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June 16, 2008

If Your Are Serious About Marketing Through Blogging - Please Don't Use Blogger or Blog Spot or Adwords

(UPDATE 6/18):  Jay Fleischman continues the conversation with some important points here.)

Maybe I've become a blogging snob. Or maybe it's my marketing background.  But when I'm led to a purported expert in some area with services to offer and I find them on Blogger or Blogspot I'm immediately turned off.  Why?  If they can't spend $4.95 to get on Typepad or use Wordpress (which is free) and hire a reputable host it just doesn't sit well with me.  In my opinion, it comes off as a serious business faux pas and is professionally diminishing. Bottom line: if they can't invest in themselves...why should I invest in their services?

I wouldn't recommend you use Blogger or Blospot if you are a professional service provider looking to attract clients.  I can, however, see Blogger or Blogspot for individuals not engaged in business or students who are watching their pennies (but not even necessarily then because we are just talking about $5.00 per month.)  But for me, Blogger or Blogspot just knocks the individual down a few pegs in credibility. They seem like novices or temporary or too new to know better so this diminishes their expert status to me regardless their own or others' claims of expert status. (Basically, And if you are still unsure about what I am saying about these particular platforms and the impression they make, check out a timely post by Kevin O'Keefe of Lexblog as to why he thinks Blogger or Blogspot just doesn't cut it as a business marketing tool. Granted, he has created a business selling legal blogs to primarily large law firms, but the sentiment is a universal one.  It's not unreasonable that solos may be initially inclined to save a few dollars by blogging on a free platform.  But realize 'free' doesn't mean there isn't a cost down the road.

Another issue I have, which you have probably heard or read before, is whether or not to advertise on your business blog. I have actually seen lawyers using adwords on their blogs.  Imagine a divorce lawyer in Tulsa using adwords and some of the click through ads next to your educational posts meant to encourage prospective clients to contact you include your competition?  Does this really make sense on any level? (I am not talking about your recreational blogs, though.  If you want to monetize your site to pay for your personal blogging passion like jogging or knitting, that's different.)

Your blog is to attract prospective clients to you, an educational tool to target your ideal client.  It is very unwise to divert them to the competition or have them click through for a vacuum cleaner.  Yet, I see it over and over, again. Anything on your site which encourages your reader to leave your site (other than a responsible link to another blog author or article which you believe your reader should read) is not a wise move.

While blogging is extremely cost-effective and the most viral marketing tool you can have in your arsenal of marketing vehicles, if you go 'free' or look to monetize the site for a few dollars, think about the long-range impact and cost of this decision on your professional stature...and pocketbook.

I'd like to know what you think when you see your colleagues on Blogger or Blogspot and/or monetizing their site with adsense or other types of advertising?

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Comments

Rajeev Edmonds

I completely agree about not using adwords, as it easily takes the business away to your competitors. But I think, if I am using blogger platform, it has nothing to do with my capabilities of giving an excellent service. There are some very reputed bloggers (blogs) on blogger which have large fan following and are successful in their business.

James Chartrand - Men with Pens

I'll step in on this one.

If you want to have a hobby and blog about your cats on Saturdays or your trip to Belize with your new lover, by all means sign up with Blogger. No reason to get into self-hosting at all.

But if you are a business, if you earn one single penny off your blog, if you need to establish credibility, expertise and reputation... For god's sake. Spend $6.95 a month on hosting (we recommend In Motion Hosting) and spend $500 getting a professional self-hosted blog (we recommend Wordpress) designed for you (we recommend Men with Pens).

Also, if you are going to blog, then reduce all barriers to conversation, like captchas and lack of subscribe to comments. Blogging is a two-way street, and the blogging mindset is about community and conversation with clients and potential clients.

You need and want commentators, lots of them, no matter what your niche.

So remove anything that makes it hard or unpleasant to comment. Make it easy for people to get involved, and make your site as user friendly as possible.

Adrian

In my hobby blogging I have used TypePad and found it very disappointing. They stay behind the curve on features and functionality yet charge for a premium service. Their newsletters tout "new" features that the competition already has and promise improvements that never come for months or years. It also has frustrating complications such as the inability to use certain features automatically if you choose to edit your template in certain ways.

It turns out that Blogger is generally more advanced, more user friendly, and quicker to roll out improvements, although certain common features (such as a recent comments box) mysteriously never get introduced. But, yes, the reasons to avoid Blogger are compelling, such as the the terms of service pointed out by O'Keefe, the uptime, and the "next blog" links that take the reader to who knows where.

If I start blogging professionally I hope to find a service with a better value than TypePad. They settle for being just good enough, and they want to nickel and dime customers for features. In fact, I'm having trouble posting this comment. I'm logged into TypeKey, yet it says "an error occurred" and now it wants my name and email address. On another TypePad blog my comments are signed "Anonymous" even though I'm logged into TypeKey. And you're paying for this?

Susan Cartier Liebel

@Rajeev - You say using a free platform takes nothing away from your ability to provide quality services. I believe it does however provide a barrier to portraying your ability to prospective customers. This was the basis of my comments.

@Adrian - Today Typepad would not be my platform of choice - Wordpress would be hands down as it is the gold standard in blogging platforms..Period.
I started blogging 18 months ago and wandered into Typepad based upon my skill level and features offered.

However, because I've built up tremendous SEO, links and readership on this site it would be counterproductive at this point to switch to another platform. The blog component of Solo Practice University will be Wordpress as will all the free blogs we will be offering there for our members ( http://solopracticeuniversity.tumblr.com )

Typepad has served its purpose for me as it does for countless others who want to be up and running in 5 minutes. But I appreciate your perspective.

Kevin

Thanks for sharing my post Susan and your advice against using Blogger for professional law blogs.

But please do not mischaracterize LexBlog as providing a service ' to primarily large law firms.'

LexBlog provides services to firms of all sizes, with my guess being that we have an equal number of small firms and large firms as clients.

Everything about me as a person, a lawyer, and where I came from is small law and small town.

I practiced law for 16 years in rural Wisconsin in a small firm. I practiced in rural Ireland in a small firm for a year before that.

I founded and ran a virtual law community for 7 years to help consumers, small business people, and small firm lawyers.

Sure, large law is attracted to our service, but so are solo's and small law firms. Helping lawyers, in firms of all sizes, realize their dreams in way that shares legal information and improves the image of our profession is what gets me out of bed each morning.

Keep up the good work.

Carolyn Elefant

I tend to differ on this topic a little bit. I think that if you are starting a blog, it makes sense to use Blogger or the free version of Wordpress to see how you take to it. And having used both Blogger and Wordpress, I find that the former is actually a bit more user friendly, though Wordpress is more robust.
Agreed, these freebies don't convey the most professional image, however, it's better than issuing a gorgeous professional blog with a bang only to have it fallow three months later. Also, you can do some attractive things with blogger - Denise Howell at Bag and Baggage (http://www.bgbg.blogspot.com/) uuses the blogger platform as does Eric Turkewitz (www.newyorkpersonalinjurylawyer.typepad.com)

Lisa Solomon

I also agree with you on both scores. In fact, just last week over on Larry Bodine's LawMarketing list, a professional business development coach who works with lawyers, accountants and professional services providers announced that she had started a new blog on social networking and asked people to take a look at it. Here's my response (in part):

"Finally, I understand that Blogger as a blogging platform has some serious limitations, and I believe that most people who are tech-savvy enough to be interested in social networking have a fairly low opinion of blogs on that platform (in other words, Blogger is not for serious bloggers). The adwords ad smack dab at the top further detracts from the site's credibility."

(And, although the blogger purported to be an expert on social networking, she didn't include links to her profiles on the various social networking sites. But that's another rant for another day.)

Finally, over at Big, Bright Bulb, Crystal Clayton/Williams has also expressed similar sentiments about adwords on a blog/website: http://tinyurl.com/6y7zog

Susan Cartier Liebel

@Carolyn - I understand your opinion on this. However, as a consultant and advising lawyers in 2008 who want to go solo how to spend or not spend their monies and advising them to think long term vs short term...the blogging platform you build upon...this very important marketing tool....must be one which will be able to grow with you. This is money (pennies, really, in the big scheme of things) that is well spent.

You've noted Eric Turkewitz as a prominent blogger with a huge following who uses one of these free platforms. If Eric were to start his blog today, I'm not so sure he would select the free platforms understanding what he has in fact created. (But I can't read his mind so if he wants to weigh in...) But given his SEO, Google rankings and countless links, for him to switch over today may be counterproductive. This is why I encourage long term thinking when selecting blogging platforms, hosts and more.

If a law student wants to test their wings with Blogger under an alias or blog about a particular passion like waterskiing using Blogspot, use these free platforms.

For business building into the future, I would strongly discourage it.

@Kevin If you feel I have mischaracterized your target audience then I stand corrected.

StephanieWestAllen

I have been very happy with TypePad—until they changed their editor. Now I dread posting. I blogged about this at Brains on Purpose today. Looks like Annie Gottlieb is even more upset than I am:

http://ambivablog.typepad.com/ambivablog/2008/06/the-cathedral-and-the-street.html

Amy

I use Blogger and I also have Adsense ads on my blog. I started this blog before I became licensed and wound up using it to chronicle my experience with the bar exam. When I am ready to have a blog catered to marketing my expertise for potential clients, I will probably use a different host. If I use Adsense at all, it will be with much discretion. I think Blogger is very user friendly and I have learned a lot by tinkering with it, including html and widgets etc. So I agree with some of the above posters that it is a good Blog host with which to start.

Susan Cartier Liebel

Amy, you've made my point. You used a free platform to get comfortable with blogging. You were not marketing your services to attract clients but to chronicle personal events. You, yourself say you will use a different platform when you go solo...but I would totally discourage the adwords for many reasons...some stated already. And, by the way, congratulations on your ambitions.

Sam Deeks

Halelujah. Well said.

For me, AdWords and AdSense are the crack cocaine of marketing and Google is the dealer. Its the point at which you stop trying to pretend you're doing anything else other than selling yourself for hits.

But am I, with my Wordpress blog, my own domain host and my respectable, subtle use of keywords really any better?

Perhaps it's just a matter of degrees - and we're all caught up in essentially the same addictive online behaviour.

Graham Jones - Internet Psychologist

Susan you make some interesting points, but it isn't really about Blogger. I have blogs using Blogger - but no-one knows. Why? Because the blogs are hosted on my own domains, using my own designs. I have explained how to do all this at http://www.changingblogger.com.

People should not be put off using Blogger - especially non technical, newcomers to blogging. It's simplicity means they can be up and running in a few minutes. WordPress seems more technical to people, as does TypePad or Movable Type. The result is they are put off blogging.

Now you are putting them off even more by suggesting they shouldn't use Blogger. They should use Blogger - they should just use the Advanced settings so that the outside world doesn't know they use Blogger.

In other words, see Blogger as software, rather than a blogging service and it all works just like WordPress, TypePad etc.

Take a look at my site, http://www.grahamjones.co.uk. It is in fact four Blogger blogs stitched together so they look like one web site. Blogger is tremendously powerful, but few people explore it. Serious marketers do use Blogger, but they use it wisely.

I agree with you that untouched, out of the box, Blogger/Blogspot spells "unprofessional web site" in many instances.

Susan Cartier Liebel

Graham,

Thanks for joining the conversation. Well, you are the first person to stand up for Blogger with constructive advice to address the issue for my readers. This is very worthwhile for those who are committed to the Blogger platform and you have provided us with some little known information...at least to me and the readers who have joined in the conversation.

How do you address the other issues expressed by Lexblog on the link provided in the original post? Do you avoid those pitfalls by hosting your domains yourself?

James Chartrand - Men with Pens

@ Graham - Yes, Blogger can be made to look nearly perfect, but it does have limitations for community building, readership, user friendliness... also, the advanced features aren't what most people are able to handle. You mention yourself that most are non-technical persons who just want to blog.

To those who want to get their feet wet and see if they like blogging, sure. Grab a free blog. Test. And for god's sake, get off it before you become too big to switch without serious pains.

To those who say, "I won't spend money before I know I'll make money," I say, "That's right. Don't buy a nice suit for the interview because you don't know if you'll get the job."

Graham Jones - Internet Psychologist

Susan

Glad to have been of some help. I think the issues raised in the original Lexblog are possible concerns - but only if your blog is problematic for Google, such as being libelous or pornographic. For most business bloggers, the restrictions imposed by Blogger won't be a problem.

However, you will be hard pressed to find a web hosting company that will not do the same for traditional web sites as Blogger does for blogs. The small print on most web hosting agreements I have seen says largely the same as Blogger.

I suspect, though, that Blogger is stricter in its application of the rules simply because it is more exposed than a traditional web hosting company. With Blogger anyone at anytime without any money can publish something. With traditional web hosts at least you need a credit card, so they know who you are...!

The safest answer is to host your blogs yourself on your own domains. Blogger has two methods of allowing this - one a simple divert system, the other using File Transfer Protocol (FTP) to post the files to your server. However, you can only access this option if you set up a Blogger blog using the rather well hidden "Advanced Options" when you originally set it up. (The link is down the bottom of the screen, on the right hand side, when you start a new blog).

There is also a potential SEO benefit in doing this, I understand.

Ernest Anemone - NJLawDirect.com

Susan, I may be a few days late with this one, but I love your blog and feel compelled to comment on this article. This March I decided to start a small home-based practice. Soon thereafter, I built a modest web presence - in large part due to the advice I found on your blog. And, as it turns out, on the same day you published this article about Blogger, I was setting-up my first blog with it. Naturally, I was crushed when I discovered your opinion of my chosen blogging platform (okay, not really - but I felt conflicted). So, to make a long comment short - I think you are both right and wrong on this issue. Blogger does create an unprofessional appearance if it's not used correctly. However, it seems to be just fine for editing and publishing posts. The blog I'm creating is hosted on my own domain (not blogspot) and its design blends in with the rest of my website. Nobody would ever know that I used Blogger except for the little "I Power Blogger" icon that I decided to keep.

Wow, I'm glad I got that out of my system. What was my point? Oh yeah, I love your blog - you rock!

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