Hey, I'm just a prototype (the offical blog mission statement)

Hey, I'm just a prototype (the offical blog mission statement)

During the life of this blog (a whopping 2 weeks at this juncture), the subject matter has been all over the place. I've got a few posts on web analytics, a couple on Drupal-related topics, some in-house corporate announcement-type posts, a cafe review and reflections on a good movie I saw recently.

What the heck? Everyone knows that in order for a blog to make it out there in a world where everyone's competing for eyeballs, you have to be topical and focused. Otherwise you risk losing the attention of your readers, who might not be all that interested in a how good the cherry pie scones are at Big City Coffee.

I have my reasons. I think they're good ones. Do you?

I have blogging clients: Our clients rely on us to be experts in the field of web design and development. Some of our expertise comes straight form our experience, and some of it we glean vicariously through observing other web-based business models in action. Because I've been very busy over the last couple of years with paid work, and blogging takes a good chunk of time if you're being consistent, a Chris Shattuck / Implied By Design blog has just never been that plausible. However, maintaining a blog is probably the best way to understand the stages in a blog's development and promotional cycles. Most of my clients are going to start out with subject matter all over the place, so that's what I'm doing. I'm curious to see how one is 'guided' into a more narrow focus. Is it forced by lack of audience participation? Does it come naturally over time as you articulate your interests? Do you start to develop a synergy with your audience based on what they are interested in? Do you have to force yourself into one when you realize you have too much to say about everything in general?

I want more traffic: Who doesn't? We get 500-800 unique visitors a day to the Implied By Design web site, which is all right for a web design business web site (based on our Alexa ratings), but I want more, MORE! Traffic, while it doesn't necessarily translate directly into higher conversions, at least gives you the opportunity to test stuff out. A huge chunk of my traffic comes from a few good MySpace layout articles I posted a year or so ago. The folks coming to those pages rarely contact me for design work, but a get a trickle of income from the advertisements on those pages. I suspect I could make more if I hooked up with some good affiliates, and because I have the traffic, I can test that theory out pretty quick. With a lack of a particular focus, I can start drawing some random, unfocused traffic in, which I can tap into later for experimentation. The cafe review I posted is getting more views faster than most of the other posts I've made, and this might lead me to reveal a niche of some kind I or a spin-off company might be able to fill.

I want more PageRank: In addition to getting PageRank from incoming links, you get PageRank from internal links, too. The more pages you have, the more PageRank. The higher the PageRank, the higher your placement in the SERPs. The more diverse my focus, the more I have to say, which means more pages, which means more PageRank.

I want to share: I've only been blogging for a couple of weeks now, but there have been some pleasant side-effects to the blogging experience. First, blogging forces you to articulate yourself to an audience. It's kind of a less stressful form of public speaking. Even if no one is reading it, someone might eventually, and you better not sound like a flake when they do. Also, if you're sharing something you've learned only after investing a significant amount of time, there is the potential that you might actually save someone (or lots of people) time and headache, so you get to tap into the philanthropist in you. By expanding my focus to include virtually any subject, I can share things like how to purchase rechargeable batteries (an upcoming post), in which I can summarize knowledge that would take much longer to glean going the traditional Google-search route.

I want to test the effects of personality: When people read my blog, will they be more or less inclined to hire me or my company to design their web site? I have no idea, and I haven't quite figured out how I will measure this effect, but I feel like it's important to get my feelers into what effect personality can have on deciding to hire a company. Our strategy for the last couple of years has been to avoid personality, to be completely professional, and somewhat sterile, on the premise that, like entering a doctor's office, you might feel more comfortable with something with less character and more standardization. In the field of web design, this is most definitely always an illusion because, unlike doctors, we developers don't have an across-the-board code of ethics, standards or practices. It's still a bit hodge-podge out there. So far, the number of requests for proposals we get have stayed consistent, implying at this early stage that maybe the blog has no effect at all. With a varying topic test, I can let my personality come through a little more. Sometimes it's hard to squeeze in the same kind of commentary in a SEO-software review as you could in a reflection on an awesome meal you just had.

Build it and they will... oh my gosh, I can't say it!

Probably the most highly used heading of all time in regards to web development articles is a negative variation on the "Build it and they will come" Field of Dreams reference, for the obvious reason that that kind of strategy doesn't work unless you've got ghosts really talking you up in the netherworld. I plan to do much more investigation on to how to promote a blog site once you have one up and running, because unless you have a site with some decent PageRank already (which, lucky for me, I do), no one will ever see it. And so far, I don't think the kind of traffic my blog is attracting many repeat visitors (witness the lack of comments), so it will be a fun exercise to figure out how to get the word out to potential regulars. I suspect going down that route will force me to narrow my official focus a little more. Who wants to read about Anything and Everything? This kind of research will definitely pay of for clients and readers who have their own fledging blogs.

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