Whether you’re starting a business or looking to expand an existing one, if said business has an online component, you’re probably wondering whether you should stick to a website or start blogging. Most of the time, the decision is utterly random and based on the “I think it might be useful” or “I want to be everywhere” premises. There’s really no worse argument for decisions regarding online branding and business than personal preference and the unreasonable desire to just be all over the place.
Hopefully, the following piece will help you make more informed and practical decisions in the future. Often a website is an automatic choice because it’s a relatively easy way to showcase whatever it is you’re doing and eventually improve your business’ bottom line. Right?
Wrong! Websites are as different as the businesses they represent and follow a format adequate for the goals they are trying to achieve; if they want to be successful at all. In other words, online shops will not only be completely different from presentation websites but significantly different amongst themselves. Why? Because they serve different purposes. Similarly, while all blogs are indeed websites, not all websites are blogs. From a technical standpoint, blogs aren’t even in the same zip code as what you may call “regular” websites.
For the purposes of this particular post we will stick to whether or not you should host a website or start blogging, depending on what you are trying to achieve online. To better illustrate the differences that stem from the goals, nature and resources of your business or project, I’ll be using three examples: a flower shop, a photographer and an author.
There are many elements that factor into your choice and one, if not the most important one, is why you’re asking the question in the first place. Are you trying to sell, debate, express opinions, socialise, showcase your work, etc? Depending on your answer, you will have to choose a primary platform for your online presence. However, this doesn’t mean it has to be the only place from where you broadcast your content to the world. It’s a bit like having your website work like a head office, with multiple regional offices directing visitors and customers towards it. In our flower shop example, when you’re trying to sell something, and by that I mean actually start an online shop, you will undoubtedly need a website, built on an eCommerce platform where you’ll showcase and sell your products.
Does this mean that you shouldn’t have a blog as well? Absolutely not but it does mean that it’s a secondary environment and it’s not essential for your business’ online success, especially since it will require you to commit resources you may not have. I’ll come back to this in a bit. Let’s say you’re an author and want to connect with your audience. You will require a website that will function as a business card of sorts, telling the world who you are, what you’ve written and where your fans can buy your books and contact you. As a writer, blogging is very tempting since it’s so close to what you actually do, however, it can be impractical and drain your resources very quickly.
Now, moving on to the last example, our photographer friend, who is not selling his photos online but would like to showcase his work, experience and capabilities, will need a very different medium to express himself. He may chose a presentation website, if he simply doesn’t have the resources to maintain a blog or is not willing to commit a lot of time to it or, he might start a blog and display his work in a storyboard style, while discussing it with his audience.
So, if your goal is to sell, you need an eCommerce shop. If you want to display your professional credentials and direct fans to an outside link where they can purchase your products, a presentation website is the choice for you. And last but not least, if you want to showcase your creativity and focus on opening a dialogue with your audience, go for a blog.
What your business or project is
What you have to offer is just as important as the goals you’ve set. Our florist can set up a blog that can realistically help her business grow if she sticks to topics related to it. She can set herself apart from her competitors by offering useful content that helps her clients choose bouquets for different occasions or share tips on how to keep the flowers fresh for longer. Is this essential for her business? No but, if done correctly and consistently, it will help her increase awareness, build a stronger relationship with her audience and, eventually, increase her sales.
The same, however, can’t be said about our author. In this case, content is the main sore point. Yes, his writing may wow even the most demanding critic but with the plethora of blogs related to book reviews, events and discussions, figuring out what to blog about is going to be a problem. If our author is very well known, he might post about the latest event he’s attended or where his next book signing will be. Then again, why dedicate an entire blog for a few sparse posts that can be turned into more personal announcements on his website or social media. The trick here is to find a way to make that specific writer’s style into the equivalent of a fan’s Disneyland. Short stories, events with amusing overtones referencing characters or events in their books, sharing personal experiences to which the readers can relate to is the way to go in this case.
How about our photographer? Blogs are perfect environments for the visually creative individual. It’s where you can show your work and build episodic stories around them, taking the feedback you receive from your audience to improve your skills one post at a time.
Build without breaking the bank
Ultimately, the decision may come down to what you can actually afford. With the risk of repeating myself, a blog is a website with a twist. Unfortunately, that twist doesn’t imply “free”, “discounted” or “on sale”. You’ll need to spend real money on a domain name, hosting and, depending on what you want it to look like, design and coding. If you want your website or blog to look decent and actually visually and functionally represent your business and function towards achieving its goals, you will need to hire a designer to create the design and code it.
As we’ve seen, our florist could use a blog but it’s not a must so if you’re on a tight budget. Instead of cutting corners, just don’t do it. The same goes for our friend, the author. There is simply no way to achieve a professional look, feel and actual functionality on the cheap. When it comes to creatives like painters, photographers, clothing designers, unless your blog or website looks impeccable, your project has failed from day one. More so in the case of stylists since their entire core business is conveying a look and feel that is different and establishes its own style.
Choices, choices, choices
Unlike the life-altering decision of what to have for lunch today, the choice between a “regular” website or blog should never be based on personal preference or what someone may be in the mood for that day. Starting to blog for the sake of blogging will leave you without interesting content and, without a solid plan, you’ll give up on it and it will have been a complete waste of your time. Which isn’t necessarily a problem unless you’ve tried it for your business and has cost you time and money.
Hosting a website and trying to juggle a blog when you simply don’t have the time to handle both will lead to you neglecting one and eventually the quality of the content will be so poor, the audience will give up on it. And, last but not least, trying to squeeze massive amounts of fresh content into the restrictive format of a website will make its functionality awkward for your readers, the navigation cumbersome, not to mention keep you from fully expressing yourself.
The Bottom Line
While, at a very basic level, the difference between a website and a blog is the same as a business card or vending machine and your personal soap box, there’s quite the process that goes into deciding which is best for you. Factor in your goals, resources and the type of business you’re trying to promote and make a decision that will help you reach your goals.