Blogs have been around for many years now and it quickly became a fundamental online marketing tool. Despite that I still get asked by many startup, small businesses, self-employed people and hobbyists:
- What is a blog?
- Why should i start a blog?
- How do I create my own blog?
- How do I write a blog?
I can give you a quick answer but to fully understand what a blog is, why you should have a blog and how to use a blog, it’s a good idea to go back to the beginning to see how and why they became popular and how you can use one to create a online presence. The below might sound techy but it really reveals what blogging means in the grand scheme of the internet.
What is a blog website?
Websites used to be a set of custom made, individual, static web pages (sounds more complicated then it is). It was basically a manual process where you would create one web page using the HTML programming language and upload it. You would then do the same for each and every page you wanted to display online and then the whole set of pages would compose a website.
There are two important words in the above methodology:
- Static: This meant that the content on the webpage could only be changed or composed manually by a web designer
- Manual: This meant that everything from the content and page creation to managing and designing the site was done manually, page by page.
As time went on, websites became dynamic. Instead of using just HTML and CSS, a dynamic website:
- Used additional programming languages such as PHP, ASP and JSP
- Used a database to store and gather information
This meant that a dynanmic website had much more functionality with the ability to:
- React to user requests
- Store more information
- Change what was being displayed on a webpage according to the user
- Build webpage templates automatically
- Make changes to a whole site and not page by page.
To manage this whole new system of dynamics, new websites would use a Content Management System (CMS). Think of it as like an operating system (Microsoft Windows) or piece of software (Microsoft Word) that was user friendly and could not only make all these new dynamic features work but allowed any user with access, to make changes themselves. A CMS is composed via several fluid sections:
- The Front end: The website that you would see as a visitor.
- The Admin: A backend user interface that the owner of the website or a web designer could access to make changes to the site.
- The Database: A place where all content on the front end and admin is stored
- The framework: The programming language and design used to make all sections work together and become a dynamic site.
To summarise, a dynamic website built with a CMS meant that a web designer could add, remove or amend webpages quickly and easily. You could add as many pages to a website as you wanted, and non techy users could add webpages to their own website without the help of a web designer. With all these features came the creation of the blog website.
What is a blog?
As a web design agency we’re often told by clients:
- we want a “latest news” section
- we want to announce and update our business events
- we want to post up tips
These may not specifically be defined as blog websites but technically they’re all blog features, a function allowing you to post frequently in chronological order.
Blog websites started out as dynamic websites that were online journals, an easy to use CMS where you could add new content, on your own, to your own website every day and have it displayed in chronological order on a single webpage.
As you add more entries (aka articles or blog posts) to your blog, you can split it up, structure and assign categories and tags to your content. Older posts would eventually move onto a second page whilst newer posts stayed on the first page. This helps to keep your posts organised and made it easier for readers to find specific information.
Because it was seen as a journal, a blog was looked at as a personal and public website application as oppose to a business application and with a funny name like “blog”, businesses were not to quick to utilise it as a business and marketing tool but this changed once people discovered that a blog was able to impact search engines.
Why create a blog?
At face value, a blog could be seen as a quick and easy way for a non techy user to get online and start creating their own web content but in actual fact, blogging plays a much deeper and powerful role as an online marketing tool.
Online marketing is dominated by search engines because that’s the first thing a user will do whenever they want to find any type of information. Whether a user is looking to buy something, find information or be entertined online, they’re likley to start their online journey with a search engine search, using words or phrases.
A search engines will then display results according to:
- How relevant a webpage is to the phrase being searched
- How popular the web page is for that phrase
- If the webpage has those words or phrases within the content
- And many other key factors
A search engine is basically checking your reputation and information as a website with regards to the words that were searched for to see how good of a match they both are ( a bit like a dating agency ).
The best way to improve your reputation is to provide users with:
- Good information
- New information
- Specific information
- Relevant information
- Lots of information
You can’t typically do this with a traditional website because it means that your webpages would be changing on a daily basis so normal pages continued to remain as cornerstone content, containing general information about that specific website that would not change on a regular basis.
Blogs on the other hand use “posts”. A blog post is pretty much a page but unlike a typical webpage it’s not displayed in the top menu bar or is considered as general information. It’s specific information that enters the blog page as the latest journal piece.
Combining the idea of users who want fresh and specific information with the way search engines rank websites, made dynamic websites and a blog the perfect online marketing tool. It means that you as a business or hobbyist can create your own blog about any given subject. Not only will you be giving out great and specific information but once you start creating a few blog posts, it means you’ll have quite alot of information about a particular subject on your blogging site. As mentioned, these are all things that search engines like so if you want to promote something online, a blog is probably the best tool you can use.
In terms of marketing, creating your own blog is probably more effective than having a normal website.
Why start a blog?
Blogs are beneficial in three ways:
- They allow you to expand the amount of content on your website
- They allow you to answer users questions specifically and solve their problems
- They can help your site to become an authority if you specialise in one subject
All of these things allow you to:
- Communicate with users/customers
- Inform users & Customers
- Build relationships with them
- Build a following
By doing the above it means that you or your website can do the following:
- You can entertain users
- You can educate users
- You can influence users
If you can do the above then it means that you can generate traffic to your website and monetize it one way or another.
Monetizing a Blog
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a business or hobbyist, a blog can help you to increase sales or make money just by talking about something you like in a way that people like.
Whether you’re selling services or just having fun, if your blog site starts receiving traffic, become popular or starts getting search engine rankings for any type of keyword, you can make money from it by:
- Selling yourself as an expert
- Creating sales leads
- Selling your service or product
- Selling subscriptions to access content
- Endorsing products
- Selling advert space
- Reviewing products
- Building a foundation for your own business
How to create a Blog?
There are four things you need to do to create a blog.
- Pick a subject that you want to talk about. Be as specific as possible on the subject for better results
- Pick your audience. Figure out who might be interested in what you want to say
- Pick and setup your blogging system. Theres many ways to create your own blog.
- Write your own blog: Do steps 1&2 and write something about it for them and post it on step 3.
WordPress is probably the most popular blogging system today. At it’s core it’s a blog but can be adapted to be a brochure website, e-commerce system, community site or damn near anything.
If you’re a hobbyist or just want to dabble in blogging without all the technical hassle then you can create your own blog online at wordpress.com
If you’re a business owner wanting your own independent blog then using the opensource version of wordpress is the best solution. It basically becomes your website.
How to write a blog?
Writing a good blog is an artform in itself but to be honest, you can write anything in any way you want as its your own personal blog so utilise your creative freedom to do so. If you want to write great content for the masses though then I’d suggest that you look into SEO and content marketing. Try out our free content marketing training course to figure out how to write blogs and get them seen.
Although blogging is now an old technique, it’s still a very powerful one as new features, skills and methodologies of both web design, marketing and blogging come into play every month and if you didn’t know how websites are made and what blogs are, hopefully you do now.
The very best advice I can give on creating your own blog is to just dive in. Set one up, write a blog and then post it.