What is a blog?
The word “blog” comes from the combination of the words “web” and “log”. Way back in the ancient times of the 1990s when blogs first started appearing, they were mostly created by early computer geeks (most of whom are probably filthy rich by now) as online diaries or to talk about topics of interest.
Today, blogs still serve this function, but they have also grown to be much more. Like most things Internet, the concept of a blog is very flexible. Some blogs function almost exactly like websites; others are practically online magazines. Some blogs are used for keeping in touch with a small group of people.
The majority of blogs, however, are basically themed notebooks where the author posts new entries on a regular basis and readers read them. Blog posts take on many different forms and often include words (always a good start), images, video and sound recordings.
And what do people write blogs about? The answer is everything. Yes, there is a blog on absolutely everything. Close your eyes, randomly pick three words in the dictionary, combine them together and there will be at least one blog on that topic (I just did this and got “stream”, “squirrel”, and “mace”. I bet there’s a blog out there all about gangster squirrels that mace intruders who try to cross their streams).
Can blogs be used as a marketing tool for a business?
Yes, but it takes work. If only some kind soul had taken it upon themselves to create a brilliant guide on just this topic.
How do I create a blog?
You might think actually creating a blog is the hardest part of the blogging process. Actually, the opposite is true. If you held your breath, I could probably whip together a decent-looking blog with a few seconds to spare until you passed out. That’s because major blogging websites like
Blogger make it extremely easy for even the most neophyte of individuals to set up a blog. Create an account, look through the pretty templates, pick one, change some colors around, and you have your very own blog. Did I mention that setting up a blog on either of these sites is completely free?
Some businesses choose to link directly to their WordPress or Blogger blog from their website, while others prefer to create a blog within their own URL. Most of the major website hosting companies can host WordPress sites, though if you’re not strong on the whole “Internet understanding” thing or have no idea what I was just saying, you might want to pull out the wallet and pay someone else to do it for you.
How often should I post?
Blogging is an extremely flexible medium, which is my clever way of skirting this question. There is no standard posting protocol in the blogger world. Many bloggers post once a week. Some post every other week. Some only post once a month and some very brave/stupid/amazingly efficient/in desperate need of constant gratification souls post every day.
I really wouldn’t recommend the every day route, unless you plan on recruiting a group of writers. I also wouldn’t recommend the once a month route unless you are just blogging for fun or are only interested in blogging as a search engine optimization tool (even then, you would get better results if you posted more often).
In my opinion, posting twice a week, once a week or every other week is the best balance between keeping your audience fed and letting your brain have some rest periods. My biggest tip is that, whatever schedule you choose, be consistent. If you tell your readers that they can expect a post every week, give them a post every week, or next thing you know they’ve abandoned you for a YouTube video of a squirrel macing a guy who accidentally crossed its stream.
What should I write about?
That all depends on your goal for the blog, but allow me to provide some very basic tips:
In my Simple Guide To Successful Blogging, I write about finding your niche. Maybe you should go check it out..like right now…it’s very good…my mom told me so.
I also encourage you to read other blogs before you start out on your blogging adventure. Find a variety of blogs you like—they don’t have to be on the same topic you want to write about—and figure out what it is you like about the blog. Most likely it’s because the author has a compelling niche, writes consistently relevant and interesting copy and uses at least one of the tactics in that last bullet point (be funny, controversial, loud and/or distinctive).
Write stuff you actually know stuff about
Write stuff you care about
Write stuff other people will care about
Don’t write stuff that a million other people are already writing about
Write stuff that is connected to a larger theme or topic but try not to repeat yourself too often
If you want to build an audience, it helps to be funny, controversial, loud and distinctive
How long should my posts be?
Want to hear the most annoying possible answer to this question? Good. Here it is: your posts should be as long as they need to be.
That’s right, another one of those “there is no industry standard” answers. Most blog posts tend to run on the shorter side (let’s say 250 – 750 words) or anywhere from three to six paragraphs. However, there are so many exceptions to this convention that it’s hardly a convention at all.
Good bloggers have a style all their own. It comes across in the voice of their posts, the post titles, the images and videos they incorporate into their posts, and the length of their posts. Some bloggers will regularly post single paragraphs.
Seth Godin’s blog is a good example (see him in my list of Blogs That Work). Though some bloggers write huge, monster posts that, if you were to copy and paste them into a Word document, would run pages. Ramit Sethi will occasionally write such monster posts on his popular blog
I Will Teach You To Be Rich.
The majority of bloggers are in the middle, and both Seth and Ramit regularly write both short and long posts depending on the need of the topic.
My advice is to read other blogs and start getting a feel for how they work. When you start out, it may help you to keep the 250 – 750 word standard in mind, but as you find your voice and get into the swing of things, you’ll be able to expand your boundaries and write for the topic, not a specific word count.
What are post tags?
If you plan to blog consistently over a period of time, your blog posts will begin to pile up. Even though you are smart enough to write within a specific niche, your posts will probably start to fall into different categories within that niche. For instance, on my Squirrels Macing To Protect Their Stream blog, I might write occasionally about other weapons squirrels use to protect their streams or all the different streams guarded by mace-carrying squirrels or even how other woodland creatures defend their land.
Tags allow you to categorize your individual blog posts so that readers can visit your blog and filter posts for the topics they find relevant. Just correlate the idea of tags to the idea of topics.
What are plugins?
If you hate all things Internet, just skip this question. For the rest of you, I’ll make this as simple as possible, because honestly I’m not much of a plugin genius. Plugins are like extra bells and whistles you can add to your WordPress blog. Think about it like adding a moon roof and spoiler to your car. The car would function just fine without them, but they’re nice to have and they may even add some functionality.
There are many, many different plugins that do many, many different things. Some help filter out spam comments. Others allow users to forward your posts directly to aggregate content sites. Some of the most important plugins assist in search engine optimization.
If you are of the DIY persuasion check out PC World’s article “
20 Best WordPress Plugins” for more information on where to get started with plugins. The rest of you, just ask that special geek in your life to help set them up on your WordPress blog.
How do I optimize my blog for search engines?
This is a huge topic, and the Internet is swimming with thousands of detailed articles that will tell you everything you want to know (and tons you probably don’t) about search engine optimization (SEO) and blogging.
The short of it is, you can optimize your blog by incorporating key words and keyword terms into your blog posts. Keyword terms are the words potential customers would type into a search engine if they were looking for the service you offer without know that your company exists.
The more specific the keyword terms are, the better (less competition, more qualified traffic). Take some time to think about the goal of your blog and the type of people you want to attract. If your blog is meant to drive traffic to your business, figure out your business keyword terms and then write blog posts on those topics.
It’s extremely important that you add key words with restraint. Peppering your posts with key words to the point that the post makes no sense whatsoever will earn you a slap from Google and the other search engines. Not a physical slap (Google is too smart to leave bruises), but a metaphorical search engine slap that will knock you down in the rankings (the opposite of what you want to do) or even out of the rankings altogether.
You can also boost your SEO by linking your keyword terms to relevant pages on your website or to relevant past blog posts. I recommend adding an SEO plugin to your blog if you have a
For more information on optimizing your blog for SEO and all things SEO in general, check out one of the best SEO blogs
Search Engine Land.
How do I build a blog audience?
There is no magical formula or 12-step program that will guarantee you a blog audience. There are only best practices and crossed fingers. In a word, your best chance of building a blog audience is content.
Not just any content. Your content needs to be good, funny, relevant, entertaining, fresh, unique, and consistent…all the time. For every single blog post that you write. Even then, you still might not get an audience. Just because you build it, they won’t necessarily come.
Help yourself out by picking a compelling niche, writing from a fresh perspective or unique angle, developing a very strong and recognizable voice and occasionally inviting a little controversy. Ramit Sethi of
I Will Teach You To Be Rich and Havi Brooks of
The Fluent Self have both created great, content-rich blogs that are strengthened by their unique personalities. Ramit seems to delight in bullying and mocking his readers into financial wealth. Havi Brooks peppers her posts with made-up words and terms (destuckification is a big one) as she invites readers to let go of their fears and reach their full potential.
Two completely different personalities and styles, two very successful blogs.
Remember, the all-powerful Wikipedia tells us that there are over 150 million blogs floating around the Internet. Think about how many blogs you read on a regular basis. See what I’m getting at? To build an audience you will need to pry them away from all the thousand other things they could be doing (watching that squirrel macing video on YouTube for instance) and then constantly entertain them with fresh new posts.
Successful blogging is not for the faint of heart, and it’s not for people who expect immediate or even intermediate results. It’s also not for someone who isn’t willing to write, write, and write some more. Building an audience also means finding people. To do that, you may consider actively marketing your blog. I go into more detail about marketing your blog below.
Nothing is certain, especially a blog audience. They usually grow slowly over time, but sometimes they don’t grow at all. Be prepared for a long, hard and lonely trek as you begin your blogging journey. Hopefully, you’ll start picking up enthusiastic companions along the way.
Can I monetize my blog?
Yes, but I cannot state empathetically enough that very few people make even a decent amount of money through their blogs, much less a living.
There are several conventional ways that blogs can make money:
You can instigate any or all of these monetization methods (though I wouldn’t recommend doing them all at the same time on the same blog), but if this all seems kind of easy, let me set you straight.
In order to generate sales through your blog, you must first grow your audience. If you think it’s hard to entice people to read your FREE blog posts, imagine the difficulty of getting any of them to actually pay you money or even to make the monumental effort to click on your ads and affiliate links.
Concentrate on content first. If the audience comes, then consider if monetizing is the way to go. Be prepared to be called a sellout by your faithful readers. Also, consider carefully what types of ads and products you allow on your blog. The more relevant the products/ads, the more likely your audience will be open to clicking/purchasing.
You may also want to check out my page, Ten Blogs That Work. Each featured blogger has found some way to monetize their blog.
The blogger becomes well known as a subject matter expert and writes a book or ebook that provides material above and beyond what is available on the blog and/or creates a coaching program that readers can pay for
The blog contains advertisements along the side, and the blogger receives compensation every time a reader clicks on the link
The blog contains affiliate links/ads, and the blogger receives a commission when a reader clicks on the link and makes a purchase on the affiliate site
Can I link to my website in my blog?
Yes, in fact this is a great way to score search engine optimization points if you link key words or keyword terms back to your site. You can also link to previous blog posts that expound upon a topic you may just be grazing over in your current post.
Do not go link crazy in your blog. Readers will be instantly turned off if every link in your post goes back to your business website. Search engines will also be turned off if you link too much. Try to link only when it’s a natural fit. If you happen to be talking about your product, then link to that product page, but don’t repeat the product name in every sentence and link it each time. That will lose readers and SEO cred.
Can I link to other people's web pages in my blog?
Yes, and I encourage this as well. There is an amazing amount of content out on the Internet. Some of it may explain things better than you can or go into more detail about a specific topic than you want to get into. You may also want to link to original sources or news stories that prompted a certain post or thought. Adding an outside link is a gift to your readers, allowing them to explore topics of interest in more detail.
Linking to other relevant blogs can also help you in the long run. You never know when a blog you linked to may link back to you as a “thank you”, which will boast your link popularity (an important SEO strategy).
How do I market my blog?
If you build it…your mother will probably come. Also, possibly your Uncle Peter. Everyone else is busy watching this awesome video on YouTube of these squirrels macing a guy for crossing their stream.
Sorry to burst your little bubble, but you actually kind of have to let people know about your blog in order for them to mosey along and read it. Tell your friends and family. Put links to your blog posts on your Facebook page and LinkedIn page. Tweet it. If you are part of a few relevant Facebook or LinkedIn groups, post links there as well. Seek out relevant message boards and post links.
Notice that I use the word “relevant”. People do not like to be pushed or spammed. If you think your blog post will be entertaining or useful to a certain group of people, let them know, but include a message explaining why you are passing it on. Do not just machine gun your link all across the Internet. You’re bound to tick people off and could be kicked out of groups or message boards for spamming.
I also recommend adding your blog link to your email signature and business card.
Will you ever write your own blog instead of telling people how to write theirs?
Touché. Yes, I have my own blog in the works. I’ll post the link here and in the menu bar of this website when it’s ready. And yes, I will follow all of my advice to the dot, because that’s the thing about blogging. It only works if you do everything exactly right all the time. There’s absolutely no room in the blogging universe for creativity, flexibility and carving out your own path despite what the “best practices” say.
Alright, that’s a lie (except I really will start my own blog soon). Blogging is all about trial and error. Read popular and successful bloggers (start here with Ten Blogs That Work) and then just start. Don’t worry, nobody will read you in the beginning anyway, so mess around. Find your voice. Test the boundaries of your topic. Link to yourself and other people. Start passing around links to posts you really like, and you never know, you may eventually build up a huge readership of fawning fans who will buy everything you sell. Even with the 10% commission you owe me for my great blogging advice, you could strike it rich through blogging.