Business Blog: separate domain or on your website @ Better Business Blogging

One of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to setting up a business blog, and certainly one which I have been asked on a number of occasions recently, is whether it is better to have a blog as part of your website or to set it up as a separate site on its own domain.

I would love to be able to give a brief one line response to this, however, I don’t believe that there is one which will fit all circumstances. So, true to recent form, I have to say that the answer to this will depend on a number of different factors, all of which can contribute to the final decision.

And what are these factors, I hear you ask. Well, the main ones I would look at are:

  • Branding requirements

  • Intended use of the Blog
  • Target Audience
  • Focus of Blog
  • Domain Name Selection
  • Search Engine / SEO Requirements
  • General Marketing Requirements
  • Mark White is the author of this post, and it looks like he’s been asked the question too. He’s been asked it many times: me, just the once. I answered it from the SEO perspective – that is, it would be better to have it on a separate domain because you then get more links coming *into* your site rather than within it. Then I considered the branding issue, which implies that it would be better to have it within the site. But he really considers it from all angles and I’d say he’s pretty much nailed it. If you’re thinking of setting up a blog, read this first. I guess that, at the end of the day, you can actually change your mind later on, but it’s always better to think about these things first.

    What are people saying about… the iPad, iPhone and iPod?

    Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past week, you’ll know all about the iPad, Apple’s new wunderkit – what it has, what it has not, what it’s for, what it’s not for, and so on.

    Fortunately, the term ‘iPad’ is very quick and easy to search for. So, it’s a doddle to monitor. So, that’s what I’ve done.

    The same goes for iPhone and iPod, so I thought it would be interesting to see all three lined up against each other. Inevitably the other two models in the Apple i-stable receive attention, so right now, all their figures are up. But this is more of a slow-burner. In a few weeks or months’ time it will be interesting to see how their charts look. Will one product cannibalise another? Will any of them drop off the radar?

    Let’s take a look. Click here to see the dashboard, or click the image below.

    What are people saying about the iPad, iPhone and iPod? Click image to see dashboard.

    What are people saying about the iPad, iPhone and iPod? Click image to see dashboard.

    Layout

    First off, regarding the layout, well I thought it might be nice to nod to Apple’s design ethos and make it a bit more sophisticated than previous dashboards (all of which you can also see on the Netvibes tabs). This approach also endears you to clients. ;)

    I also just concentrated on three sources: Twitter, because everyone tweets nowadays; blogs, because there are some very smart bloggers out there who can offer real insight into Apple strategy; and forums, because they’re often the forgotten social media platform and yet tech forums can offer heated debate, if not often informed opinion.

    Twitter Conversations

    Twitter buzz is, unsurprisingly, up across the board. There is a quite astonishing sudden spike showing when the iPad was launched (at time of writing – you won’t be able to see it after a week or so as the charts move on). Interestingly the iPhone buzz seemed to drop off quite quickly but also displays a ‘dead cat bounce’, that is, a sudden short spike after the fall. The iPad does too, but the iPod less so. This implies that the iPhone and iPad are seen as more contemporary products, the iPod less so.

    The iPad tweets are all about the new kid on the block – what it does, links to reviews and so on. The iPhone tweets seem to mention the iPad and iPod, indicating a middle position in people’s attitudes. The iPod tweets are much more varied, talking about music rather than the product for example, which to me implies people have got over their wonderful new kit and are concentrating on the media instead. It will be interesting to see whether iPad conversations in a year or so will similarly discuss films, music and published media in the same way.

    Blog Conversations

    We see the same buzz profile as for Twitter – big red spikes, mirrored across all products. This time however the iPod peaked earlier than the iPhone, although it has approximately half the amount of traffic. The iPad trumps them all, with over 20,000 posts at launch.

    The blog posts are all mashed up. Everyone seems to be talking about all products, comparing and contrasting. Maybe they will polarise in future.

    Forum Conversations

    Again, we see a familiar buzz profile, although this time the iPad, iPhone and iPod have a similar number of mentions at their peak. The actual forum posts aren’t that great in terms of quality however – mostly anecdotal and, strangely, Japanese. Maybe time to bring out the English language filter to snip them out.

    Strategy

    It’s always difficult knowing how to approach Apple. I sometimes wonder what their PR team actually does. I mean, can you imagine? Maybe you spend a few days in the office monitoring the buzz out there – none of which you really had to work to achieve – then go to the pub.

    Of course, I don’t believe it’s that simple. But Apple is a strange beast. I’m tempted to say they really shouldn’t do anything with social media because they have such huge amounts of traffic and overwhelmingly positive sentiments. I think that, from a marketing perspective, they have to be careful not to cannibalise across the products. I’m sure they’ve considered this too. Smartarses.

    But perhaps this is, as I said at the outset, a slowburner. Maybe this really is an opportunity for companies like Apple to watch what happens across social media, comparing and contrasting how different audiences behave.

    For example, I was surprised to find that when looking at Bono’s twitter buzz, not only did it react much more quickly and at higher volume than other platforms – which is to be expected maybe – it was also more protracted buzz. That is, it took longer to die down than blogging or forums. I did not expect that, and I do wonder whether it’s a consistent pattern. I guess we just have to listen and learn.

    What are people saying about… Eurostar?

    Eurostar is to rail travel what Terminal 5 was to air travel.

    While Terminal 5 was slowly falling apart, I had the opportunity to put together my first ever monitoring dashboard for people who wanted to track what was going on. Since then I’ve played around a-plenty with dashboards and monitoring systems, so while I develop these techniques I thought it would be interesting to do some ‘live’ case studies. And, luckily (for me), Eurostar is a perfect candidate.

    So what are people saying about them? I’m sure people at Eurostar would like to know. Fortunately I’ve heard tell that the excellent We Are Social, headed by Robin Grant, are helping Eurostar listen in to the online conversations, so I’d imagine they have a similar setup.

    But this one’s mine. Take a look -  click here to see the Eurostar dashboard, or click the image below.

    Eurostar monitoring dashboard - click to see the live version

    Eurostar monitoring dashboard - click to see the live version

    First off, I figure that Twitter is fairly important because people will be tweeting left, right and centre about them. So, I put a Twitter buzz chart at the top, and Twitter updates below that.

    As you can see it looks like problems reached a peak on Tuesday, with a daily pattern of people tweeting their annoyance around mid-morning and less so during their lunchbreaks. Today, the volume has lessened which probably coincides with the trains being fixed.

    So much for the quantitative. Look at what people are saying. They’re really not happy. Right now I can see the following comments:

    • Some people are still throwing stones at the Eurostar as it passes them
    • Bankers threatening to leave the country over tax rates, but how? Eurostar? Plane?
    • Miles de pasajeros abarrotan estación londinense desde donde parten trenes Eurostar

    The first one is fairly astonishing (and I don’t believe it frankly, but who knows?), the second is frightfully witty if you don’t actually work for Eurostar, and the last is, according to my limited Spanish, not entirely positive either – but, bearing in mind Eurostar doesn’t actually go to Spain, shows how the whole of Europe is caught up in this fascinating episode.

    Forums are notorious for ill-informed, knee-jerk response (I should know, I used to post regularly to the Computer Music forum, so regularly that I was once in the top five posters by volume). So, I added a Forum section, again with the chart at the top and the threads below.

    The forum buzz chart roughly echoes the Twitter chart in that volume seems to be falling. There are actually surprisingly few comments in the forums, telling me that maybe this isn’t the ‘natural’ space for such conversations to take place.

    The blog buzz is similar, and again we see negativity abounding. Take this for instance: “Mum’s here – she got a first class ticket which meant Eurostar could get her on the train.” Do what? Are you telling me that people have to buy first class to guarantee a place? And so it continues to unravel…

    Finally I thought it might be interesting to look at the photos people were taking – this was particularly illuminating when looking at Terminal 5 coverage, basically showing mountains of suitcases. Eurostar photos seem to consist mostly of queues of people, with comments alongside them such as “And the start of a 36 hour trip home.” Dearie dearie me.

    It would be nice – well, not nice maybe, but interesting certainly – to monitor the Facebook group, and social videos. I just put these columns in to get a quick overview of what’s going on. Same for UK, global and social news, Delicious bookmarks, even wikipedia updates – they can all be added, and more. I just put this together to test the system while I’m developing it.

    So there you have it. Negativity abounds, and it doesn’t seem as if Eurostar is helping the situation by offering people transit if they pay through the nose. Disclaimer: I don’t actually know this to be the case, but that’s the impression that blog post gave me.

    How to deal with all this? I’m sure the smart guys at We Are Social are on the case but it’s probably a priority now for them to do a post-mortem on what went wrong, and how to make it right again – because this won’t stop here. It’s going to take quite some time for Eurostar to stop being a joke, as it did with T5 and as it will for Tiger Woods (another case study in how to get it wrong, including, this time, social media – he could have been contrite sooner and more directly, but that’s another story).

    Let’s face it, we work in the world of impressions, reputations and opinions. It’s tricky, and you’ve got to be careful. At the very least, listen.

    Dear Yahoo Pipes…

    … it’s so hard writing this blog post I don’t know where to begin.

    So I’ll begin at the beginning.

    When we first met I didn’t think you were anything special. You had a nice interface and cute little modules, but I wasn’t bowled over, I must admit.

    No. It took a while, but then I started to appreciate you for yourself. You let me bring feeds together and split them apart. You helped me change the contents of feeds, filter them, edit them. And you enabled me to build a modular monitoring system, keywords separate from processing, sub-pipes that looked after blogs, others that scanned forums, videos, pictures…

    It was plain we were meant for each other and our relationship blossomed.

    But then those small tell-tale signs that I tried so hard to ignore became all too plain. Those ‘Connection refused’ errors (yeah right, who were you trying to kid?). ‘Internal error’ was another one that hurt. And I still don’t know how you could bring yourself to tell me that I had a malformed engine, or that you were unable to parse data. I mean, you told me early on in our relationship but I always thought it was a metaphor.

    The more I talk about it, the more it seems you’ve been transgressing with other people too. Oh yes, they know all about your server hang-ups too, the way you time out on them, or even refuse to connect in the first place. You dirty dog.

    So that’s it, Pipes. I’ve had enough. There’s only so much a semi-programming-literate copywriter can take. Go now, go. Walk out the door. Just turn around now cos you’re not welcome any more. Before I chase you down the road and smash your rear windscreen with a nine-iron.

    Good grief, I’m one of the smartest people in social media!

    This is according to Smarter Social Media.

    They’ve been through lots of people and apparently I’m one of the top 100. I find this astonishing, particularly as I’ve pretty much stopped blogging recently.

    As is often the case, they’ve been a bit coy about their criteria. Is it bean-counting? Is it ubiquity? Or do they just like my avatar? If so, why did they publish the wrong photo of me?

    Nevermind. One thing I do think they’re getting right is listing the people, not the blogs. This was one of the reasons I stopped publishing my PR Friendly Index of blogs. It’s about bloggers, not blogs, and in fact more than that it’s about presences on Twitter, Facebook, and a whole raft of other social media platforms. And across all of them it’s about what they say and how they contribute.

    So perhaps people think I’ve contributed, which is nice.

    I have to say, after a fairly trying time working in social media I had decided to get completely out of the scene and concentrate on copywriting instead. But I keep getting drawn back into it, so perhaps this is coming at the right time.

    In fact, maybe those three prospective clients who all postponed their projects last week might think about starting them up again…? Or perhaps I should take advantage of some slack time and post about how great other people think I am.

    Will I ever be able to update the PR Friendly Index again?

    The PR Friendly Index has been good to me. I initially compiled it as an ongoing experiment to see how I could ‘measure’ blogs, especially en masse, especially using forms of automation that would make it as easy as possible. The ultimate goal was something along the lines of the Power150, except I had visions of creating a blog ‘index’ akin to the FTSE-100, so we could see who was rising or falling in real-time.

    This never came to be, not least because I had neither the time nor the expertise to make it so. But I got a fair way with canny combinations of Google Docs XML and ImportHTML calls, Technorati APIs, and good old-fashioned Word macros to format everything.

    Since then, of course, we all know that this isn’t the right way to ‘measure’ a blog. It’s more qualitative than quantitative. But I still thought there was value in compiling it from time to time, provided I could do this regularly using proven processes and techniques. Not least because, as I said, it’s been good to me. My stats shot through the roof when I started it, and it’s helped me professionally in many ways.

    However, the last PR Friendly index I compiled, in March 2009, was a right old pain in the arse. It seemed that the Google Docs calls weren’t reliable, even though they were doing things ‘properly’ using my Technorati API key. As a result I had to copy and paste many results manually, or estimate some results much in the same way scientists inserted frog DNA into dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.

    I’ve recently been toying with the idea of starting the index again, and took a quick look to see whether things were still intact. The bad news is that they most decidedly are not.

    Take a look at the image below. It’s the result of the Technorati calls for the authority of the first few blogs in the PR Friendly Index:

    Is it cream-crackered?

    See that? Most of them don’t work. There’s nothing wrong with the calls. The blogs exist. If I look them up using the same API calls as in the Google Docs, but typed directly into the browser address bar, they work. Do the same through Google Docs, and they don’t. Mostly.

    So I can only imagine there’s something going on with Google Docs calls. I get similar results when using ImportHTML to query Google Blog Searches. Hardly any of them work.

    If none of them worked, I could start debugging this. But some of them, working some of the time? Nothing worse for debugging.

    This leaves me with a problem. If I want to continue with the PR Friendly Index, I need to figure out yet another workaround because I simply cannot spend the best part of a day compiling these figures manually. Something’s gone wrong, and I need a fix, ideally a nice efficient way using API calls.

    Can anyone help?

    Well done badgerman!

    Not badgerwatchingman

    Not badgerman. Click image for source.

    A friend of mine has received recognition for his wildlife blog, Tales from The Wood – The Diary of a Badger Watching Man.

    It’s well deserved. The blog is very well written, giving unique and fresh insights into aspects of wildlife from a first-person perspective. ‘Badgerman’ – for that is his suitably anonymous online moniker – gets up at sunrise every Sunday to track animals, and ‘specializes’ in monitoring badgers at local setts. This passion, together with his evident flair for writing and observation, makes for a fascinating read.

    It’s also very gratifying when someone you helped get into blogging really starts to ‘get it’. Badgerman – who shall remain anonymous – brought the subject up a year or so ago simply because he wanted to do some more freeform writing. It’s an admirable objective in itself, and one of the reasons I started blogging too. A blog is a perfect, self-contained little writing exercise, in which you learn how to be concise and effective. Plus, you learn stuff. And it’s free. What is there to lose?

    Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, so I told badgerman – whom I shall refer to as ‘bm’ because that name is too long for me to keep typing – all about WordPress, how easy it was, and how blogging can become not only an intriguing pastime but one that can lead off in all sorts of interesting new directions. So he did it. And now he’s being recognised for it.

    Naturally (forgive the pun) he’s pretty excited about it, as you can see on his latest post. And so he should be. I anticipate that his stats will shoot up on the back of the publicity, and indeed all it takes is one opportunity like this to have quite a profound impact on one’s life. I truly believe this of blogging. Since I started, it’s opened many doors. Admittedly some of them should have had a red cross daubed on them, but others have led the way to new, exciting ventures.

    I say. Ding dong. Click image for sauce.

    I say. Ding dong. Click image for sauce.

    I have to admit that originally I thought bm would do something more along the ‘pro’ route. Instead, he’s writing about his pastime, and now I think about it, this makes much more sense. In a way, you could say that’s how I started out. I still recall the excitement of seeing my blog post appear via RSS on Google Reader, and getting my first ever comment. For me, social media was just fun, and it ended up being my job. Who’s to say bm won’t find a position under Kate Humble? (pun intended this time).

    So, well done bm, and to all those stuck-up sticky-beats who think blogging’s dead, think again.

    The PR Friendly Index is no longer about PR. Is PR even about PR any more?

    badlogoI’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the PR Friendly Index recently. Given that I’m not working in social media exclusively any more, it’s a pain in the arse to maintain and other indexes do this better (and keep getting better too), I’ve been thinking of scrapping it.

    However, before doing so, I thought I’d have a look at the blogs listed and see what they’re up to.

    And get this: hardly anyone writes about PR any more.

    I know, there are all sorts of definitions of what PR ‘is’. My friend Kerry Gaffney has summed it up well in the past: you don’t talk about ‘newspaper PR’ or ‘radio PR’, so instead of talking about ‘online PR’, you could argue that social media is just part of, well, PR. This is a fair argument, especially when PR backs up into marketing. You could argue that anyone talking about communicating a client’s benefit through word of mouth to appropriate audiences is doing PR.

    But strangely, when I started my blog, I did it to find out mostly about PR, and a bit about blogging. Sounds perverse, it’s true, but I’d only comparatively recently started working in a PR agency and I thought it would be a good way to accelerate my learning. This is why I put together a blogroll of PR blogs. And the more I got into the blogging, the more I became aware that we needed ways in which to ‘measure’ blogs, so I put together my first index.

    Since then I’ve had all sorts of comments, mostly complimentary, but some of them have told me that a lot of the blogs don’t really talk about PR.

    And they were right.

    I started at the top and worked my way down. This is how it went:

    [Slightly out of breath after run]

    Oh, of course this blogger talks about PR, let’s skip it, move to the next one.

    [Skips down, clicks link]

    Hmmmm. There’s no mention of PR on the first two pages that I can see. It’s out.

    [Deletes. Skips down, clicks link. Coughs a bit.]

    This one mentions PR. It’s in.

    [Skips down, clicks link]

    Hmmmm. There’s no mention of PR on the first two pages that I can see. It’s out.

    [Deletes. Skips down, clicks link]

    Hmmmm. There’s no mention of PR on the first two pages that I can see. It’s out.

    [Deletes. Skips down, clicks link]

    Hmmmm. There’s no mention of PR on the first two pages that I can see. It’s out.

    [Deletes. Skips down, clicks link]

    Hmmmm. There’s no mention of PR on the first two pages that I can see. It’s out.

    [Deletes. Skips down, clicks link. Starts wheezing, goes to look for some pineapple juice.]

    Etc

    This continued most of the way down the list. The further down I got, the more people still occasionally mentioned PR. I suppose this makes sense: you get loads of social media juice by talking about social media. That reminds me, must get more pineapple juice in.

    If you talk about fuddy-duddy old PR – you know, outreach, the media, organising events, talking to journalists and all that boring stuff – you wind up further down. That’s why I’ve been anticipating a drop in my readership since a became a fuddy-duddy old copywriter again.

    I was so surprised/alarmed by the near-total obsession with social media and lack of PR that I returned to the top and went through the ones I’d skipped. And I had to take a fair few of them out too, because all I could see was Twitter, Facebook, Blogging, and maybe a few pictures of the nice holiday they’d recently had in the Seychelles.

    With the result that we now have 367 blogs in the index. That’s about a third of the original set. And no, I don’t include myself in the new list. I’m sure that, about a year or so ago, they were waxing lyrical about PR, not almost exclusively socia media.

    Here’s the list, in the order they appear in the last index. They’re blogs that either talk about PR, or just about mention PR enough to make me think they talk about PR. Note I haven’t added links because I don’t believe in link love any more either. If you think it’s interesting enough to share, then please share (POST EDIT – Thanks to Judy Gombita for noticing I hadn’t updated my PR Blogs list – you can see these blogs to the right of this page now):

    • PR Watch
    • The Bad Pitch Blog
    • PR Blogger
    • The Buzz Bin
    • Pop! PR Jots
    • A PR Guy’s Musings
    • Strategic Public Relations
    • Wadds’ tech pr blog
    • Spinwatch
    • sixtysecondview
    • PR Newser
    • Murphy’s Law
    • Heather Yaxley
    • PR Conversations
    • PR Studies
    • Flack Life
    • Piaras Kelly PR
    • ToughSledding
    • Corporate PR
    • Strumpette
    • Post Edit: Getting Ink (happy now Sally?)
    • PR Meets the WWW
    • Sir Robert Bond Papers
    • PR Disasters
    • In Front of Your Nose
    • Simonsays
    • All Things PR
    • PR Voice
    • DummySpit
    • Teaching PR
    • Ron Torossian
    • Paul Stallard
    • Fusion PR Forum
    • First Person PR
    • Flacks Revenge
    • Public Relations Rogue
    • Final Spin

    PR people, social media may be part of PR but it’s not all of it. You do other stuff too, right? Or are you all trying to strike the same pose to attract new business? Isn’t PR sexy enough to be talked about any more? Don’t you have any challenges? Have you all sussed it out so much that it’s not worth discussing? Or is PR actually just about social meeja now?

    Because if I were on the lookout for a PR agency I’d be hard-pressed to find one that isn’t obsessed by whether or not I have a social media policy, or how to get along with Twitter, or describing how great blogging is.

    I’d sum it up thusly:

    talkingabout

    I don’t know whether this is good or bad. What do you think? Is this a problem of definition? Do you still talk about PR, just not online?

    I’d imagine if you’re not on the list any more, you think bad, right?

    Praise be, my subscriptions have fallen

    Easy as cake. Click image for source.

    Easy as cake. Click image for source.

    Running a blog about social media and PR is a piece of pie. Just start it up and make the right noises, eventually you wind up with several hundred subscribers.

    Same with Twitter. What is everyone talking about on Twitter? Mostly social media, it seems to me.

    So it’s with a sense of satisfaction that I notice my subscription rate is going down.

    Did I say down? Yes, I meant down. Not up.

    Because it means the people who were reading me because they thought I was going to wax lyrical about social media are all disappointed now I’m copywriting for a living. It means my audience is changing to copywriting, which is less popular right now. And this is what I want because I need my audience to change. I don’t care if it’s smaller.

    I mean, I’ll still occasionally post about social media – and in fact I’m still doing it in a limited capacity for a couple of clients – but it’s not my primary profession any more.

    Piece of pie. Click image for source.

    Piece of pie. Click image for source.

    Some people think I’m mad. They say I should have continued with it. I’m certainly (or at least probably) going to earn quite a lot less as a fusty old freelance copywriter than a rockstar social media dude, but while I’d rather be rich and happy, if I can’t have both, I’ll take happy any day.

    So it might sound like the most bizarre communications strategy to tell people to go away, but I’ve never done things in the Normal Way. If you don’t like what I write, then go away. If you do, then subscribe.

    It’s easy as cake.