I’m not even going to try to answer the dreaded question “What is blogging.” At least not in a single post, and not today. Sure, I’ve been blogging for more than a year now myself, but I still don’t have a short and simple to the “what is it” question. I’ll say its one of those things that becomes something unique to everyone who does it, and the software that powers it doesn’t lock it into a small box of potential uses.
To keep things simple for now, I’m going to go over some of the biggest benefits and problems associated with blogging. Ironically, many of the benefits are problems too.
Benefits of Blogging
Interact with your readers – One of the greatest benefits of a blog from the author’s perspective is the ability to interact with readers through comments, trackbacks, and guest posting across multiple blogs. Even when the author / blog publisher can’t find time to respond to the comments themselves, it does open up a conversation that allows the authors work to continue on and find a life of its own.
Easy to Use / Customize – Setting up a blog is incredibly easy. Anyone can head over to Blogger or WordPress and have their own free blog within five or ten minutes. Building a blog website on shared or private hosting is only a very little bit harder than that. Since most hosts provide some form of software installation, it is usually a matter of completing a web form. Even if the hosting provider doesn’t offer blogging installations, WordPress has a five-minute guide to set up quick and painlessly. Compared to hand coded sites and even WYSIWYG editors, blogging is as easy as it gets.
The best part of the ease of use is writing new posts and pages. Even building from a WYSIWYG template isn’t quite as easy as filling out a blog platform’s submission form. It is really as easy as formatting a document in a word processor or website forum post.
Easy to Syndicate / Promote – Thanks to RSS feeds, it is easy to build links to all of your latest posts as soon as you write them. Once aggregated into a public RSS feeder that respects a webmaster’s need for links to prove authorship, blogs can be syndicated across multiple domains with little summaries that will (hopefully) make surfers want to read more.
Check out this previous article on promoting blogs to get a few more specific examples and how to avoid the problems associated with RSS.
Problems with Blogging
Unfortunately, it seems like everything that makes blogging great is also a potential problem:
Ineraction Invites Spam – Any time surfers can leave their own comments and links behind, you’ve entered the world of spam risk management. It is one thing for secondary authors to leave links to their work, its another thing if someone else is using your webmaster blog to sell prescription medication and cheap knock-off watches. When the search engines see this kind of junk, they’re likely to take both sites down in the rankings. Comment moderation is important – some of the bulk can be moderated by mods like Akismet but it really takes a human eye to catch all the spammy links.
Becoming Complacent with Technical Skills – Hey, I have a blog and internet traffic, I must be an expert with technical computer skills! I fell for this for a few months. Even if you have a blog up and running and gaining in popularity, there’s probably a lot you could gain to learn behind the scenes. Instead of becoming complacent with how easy everything was to build, its a good idea to learn some more about CSS and PHP so you can customize your themes. Bloggers aren’t necessarily designers, developers, or SEOs, but they need to be (at least until they can afford to hire help)
Easily Ripped / Scraped – And the benefit with RSS is also its biggest problem. While a good feed directory will make sure the author gets the recognition and credit for their work, scrapers will just take the content from real time and remove any relevant links to indicate the source. If the scraper’s site has a better pagerank and linking structure than yours, there’s a chance they could end up ranking higher than you for your own work. In this case, the search engines would see you as the copy-cat.
To best avoid this, make sure you get your foot in the door at the good aggregation sites first. Get a few big links from article directories with 20% or so of your first few articles.
By no means have I exhausted the benefits and unique problems associated with blogging, but I hope this is a good start if you are wondering if you should start a blog or a static website. (Yeah, there is basically no reason to go with a static design these days. If you feel like you want a challenge, design a blog template from scratch!)