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Robert Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant with more than 20 years of experience in business-to-business, high-tech, industrial, and direct marketing.

He is the author of more than 50 books including The Complete Idiot's Guide To Direct Marketing (Alpha Books) and The Copywriter's Handbook (Henry Holt & Co.). His articles have appeared in numerous publications such as DM News, Writer's Digest, Amtrak Express, Cosmopolitan, Inside Direct Mail, and Bits & Pieces for Salespeople.

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Can Blogging Help You Market Your Product Online?
by Robert W. Bly
Here’s a question I’ve been curious about lately: should marketers add blogging to their arsenal of marketing tactics? Will it help sell more products and services?

Or is it – as I suspect -- an utter waste of time? A pure vanity publication that won’t pay you back even one thin dime for your effort?

First, a definition. “A blog is an online journal,” explains blogging expert Deb Weil in her Business Blogging Starter Kit (www.wordbiz.com). “It’s called a journal because every entry is time and date stamped and always presented in reverse chronological order.”

The theory is that if you are an information marketer – or, if you publish information to establish your expertise in a niche industry or field – blogging should be part of your publishing arsenal.

According to Deb, a business blog is “a platform from which to lobby, network, and influence sales. It’s a way to circumvent traditional media and analysts. And blogging can be done instantly, in real time, at a fraction of the cost of using traditional channels.”

Now here’s my hesitancy in recommending blogs as a marketing tool: I have yet to find a single marketer who says that a business blog has gotten him a positive ROI, or return on investment.

I know plenty of online marketers who make millions of dollars a year from their Web sites and e-zines, for instance. But I’ve not seen a blog whose creator says that the time and effort spent on their blog has directly put money into their pockets.

“I would say that, with few exceptions, blogs are not yet direct income producing resources in and of themselves,” says blogging authority Paul Chaney (www.radiantmarketing.biz). “Their value lies in the fact that they help raise one’s stature relative to their respective field.”

In my observation, there are two major problems with blogging as a business-building tool.

The first is that most of the blogs I encounter are rambling, streams-of-consciousness musings about a particular topic of interest to the author, largely bereft of the kind of practical, pithy tips that e-zines, Web sites, and white papers offer.

As Deb says, reading the blog is like reading the author’s journal or diary. And unless you are a guru or celebrity whom others worship from afar, people are simply not going to flock to your blog to discover your latest thoughts on life.

The second problem with blogs is one of distribution.

With an e-zine, once the reader subscribes, he gets the e-zine delivered to him electronically every week or every month -- or however often you send it.

But with a blog, the reader has to go out and proactively look for it. And since your contributions to your blog may be irregular and unscheduled, he has no way of knowing when something new of interest has been added.

One big advantage of blogs, according to Paul Chaney, is that having a blog can help pull traffic to your Web site.

“The search engines, especially Google, love blogs,” says Paul. “You’d be amazed at how many of your posts will end up in the top ten returns. If search engine optimization is a concern to you, blogs are the best way I know to move up the ladder as well as increase your page rank.”

“I confidently predict that blogs will soon be a key piece of an effective online marketing strategy,” says Deb Weil. “Ultimately, they’re nothing more than an instant publishing tool, one that makes posting fresh content to the Web within anyone’s reach. No tech skill or knowledge required.”

And that’s another one of my complaints with blogs in particular and the Web in general: the ease with which people can post and disseminate content. “The best thing about the Web is that anyone can publish on it; the worst thing about the Web is that anyone can publish on it,” a computer magazine columnist once observed.

The problem is that there is already too much content, and we don’t want or need more. Analysis, wisdom, insight, advice, strategies, ideas – yes. But raw information, data, or content – no. And from what I can see, blogs serve up almost none of the former, and tons of the later.

Blogs are, by virtue of being a form of online diary, like diaries: rambling, incoherent, and more suited for private thoughts than public consumption.

If you have something of value to share, there are many better formats for doing it online than by blogging, including white papers, e-zines, and Web sites.

Even bulletin boards are interactive, so they have value by virtue of shared opinions, dialogue, and engaging conversation which may be listened to openly and publicly.

But most blogs seem to be the private idiosyncratic musings of an individual, without censure or editing of any kind. And the result is like porridge: a gloppy mess, tasteless, and not very satisfying.

Until that changes, I can’t see starting and maintaining a blog of your own, unless you are bored and looking for something to do, or require an outlet for self-expression. And if the latter is the case, well … why not just buy and keep a diary instead?

 
About the Author
Robert W. Bly is a freelance copywriter specializing in conventional and Internet direct mail. He can be reached at 201-385-1220 or via email.

© 2005 Robert W. Bly


 
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