Who Needs a Website When You Can Have a Blog?

Posted by on February 14, 2009 in Uncategorized | 21 comments

I try not to blog about blogging too much, but this is so cool I just had to share it. (and by the way, Seth Godin wrote about this years ago and HarperStudio recently asked this question, so I am by no means the first person to think of this)

Let's say you're a small garden center. Or a landscape designer.  Or a non-profit.  Or an author,  an artist, or a consultant.  You need a presence on the web, but you don't want to spend a ton of money having a professional website designed.

Don't bother!  For very little money and very little time, a blog can do everything a website does.  And that doesn't mean you have to blog, in the sense of putting up a post every day and basically keeping on online diary.  You're just going to use the blog platform to create a website for yourself.  And the blog posts–which go up in date order, with the newest on top, will serve as a kind of "What's New" page, and even an e-mail newsletter, if you so choose.

Here's what I mean.  Check out the blog-based site that this local arts organization has created.

This is built in WordPress, but you can do it in TypePad, too. I prefer TypePad, which costs a few bucks per month, to the free WordPress, because TypePad seemed a little more intuitively easy to use last time I compared the two.  But lots of people love WordPress, and it's free.  If you use TypePad, choose the Customizable Theme so you can easily do your own design. (and it's point-and-click, drag-and-drop, no HTML required.)

So here's what you do.  First, have the blog point to your domain.  This may require a little technical assitance, but instructions are here for TypePad. So basically, when people visit  yourdomainname.com, they get to your blog. Make your domain simple–preferably your name or your business' name if you can.

Next, find a photo to upload and use as your header.  Again, look at what Ink People did for their header.  It could be your logo, a photo of your business, your art, etc. It just has to be long and narrow.  When you design your blog, you'll set the width–probably something like 900 pixels wide–and maybe 100-200 pixels tall will do it.  You'll upload that photo when you design the blog.  If you'd rather not use photos?  I hired a designer to create the graphic for my Dirt blog header, above, and we had a designer create the header for GardenRant.  You may be able to do something like this yourself or find an affordable designer on eLance.

Choose a very simple background & design for your blog.  I love the Ink People's site because it is so minimalist. A plain white background is perfect for most people. Or some other light, neutral color.  Choose an easy-to-read typeface, too.

Then create static pages–in TypePad they are just called Pages, and in the Compose tab you can choose to compose a post or a page–and have one page for each thing people need to know about your business or organization.  For instance:

About
Map & Directions
Store Hours
Programs & Events
Mission Statement
Annual Fundraiser
Publications
Media Coverage

etc.  Whatever relates to your thing.  Be sure to include photos, maps, etc.  This is not hard to do–if you can create a Word document or an e-mail, you can make a Page or Post.

You'll put a box of links in the upper left sidebar just like Ink People did. That's how people navigate your website.

You may want to put other things in the sidebar.  Links to other websites.  A Flickr gallery of photos that relate to your business.  A button that allows people to make donations online if you're a non-profit.  Links that allow people to buy your books or products online.  Your Twitter feed if you're into that.  Etc. Most of these are already available as 'widgets' in TypePad or WordPress–you just have to select them and start using them.

Now what?  Put up a blog post once a month, once a week, whatever.  Think of it as your "What's New" page.  Upcoming or recent events, links to important media stories, sales, interesting projects, what happened at the trade show you visited, YouTube videos (perhaps that you made at a recent event and posted to YouTube?), etc. 

You're not really 'blogging' in the sense that you're not conducting a running dialogue about your life or your profession and posting every little thing you do.  You're just using the format of a blog post to announce new & interesting things about you & your business whenever they come up–and if it's only once a month, fine.

If you install the subscription widget in Feedblitz, which is also free, then people can sign up to get your blog posts by e-mail.  (See the Get E-mail Updates box in my right sidebar for an example.)  That's your e-mail newsletter!  Post it to your blog, it goes out by e-mail.  And yes, you can import whatever e-mail addresses you already have into Feedblitz, so you don't have to start from scratch.

One last thing for the uninitated.  You can just call this your website, because people won't really even notice that you used a blog platform to create it.  But if you call it a blog, it's a blog.  Not a blog site.  And when you create a new post on your blog, that's a post or a blog post.  So you would not say, "I wrote a blog this morning about the trade show," because 'blog' refers to the whole site, not any individual thing you put there.  So you would say, "I wrote a post on my blog" or "I posted something on my blog" or "I wrote a blog post." 

OK, that's my bloggy rant for the day…

21 Comments

  1. Thanks for a great blog post on blog posting! Very helpful.

  2. Small world. I just yesterday finished shutting down a $200/year website by moving everything to a free blog on Typepad (because it’s on the GardenRant account) but it could also be done for free using Blogger or WordPress. Here’s what it looks like:
    http://www.gardenrant.com/dc_urban_gardeners/
    It uses pages just as Amy described, which I call “Our Articles”, then we have bunches of links, and of course there are our blog posts, grouped together as “Categories”. Having a blog AND a website was not only a waste of money but kept people from finding all the great info we have, spread out across those 2 sites. This is better, easier, cheaper.
    And btw about WordPress, my individual blog uses WordPress and while it’s great, if you’re not tech-savvy yourself you’ll have to pay people to help you. So for regular people like myself, it’s FAR from free. I’ve hired three different people now to help me – because the first two didn’t fix the problems I had. So I always suggest that non-tech-savvy people use Blogger or Typepad, preferably Typepad because it offers actual customer support!

  3. Small world. I just yesterday finished shutting down a $200/year website by moving everything to a free blog on Typepad (because it’s on the GardenRant account) but it could also be done for free using Blogger or WordPress. Here’s what it looks like:
    http://www.gardenrant.com/dc_urban_gardeners/
    It uses pages just as Amy described, which I call “Our Articles”, then we have bunches of links, and of course there are our blog posts, grouped together as “Categories”. Having a blog AND a website was not only a waste of money but kept people from finding all the great info we have, spread out across those 2 sites. This is better, easier, cheaper.
    And btw about WordPress, my individual blog uses WordPress and while it’s great, if you’re not tech-savvy yourself you’ll have to pay people to help you. So for regular people like myself, it’s FAR from free. I’ve hired three different people now to help me – because the first two didn’t fix the problems I had. So I always suggest that non-tech-savvy people use Blogger or Typepad, preferably Typepad because it offers actual customer support!

  4. Very encouraging. I’ve been preparing my blog for this transition. You’ve given me confidence I’m on the right track. I’ve had trouble committing the time to watch the tutorials and have wasted a lot of time trying to figure things out without directions, but I am catching up. My webmaster asked me what effect it might have on SEO? I’m not sure. With the blog there are a lot of opportunities, but the traditional setup is not the same as a for a website. He has my website functioning for search very well for the main reasons we were looking for. The blog of course has a lot more content and freshness so it draws traffic for a lot of additional reasons. Is it a trad eoff?

  5. Very smart post, Amy. Glad you addressed this question, as I’d been wondering about this very thing. Also thanks for including the links.
    Regarding SEO – I don’t understand that completely, but I know it can be a big deal for some businesses/communicators. Want to know more about that, in case you’re inclined to investigate it.

  6. This is a great post for those getting started. Also, thanks for linking to the HarperStudio blog!

  7. I’m a novelist and I have a blogspot blog but no web site. Should I go to typepad and start over?

  8. There are plenty of great web options. I like a simple blog.

  9. Great topic. I have convinced several artist friends to go the free site route via a blog interface and give up their web hosts and domains. (I use Blogger for all my sites, which is free.) Some were so leery of this that they kept their old domains, overlapped with the blogs, and then finally let go of the domains. Victory!
    I don’t even think a domain is necessary / desirable any more, especially since one’s own name is usually available through free blogs (e.g. yourname.blogspot.com) and google will find you, no matter what (insert big brother theme music here).
    Also good to consider backup options so no content will be lost in the event of a major glitch or sudden blog provider policy change. In my case I automatically email all entries and photos to myself, so I have duplicates of everything.
    🙂

  10. I prefer the freedom of actually having a (paid) web hosting service. People don’t seem to be aware that you can have a web site (with your products or information about the farm or whatever) AND a blog AND a shopping cart right there, under the same roof, under the same roof, under the same hosting account. Most of them even give you the ability to install things like wordpress right from the control panel, making it a snap to have different zones for the site. People are more, not less, likely to go poking around in other areas of your site as a whole if they find something interesting on one portion of it. Since search engines love links to various things on blogs and sites when people do that by creating the links, having it all together makes even more sense. Also, I much prefer having email contact addresses at my domain, rather than at yahoo or gmail or whatever. It seems much more professional, in my opinion, if I’m doing something business-related. The gmail, yahoo, and other email addresses I have are reserved for other things. Like posting comments on blogs.

  11. This is such a timely post, Amy. I am on the board of a small arts organization and we’ve been desperately searching for ways to cut costs. You’d think as a blogger myself I would have thought of this, but nope, duh. Thanks!

  12. Hi Amy,
    I was trying to get in touch with you, but the e-mails I sent were returned. Your server thought I was spam. 🙁
    I promise I’m not spam. Please e-mail me when you get a chance.
    Many thanks,
    Nikki

  13. Now this is very interesting, impressive and never thought of. In simple words well done for providing creative information.

  14. Great topic, Having a website you need to pay for web hosting while in blog you don’t need to pay for, but for me i want to have both of them. thanks for the post.
    -faith-

  15. Now this is very interesting, impressive and never thought of. In simple words well done for providing creative information.

  16. OK, this is totally off the subject, but I just wanted to say how much I am enjoying your first book “From the Ground Up” and can hardly wait to get my hands on your books that followed! Also am pleased you found your way past the “Redwood Curtain” to another beautiful coastal gardening area (I used to live in Arcata).

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