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With spam filters on high alert, delivering a newsletter by email is not as easy as it was even one year ago. Should it reach your subscriber's inbox (without getting siphoned into a junk folder), it still has to vie for attention amongst dozens - or even hundreds - of new messages.
1. A blog is not "email"
A Weblog or blog, on the other hand, is a page on your site that can be updated several times a week with fresh content. If a reader has "subscribed" to your blog, he or she gets an alert (consisting of the headline and brief summary) every time you post new information.
I.e., much the same way you can include a teaser paragraph in your e-newsletter with a link back to the full article on your site.
If you're thinking that subscribers have to proactively "visit" your blog (a "pull" tactic) vs. having an ezine or e-newsletter delivered to them (a "push" approach) there's good news.
You can subscribe to a blog using downloadable software called a newsreader. NewsGator www.newsgator.com is a popular one as it integrates seamlessly with Outlook. There are lots of newsreaders to choose from, many of them free. Once installed on your desktop, the newsreader (also called a news aggregator) grabs the latest updates to your blog via an RSS feed.
No need to worry what RSS is (it stands for Really Simple Syndication). Just have faith that RSS is a new way to publish and distribute content on the Web without using email. And that's the point. No email. So, no worries about spam filters or delivery problems.
2. A blog is an instant publishing tool
A blog is an easy-to-use content management tool. When you "blog," you are instantly adding new content to your site via a Web interface. No technical or programming skills are necessary. Anyone can update the copy and content on your site. In fact, think of a blog as just another page on your Web site.
Key point: a blog doesn't have to be "cool." A steady stream of short tips with links to other sites or articles can be extremely useful. (See my article 5 tips for a useful resource blog.) In fact, this is the same kind of useful information you may be cramming into each issue of your newsletter. With a blog, you can parcel it out in digestible bits - with more impact.
3. A blog makes your site search engine friendly
Search engines love blogs and will index individual entries (no matter how short) if you've got your blogging software configured to create a separate page for each new post. In other words, think of each blog post or entry as a Web page with its own title.
By incorporating a blog into your site you are creating multiple new mini pages. Search engines crawl sites which are updated regularly with fresh content. So "blogging" raises your site's rankings in search results.
OK, but are blogs a fad or a trend?
I love this question. Here's my answer:
Newsletters or ezines are still the e-vehicle of choice for most marketers. Two things are slowing the adoption of blogs as a channel for business communication:
1. The term blogging is associated with online journals; personal, unedited writing; and, er, needless bloviating.
2. Most folks don't know what a news reader is and why you need one to subscribe to a blog or any other RSS feed. (Again, don't fret over RSS. Visit www.newsgator.com for a good explanation and to see how easy it is to download a newsreader.)
Use a blog to extend the reach of your e-newsletter
My advice for now is to continue publishing an e-newsletter. If you're sending it in HTML, trim your design down to the bare minimum and make the file size as small as possible. This will give you a better chance of getting past the spam filters and other blocking tools being used by major ISPs like AOL.
Of course, don't forget to link back to your blog through each issue of your e-newsletter. You'll probably need to explain to your newsletter readers what your blog is, where to find it and how to subscribe to it.
If you think your email subscribers are not ready to embrace "newsreaders," then don't mention this downloadable software - or RSS for that matter. Simply include a prominent link to your blog in the layout of your newsletter and remind readers to "visit" often for updates between issues.
Bottom line, consider adding a blog to your site for two reasons: as an instant publishing tool and as an adjunct to your email marketing efforts. You may find you can use a blog to trim down the extraneous information that's clogging the regular issues of your newsletter and making it less effective.
Good explanation of RSS
Using RSS Feeds to Promote Your Website by Ralph Wilson
Quick explanation of RSS (from my article "5 key questions about business blogs")
Popular Blogging Tools
Blogger (free tool; now owned by Google)
Movable Type (software you install; it powers many professional-looking blogs)
TypePad (hosted version of Movable Type; easier to set up)
Debbie Weil is the publisher of award-winning WordBiz Report, read by close to 15,000 subscribers in over 80 countries. She is also an Internet marketing & communications consultant. She sells special reports & award-winning starter kits, and produces audio conferences on topics related to marketing with e-newsletters or ezines... as well as blogs. Download your free copy of her mini guide to online copywriting (value $10) instantly when you subscribe to WordBiz Report.