Blogs are a great way to share something you care about with the rest of the world. You can publish posts regularly, make an impact on an audience, and even create a new income stream, in time. Whether you’re looking to get started on something to connect with your community or for tips on how to blog for money, read on.
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What is Blogging?
Blogging is the process of writing a blog. When a person is blogging, they’re writing something to be shared with a larger audience – what that something is depends on the audience for which they’re writing. Blogs are often more informal than other types of webpages. For example, a company that writes an FAQ page will usually write it in a more professional tone than a blog that’s geared toward making a connection with customers.
If you’re looking for a blog definition that’s more succinct, a blog is a collection of articles (posts) meant to be updated regularly.
What Do People Use Blogs For?
There are a wide variety of uses for blogs: businesses can use them to share information with customers, individuals can use them to keep family and friends updated, and people can use them to share their hobbies with the world. Whether you’re looking for a way to tell customers about the features of a new product line or to show off pictures and stories of your latest vacation, a blog may be the platform you’ve been looking for.
Blogs are used by individuals, schools, and businesses regularly.
What’s the Difference Between a Blog and a Website?
To begin with, a website can host a blog, but a blog is only an aspect of a website. A website often includes many different kinds of pages, including a home page, FAQ, Contact Us, or a Store page.
Blogs are generally updated more frequently than websites. They can be used to provide updates, interesting anecdotes, or to create a connection between your brand and a customer. That works whether you’re a business or not. Something about the casual, friendly tone many blogs use makes it easier for readers to connect with the person writing. This works even better if there’s a specific person – rather than a faceless brand – behind the blog.
The History of Blogging
Blogging was unheard of until the 1990s – and blogging sites didn’t really gain traction until the turn of the century. Justin Hall wrote the first blog on links.net in 1994. At the time, there was no term for blog.
In 1997, Jorn Barger, editor of Robot Wisdom, coined the term weblog. He posted links and commentary based on what he was doing and seeing online to his own weblog.
A year later, a blog as we know them today appeared on the Charlotte Observer’s website. Jonathan Dube used it to write about Hurricane Bonnie. The format allowed the Observer to quickly publish updates about the storm and share them with readers in a less formal, less rigid format than the normal, daily news.
Though blog was first used as a shortened version of weblog in 1999, it really broke through in 2004 when it was Merriam-Webster’s word of the year.
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How Can Blogging Help Me?
One popular use of blogging – especially for professionals – is that it helps keep your website current. Many websites have elements that don’t need to be updated regularly. This can hurt you in terms of search engine optimization. Updating your website is beneficial if you’re attempting to raise your search engine page rank on Google, for example.
Blogging is also helpful because it connects you to your readers. It gives people a voice to listen to and a reason to visit your website more often. It can help humanize a business you’re writing for; it’s appropriate to make friendly jokes or give pleasant updates about company outings or awards that help show the human side of the organization.
One of the reasons that commenting is so popular on blogs is that it gives the reader a chance to interject their voice into the narrative you’ve created. If you look at the end of some blog posts, you can see where readers join the conversation. Often, blog writers will join the comment thread and respond, clarify, or otherwise engage with their readers.
Blogging can also help you get information that you want to share in front of the public. It’s a better format than adding endless pages to a website if, for example, you’re writing about new advances in technology. Different authors can update your blog, each with their own profile. Different posts are clearly separated. It’s a nice, clean format for publishing updates on any topic.
[bctt tweet=”Pssst…did you know these blogging niches offer great opportunities?” username=”blogherald”]
What are Popular Blogging Niches?
Blogging niches are areas of specialization. Basically, your niche is what your blog is specifically about.
Some popular niches include:
- Healthy Living
To decide how to choose a niche, first figure out what interests you. You definitely want to be interested in the topic you choose, since you could potentially write about it for years.
Next, check out the competition. For example, cooking blogs are extremely popular. There are many long-term and successful cooking bloggers. You can look at their blogs and see what it takes to be a top-rated blogger. Whatever you choose, make sure that you can think of a lot of topics to write about. If you only have two or three things to say about a topic, you’re unlikely to be able to sustain a whole blog. You want it to be something you’re excited and passionate about.
When you’re just getting started, there are also lots of different resources available. One example is Udemy’s Blogging 101 course, which can help you learn the basics as you get going.
What are Some Popular Types of Blogs?
There are a few different types of blogging sites you can run. Choose the one that best fits your niche and what information you want to present.
First, all blogs can fall into one of two categories: personal and professional.
Personal blogs are blogs written about your life. When blogging was less mainstream, millions of people still piled onto online diary sites to pen paragraphs about their days. People write personal blogs about everything from thoughts and feelings to accounts of how they spend their time. Personal blogs may be monetized, but they aren’t written for the express purpose of making money.
Professional blogs are written for the express purpose of making money or attracting people to a company. People who update these do so primarily as a work function. However, that doesn’t mean that all professional blogs are written for a company. A person working as a designer might keep a blog that tracks different projects she’s doing, complete with pictures and tips. The blog might not be selling services, but it’s still based on her professional persona and can be used to attract clients.
There are a couple kinds of blogging sites that are professional. For example, company blogs and niche blogs.
Company blogs are written directly by or for a company. For example, Google keeps a blog called The Keyword that talks about the products and services they release, trends in technology, and other company information.
Niche blogs are blogs that are about a popular topic, like photography, cooking, or technology.
People write these and monetize them via ads, donations, or affiliate links. They’re able to make money by writing about what they do; usually, the amount of money they make is directly related to the number of readers they have. They don’t represent a company. Instead, they usually represent an individual or group of people with the same interest.
What are Popular Blogging Platforms?
There are a few popular blogging platforms that most people who set out to blog use. Free blog platforms that don’t cost money to maintain are available, as are platforms that offer more features but also charge a fee to use.
WordPress is the most popular blog platform in the world. In addition to blogging, many companies actually build their websites on WordPress’s content management system, which lets you integrate your blog with other webpages, a storefront, or forms. It’s estimated that 28 percent of all websites are built on WordPress. One of the drawbacks to WordPress is that it takes a bit of skill to use – if you’re looking to just dive in and start typing, plan to spend an hour or so learning a bit before you get to it. WordPress has thousands of themes available to customize your blog, along with 52,000+ free plugins that add features to your site.
WordPress.org is good for:
- Bloggers who want to create an entire site
- Anyone with WordPress experience
- People who want to maximize their design options
Ghost Foundation offers a series of hosting plans at different price points that work for a variety of uses, from personal all the way up to enterprise. Unlike WordPress, Ghost is a blogging-focused platform. It was actually developed as a foil to WordPress, which Ghost’s developer felt was focusing more on CMS and less on just blogging. If you’re only looking for a blog and not other extended features, consider Ghost. There are a variety of themes and plugins that work to give your blog a little more functionality as well. Ghost is also known for loading up to 1900 percent more quickly than competitors.
If you choose to install and run Ghost on your own server with your own domain name, you can use the code for free. Purchasing a server and domain name will still cost money, though.
Ghost is good for:
- People only focused on publishing their content
- People who don’t need stores or other pages
Squarespace offers a halfway point between WordPress and Ghost. It’s easy to use, but there are fewer options and templates than WordPress has to offer. Customization isn’t key with Squarespace. They only allow built-in customizers and designs. There are fewer features than you’d get on WordPress – for example, you can only create 20 pages and add two contributors. There are also limits on how many products you can sell. For fewer restrictions, you have to upgrade to the business plan which comes with many limits removed.
Squarespace is good for:
- People who don’t mind a limit on what they can sell
- Bloggers who publish a lot of art or video
Blogger is owned by Google. If you sign up for a blog through Blogger, you use your Google ID to sign in and out. It only takes a few moments to sign up and you choose the name of your subdomain.
For example: mysite.blogspot.com.
You can connect your Blogger site to a custom domain as well. There are a few easily-changed themes available through the platform with a standard layout editor. Unlike other sites, it isn’t updated often. It doesn’t offer the same kind of website-building features as WordPress.org, for example.
Unlike other free sites – notably WordPress.com – Blogger can be used with AdSense and has HTML customization options.
Blogger is completely free to use. If you want to use a custom domain, though, you’ll have to pay for that.
Blogger is good for:
- People who want their blog connected to an existing Google account
- People who can use HTML to edit their templates
- People who are using their blog for personal rather than professional reasons
Tumblr is a microblogging site where people share their posts directly to the Tumblr social feed. It can be hard to get noticed on Tumblr and post categorization is a little messy. You get a custom subdomain when you sign up. There are many free Tumblr templates to choose from and more available on the web. Some businesses use Tumblr accounts, but they’re best used if you stick to a single topic and want a lot of interaction once you build a large audience. If you’re looking to share gif posts, Tumblr might be your best bet. If you want to use a lot of extensions or plugins, look elsewhere.
While you can pay to promote ads on Tumblr, there is no paid Tumblr account option.
Tumblr is good for:
- Bloggers who want a built-in space to share their posts
- People experienced with using tags to attract an audience
- People posting visual content
WordPress.com is a service that offers a free, hosted blog that runs on WordPress. It’s easy to start and use, but you cannot run ads on the blog. It also doesn’t take advantage of the extensive website building options that WordPress offers. Like many other free options, it’s best for people just starting out who don’t have much of an audience yet.
WordPress.com is good for:
- People starting out, like Blogger.
- Personal sites to share with friends and family.
There are a few differences between the free and paid versions of WordPress.com and WordPress.org that are important to note while you’re making your decision.
For example, WordPress.org allows all plugins and supports all themes. It also lets you monetize as you choose and keep any money your blog makes. WordPress.com only lets you use the WordPress themes they stock. You can’t customize them or upload your own. You can use WordPress.com features that function like some plugins, however.
If you switch to the business plan on WordPress.com, you can use plugins. You also have more theme options on the premium and business plans. Paid WordPress.com users use the WordAds program for monetization.
The two platforms also differ over what analytics you can use. WordPress.org lets you use more powerful third-party analytics, while WordPress.com has its own feature to show you stats built into the site.
[bctt tweet=”Undecided what blogging platform to use? This should help.” username=”blogherald”]
Choosing a Blog Platform
Decide whether you need only a blog or if you want additional functionality. Once you’ve made that choice, make a list of what kinds of features and options you want. If you’re looking for more plugins, for example, WordPress.org might make more sense. If you’re looking for a quick, free no-nonsense blog that doesn’t require a new account, Blogger links right to your Google account.
If you’re a serious blogger and you want to sell products, consider a paid platform like WordPress.org or Squarespace. Choosing a free platform might let you link to your store, but you won’t be able to sell from your blog. If you’re a professional looking for only a blog – not additional pages or stores – something like Ghost that focuses only on blogging might give you the features and reach you need.
For people who are just getting started, free options like Blogger or WordPress.com can help you have a space to write – but you might miss out on plugins, a custom domain name, or the freedom to make your blog look exactly the way you want. If you’re just looking for a place to write, free options make sense. If you’re looking to use it for business purposes or want a lot of customization, go with a platform like WordPress.org, Ghost, or Squarespace that offers more options.
Other, more niche sites like Tumblr cater to a different audience of bloggers. On Tumblr, you can post art, GIFS, and videos that are automatically shared to followers – but you have to be on the ball with your tagging and audience participation to get traction. Sites like Tumblr are best for visual art or people who have a large following in the Tumblr user base.
One thing to consider, whichever you choose, is purchasing your own domain name. Even if you don’t have an audience yet, once you build one it’s easier to keep them even if you transfer services or hosts if you use the same domain name. That way people don’t have to find the new site or update their bookmarks.
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How to Make Money Blogging
If you want to know how to blog for money, you have to understand monetization. Monetization is simply the process of taking a blog and making money from it. There are a number of ways to do it. Some of the most important are advertising, affiliate links, and sponsorships.
Keep in mind that blogs like Engadget, Moz, and Mashable earn millions of dollars per month – but there are millions of people earning smaller incomes as well. What starts as enough to buy a movie ticket may eventually be enough to support you.
Ads can appear on your blog as standard picture, video, or audio ads – just like any other webpage. Google Adsense, for example, makes it quick and easy to add advertising to a blog on any platform. It works with you to determine the content of your page and add advertisements that fit in with the topic of your blog. This is important because you tend to make more money when people click on the advertisements – and you’re more likely to have that happen when they interest people.
Pay-per-view advertising is the alternative to pay-per-click. Pay-per-view gives you a smaller amount whenever someone loads the page and views the ad. It pays best when you have a large audience. There are a lot of options to consider when it comes to direct advertising on your blog. You have to examine the various configurations and see which one is right for you.
Affiliate links are links to a product that you want to promote. When someone clicks on the product or purchases it, you make a commission for using that link on your blog. Amazon Associates is one of the largest affiliate programs and can be used with more than a million products.
If you’re popular with a large market segment – whether it’s women interested in beauty products, people who want to build computers, or gamers – you might be able to get sponsored by a company. In exchange for mentioning them and running their ads, they’ll give you money. Unlike a program like Adsense, you deal directly with the company. You want to show them that you have enough readers and influence to make their ad cost worth it.
Udemy also offers a course that can help you monetize your blog in a variety of different ways. Their Blog Blueprint: How to Turn Blogging Into a Career course covers topics like income strategies and audience building.
Blogging isn’t all that complicated – but it can take awhile to get a handle on all the different aspects, from writing to media to finding an audience to creating revenue streams. The best thing to do is to jump in with both feet and start writing about topics that matter to you. With blogging, you can learn as you go and still be successful.