What is blogging? The What, Why and How of Blogs and Blogging
The word blog in its noun form is a shorter version of its original form web log. Beginning in 1999, blogs grew in popularity. They were originally mini-websites that linked to other information and hosted commentary, personal thoughts and essays.
So the noun blog morphed into its verb form to blog. Verbs usually take a subject, hence the term blogger. Bloggers populate the worldwide web and write blogs that range from political commentary to travel diaries.
A blog can be a “bulletin board of the mind,” a compendium of deeply held beliefs or the digital version of the old “Dear Diary.” Bloggers blog because they are writers. And writers write because writing is what they do and they have something to say. For example:
- A blog is a public forum to get off the chest what is on the mind.
- Some bloggers just want to help others get through difficult situations. The blog is often inspired by similar experience of the blogger.
- A blogger who is an expert in some field or topic can build a reputation for expertise and skill. Job seekers often use blogs as part of their qualifications portfolio.
- Blogs help build communities of like-minded people for sharing opinions and validating beliefs.
- Family-related blogs maintain those special personal connections. Most blog hosting services accommodate multimedia — photos, videos and connections to other social media platforms.
- Blogs provide an outlet for creativity and fun. Sports fans, hobbyists or pop-star groupies blog for the sheer joy of writing about what they love.
- Bloggers by necessity stay up to date in their field because they must blog frequently to be successful.
- The blog is an ideal self-promotion tool for a business, product or service.
- There is money to be made in blogging.
How to start blogging
There are many free blog-hosting sites on the Internet, and they make their money through web advertising. Some have both free and paid premium services — i.e., no ads on your blog, your own Internet domain. For a listing of over 40 blog hosting services check out the Mashable.com web page.
Preliminary suggestions for good blogs
Informal blogging doesn’t have to adhere to high academic standards. But bloggers should always keep the reader in mind. Here are some pointers:
- Be on point. There’s so much information out there. Blogers only have a few seconds to keep the reader’s attention.
- Leave the pontificating and the polemics to the preachers and politicians. If advocacy is the purpose of the blog let reason reign; do not rant.
- The blog should state up front and immediately its purpose and main idea. Everything that follows should support and expand on that basic idea.
Blogging for money
Freelance bloggers can earn money as ghostwriters. They write for clients who need to keep their website blogs current, interesting and informative. Among other things, blogs serve three practical purposes on commercial websites:
- They attract visitors, who are searching for goods and services on the web.
- They keep the visitors engaged and interested in the subject matter, which is always directly related to the site’s purpose and product.
- They promote loyalty to the product, because the blog content has quality and relevance to the visitor’s interests and lifestyle.
Bloggers can freelance and look around on the web for customers needing blog content. They can charge whatever the client is willing to pay. Most clients, however, will not want to pay top dollar for a blog piece. The best approach is for the blogger to offer competitive rates based on what content writing services charge.
Blogging for content services
Bloggers can do contract work for blog-writing services. Sometimes referred to as content mills, services like Writer Access pay freelance bloggers to write web content for client subscribers. Content services provide the platform, do the marketing and pay the writers when the client accepts the blog.
Blogging for the web crawler
As previously mentioned, clients need well-written blogs to attract visitors, who are searching on the web for something. They search by means of popular web search engines — Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. To end up on page 1 of the Google search results, for example, the website must conform to Google’s standards of relevancy and quality, which are best met through search engine optimization, or SEO.
How blogging contributes to SEO
In the days before search engines became more sophisticated, it was easy to get to the top of the search heap simply by stuffing the website with keywords. Nowadays, however, websites are judged by the quality of their design and content.
As the web crawler returns for repeated searches, it rates the website on how current that content is. Periodic blogs are an ideal way to make the website a top candidate for page 1 of the Google hit parade.
How to break into the blogging-for-pay realm
Transitioning from informal blogging to freelancing for pay takes time and experience. Commercial blogging is, as previously mentioned, ghostwriting. As such, the blogger must get into the head of the client and write what the client is after. That includes paying attention to the client’s customer base, tone and values.
So the bloggers who get paid consistently do their homework. They read the clients previously published blogs and browse through the client’s website. They research the client’s product and read what others have written about the industry — white papers, frequently asked questions, etc.
Finally, the best-paid bloggers learn to “obey the SEO gods.” If the blog is to be found by the web crawler, the blogger must learn how SEO works.
How to write a moneymaking blog
Writing for the web
Blogging requires a more direct approach to writing. Here are some suggestions summarized from New York University’s web page Writing for the Web:
- Keep the writing clear, simple and conversational.
- Place the most important content in the first paragraph.
- Cover only one topic per paragraph.
- Go for short paragraphs and leave out unnecessary words.
- Favor the active — “He hit the ball” — over the passive — “The ball was hit by him.”
- Favor lists rather than dense paragraphs. Readers tend to scan content.
Blogging outside the comfort zone
While it is far easier for bloggers to write about what they know best, paying customers often have a business specialty well outside the blogger’s personal experience. How is it possible to write and sell a blog to a customer who manufactures building cranes, for example? Here are some possible approaches:
- Look for some industry-relevant news item on the web to write about. The blog will demonstrate that the client wants to stand out as a thought leader.
- Do the research necessary to gain a basic understanding of the relevant business jargon, marketing approaches and the needs the client’s business fulfills.
- Remember that a blog should always contain subtle product promotion.
- The blog should always come to the conclusion that the client’s product is the answer to any question, problem or challenge discussed in the blog.
The real payoff of blogging
Whether blogging for self-expression, satisfaction, advocacy or as a part-time source of income, the real value of blogging is how it develops and changes a writer in several fundamental ways:
- The more blogging the writer does, the better the writer becomes. It happens as a process and a result of continual practice.
- The blogger becomes a better thinker because all that writing gets the thoughts recorded.
- Blogs are like diaries and can help the blogger in documenting thoughts, opinions and ideas over a timeline. Personal growth occurs as an individual looks back and reflects on how ideas and opinions evolve over time. It is all about learning from the past
- Blogging is the new résumé. A well-designed personal blog says volumes about the blogger and recruiters read applicants’ blogs.
- A blog is a personal PR platform. The blog is the first place to talk about an important project, goal or soapbox issue.
- Blogging for money is the ideal avocation for everyone from starving students to stay-at-home spouses — including retired seasoned citizens, who still have much to contribute.
The bottom line
The worldwide web is a voracious consumer of content. Personal blogs can showcase a writer’s skills, deep thinking and value as a productive human being. Commercial blogs feed websites that vie for attention in the highly competitive world of e-commerce. A well-written blog can often be the tiebreaker that puts the website on page 1 of the Google search results page. Bloggers are the new scribes and cyberspace is their new frontier.