Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Location, Location, Location

A reader emailed the following question:

You wrote, "There is no lucky bar stool granting you certain powers of seduction. Likewise, there isn't some magical corner to blog on." But isn't it true that MySpace has much more traffic built in?

Another asked: Isn't it true that a blog with its own domain name has more respect than a blog at Blogger or Myspace?

Let me deal with the second question first.

While it's true that staking out your own location with your own domain name makes you look more like a high class call girl than a street corner whore with user.more public domain, this is not necessarily true for bloggers. Many high-profile bloggers began at public sites before switching to their own domain name, with some never making that domain name leap. Look at big movies which have movie title dot Sony or MySpace slash TV show. If you do business transactions, however, you may be seen as schmaltzy if you don't purchase a domain name. It's not all about branding but includes practical business matters. You'll need one for secure server certificates; security and bandwidth issues require paid membership sites to register their own names as well. If you are not doing direct business dealings with your site, and most bloggers are not making direct sales, you can skip the domain name purchase and blog for free.

Now, as the first question alludes, not all free blogging is equal.

I'm sure most of you are aware that with most free hosting and free blogging sites there are limits on the types of content which may be published. Adult content is definitely one of them. And with adult content there are often problems with bandwidth and site traffic. I'm not going to get into all these possibilities; I'll leave that for those who discuss in great detail site hosting. But looking at some of the top places for free blogging, there are differences.

MySpace, as mentioned here, and other sites like them allows for free blogging with a built in community and social networking capacity. The large MySpace membership population means more exposure ~ at least in theory. I seriously have my doubts about how this huge membership translates into being stumbled up or otherwise 'discovered' as my stats do not indicate staggering numbers from this location. In fact, it appears to me that with all the folks trying to get to some pointless number of friends to prove their importance or otherwise inflate their egos, there is actually little reading of blogs which means marketing outside of MySpace to get (targeted) folks to MySpace is in fact extremely necessary.

While I am making personal comments on MySpace blogging, let me also state that their standard template leaves much to be desired, and tweaking it via free templates (all of which have "Made By" and other mandatory links with them) isn't as easy as one would like. It's not just an aesthetic thing regarding my personal tastes (or bemoaning my lack of technical abilities), their templates limit the ability to monkey with your sidebars to create links, post blogrolls etc. Outlawing javacripts means you are limited in functions such as stat tracking as well. XPeeps, which is an adult social networking site like MySpace but catering to the adult industry, also has a blog with similar limitations except that you are free from worry about adult content. But I digress.

Blogger (Blogspot) offers built in traffic with it's top header (it includes a random 'next blog' feature) and being part of the Google empire, you know it's going to be spidered efficiently and often if you are posting regularly. It has the latest gadgets for tags/labeling, is neatly tied to ping Technorati (the tags work with Technorati well also), has a built-in means to upload images and other gizmos. Blogger also allows you to use it's software or publishing mechanism on your own site (as a blog 'page' on your main site) or other non-blogger hosting, which alleviates the problems with them booting you for adult content. (Hence my use of blogger here.)

Other sites, such as LiveJournal, allow for making/joining groups which also has built in traffic and means to be found other than your own posts and marketing efforts. Some of these offer more options for personalizing your blog, sidebar etc., or will with the paid upgrades.

In other words, your mileage may vary.

While one offers one neat gizmo, it may be lacking in another area. You'll need to check these out, make comparisons, and otherwise make choices for yourself, of course. And no matter which you choose you're going to have to make efforts to market your blog.

If you want a blog to merely be the more personal side of corporate you, to make the most of RSS and pull readers, to allow for frequent updates or updates outside of your password protected areas etc, you may want to consider not an independent blog but a blog 'page' on your main site. This is the only way you won't need to do separate marketing for your blog; it merely co-exists with your site ~ on your site. If you choose and independent blog, you will need to market it.

I know some of you are moaning that you started your blog to market your website, call service, books or whatever business you have ~ isn't the blog the marketing tool? Why would you need to market it? Why on earth would anyone start a blog to market one thing only to have to market the blog itself?

Well that, Virginia, is why you need to decide if (and when) a blog is right for you and what you need it to do.

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