underlying structure of their
entire website.

Whichever approach you take, weblogs make it remarkably easy to add new content and
modify existing content, all without the intervention of a web developer, webmaster, or
anyone from the IT department. That alone is sufficient to excite many businesspeople,
because there's nothing more frustrating than having to wait weeks for new pages to be
included on your site.

Tip

       A Weblog manager can enable multiple people in your company -- or
       customer community -- to post to your weblog, without any of them being
       able to touch any other content on the site.




© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                      Page 35
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                   2006 Edition


If you think through these implications, it also means that someone in marketing could be
given the ability to post press releases, someone in engineering could post manufacturing
updates, and someone in customer service could answer troubleshooting questions,
without giving them access to the rest of the site.

The Value of RSS, Really Simple Syndication

Newcomers to the world of weblogs are confused by the entire syndication concept, with
its RSS, XML, and RDF buttons that lead to incomprehensible pages of text with no
layout. To understand why syndication is a boon to a business website, consider the
dilemma of keeping track of your company through your website.

Even the most dedicated web surfer won't consistently visit a site every week to find out
about what's new. They might visit for a few weeks, then once a month when they
remember, then, eventually, you drop off their proverbial radar screen. A syndication
system allows these potential customers to subscribe to a text-only version of your
website content and keep up-to-date on your company without ever having to visit the
site directly.

The text-only information is formatted in a special markup language called RSS, RDF, or
XML. They're all essentially the same thing, and while all require that you use a special
reader application or subscribe to a web-based service that understands RSS feeds, they're
a breeze to use.

Note

       A new competitor to RSS that also offers syndication capabilities is
       something called Atom. The technical differences are irrelevant, just think
       of it as another type of feed, joining the possibilities of RSS, RDF and
       XML.

You can create and maintain an RSS feed that mirrors the content of your site, or includes
excerpts or teaser articles, but it's much smarter to have a site management tool that
maintains the RSS feed data without any human intervention. That's another reason for
including a weblog somewhere on your site, because it produces RSS data that helps
customers and other interested parties stay up-to-date on your product and service
releases.

Figure 15.4 shows NewsGator Online, a free web-based subscription service that lets you
keep track of your favorite sites with RSS feeds, along with many major news and wire
services.




© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                          Page 36
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                    2006 Edition




Figure 15.4: You can keep track of dozens of RSS-enabled websites with NewsGator
Online.



Writing for a Weblog

Many companies set up a weblog but never use it (over 15,000 new weblogs come online
every day). The main reason this occurs is because of what I call published writer's block.
If you think about writing articles for your website as a column in the Wall Street
Journal, then you'd want to refer to your marketing person, a professional writer,
possibly a lawyer to vet the article for any possible legal problems, and generally end up
publishing about one article every two to three months.

Instead, imagine that you're actually sending out a personal email message to your
potential customers, and that they've told you that they're fine with you sending as much
as you'd like, even more than one message in a day. Each message could be as short as
"We just signed a distribution contract with REI! Give it a week, then go into your local


© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                        Page 37
Insider’s Guide to Blogging                                                   2006 Edition


REI outlet and ask about our new IceDigger axes," or the message could be three, four, or
even ten paragraphs or more.



Tip

       Imagine that every time you step out of your office, two or three of your
       most loyal customers are standing there, asking “what’s new?”. Wouldn’t
       be hard to update them on your industry, your business, or your products,
       would it?

You need to remain on topic and ensure that your messages are relevant to your business,
industry, or customers. You also don't want to speak poorly of your competitors.
Otherwise, everything's fair game, from sharing customer testimonials to news about new
contracts, what's going on in the research lab, new holiday hours in the mall, and even an
invitation for subscribers to see a new mural you just finished.

Having read hundreds of different weblogs, my primary advice is to keep the writing
friendly and enthused. Every salesperson already knows that enthusiasm for your product
produces a similar level of enthusiasm in the majority of customers.

The Least You Need to Know

   •      The more frequently you add content and update your site, the more quickly
          changes are incorporated into the Google database.

   •      Discussion forums can be an excellent way of letting your customers generate
          new content for your site, but only if they remain busy.

   •      Weblogs offer an excellent approach to content management and automatically
          generate an RSS feed that allows your customers to stay current on the news
          from your business.




© 2006 by Dave Taylor. All Rights Reserved.                                        Page 38

				
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