There's a lot to be said for blogging and forums, and their ability to increase your search engine rankings. But are you better off with a content management system that enables you to update blogs, as well as other types of pages and features?
It's true that using any tool to expand the content of your website will increase your exposure on the Internet and help drive more traffic to your website. Contributing to forums, blogs, wikis and using content managed websites are all important tools. Forums and wikis have the benefit of user participation, but both blogs and CMS websites are normally only updated by their administrator.
So what is the difference between just writing a blog and using a content managed website? They both allow you to add content to your website, but it's how they do that, that matters.
A blog is typically a series of "dated articles" that may also have a search feature attached. Well, any good CMS should contain some form of "news writer". There is really no significant difference between a news writer and blogging software. Both allow you to add commentary to your website, typically in reverse chronological order.
However, CMS websites usually have many more tools for updating other types of content. For example, events pages or FAQs. On an events page, you want the most forthcoming events to be at the top of the page, and any past events to disappear. It should not matter what order you submitted those events; but rather the actual dates of those events.
The other issue with both blogs and news pages is that search engines might rank them very highly for the first few days, but then those search links are quickly lost only a few days later. Think of a real newspaper - a few days old, and it's just not worth the read. The approach of a CMS managed website is best for search engines; its aim is to create pages with content that will stand the test of time. Provide detailed information that addresses all the issues that a web searcher would be concerned about. You cannot expect the reader to be an avid follower of your blog.
In the case of FAQs, the most significant information is normally at the top of the FAQs. As the FAQs are updated, normally more advanced topics are addressed, which only interest a few users. So chronological order is best for the FAQ format. In addition, a large FAQ section may need to be categorised into a tree of subjects with a little more information added at each level, and they may be self referencing, with links between pages. FAQs have sometimes been implemented using forum software, as they have a similar structure. Forums also allow participation by many users; however this can either quickly cloud the important sections of the FAQ where advanced users debate insignificant items, or can allow competitors and unscrupulous people to place offensive comments.
In the case of search engine optimised websites, it's true that forums and blogs increase your web exposure and traffic, but are they really doing it in the most effective way? Blogs and forums tend to give fairly equal ranking to all articles on your website, with no obvious structure to suggest which pages are the most important for search engine ranking. Using a tidy menu structure will ensure that both search engines and real people can easily navigate the content of your website to find what they need. Wikis and CMS websites tend to win out in this domain.
Please note that some assumptions have been made in this article about the quality of your content management system. A good CMS would allow you to add new pages to your website, and grow your website with editable and expandable features (like columns and tables) within those pages. It should also enable you to embed links between pages. Some website CMSs allow only portions (or content blocks) of a page to be updated. For example, a page may be fixed with two columns that you can update individually, but you will not be able to insert more columns. A good CMS will give you greater control over the page as a whole.
So in summary, how do you choose between blogs, wikis, forums and the various content management systems on offer to get good search engine rankings? Choose a good CMS - one that is a complete package of all the website maintenance tools mentioned. It should include blogs, news writers, events calendars, forum maintenance, galleries and free format pages that allow users to enter any sort of content they wish. Blogging is rarely effective on its own.
Keep using blogs if you have a good story to tell, but aim to get these blogs or snippets published on other people's websites with a link back to your website. These offsite blogs will have great SEO benefits for your website.
Posted: Thursday 10 July 2008