Blogging hasn’t been around as long as, say, the horseshoe crab, which soon celebrates 445 million years on the planet.
But it has existed as a form of communication and entertainment since the mid 1990’s.
If you want to start your own blog, but aren’t sure what that is or even how to go about doing it, come on in.
The water’s fine. Here’s exactly what you need to know.
What is a Blog?
The term blog is a derivative of “web log,”
Which is what they used to be called back around the time the Internet was born.
Say it fast – It’s kind of a tongue twister – and you’ll see why it was shortened to blog.
Just like the original term suggests, a blog is a log, or journal, that is posted to the Internet for everyone to see.
Normally maintained by an individual, or sometimes a team, popular blogs are usually updated daily or sometimes several times a day.
As far as appearances, a blog is just a specialized form of website.
It looks like a website except the content changes more frequently.
When you write a post to your blog, it appears at the top of the page, with older entries below.
To read a blog is to read a reverse chronological sequence of a person’s thoughts.
When blogging was new, no one gave much thought to making money from a blog, but these days some bloggers make a very nice income from their writings.
What Do You Write About?
There are a couple of ways you can approach this.
Early on, blogs more closely resembled personal journals.
Topics usually had to do with daily events, turmoils, happiness, or whatever the blogger was thinking about that day.
It really was like reading the writer’s diary.
There are plenty of these types of blogs still out there, but for those who want to eventually make bank with the operation, there’s not much money in sharing your innermost thoughts.
Bloggers make money from their website in a variety of different ways.
Often it involves selling ad space on the website to marketers who want to reach your readers.
This model automatically forces you to tighten your focus when it comes to content.
Let’s say a hotel chain is looking for likely websites to advertise on.
Unless you have a travel-oriented blog that appeals to people who might be in the market for a hotel room at some point in the near future, they’ll probably decide not to advertise with you.
As online advertising became a serious option for advertisers, bloggers realized they had to find a niche to write in.
Choosing a Niche
It’s a common mistake entrepreneurs make.
Your target audience is not the entire world unless you’re a huge operation like Amazon, Wal-mart, or Apple.
Your goal is to narrow your blog’s topic down as tightly as possible.
The more specific you can be, the more likely readers will click on the ads you run.
A click means money for you. So, how do you choose a niche?
There are no hard and fast rules, but here is one way.
Don’t be too choosy – just jot ‘em down.
Now narrow the list until you have your three favorite topics.
Remember, this is something you will be writing about several times weekly for years.
Make sure you REALLY like one of the three finalists.
Let’s say you picked self-publishing.
That is a huge topic and loaded with competition.
You’ll have a tough time getting noticed.
Try this trick. Narrow down the topic two levels and then you’re in a niche.
The first level might be self-publishing for people who write fiction.
See how you narrowed the broad topic? Let’s narrow it one more time.
How about self-publishing for people who write historical fiction. Now you have a real niche!
One of your first decisions as a beginning blogger is to choose where you want to build your blog.
There are dozens of choices out there, but one stands out above all the rest as the most popular and easiest to use.
In its various forms (hosted or self-hosted), this software is the platform used by half of all bloggers, and that is no accident.
Why WordPress? Surely it’s popularity has a reason.
You’re right. It does.
It’s easy to use out-of-the-box and dead simple to modify to suit your tastes, even with no experience.
There is a learning curve, but it is very slight. Much less than other popular platforms, which include:
There are dozens more, but they are used so rarely (and are more complex) that when it comes to blogging for beginners, let’s pretend they don’t exist.
If you find yourself really obsessing about knowing all the choices, check out the book “Blogging for Dummies.”
It’ll tell you more than you ever need to know about platform options.
Self-Hosted or Free?
Free is good! Free is great! Everybody loves free, right?
You can get started blogging on the popular platforms (WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger) for absolutely no out-of-pocket cost.
If you’re not sure how serious you’re going to be about this whole blogging thing, there’s no shame in choosing this route.
Let there be no confusion though – free does have its drawbacks when it comes to blogging.
Rather than being able to choose a saucy moniker like www.MyFreakingCoolBlog.com, you will operate as a prefix on the overall domain.
It will look more like www.MyFreakingCoolBlog.wordpress.com.
See the difference? It’s ugly. There are no two ways about it.
It’s a ball and chain. Free blogging services put all kinds of limits on your account.
You can’t upload images or videos, they won’t let you monetize it much.
And you’re stuck with an ugly theme designed by some Internet engineer’s third grader for an art project.
It’s not yours. This might be the most troubling aspect of a free blog; you don’t own it.
It’s like getting permission from the neighbor on the corner to set your lemonade stand up in his yard.
Everything’s great, but he can boot your rear end off at any time.
It’s the same with free blogs.
No matter how much sweat equity you exert creating a world class blog masterpiece, it’s not yours.
Can you live with that idea? A lot of people can’t.
Wrapping it Up
By now you’re starting to get a feel for how to be a blogger.
To some, it seems like way too much work for no guaranteed reward.
To others, the appeal is so primal you can’t wait to get started.
Take some time now to figure out what niche you want to write in.
Spend days or even weeks on the task. No one is timing you.
This discovery process of what really motivates you to communicate with others should be a fun thing.
Remember to check back with us frequently for more blogging tips.