Blogs vs. Websites a War of Words

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What is all the hype about blogs about? Let’s find out.

There has been some debate recently over the extent to which blogs should play a part of a firm marketing campaign. Should we create a blog? Should we create a web site? Should we do both? These are the conversations around the water cooler.

The simple answer to the questions above is, it doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter? Yes, doesn’t matter. As you will see, a blog is a web site and a web site can easily be a blog. Of course, many of you won’t take my word for it blindly, so let’s start off with a cheesy but effective definition example:

Blog:
A blog is a frequently updated online journal of information and links published chronologically.

Website:
A website is a collection of information, link, images, video, audio and sounds inserted into web pages.

Sound similar? In fact, blogs and websites have more in common than most people know. In this article, we will go over the major differences, minor differences and propose a solution that will make everyone happy.

I Want More Similarities
Did you know that blogs have been around in a variety of formats for over a decade? Blogs simply combine forum software for posting, with news software for XML/RSS syndication, with web site software to view everything, with a content system that allows you to edit your posts. Simple.

A good web designer will include all of this software when creating your web site. Most web sites these days come with a content management system. Good content management systems do the exact same thing as blogs, but typically they have more features such as allowing you to edit specific sections such as news, seminars, offices, attorneys, forums, and even your own blog!

So what are the differences?
The major difference is that blogging software puts all of this technology into a nice package that can be easily distributed to the masses. They make it simple. Almost fool proof. Most web design content systems have not reached this stage of ubiquity. This is due to the fact that most content management systems try to do too much, whereas blogs simply allow people to post entries. However, there are web designers who can create content systems that are easy to use and provide the flexibility needed.

The other difference is that blogs also have an embedded feature of allowing people to post comments to your information. However, popular web based forum software has been doing this for years and this feature can easily be added to any web page. Of course, as will be explained below, this is not always a good thing.

So why are blogs so darn popular?
As you can see, there is really no difference between blogs and web sites. So why are they generating buzz? Simple. New Technology + Hip Term + Mainstream Media + Blogging Nature = Over-Exuberance.

Despite what I said about the theoretical aspects of how a blog is really a web site, blogging is new technology, or should I say term of art.  Basically a blog is just a type of web site, just wrapped different.  However, it does have hip terminology, such as BLOG and BLOGGING. To be honest, those are just fun terms. People like saying them and the media loves anything new, especially when a cool term is attached. Remember when the media found out about web sites and the whole “e” craze happened? It was a very exciting time. Blogging may not ever hit that level because ordinary users view a blog as a web site, but it still creates buzz.

When you combine all of this with the fact that bloggers are their own biggest hype machine, then you truly do create excitement. It is hard to find any blog that does not have a post stating that “so-and-so has just launched a new blog. Check them out.” It’s also hard to find a blogger that does not think their blog is the best in the world since the blog posts their personal thoughts.

Busting the Blog?
Now we are going to take a look at some of the popular blog myths. Before we get started, I am not against blogs. Blogs are cheap, easy to install and give the masses the ability to say what is on their mind. Of course, this is not always good as not everyone should speak their mind. If blogs are done correctly, they can look just like web sites and provide an easy to use system to keep the content fresh and interesting. However, often this is not the case.

Blogs Create Name Recognition & Reputation
Blogs do not create instant name recognition, reputation, and visibility. Writing good content and providing a visually appealing experience creates the buzz that is necessary for recognition and reputation. However, often blogs fall short in both categories.

First, blogging lawyers often post irrelevant content about their personal lives. If I am on a media lawyer’s web site to find out the latest telecomm legislation news, why in the heck would I want to hear about their family trip to Lake Tahoe? Please, if you are going to have your blog as your main web source, keep it professional and on topic. Obviously, the better blogs do this and write daily posts about their topic and keep it industry specific. Those blogs succeed.

More importantly to have a successful blog it must be updated. As busy professionals, it’s often tough to post interesting content daily, or even weekly. Some posts are just boring, irrelevant or full of self hype. Some blogs die a slow death because the writer becomes tired and stops posting interesting content. Of course, there are sources of paid content or paid ghost writers, but often that content is syndicated to other blogs, so it defeats the purpose.

Second, blogs are ugly. Really ugly. Ugly, like, “That is Uncle Irvin in the closet and we don’t let him out,” ugly. There are now a few new companies that are creating some visually attractive blogs. However, 99% of all blogs are a disservice to the law firm in terms of branding. Sure, most of these blogs are providing great content, but from a branding standpoint, they are often hurting their firm image. While content may be king, design surely is the queen and she needs to be respected.

Blogs Create Search Results
Blogs do not create instant search results or even outstanding search results. Writing good content, producing clean html code, and getting links from other sites creates search rankings. Websites do this just as effectively as blogs. Blogs do have an advantage in that some are already optimized for search rankings, but a good web designer will do the same.

Blogs do have a unique advantage in that they are part of a community that loves to link to each other. In fact, bloggers like to link so much, that the software is designed with a link section tool that allows bloggers to provide links to their favorite sites on every page. Bloggers use this tool, almost to an absurdity. Some blogs have over 100 favorite links on their home page and this does not even count all of the posts. Of course, there are tons of web sites that rank higher in their respective categories than blogs. These websites are at the top of the list because they have been posting interesting content to their web pages, just through a different system.

Blogs Connect You with People
Yes, blogs can connect you with a small audience of people who have found your website and want to participate. Blogs do offer the ability for anyone to post comments. However, is this necessarily a good thing? As early adopters of online chat rooms for TV and interviews found out, you often need someone to screen out all of the weirdoes. Comments are a tricky business because they are often filled with spam or annoying people. Often they are just ignored by both user and site owner. If screened, then the blog is really just a news source and no different than a traditional web site. Of course, the bigger question is, How does a blog really connect you with users that a web site, em
ail, phone call, TV ad, or other mediums don’t? Other than allowing their instant feedback, the answer is, they don’t.

Only Blogs Can Have XML/RSS
Syndicating content is easy with blogs because the software is already installed. However, any database driven web site can syndicate its content using XML/RSS. This is really a minor issue right now, but it is a popular myth that only blogs can syndicate their content – a myth that should be busted.

Effectiveness
The bottom line question: Are blogs an effective marketing tool? If you read this article, then most likely you are a marketing professional or a lawyer interested in marketing your legal prowess. You probably already know what a blog is, or have at least heard of them. And unless you have been frozen for the past ten years, you know what a web site is. Pat yourself on the back and consider yourself ahead of the Luddites.

However, keep in mind that while you already know what a blog and website are, most of your clients will not. To a layperson, a blog just sounds like another tech term, like RAM, or GB, or HTML. Trust me; ask your parents what a blog is. Most likely they will look at you as if you said the word “Belgium.” However, ask them what a website is and everyone will talk your ear off about how they just purchased something on eBay.

This is important because your clients or potential clients do not care whether you call your site a blog or a website. All they care about is whether it looks pretty and provides them with information. Blogs have a major drawback in that they are all based on different versions of the same software. The major principal behind blogging software is making it easy to install, setup and post. To do this, blogging software has made a template system that controls the entire web site. Often it is difficult to edit, unless you are a web designer. Even advanced web designers find blogging software limited. So often the designs all look the same, except for different colors or photos. Obviously, this limits the branding affect of your internet marketing message.

Return on Investment
Finally, bloggers love to post that their blogs are better than static web sites or that websites are the past technology. Yet, I have not read any research that blogs bring in the clients. While a properly designed and maintained blog can make you an industry resource, it may not necessarily translate to more clients. Static web sites are often knocked. Sure, most static web sites can be beefed up and made dynamic, by using animation and providing fresh content. However, there are many static web sites that are brilliant marketing successes. In fact, a successful static web site can bring in over 1,000 new client inquiries each year.

The question really boils down to whether you want to have the “soft sell” and try to become an industry resource with a blog, or do you want to go for the “hard sell” and create a web site that showcases your firm? While people knock the hard sell, it works. Of course, the best solution would be to have a web site that acts as both an industry resource, while also selling your services. However, often this is difficult for firms to achieve as their budgets, time, interest or resources are limited.

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