Priya Shah is an electronic publisher and serial blogger with no fewer than 7 blogs to her name. Priya lives in Navi Mumbai, a suburb of India's financial capital, Mumbai. I spoke to Priya over a rather crackly phone line at 2 a.m. her time. Don't bloggers ever sleep?
JH How did you get into blogging?
PS As a publisher I found it an easy way to post new information online. I started off in 2003 and I found it a very convenient way of posting stuff I could not write about in my newsletter. I found it a very easy add-on to e-zine publishing.
JH You've got several blogs. How much time do you spend on them?
PS I guess I spend about 3-4 hours a day. It's not just posting, it's also reading up on news, compiling news and then posting stuff.
JH Would you say that blogging is your business?
PS Yes, it is to some extent. It's a way of growing my business. I use it a lot to enhance my search engine listings. I've got very good results using blogging. Even though I've only been using Blogger and Wordpress, I'm quite happy with the results I've got with them.
JH What do you do to increase the traffic?
PS I write articles, I sometimes compile the posts I write into articles. I also blog about what other people are saying. If you write useful information, people will link to you. You get traffic without even asking for it.
JH How much traffic do you get to your blogs?
PS It's not much because as I'm using Blogger, which doesn't give me the opportunity to ping back someone's blog and stuff like that, but I do link to other people's blogs and they get to know where I'm linking to.
JH Have you any idea how many visitors you get?
PS I wish I knew better. I haven't been able to track that very well. I can see that people are referring to posts I've made in my blog. They comment on my blog and thank me for posting.
JH How do you measure the effectiveness of your blogs?
PS So far I've been measuring the effectiveness in terms of search engine rankings. I also measure effectiveness by the kind of publicity you can get for yourself. When someone like Steve Rubel blogs about something you wrote, you know that you're getting noticed. I measure the success by the kind of visitors I get because of my blog posts. It's a brand building exercise, it's not just in terms of sales and profits. Blogging is more about building relationships. I think blogging has also helped me to do that, so that's also how I measure the effectiveness.
JH How would you describe your blogging voice? Do you have a particular style?
PS I have different blogs for different purposes. Some of them are just useful resource blogs where I just post news and updates and stuff like that. I don't comment a lot on those blogs but there are a couple of blogs where I post mainly opinions and rants and stuff like that. I tend to be a little controversial at times, I tend to be provocative. I make posts that may sometimes irritate people. You could say that I have different voices on different blogs because I use different blogs for different reasons.
JH What do you feel about blogs as a marketing tool for small businesses?
PS It depends on what you are trying to do. I find that newsletters are very effective because far more people use e-mail than RSS right now. A lot of people are not very familiar with RSS. Today I shifted one of my health newsletters to a blog and I had to explain to my subscribers what RSS was. There's a lot of confusion and many of them said they preferred to receive posts by e-mail. They don't want to go through the process of subscribing to them by RSS. It depends on what you are trying to achieve, it depends on who you are trying to reach, where your market is. You have to ask yourself those questions and then decide if a blog is suitable for your business. It's not suitable for everyone but if your business is creating a brand and creating a name for yourself online, expanding your reach and building a network online, then I think that blogging is fine.
JH What advice would you give to a small business thinking of starting up a blog?
PS I would suggest that they first learn as much as they can about blogging and how they should go about it. Don't jump into it headlong. Don't just start blogging. Then decide what kind of platform is the best for you because you have to decide whether you want to spend more time posting or customising your blog. You assess exactly what you want to achieve with it and how you're going to measure the success, whether it's more in terms of sales or search engines or whatever. Then go into it, only after you've assessed what you are trying to achieve.
JH Can you think of any weaknesses or threats with regard to blogs as a marketing tool?
PS There's always a possibility of biting off more than you can chew. You have to be careful about what you post sometimes. You can alienate people. A blog is a place where people can respond and sometimes the comments can be nasty, so you have to be very careful how you respond to them. You have to be cool-headed, you can't just shoot your mouth off, especially when people take the trouble to comment on your blog and respond to your posts. There are always people who will try to provoke you and there will be people who post nasty comments. You've got to maintain your dignity when you're responding to people's comments.
JH What are you plans with regard to blogging?
PS I'm planning to start a blogging consultancy service in India. That will probably be the first one of its kind over here.
JH Is blogging big in India?
PS No, not really. In fact, I'm going to have an uphill task trying to educate people about the benefits of blogging out here. A lot of CEOs and marketing people have no idea what a blog is.