There are those in the marketing fraternity who are becoming sceptical about the power of citizen journalism and that brands can build equity using the blogosphere.
Well it is true that for every blog worth reading, there are a myriad of drivelling diatribes that are simply a waste of good electrons. The growth of blogging as quasi-intellectual pastime has almost been its downfall.
However, while housewives blogging from isolated farmhouses in Cumbria are still being discovered – and offered lucrative book deals – its popularity will not wane.
I did it the other way round. I had a newspaper column and then became a blogger, which is not uncommon for a proper NUJ journalist. Either to expose their original words before editorial control, or extend their life beyond next day’s chip carrying duties.
So if they and other respected bloggers write about your company and products, consumers will be influenced and, as any PR will tell you, editorial coverage is a thousand times more potent than advertorial. But marketers can make hay even from the most drivelling, mind-numbingly boring blog too, even if their readership amount to no more than one, thanks to Google’s appetite for text.
No matter how self-delusional, uninspiring and pointless a blog is, if it contains words that look like they are vaguely associated in English sentences, Google’s indexing robots will attentively analysis them – and you can’t bore a robot. Robots can’t distinguish between a JK Rowling and an undergraduate having meaning of life problems at Ohio State either, and should either contain a link to your websites they will count with equal weight.
And the more links Google finds to your site, the higher it will rank it in search results.
If in offline there is no such thing as bad publicity, then in online there is no such thing as a bad link.
Ironically, even bloggers maligning your company will boost your Google rankings.
However, this assumes your site is more worthy of visiting than that of the blogger.
Brands with poorly-built, search engine-unfriendly sites can be eclipsed by the bloggers’ sites themselves.
A classic recent example is River Island, whose site came below an agency blog describing how it would have built a better site for River Island than the people chosen for the task.
The site was built entirely in Flash and hence totally invisible to search engines and did not comply with accessibility laws to boot. All this was rather publicly exposed when the blog moved to the top of Google for the search term "River Island".
If you type your own brand name into Google, you really should expect your own site to come out top.
Let this be a warning to those that still doubt the power of the blogopshere.
* Chris Tomlinson is head of digital at WAA (www.webxpress.com). E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org