Yahoo advocates blogging for small businesses

As it promotes blogging among its small business clients, Yahoo is finding a need for much guidance about the benefits of this activity for business.

Despite blogging's popularity among individuals, Yahoo finds that many small companies still require convincing that these online journals can help their business.

Yahoo in December struck separate partnerships with blog publishing providers Six Apart and WordPress to offer their services for free to small businesses that use Yahoo's fee-based Web hosting services.

Although sign-ups have so far exceeded expectations, Yahoo has also run into clients that are unaware of and doubtful about the value of business blogging.

"There has been a lot of uptake both from new and existing customers and we're very pleased with that," said Guy Yalif, Yahoo's director of Web hosting products. "But we very much feel the challenge that even customers who are very successful in their business may not be familiar with blogging."

As it promotes the Six Apart and WordPress services among its clients, Yahoo tries to dispel the notions that blogging is technically complicated and lacks business value, he said.

"We have made blogging more prominent in our service than it ever has been, and we have included with that a lot of educational material to help people understand how might they use a blog and how could they use it to market to both potential and current customers," Yalif said.

One client needing convincing is Simon Lloyd, director of business development at Springwater Woodcraft, a maker of wood furnishings that has hosted its Web site with Yahoo for about three years.

"If I'm going to take the time to do it, it has to be profitable in some way, maybe not directly, but I haven't seen that yet," Lloyd said. If he sees how a blog would spur sales or enhance customer service, he'd take the plunge and add one to the site, he said.

Lloyd hadn't heard about Yahoo's partnerships with the two blogging providers until IDG News Service asked him about them. Yahoo made it very easy for the company to build and host its Web site, so he's confident Yahoo would be equally helpful should Springwater decide to add a blog to its site, he said.

Steven Hyde, president and chief executive officer of Go Clothing, which has hosted its online store, GoClothing.com, for over four years with Yahoo, is already convinced.

Hyde and his team are evaluating the Six Apart and WordPress services and have concrete plans to add a blogging section to the site in the near future. He envisions it as a place for Go Clothing customers, clients and suppliers to share ideas and feedback.

"We didn't really conceive it for the site until Yahoo announced [the WordPress and Six Apart deals], but the more I think about it, it makes a lot of sense," Hyde said.

Although Yahoo hosting services are available from the company's small business division, subscribers don't have to be small businesses to sign up for a plan.

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