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Before the days of the Internet, those who wished to publicly share their opinions, or information on any topic of interest, had to do so through more traditional media outlets by either writing as a journalist for a print publication or radio or TV station, or by starting, printing and distributing their own newsletter, newspaper or magazine. Thanks to the Internet, it’s now easy for everyone to create and promote their own content with little (if any) start-up costs via blogs, all you need is a computer and something to say. Some people do it just as a hobby, while other bloggers make it their full-time job. In fact, some blogs now have more reach than more established, formal distribution channels. As technology has evolved over the years, so has journalism. Blogging makes it possible for everyone to be a writer and have a soap box. But is that a good thing? We’ll dive into what bogging is, which platform to use, why you should do it, how to start a blog, and more!
What is Blogging?
If you Google “blog” the answer is “a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.” In a nutshell, a blog is like an online journal where any person or business can share their opinions and information usually focused on a particular topic. The website itself can be the blog (in this case WeRockYourWeb.com is our “blog”) but it can also be a section of a company’s website that is an extension of their core business where they can elaborate further on their industry, news, etc. For example, Get Response one of our recommended picks for best email marketing, has a blog that is a sub-domain of their main site (blog.getresponse.com) where they dive deeper into email marketing tips, best practices and technology news in general.
Why do companies decide to start a blog and is it right for your business? It depends. If you have the interest, bandwidth (or team) and know how to do so, then its worth the investment because there are a number of long-term benefits including:
- Boost Your Search Rankings: Having fresh content on your site shows Google that your site has been recently updated and thus relevant to potential searchers.
- To Build Credibility: Over time your name or brand will become a trusted source and thus a de facto “expert” on a given topic (in the eyes of search engines and others) simply because you are sharing so much information about it.
- To Show you Care: Sharing is caring and in this case, people will appreciate that you are taking the time to give them a glimpse into your world to learn more about your industry.
- To Stay Top of Mind: It gives your customers or readers a reason to come back to your site, so when it comes time to make a purchase you’ll be fresh on their minds.
- To Make Money: Blogs with enough traffic are able to generate income through advertising, affiliate links and/or sponsored posts.
- To Raise Awareness: Blogs can serve as a platform for you to speak out about current issues affecting your industry or customer base in an effort to rally support.
- To Encourage Dialogue: Think of blogs as an online forum to encourage those who have similar points of view (or in some cases opposing points of view) to participate in a “conversation” by leaving comments on individual blog posts.
- To Create a Community: Through comments, your readers can also help each other solve problems and create a mini-forum for particular issues.
- To Acquire New Customers: If you have useful enough content, people will share it with others on social media and send potential customers your way.
- To Have Fun: Blogging is an informal way to chronicle and document things you already know and/or are already talking about, so why not share it with the world?
What is a Blog Post?
The easiest way to understand how a blog works is to compare blogging to an online journal, where each diary entry is essentially a blog post. It’s one “page” of your blog that contains one single piece of information that makes up the great whole of the blog. Blog posts may link together in a series (for example our “How to Create a Website” series) or free standing snippets of information or opinion.
Who Can Write Blog Posts?
Anyone who you set up as an author can write blog posts provided that they have access to the blog. When setting up a blog a username and password system is put in place to ensure that only those with access to the blog can write posts or entries. If everyone had access to a specific blog then the blog would soon become overrun with posts that may or may not be relevant to the topic at hand. The username and password system protects access. The owner of a blog will always have access to write blog posts, but additionally they can set up access for trusted writers to log in to the blog and share their opinion as well. This enables multiple people to run a single blog, it also allows for guest posters to post on the blog.
What is a Guest Poster?
Often you run out of time or topics to write about so guest posts are a great way to freshen up the content without a lot of effort. Simply invite guest posters to share their opinions on new topics or rehash old topics with a new spin. More often than not, guest posters are individuals that are prominent in the field of interest or who also run a relevant blog or business. Guest posting is a good way to expose your blog to new readers since guest posters are likely to share their post with their community. While it is helpful to invite guest posters to post on your own blog, it is equally as important to become a guest poster on another blog to share knowledge, as well as to spread the word about your own blog.
How’s that for convincing you to start blogging for your brand or business? So, now that you know more about blogging from a high level, let’s get into more of the details about how to start blogging.
How To Create A Blog
Starting a blog can be as easy as clicking a mouse and creating an account; however, it can also be a little trickier. Depending upon your knowledge of computers you may find that setting up a blog on a free blogging service like Blogger is the easiest way to get started. Free blogging services allow users to create accounts, make limited customizations to the appearance of their blog and post blog posts as frequently or as seldom as they like. The best part about setting up a free blog is that there is no installation of software, no coding and no FTP clients involved. Free blogs are as easy to set up as picking a blog name and getting started.
If you are more tech savvy and have a web host of your own, you may want to have more customization to your blog than a free blogging service can provide. In this case you may want to host your own blog by installing a blogging platform like WordPress on to your webhost on your chosen domain. This process is more costly than a free blog; however, it gives you more control over your blog in the long run. Many hosts these days provide what is known as one click installation of services like WordPress, this makes setting up a blog easier than ever. Keep in mind however, that it is still necessary to have some IT knowledge to be able to set up and run your own blog.
Posting to a Blog
So you have a blog, now what do you post about? Keep a backlog of ideas, so whenever you run out of topics to cover, you can reference your list. You should post regularly (at least monthly if not more frequently) create a consistent voice and tone around all your content. Some brands will have an ongoing series (like our “People Who Rock the Web” interviews with CEOs and executives) and some use themes like regular link round ups or monthly recaps.
How Does a Blog Get Visitors?
If you build it, they will come right? Well, not so much. Unless someone randomly stumbles upon your site via search, you must let others know about it. Here are a few ways to get the word out:
- Social Media: Make it part of your publishing schedule that whenever you go live with a new post, to post a link on social media and/or sharing in an upcoming newsletter. LinkedIn is a great source for businesses to get visibility for their content.
- Marketing: Add your website to free directories, exchanging links with other blog owners, and depending on your budget and goal you can purchase ad placements on social media, other blogs and/or ads through other means including making use of Google AdWords.
- Guest Posts: As mentioned above, one of the better ways to increase readership on your blog is to create a relationship with another blog in the same or a similar field. Then you can write guest posts for that site too and hopefully attract a new audience to your site. These posts expose established readers in your niche to your writing style and your opinion, and may encourage them to visit your blog for more if you pique their interest.
- Comments: Respond on people’s blogs, forums or groups whenever you have relevant posts that are useful. That is not to say that you should spam with irrelevant comments, but leaving comments of value will encourage readers to engage with you and perhaps invite them to take part in your blog as well. Another benefit to commenting with items of value is that many blogs will allow you to link back to your own blog by putting your website name in the “website” field of your comment. This linking will show that you have a link to your website from a website with relevant content which is a great way to get noticed by search engines.
For more ways to grow your audience, read more about how to get traffic in our marketing your website article and remember: if you do not put in any thought or effort to promoting your blog then you more than likely won’t have very many readers.
Video: What is a Blog
Vlogging (aka Video Blogging) expert Amy Schmittauer of Savvy Sexy Social (who did a guest post for us on YouTube Marketing) does a great job of summarizing what a blog is in this 3 minute or so video. She makes a great point too that blogging isn’t limited to just web blogs, Twitter in a way is a mini blog and she blogs via video format.
Blogging: In conclusion
For some brands blogging is all about fun but for others it’s a vital way to grow their business and gain exposure for their products. Regardless of why you blog it is important to understand that the success of your blog is dependent upon the amount of effort you put in to it.
Do you blog or are you considering it?
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