Web and Ecommerce 7.14. Blogging Software
Blogging software is a specialized Content Management System that allows content entries to be posted in reverse chronological order similar to diary entries (the word, blog, is a shortened form of “Web log.”) Blogs usually contain commentary and news in a combination of text, pictures, videos, links, and Web pages. While blogs initially started as personal journals, they have evolved into a variety of functions, such as political commentary, news, gossip, and, for your purposes, amazingly effective marketing devices.
From a marketing perspective, a blog allows you to post content, such as a newsletter or advice column, regularly to your Web site. All research shows that Web users are primarily interested in content―articles, journals, videos, and what not―and less interested in marketing copy. Savvy Web marketers use their sites to post regular content―news, advice, tips, articles, newsletters―to attract and keep an audience for their site. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is through a constantly updated blog on your site. The more your business is oriented to professional services or advice, the more useful a blog can be for generating interest and excitement in your product.
Blogging software is installed directly on to your server and has two distinct parts:
- The administrative interface allows you to configure your blog, design your pages, enter your blog entries, and manage commentary―if you’re allowing commentary!
- The public face of the software displays your blog entries, commentaries by users (if you allow them), and links to your full blog content.
Because the software is installed directly on to your server, you may need to engage the services of a Web professional. The software is easy to install, however, and your hosting service may provide the service for you. Many hosting services offer top-notch blogging software for free as part of their hosting packages.
When evaluating blogging software, you should pay keen attention to several issues―ignore one of these issues, and you may find yourself with the unpleasant task of throwing many of your blogs away to make the transition to a better package!
- Platform―your Web site can be hosted on a variety of platforms and blogging software will work on some, but not others. Know your hosting plan’s platform and choose the appropriate blogging software.
- Storage―Blogs can store files in one of two ways: in a database or as flat files. Software that stores your content in a database offers you greater control over the content; software that stores content as separate, flat files is often simpler. If you choose software that saves flat files, any changes to your template will only affect new blogs―the old blogs will still be published with the old template.
- Database―like many content management systems, a blog can sometimes be little more than a database and so requires a database management system. If your blogging software stores entries in a database, it will be compatible with one DBMS and you need to make sure your hosting service offers the right DBMS.
- Script―blogs also run server- or client-side scripts, such as PHP, Perl, or Java―certain scripts, such as PHP, require server-side support.
- Number of weblogs―this may not be an issue if you only intend to produce one weblog. Some software packages allow you an unlimited number of different weblogs; some let you only have one running weblog.
- Post moderation―if you allow employees or freelancers to post content to your blog, you absolutely want to intercept and read these posts before they’re displayed on your site. Some software allows you to exercise administrative controls over posts and others don’t.
- RSS feeds―RSS (“Real Simple Syndication”) is a technology that allows you to post syndicated content from other sites without doing any work yourself. It’s why you see CNN news items on dozens of sites that aren’t CNN. Attaching an RSS feed means that content posted on other sites will appear in a directory on your site; some blogging software will allow you to fully aggregate RSS feeds from other sites and display them on your Web pages; some will allow you to integrate RSS feeds into your Weblog; others have no RSS feed capacity.
- Pingbacks―now we’re getting into some real techie stuff, but pingbacks really matter if you’re using your site to build traffic to your site―very important if you’re selling or marketing through your site! If your blogging software has pingback, when you link to another site, the pingback then informs the owner of that other site about the link. If you’re linking to a site that also has pingback, a link to your site might be automatically generated. If not, the owner of that site may choose to link back to your comment. It’s a way of creating mutual links that increase traffic for everybody. Even if you have no intention now of using pingbacks, you should not use blogging software without it.
In this section, we only discuss blogging software packages that you install directly onto your server and that display your blogs as part of your Web site.
7.14.1. Word Press
WordPress always manages to make it to the top of the “best” lists written by webmasters and bloggers (it also happens to be the software I use on all my sites). Word Press is completely free and often comes packaged free with hosting services. It is one of the most aesthetically pleasing of the blogging interfaces offered and is relatively easy to set up on your server.
WordPress only allows you a maximum of one Weblog. You can have unlimited categories in your Weblog, as well as RSS feeds (to which you can add comments). The software also includes comment moderation comment blocking tools, and pingback. Many users rave about Word Press’ templates (PHP templates) that rigorously follow Web standards and are simple to edit and integrate with the rest of your site with no website hosting.
WordPress requires that your server can have a PHP version 4.1 interpreter (or higher) and MySQL 3.23.3 (or higher).
7.14.2. Movable Type
Movable Type is the other great contender for top spot in the blog software world. Like the other top contenders―WordPress and b2evolution―it is a free, open-source software that often comes bundled in hosting packages. Movable Type, however, depends on the Perl scripting language, making it a bit more unwieldy than PHP-based blogging products.
Unlike Word Press, you can run an unlimited number of blogs with multiple categories from an unlimited number of users on your site. You can produce RSS feeds from your blogs (which allows other blogs to stream your blog onto their site). You can also attach RSS feeds from other sites and attach comments to that syndicated content. The software allows you to create multiple users and moderate comments.
Movable Type requires that your server have a Perl 5 or higher interpreter but can work with a variety of databases (MySQL, Berkeley DB, SQLLite, or PostgreSQL―all require a Linux server).
b2Evolution is another highly popular, highly-rated blogging software product that shows up in many hosting service packages as a free install. As open-source, it is free for you to download and install on your server.
b2evolution allows unlimited blogs with several categories, along with RSS feeds, RSS output, RSS feed commenting, comment filtering, post moderation, and multiple users. Templates are in PHP.
b2evolution requires that your server can have a PHP version 4.1 interpreter (or higher) and MySQL 3.23.3 (or higher).
While it doesn’t typically gravitate to the top spot, Serendipity is very highly regarded in the blogging and blog software community. It also appears relatively frequently as a free install offered with many hosting packages. Serendipity is also free to download and install yourself.
The software comes with 40 easily modified templates (easy if you know CSS) and is known for its easy install. Based on PHP as its coding language, Serendipity allows for unlimited blogs by an unlimited number of users, supports RSS export and import, RSS feed commenting, blog entry comment moderating, and post moderation.
System requirements include PHP version 4.1 interpreter or higher and either MySQL 3 (or higher) or PostgreSQL databases.
7.14.5. Performancing Metrics
We admit it. Performancing Metrics is not blogging software, but a Web analytics tool. So why is it here in the blog section?
Performancing Metrics is a Web analytics software product specifically designed to analyze blogging traffic and usage patterns. Blogs attract different usage patterns than standard Web sites. In particular, blogs attract regular users, some of whom visit the blog site one or more times per day. In fact, the success of a blog is measured by how many regular users the site can attract. Tracking blog usage, then, absolutely requires Web analytics software that can “tag” individual users and track their usage in reports, which is what Performancing Metrics is all about.
So, if you’re running a blog either on your site, a social networking site, or a blogging site, and you’re serious about the blog in terms of driving sales or conversions, then you should be tracking your blogs with a special analytics tool. I cannot tell you how many people I’ve worked with who are actively blogging day after day to drive traffic or awareness who have absolutely no idea if they’re getting any value at all from the activity!
Performancing Metrics is the best blog traffic tracking package available. Unlike traditional Web metrics software, it gives incredible detail about users. In fact, you can drill down and get individual reports about single users that includes geographical origin, computer system, screen size, Web browser, and an entire directory of their visits to your blog (as well as detailed information about each visit, such as number of scrolls, referrer, and time spent).
Performance Metrics requires two lines of HTML code to be inserted into your blogs.
The software comes in three configurations:
3 sites, 1,000 average daily visits, limited features
3 sites, 10,000 average daily visits total, extra features
$3/mo or $20/year
- Pro/Small Business
10 sites, 50,000 average daily visits total, all features
$6/mo or $50/year