The following article appeared today in the Northern Nevada Business Weekly (NNBW).

Area business slow to enter blogosphere
Pat Patera, 10/9/2006

Blogs are bandied about northern Nevada executive suites a lot these days — but there’s more talk than action in the for-profit sector.

The online chat forums that started as fun and games for youngsters can provide a forum for customer feedback. But one particular feature of a blog is making some businesses bite. A good one can help companies gain the top position in a search-engine query.

“It’s all about Googlejuice,” says blogger-for-hire Jim Turner, who spoke at a recent blogging forum presented by the Reno chapter of American Marketing Association.

Getting Googlejuice means feeding the spiders that determine who gets top listing in a Web search. Search engines such as Google and Yahoo send out electronic spiders that crawl millions of Web sites and determine their relevancy — and relevancy is the key to winning a top spot.

“If you have a lot of other blogs linking to your blog, that makes it more relevant in the eyes of the spiders that serve search engines,” says Robert Payne, marketing manager at Twelve Horses, an interactive marketing company based in Reno.

And because blogs, by their very nature, contain recent postings, that wins points with the spiders. But feeding the spiders takes time. The optimal blog update — at least in the eyes of search engines — is five postings per week.

While a blog requires a hefty time commitment, it doesn’t take much cash. To build a blog, there’s no need to program from scratch, says Turner. Simply use a prebuilt blogging platform. To find one, do a web search on “blog applications” or “business blogging.”

Others hire a company to build a blog that ties into the look and structure of an existing company Web site. That can cost $2,000 to $5,000. (Compare that to the cost of building a Web site, which often runs in the $10,000 range.)

Nationally, large corporations like IBM are getting on the blogging bandwagon. But locally, companies still wonder where they’ll find the payoff.

Government and non-profit groups are breaking the ice. Some that have blogs are the Reno Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority, the American Marketing Association, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, the Truckee River Flood Project and the Small Business Development Center. And the payoff?

“It distinguishes you from your competitors,” says Jared Lopiccolo, business director at Noble Studios in Carson City.

Reno real estate agent Diane Cohn would agree. She says her blog gets 300 to 500 views a day. She allows comments and says while some might call them nutty, they add a lot of color.

“It’s been the best $150 I’ve ever spent on anything in this business,” says Cohn, adding that like most Realtors, she tried everything — once.

Blogging today is where the Internet was 10 years ago, says Turner. That started with people posting hobby homepages. Then business took a look and asked how the Web could improve sales Miller Heiman Inc., a sales training firm based in Reno, is asking that question about blogs.

“It starts with a study as any addition to your marketing practice should,” says Judith Hepburn, manager of marketing communications. Her goal: to attain a higher ranking in search engines when someone types in the query: “sales training.”

And Hepburn, in her role as vice president of programming for Reno-Tahoe chapter of the American Marketing Association, scheduled Turner to speak to the group because of growing interest in blogs.

“We try to keep our programs cutting edge of what’s happening in marketing,” Hepburn says. She cites a survey of 4,500 business professionals that found 84 percent read blogs and use the information in making purchasing decisions.

The tone of the blog started by the Small Business Development Center, a component of the college of business at University of Nevada, Reno, reflects the “new frontier” mentality of the technology. It reads, “Here we go, joining the blogosphere,” and concludes, “It’s a blog after all, so we’ll just see where it takes us.”

Debra Lynn Deming is a business development advisor at the center with an master’s degree in e-business. She says, “We believe blogs have a tremendous business use. We counsel small businesses, and we try to practice what we preach. A blog is especially beneficial for businesses that promote themselves as experts.”

When it comes to cost, Deming says the investment in time “Depends on how much you research. And on how adept you are at writing.”

After all, she adds, “It’s not a white paper. It is a way to communicate in a more personal way. It’s more interesting and it’s interactive. It becomes more of a dialogue. More real. It’s really what’s going on right now. It comes from the moment.”

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