What Everyone Needs to Know About Blogs

Wikipedia defines blog as a user-generated website where entries are made in journal style and displayed in a reverse chronological order. Webster defines it as a website that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer.

Blog services

Technorati is currently tracking 66.6 million blogs, a huge leap from the 500,000 blogs tracked in June, 2003.

From Pew Internet

Two surveys by the Pew Internet & American Life Project in November established new contours for the blogosphere: 8 million American adults say they have created blogs; blog readership jumped 58% in 2004 and now stands at 27% of internet users; 5% of internet users say they use RSS aggregators or XML readers to get the news and other information delivered from blogs and content-rich Web sites as it is posted online; and 12% of internet users have posted comments or other material on blogs. Still, 62% of internet users do not know what a blog is.

So it seems everyone is getting the ride to the blog bandwagon. For everyone who wants to join the auspicious yet time- and resource-consuming effort, there are different things that must be learned. Let’s bear in mind that blogging is an investment of time, sometimes money and even reputation. The outcome of our blog will most likely represent our being, simply because we write more subjectively on a more loose language.

Let’s dissect the anatomy of a blog.

Reasons to blog:

  1. You are an expert (or at least interested) in a specific topic Interested in water sports or book reviews? There are lots of topics to choose from. Enthusiasm often drives people to be creative and a blog is a great avenue to showcase it. News, tips and other personal opinions (and sometimes backed with reference sites) are beneficial to your readers.
  2. You want to share. Most of the time blogs found at social networking sites like Friendster or MySpace have personal topics from its members. You can discuss a hot topic and help others know your opinion on the subject matter.
  3. You have a business to promote. Unlike news or press releases which are mostly delivered in a formal tone, having a blog gives a chance to write in a looser, laid back language. At the same time it’s a source of information to customers and provides more ideas to prospects.
  4. You can earn from it. Setting up a blog does not necessarily require money. Yahoo! 360, Blogger and WordPress offer free blog packages and only registration is needed to start your blog online. Contextual text advertising allows your blog posts to earn money from clicks generated by your blog visitors. Adsense is a popular advertising medium and is used by millions of bloggers.
  5. You want to get in touch with fans or family. If you’re a popular stage actor or a keyboardist of an up and coming band or simply a family man far away who wants to keep your family and friends updated, a blog can act like an online diary of events as well.
  6. You want to enhance your page rankings. Most web sites do not need to update its content and since search engines prefer fresh content, blogging could address the issue of providing a web site with regularly updated pages.
  7. You want to be known. If your scrapbook provides details that you like action movies or a big fan of Pink Floyd is passed around to a couple dozen of friends, posting those information online exposes you to much more people.

There are different types of blog software around. Open source (free) and paid (licensed) blog software offer different features but share common items:

  1. Title
  2. Body
  3. Permalink
  4. Post Date
  5. Comments

Popular blog software available are the following: (according to number of unique visitors, comScore 2005)

Choosing Topics

Obviously, the purpose of blogging is to say something. Something could be a specific topic or something could be anything goes. Even the show about nothing has something to talk about.

In order to easily identify your target audience, selecting a topic that relates to them will be the ideal move. Look into what topics are less discussed (or blogged) and try to carve a niche out of it. It is assumed that you are also comfortable updating blogs relating to the chosen topic on a regular basis. Global warming. Pet care. You don’t have to avoid topics that are too common like politics or marketing if only you can assure your readers you are providing excellent content.

One good resource to find ideas to topics is Lorelle.

Blog Setup

When it comes to URL structure, blog software may provide you with different formats. My Hong Kong life blog provides a descriptive URL while this blog uses a shorter URL. Both descriptions are described by Problogger.

The color scheme must be pleasing to the eye. I prefer light colors as background and shades of gray as text color. You want people to read your message and not imperil their eyesight.

Having the right domain name for your blog is twofold: it gives some impression to search engines and outright give prospects an idea what the blog is all about. Free blogging software enables subdomain names that is descriptive to the topic. hongkong-life.blogspot.com is an example. So before you decide which URL to pick, you must be certain of the topic you choose.

Maintaining the Audience

The first thing was identifying your readers. Assuming they came over, the next thing is to keep them reading on a regular basis. By identifying your niche, you attract a set of devoted audience to come to your fold, read your blog, subscribe to your RSS feeds, post comments and contact you as well.

Consider the crowd at Digg, Delicious and Technorati to explore your blog. Learn (and master) the art of tagging within those sites. In short spend time to promote your blog to attract targeted audience and keep them.

Your audience can be very meticulous to details so getting your blog the right way possible is essential. Spelling, grammar, punctuations and use of reference to support a factual data will be key factors in blog content quality.

Frequency of Blogging

There is no hard and fast rule in setting frequency of blog updates. What is important though is to do them consistently. Daily updates is fine but if there are occasions when you are away for a while (vacation, sickness, etc) your blog gets stuck into that old post for a while. It’s not bad to write an off-topic that says you will be away for some time. It’s a bad experience for people to see a site not updated when they expected fresh articles while it’s not much of a problem to RSS subscribers who are a bit passive (they just stare at their readers waiting for new updates).

Resources / Bloggers / Photos

To me, time is the most important element in keeping up with this online habit of blogging. That’s why if I am occupied with other things, my blog won’t be updated often. Hence, it risks the chance of getting abandoned by my regular visitors. Devote adequate time in this undertaking.

You need not be the only one who can update your blog. Finding a friend or more who share the same passion with you (and with some writing skills) helps unload your burden of looking for fresh content and new ideas. It also adds another dimension to your blog’s “personality”.

Monetizing

Money is one reason we blog. We earn on clicks made by our visitors who come to the site from search engine results. So I am not surprised new blogs come in and are wrapped with Adsense ads all over the place.

While Adsense is probably the most popular thing out there, there are other ways to earn:

  • Affiliate Network. If you’re blogging about books, you can consider Amazon Associates affiliate networking where you earn percentage of every book sale initiated within your site. Another example of affiliate network is Commission Junction.
  • E-books. E-books are a good way to earn money without having to share profits with partners. It is low maintenance since you only enable online delivery through PDFs or other related formats and not necessarily print the book and mail it. Aaron Wall’s SEO Book is an example.

Accessories and Tools

There are a variety of popular tools aimed at promoting site interaction, analyzing visitor statistics, providing news and content, polls, audio and a lot more.

An excellent list of these things which you may want to add on to your blogs can be found at a ProBlogger post. Best of all, most of them are free.

So you can now start your own blog!