What is a Blog?
A Blog is short for Web Log. An online journal. A diary that you just happen to share with a potential audience of hundreds of millions of other people. Entries are displayed in reverse chronological order.
Blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject, such as food, politics, or local news; some function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, webpages and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of most early blogs.
"Blog" can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.
How do Blogs Work?
You write down your thoughts, experiences or feelings. This could be done in an ordinary HTML page made in a text editor or a HTML editor but applications such as Wordpress evolved to make blogging as easy as sending an email.
Published straight to the web from any internet connected computer terminal.
People blog for pleasure or profit. Or maybe even both.
Initially people blogged for pleasure... then some who found themselves with a large readership explored various ways of monetizing their blogs. Sponsorships, banner advertising, book and other product sales (as an Amazon associate) and then along came Adsense.
Adsense being a contextual advertising program meant that the text ads were complementary to the content. This saw a higher Click Thru Rate then previously experienced with the traditional banner advertising.
Blogging became something more then reaching out and connecting with likeminded individuals. It became more then just being popular. It became a residual revenue stream. Sometimes earning enough to cover the costs of a domain name and webhosting for a year, to it being as lucrative as holding down a second job. Some people have even made a living from it.
If you wish to make money from your blog then you need to plan.
Actually, if money is the farthest thing from your mind and all you're interested is in building a readership then you still need a plan.
You need direction. Your blog needs a purpose. And that purpose better not be to explain every detail of your mundane life in an effort to bore people to death.
Talk about what you know. Someone out there is looking for information on what you know. Your readership may not number more than a hundred people a day, but those people are there for a specific purpose. They want to read what you publish.
And a specialist niche may pay better than a general topic. I won't go into too much detail on how Adsense works here.
Don't just rely on text. Learn how to get text to wrap around (thumbnail) images (which you can also use to wrap text around an appropriately shaped Adsense block). The image will draw attention to the blog entry, and people will find themselves reading the accompanying text out of habit.
Also be aware of spelling mistakes. Nothing will undermine your credibility then terribly written copy.
Spell check everything. And if your grammar isn't perfect at least make sure it's not a complete mess or else you might confuse and lose your reader.
If you copy and paste something from another site be sure to "source" it. Have a link back to the page from whence it came.
And never pass off anything that you haven't written as being your own. Even if you're not trying to do it intentionally don't leave it to chance that someone can mistakenly believe it's yours when it isn't.
How to Blog
You can sign up with a free blog hosting service. There are many. But here are a few that I know won't disappear overnight:
Alternatively you can DIY. Or rather: Host it yourself.
There are various blogging applications that you can install on your own webspace. And suprisingly it's not all that hard to set up your own website powered by a blogging application. The one I'd suggest over all the others is Wordpress.
Pick a topic
Some people may provide mere commentary to whatever is happening on a personal level, or even about current affairs and world events. But if they wish to attract and capture an audience they better make sure that their writing is top notch.
If they want to use humour and wit, then they'll need to do it consistently. If they are capable of such delivery they can afford to commentate on a wide variety of topics.
If you are discussing a particular area of a profession, or an industry, or a field of interest within a category... or a topic... niche... I'll keep throwing words like that in there. You know where I'm coming from? Find a box and fill it with all you know about that particular theme.
Don't think outside the box. Just specialise in it.
Don't stray from the theme. Just stick to it.
The only other time you should be allowed to give commentary on anything and everything (or nothing at all) is when it's delivered with wit and aplomb.
In that case you need to find the zing factor. That spark. That bite. That thing that makes me want to come back for more.
Alternatively a person can try and be very funny and fall flat on their face. And if you are funny then please never ever stop to point out how funny you are.
That's not to say you can't explore or try and discover who you are. Just that in the meantime be sure you're doing it for self fulfilment and not being concerned about the CTR and Adsense revenue.
I did a weekly ezine back in the late 90's/early 00's. It hit 650 subscribers. 650 people who were actually hanging out every week to read my latest instalment. I've recently been going through it and republishing it online. First 20 issues SUCK. Seriously. 21 onwards it really kicks into gear and you can see I've found my voice, and then there was no stopping me (well there was something that stopped me, but I won't go into that). Issue 21 through to Issue 94 kicked solid butt (I can honestly say that, seeing I was so honest in saying how the first 20 sucked).
I had done it for pleasure, not profit.
Now if you want to garner a following (and you'll be wanting repeat "customers") you need to find your style, and be comfortable with it. And tell these people what they want to hear and do it with confidence and finesse.
You don't need to imitate anyone else. If your style is different then everyone else, fine. Just be consistent.
Consistency is the key.
Register a Domain Name
Choose something that will suit the niche that you wish to discuss (or promote) or something that will complement your attitude and style if you choose to go for sharp commentary and opinion.
You can get get a register a domain for US$15 a year from Dotster.
I've written a lens that highlights various reliable and affordable webhosting businesses. But I highly recommend two of them. I've listed them in the Install Wordpress lens (see the next module) and the reasons why they have been chosen.
Like Nike says: Just Do It.
But be sure that you do it with style, flair and without spelling mistakes.
Go crazy. Go nuts.
Be aware of libel and slander. What you say can and will be used against you if someone gets offended enough to feel that they can sue you.
Avoid copyright issues. Be sure to not plagiarize, but more importantly than that, don't make available dowloads, whether they be ebooks, documents, mp3's or video files that you don't own (as in being the copyright owner). You may have purchased it, but that doesn't mean you have the resale rights.
Don't give out too much information that may lead to stalkers knowing your whereabouts. I speak about this from experience. Thankfully I hadn't given out too much information, but I did later learn that a stalker was trying to find where I lived from scouring the suburb where I lived by looking for the vehicle I had in a photo on my blog. Thankfully I lived in a little cul de sac which was hard enough to find even when I gave people written directions.
Here's additional reading: 12 Important U.S. Laws Every Blogger Needs to Know
- Whether to Disclose Paid Posts
- Is Deep Linking Legal
- The Legal Use of Images and Thumbnails
- Laws that Protect You From Stolen Content
- Domain Name Trademark Issues
- Handling Private Data About Your Readers
- Who Owns User-Developed Content and Can You Delete It
- The Duty to Monitor Your Blog Comments, and Liability
- Basic Tax Law Issues in Blogging
- Limited Liability Laws and Incorporating
- Spam Laws and Which Unsolicited Emails are Legal
- Are Bloggers Protected from Journalism Shield Laws
Now I did say that there was a potential audience of hundreds of millions, but just how do you reach them? How do they find you?
A little while ago, late last year in fact, I read an article about blogging in Readers Digest. It said that 70,000 new blogs start every DAY.
Now that's a LOT of competition.
Suffice to say a large percentage of those won't be posting blog entries 6 months from now. The attrition rate will be high. But there will always be those stubborn ones, who will stick at it, waiting for their big break. Which for most of them will never come, because there is so much they don't know about blogging.
Having little or no audience will eventually wear a person down. It's like having a one sided conversation. How do you reach this potential audience of millions?
That's the key. That's the big secret. Finding traffic. Quality traffic.
More on that later. In the meantime, if you blog, blog well.
Any questions, just ask...