If you’ve just searched ‘what is a blog’ (or the like) then the chances are you know something about the subject, but are seeking more in depth information.
It turns out you’re not alone! Every month thousands and thousands of people from across the world search online to learn more about it because they’re curious whether to give it a go.
The good news is anyone can start a blog, and I mean anyone. But, a large proportion of those that do, don’t properly understand what a blog is, and more importantly their role in running one. As a result, many of them run out of steam either because the topic of choice is too limited or demotivation creeps in due to misguided expectations.
This post goes back to basics.
I’ve brought together all the facts on this topic and gathered some examples for inspiration. By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll have a solid understanding from which to build on.
To finish it all off, I’ll try to guess the real reason you’re here. So, get comfy, settle in and enjoy.
Table of Contents
- What is the definition of a blog
- What is the difference between a blog and a website?
- What is the purpose of a blog?
- What is blogging and what’s the definition of a blogger?
- Why is it popular?
- How to make money from a blog?
- What are the main types of blogs?
- Brilliant examples of different types of blog
- Should you start one?
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1. What is the definition of a blog?
There are many (many) ways to deal with this question. But, the best answer lies in the history of the blog.
The term ‘weblog’ was first coined in 1997 to describe a log of information on the world wide web. Over the next year or two a passing comment, ‘we blog’, was made (on a weblog, I imagine) as a joke. However, the term stuck and eventually became shortened further to just ‘blog’ sometime in the early 2000s.
So, that’s how the term came to be but what does blog mean today?
Nowadays, it’s a word that is used interchangeably as both a verb or a noun. A blog is a type of website where content is published online, usually in reverse chronological order (newest first).
The meaning of one is very much determined by what topic(s) it focuses on and the type of content it provides (more on this later), along with why the writer(s) continue to sustain it.
What is a blog used for?
Typically, it is where a writer, or writers, share interesting or useful information on a specific subject or topic. What makes one good is squarely determined by the quality and frequency of new content because this attracts, and maintains, an audience who use it to learn new things.
Ultimately, a blog’s audience defines its meaning.
They’re used for countless different endeavours by their writers, such as to raise awareness, generate business leads, build credibility in a subject area, and even create a revenue stream through product sales and affiliate marketing.
What is a blog post?
Simply put it is new content, which is sometimes called an entry. ‘Blog posting’ is simply another way to describe the act of blogging (more on this in section 3). All these terms are used interchangeably, and sometimes incorrectly, but ultimately they mean the same thing.
2. What is the difference between a blog and a website?
Technically speaking, there is no difference at all. Blogs are a type of website just like any other, and made up of a series of web pages (i.e. blog posts) that visitors can access and read online.
In reality, blogs have many more pages though because they are regularly updated with new content. ‘Normal’ websites tend to be static in nature where the information they present does not alter very often.
Blogs are dynamic and can change very frequently: the biggest in the world can change from one hour to the next!
Sometimes people get confused because a blog can be part of a static website. Often businesses will have one as a part of their website, in and amongst there other pages. But, the blog’s function is exactly the same – it attracts people to read their content thereby stimulating potential interest in their products or services.
So, some websites are purely a blog (i.e. there are no other static pages); others contain a blog.
It makes no difference either way, and the reasons for success all depend on the same thing – publish brilliant content and optimize it for Google search to attract and maintain an audience.
3. What is the purpose of a blog?
Fundamentally, it is a very easy way to document and share information online with other people. So whilst blogging topics vary greatly this ‘reason to be’ does not. They are started by people for personal use or businesses who want to grow.
Personal blogs can be started for any reason you see fit. It could be to express your passion for a hobby or interest, offer how-to guidance, share insights as an online journal or diary (i.e. feelings, thoughts, even trauma), show support for others or something completely different. There is no right or wrong reason.
A business blog on the other hand has only one purpose – to increase visitor numbers to your website (by ranking in Google search) and generate leads and/ or affiliate revenue.
Increasing the visibility of your business by attracting potential customers to useful online material is called content marketing. Content marketing does not explicitly promote your business but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services thereby generating leads.
The most successful blogs are those that understand their true purpose, which is to engender trust by being credible, useful and authentic. This takes some work and getting the right topic can be tricky.
However, if you do showcase specific knowledge and expertise that people find useful, and manage to optimise your content so it shows up in Google search (which is often the real challenge!) your website visitor numbers and lead generation will increase, as will your brand.
4. What is blogging and what is a blogger?
The term ‘blogging’ was popularised after a company, called Pyra Labs in the USA, developed the first online publishing tool, ‘Blogger’, back in 1999. During its early history, it was snapped up and acquired by Google (2003). This led to widespread usage and popularisation of the platform, thereby giving the word blogger meaning.
In simple terms, blogging is the act of creating content and sharing it online for others to access. It could be about your life, your business or simply an interest. But more specifically, it is a set of skills required to do this effectively for a sustained period of time.
There are three basic requirements to be good at blogging:
Firstly, you need to pick the right topic for you. That’s to say you’ll have lots of content ideas and can talk passionately (and accurately) about the subject matter. No passion, no point. If you don’t feel excited about your topic you’ll give up long before you ever get going.
Secondly, you need a little writing skill and plenty of diligence. Badly written content that is inaccurate is hardly going to keep visitors coming back for more.
Thirdly, you need perseverance; so many people overlook this. It takes time, perseverance, and grit determination to be truly effective. It is not a get rich quick scheme, and never will be.
Bloggers come from all walks of life from all around the world. They talk about almost anything and are keen to interact with others to share knowledge and perspectives in order to build an audience. They’re often people who enjoy or prefer digital engagement more than face-to-face contact, at least in certain aspects of their lives.
Being a blogger makes it possible to help and engage with people in places that would otherwise be inaccessible. This applies to business as well. For example, you might provide useful insights to potential customers that otherwise would be out of reach.
5. Why is it so popular?
Currently, there are over 600 million blogs amongst 1.7 billion websites worldwide. That means over 33% of the world’s websites are blogs! That’s a staggering number obviously but why is it so?
There is no single reason; it’s more of a culmination of factors that have made blogs and blogging so prevalent.
We live in the age of information. Ever since Google rose to prominence (in the mid to late 90s) and made it possible to easily access any web page from anywhere in the world, our demand for instant information has exploded.
Digital publishing took over traditional methods (like newspapers) a long time ago. Mainstream adoption by news outlets, plus the rise of the digital consumer who craves real world insights constantly, means ubiquitous online information is as normal as making a cup of coffee (I have, in fact, just made a fresh cup whilst researching these statistics!).
Running alongside our insatiable demand for information is a low barrier to entry. In other words, anyone who can use a computer at a basic level can start a blog.
I’ve always said that if you can order goods online with, say, Amazon or eBay, you can learn to use WordPress. There is no coding required and any expertise you do need in order to be successful is readily available online. It doesn’t cost much either and nowadays things like managed WordPress hosting means all the technical stuff is done for you.
The world never stops changing and our work habits seem to evolve on a monthly basis. Flexible and/ or mobile working has seen more and more people leave the traditional 9-to-5 day job. Earning a passive income from blogging that is stable enough to support a family and modern lifestyle is only going to continue growing in popularity.
Blogging is huge!
6. How to make money from a blog?
Beyond generating leads for a business, it’s important to understand how a blog makes money if that is partly why you’re considering starting one. Whilst there are bloggers out there who simply do it for a hobby, a large percentage of blogs are monetised.
Before you can make money from blogging in any real way though you need to build an audience and rank your posts in Google search.
Many successful bloggers earn enough income to eventually quit their job and do it full time. Some even go on to build bigger and more successful online businesses.
Others decide on a different path. They love the passive income and freedom it brings to their life, and focus entirely on creating more brilliant content for their readers.
How does a blog make money?
There are several different ways – you can:
- Display adverts on your blog, either privately or via Google AdSense;
- Drive affiliate sales by recommending products to receive commissions;
- Sell digital content of your own, like courses or eBooks;
- Offer membership subscriptions for exclusive content;
- Add an online shop that sells products relevant to your audience;
- Generate leads for your business through content marketing;
- Cash in and sell the blog in its entirety (uncommon but definitely possible particularly in niche markets).
The primary way one particular blog makes money could be different from another, and some might utilise more than one method. It is rare to see all the methods in use though, and usually, the type of content being published lends itself to a particular way of monetisation.
I hope that has helped you understand how to monetize a blog at a basic level. In truth, it is not something I’d recommend focussing on to begin with. If you just blog for money, there is a risk you will actually miss, or worse still, never find your audience.
Ultimately, your readers are there for your knowledge not your desire for making money with a blog.
7. What are the main blog types?
There are millions of blogs covering pretty much every topic you can think of.
These tend to have certain types of content, certain types of blogging, and are created by certain types of blogger. In other words, it’s not all as random as it might appear.
If you’re thinking of starting one, I think it is important you understand, albeit loosely, the various forms it could take and respective content implications. Whilst, there is no formal categorisation, most fall under one or more of the following:
- Personal – not aimed at any specific audience or topic, but more like ‘days in the life of’ type material which could be about hobbies, events, views, current affairs, love life, etc, etc. Basically, it’s an online diary.
- Business – blog page on a company website, which typically would provide helpful insights and information to potential customers to generate leads.
- Freelancer – similar to the business blog, but focuses more on thought leadership in certain skills or expertise.
- Niche – this is a big category and where all the fitness, dieting, cooking, DIY, money saving, entertainment, books, sports, music, Mum, Dad, etc, blogs belong. Affiliate links to purchase recommended services or products are common on these types of blogs.
- Review – Another large category which often focuses on recommending products (or not!) that can be purchased through affiliate links.
- Testing – differs from review blogging as it tends to be much more evidence based, where very specific niche products are put through real life tests (sometimes over long periods).
- General – this category sweeps up all of those unique blogs which don’t really fit anywhere else and are most likely proud of it. These could be to raise awareness, deal with trauma/ death or support some other cause or belief.
8. Brilliant blog examples
These are a few of my favourites, a few of which inspired me when I first started out.
9. Should you start one?
Lots of businesses, including freelancers, don’t have a blog. Their website is there simply as a professional validation when someone is referred to them (through networking and more traditional business development activities).
There’s nothing wrong with this per se. It’s understandable when there is so much to do and so little time. Blogging can be a powerful thing though. Every business should consider it.
Business websites with a blog generate, on average, 67% more leads than those that don’t. That could be the difference between success and failure. Even if it’s not that extreme, the statistics are undeniable and compelling.
Blogging significantly increases your chances of success.
Of course, the same applies to any other endeavour like a hobby, passion project or any other personal interest. Attracting more traffic to a website generates far more interest in whatever it is about. It’s really that simple.
I’ve said before that blogging has changed my life, privately and professionally. I love helping people and it all comes together because I’m just being me. It is deeply fulfilling and unlocks my potential.
Yet, I’m an ordinary person. If I can do it, anyone can.
So, the question isn’t whether starting a blog is a good idea really. Hopefully, the answer to that is more obvious now. It certainly was for me – I was utterly compelled!
Ergo, what’s the real question? Why were you drawn to this subject? I think I know because I’ve been in your shoes. The real question is: how do you start a blog and be successful at it?