Blogging has entered a realm of its own, from fad to industry. People are entering the blogosphere daily, thousands every day. I’ve been blogging for over 10 years and had no clue I was doing it. It was called “online journaling” and some called it “web diaries” or “blithering idiots writing on the Internet”. I tried not to blither, but I just did what I knew and now am known for what I did and continue to do: blog.
The evolution from website to blog changes how people communicate. Let’s look at some of the development of blogs and help you learn more about blogging and how to blog.
What’s The Difference Between a Website and a Blog
A website is a collection of web pages on a server. It is a form of static billboard on the Internet that showcases information. There is more to the definition, but for our needs, this is good enough. A website can be a collection of articles, news, links, information, photographs, and anything you want. And a website can even host a blog!
A blog is a website or part of a website that usually features one or more of the following criteria:
- Editorial Commentary
- Links to external sites, often seen as recommendations
- May, or may not, be factual
- Tells stories
- Usually about a specific topic, subject, or genre
- Tends to be opinionated and personal
- Could be considered “newsy” rather than “news”
- Comments and interaction with the audience
- Photographs of you and your activities
At one time, a blog would have been called a diary, journal, scrapbook, or storytelling. Which brings us back to the term website.
Many people differentiate a blog from a website. A website is “serious information”, while a blog is “not so serious”. A website has facts, figures, articles, and educational materials. A blog has a bunch of links, talk and comments, as well as facts, figures, articles, and educational materials.
Truth is, a blog is a website, but the terminology is changing to differentiate between a non- or semi-interactive website and the magic that compels thought and interaction with a blog.
Blogging Programs, Tools, and Platforms
The software that drives the different web elements also feature different names like blogging programs, blogging tools, blogging platforms, and blogging services. For the most part, they are all the same thing.
In the past, websites were created with static code that displayed the content and design elements to make it look pretty. With the development of CMS (Content Management Systems) and blogging programs like WordPress, a powerful blogging tool with massive plugins and add-ons, as well as flexibility to also be a CMS, the line is being crossed between websites and blogs.
Blogs are usually run by blogging tools or programs on the web which input information you supply through the blog interface, on WordPress known as the Administration Panels, into a database. The program and WordPress Themes (blog designs) send commands to the database to collecting information and publish it as web pages on your site. Depending upon those commands, each page viewed on your blog may look different or have different content. Thus, blogs are often referred to as dynamic content generators compared to the old static content websites.
Basically, a blogging program like WordPress, or its free hosting blog service, WordPress.com, makes it simple and easy to write articles and posts on your blog and does all the work for you. All you do is just blog.
So, why should you consider blogging?
Blogging for Fun, Education, and Publicity
When we hit the hit the road full-time ten years ago, we had a static website with information about our travels, some articles, our itinerary, and contact information. We also had an emailed “journal” that went out to friends, family, and fans all over the world who wanted to be kept up-to-date on our adventures. Over time, we added some of these journals to our website.
Little did we realize that we were blogging. We were telling stories about our life, lessons, and experiences of living on the road, traveling around in our 30 foot trailer across North America, and eventually to Europe and the Middle East, then back to the United States in time for the year of hurricanes on the Gulf Coast.
Telling these kinds of stories is fun. Life on the road can be fun, and cruel, and there is some perversive pleasure about sharing your woes with others. Friends and family may be geographically distant, but “hearing” the sound of their voice through the words on the screen brings people closer together. It also makes new friends. Many of our fans wrote to us and invited us to stay as we passed through their area. We did and discovered wonderful people and great locations we would have missed if we’d stuck to our own agenda.
Blogging about your life can be fun, but it is now used for many other purposes.
Blogs Offer News, Gossip, Life Stories, and an Education
Blogs are now carrying breaking news, gossip, and little tidbits that intrigues the media. In fact, many news rooms now monitor blogs, and even feature their own blogs, sharing information about the news and the stories behind the news, attracting a new audience.
A lot of blogs help inform and educate the public, from reporting on changes and attempts to change the laws of the government to reporting upon the impact of government decisions.
People around the world who were once repressed with a lack of free speech are risking their lives to blog about the continued repression and political unrest. Blogs are giving people a voice they never had before.
Teachers, artists, writers, counselors, lawyers, doctors, many different education-oriented jobs are now blogging about their experience and the lessons they’ve learned to help others learn from them. There is more educational material than ever before available in the world because of this eagerness to share through blogging.
Boeing has blogs. Intel has blogs. Microsoft has blogs. It seems like every major corporation now has blogs. The corporate blog does two very important things.
First, it puts a human face on the corporation, helping people understand a little more about the day to day struggles and wins a company faces within their industry. Second, and more importantly, it promotes the business. Many people believe that blogs are the changing face of public relations and advertising today.
Is blogging for you? Depends upon what you want to do. If you have “static” information and articles and you just want to put the information out there and let it sit, then a general website will work for you. But if you crave interaction and you want to contribute to your efforts on a regular basis, then consider blogging.
If you decide you want to jump into all the fuss and start blogging yourself, or suddenly realize, like I did, that you’ve been blogging all along and now what to be known as a “blogger”, then here are some tips that may help.
Make a Blog Plan
What are you going to write about? Or do you only want to show off your photographs? Or show them off and talk about them? Do you want to write about a lot of topics or just a specific topic or genre?
I recommend you narrow your interest down to a specific topic rather than rambling all over the place.
Our website, Taking Your Camera on the Road, has a wide range of information covering over 12 years of “blogging”. Everything revolves around the issue of travel and photography as we take our camera on the road.
Still, it was too much information so I broke off the web and blogging technology articles into this blog, Lorelle on WordPress, genelogy research into Lorelle’s Family History Blog, my husband’s aeronautical engineering business into Brent VanFossen with a View, along with other blogs that cover specific aspects of our work and interests.
With a specific topic or subject in mind, plan how you will deliver that information. This is not about how often you post to your blog, but about WHAT you post to your blog. Will you only post links and a few comments to guide people to related information or information of interest? Or will you actually write and explain topics, like articles? Or a combination? Or just deal with photographs creating a photoblog? What information will you present and how will you present it.
Choosing a Blog Look
Choose a Theme or style for your blog that represents the “tone” of your subject.
If you are writing about you and your life, then make the site reflect your personality. If you will be writing about the US government and uncovering their attacks on our personal freedom, well, then your site should look appropriate for that subject.
Remember, the look of your blog tells people more about the content within than the content. It’s the FIRST thing they see when they walk in your virtual door.
Start Blogging by Writing
Once you are set up with a look and a plan – get to work. Look at your plan and start setting up a calendar of subjects to cover over the next month, two months, six months, year, or more.
You might want to just blog whatever happens to you in the day, but a successful blog needs direction and clarity. Your readers like familiar and consistent content, with few surprises or changes. So make a plan for what you want to write about and start writing.
Whatever your schedule or method, give yourself some deadlines and goals to keep yourself active on your blog. I like ongoing series of articles and topics on my site that I think of as “projects”. A month long series called Know Before You Go on what you should know before you go on the road, was very successful on Taking Your Camera on the Road. Other successful series, covering a few days or a whole month included a month long series featuring WordPress Plugins, content theft and copyright violations for bloggers, WordPress.com Blog Bling for WordPress.com bloggers facing limits on what they can do with their free blogs, the popular One Year Anniversary Blog Self-Review, a 30 day series honoring the one year anniversary of this blog and WordPress.com, and the successful Web Browser Guide for Bloggers on the Blog Herald.
Writing article series on your blog gives readers something to write about, build a body of work, but also provide other bloggers a reason to link to your blog, generating interest and attracting new readers.
I believe that article series, editorial calendars, content planning, and other self-assignments helps the blogger stay on track and focused, as well as helps with posting content to the blog on a regular schedule.
If you get busy with the rest of your life and a month or two goes by without a new piece of news, please don’t tell us you apologize for ignoring us. Tell us what you’ve been doing and make the post interesting. As much as you may think we care, we’re just interested in more information. Keep the info coming. The audience needs to be fed.
Attracting a Blog Audience: Generating Traffic
There are a lot of tricks and gimmicks out there that people promise will increase your blog traffic. The majority of these are worthless.
Using gimmicks and tricks to build traffic, tweak your search engine optimization, and force your PageRank with Google have all been done before. While they might work in the short term, they never work in the long term.
There are only two things that work to build an audience on your blog:
- Create Content Worth Reading
- Create Content Worth Linking To
By creating content worth reading, you will slowly in time build up readers. People will search for the keywords and search terms you use in your post title and content and come visiting to see if you have the information they need.
If you do, you have a happy customer and potentially a return customer.
Make them really happy, they may talk about you on their blog.
When you create content worth linking to, you call into action the oldest advertising method in the history of the planet: word of mouth.
Blogs are fueled by who said what about who or what of interest to the author. They tell others and their readers follow, bringing them to you.
Blogging is a weird duck business. What other business in the world would you get more business by telling your customers to leave your store for something better, only to have them come back happy and telling and bringing their friends back with them? It’s amazing!
Special Tip: Just as you probably hate having surprise guests to your home when the house is a mess, make sure your blog is in place, filled with lovely content and furnishings, before you start welcoming guests to your blog home.
The best tip anyone can give you about blogging and creating a successful blog is to be you.
The best bloggers become the best bloggers because they are who they blog. They are fascinated by their blogging subject, rarely covering other distractions. They blog their passion and you feel it, you know it, it shows all over their blog.
People are attracted to positive energy. Create a blog filled with good content, positive perspectives, and meaningful content and you will attract readers. People want friends who are like them, but who also challenge them to be more. Turn your readers into friends and you build a loyal audience.
The more honest you are with your readers, the more your personality glows through the writing, the more you are willing to just be you, the expert, the person who knows or wants to know more, the more likely you are to build a steady readership.
When I was growing up, we were entertained on television by J.P. Patches, a wonderful clown who lived in the town dump in a shack and whose best friend, Gertrude. We were sure Gertrude was a guy but it didn’t matter. He was a girl with a mop on his head for hair and we loved her. J.P. was successful because he welcomed you into his humble home and shared his stories with you. You felt like he was talking just to you, and only you. You wanted to be like him, and other times, you learned from him because of his mistakes – not wanting to be like him. And yet you loved him, his simple life, his silly and corny jokes, and the adventures he and Gertude would stumble into around the town dump.
We all have that person in our life that was friend and mentor. Bloggers are also friends and mentors to many, so be the one that your readers trust for the information they need, and learn from each other along the way. Be a blogging friend and your world will grow with more friends than you know what to do with.
Don’t fake it, force it, or trick it into happening. It happens because you are simply you, the blogger, sharing your knowledge and experiences with others.
You can tell when a blogger is faking it. So can your readers.
And just keep blogging. Keep writing. Stay focused. And blog “you”.
Bloggers Offering How to Blog Tips
Here are some more articles and resources I’ve found over the years with tips to help you blog.
- Darren Rowse of Problogger has become the mentor all bloggers need. His vast collection of posts on blogging, monetizing your blog, blogging for business and pleasure, and building your blog are legendary. You can spend days digging through the brilliant content.
- Reporters Without Borders – Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents: The must-have handbook if you are blogging at risk of life and limb.
- Electronic Frontier Foundation – Bloggers Legal Rights: Before you blog, before you say those words that could bring harm to you or another, you need to know your rights as a blogger according to the laws of your country. This handbook will help you.
- Stephen’s Web – How to be Heard: This article offers some good tips on how to plan and build your blog, timeless information for all bloggers at any time in their blogging career.
- How to Blog Safely (About Work or Anything Else): If you blog at risk, this article offers some good tips on blogging anonymously.
- Adam Kalsey – Articles on How to Blog: Adam Kalsey has been blogging for a while and has a great collection of posts on how to blog that explores varies reasons and benefits, as well as how he helped his grandfather to start blogging.
- Blogging on the Job: This CNet article is a bit dated but it could have been published last week. Many bloggers are running into trouble with their employers over their blogging. And some employers are now adding “no blogging” policies to their worker’s contracts. If you blog for big business, you need to know your rights and how bloggers are being treated in the workplace.
- How Blogging Can Impact Your Job Search: This article takes a good look on the issue of your blog as your resume, speaking loudly for who you are as well as what you know. If you are job hunting, this offers some good tips on how a blog can help.
- The International Bloggers Bill of Rights: Once known as the Bloggers Bill of Rights, this document has now become the International Bloggers Bill of Rights and has been signed by hundreds and hundreds of bloggers who support two basic rights for bloggers: Freedom to blog and freedom from persecution and retaliation because of our blogs. Just as important as it is to learn about blogging and how to blog, it’s important to understand your rights and the laws that will protect or bring you harm due to your blogging. The words you say have power, and others want to take that power away.
- 10 Tips on Writing the Living Web: While written and published in 2002, this article continues to be one of my favorites on how to blog. Two most important points: Write for a reason and blog to make friends. Without a purpose to your blogging, you are not blogging, you’re wasting your time and everyone’s. And blogging is about the connections, through links, trackbacks, comments, participation, attendance, and blogging about bloggers. It’s about the relationships you make along the blogging path. Which happens when you blog for the living, timeless web, as well as when you blog for the future, not the moment.
- Selling Your Blog: What Are Blog Buyers Looking For? and Selling Your Blog: What Goes Into The Selling Price?: Two articles I wrote for the Blog Herald on how to sell your blog and if you can sell your blog. If you are thinking about building up a blog for future sale, you need to plan early and well. Blogs are being bought, but not because you are a great blogger. They are bought and sold because the blog is a money-maker.
- Why Blogging Matters to Businesses: If you are a small business and want to understand the basics of why your business should have a blog, this is a good starting article. One of the most important points it makes is that blogging is about communicating with your customers – the future of advertising and promotion.
- About.com – Frequently Asked Questions About Blogging: A slightly outdated (recommends MovableType and Greymatter – both fairly obsolete blogging programs) but well done description about what blogging is, and describes trackbacks, feeds, and basic information about the features in blogs and how they differ from websites.
- Blogging Life as a Parent: Offers some tips and examples of blogging parents, mothers, and fathers to help you blog the parenting life.
- Blogs as PR Tools: Gives examples and references for using your blog as a PR tool, and how it can backfire as well as benefit your business to have a blog.
- Library Blogs – Blogging for Library Support Staffs: A listing of blogs by and about libraries and includes some resources for librarians and related industries blogging about libraries.
- Blogging Tips – Hundreds of Resources for Finding Content for Your Blog: A resource I wrote stuffed with a wide range of categories for finding and generating blog story ideas, and lists of resources within each category. You will never be without a blog post idea with this list.
- Blogging Tips Book: What Bloggers Won’t Tell You About Blogging by Lorelle VanFossen: A step-by-step collection of tips on blogging to help you at no matter where you are in your blogging career.
Other top bloggers and blogs about blogging you should read include:
- John Chow
- Quick Online Tips
- Daily Blog Tips
- Weblog Tools Collection
- Blog Herald
- Blogging Pro
- Engtech’s Internet Duct Tape
- Andy Beard
The following are more articles I’ve written to help you blog, whether you are using WordPress or any blogging program. Start with a plan and then remind yourself frequently of your plan of action so you stay on track. And keep blogging.
How to Blog
- Writing Effective, Attention-Getting Headlines and Titles on Your Blog
- How NOT to Comment on Comments
- What Do I Do With My New WordPress.com Blog
- Who The Hell Are You?
- Comments on Comments
- WordPress For Beginners
- The Power of the Link
- Tags, Tagging, and Categories
- What are Feeds?
- Behind the Scenes of Blogging: How I Blog Series by Blogging Herald
- Six Steps to Blogging Success – Or Success in Anything
- 20 Answers to the Question: What Does It Take to Blog?
- Washington Post – Why Bloggers Blog
- Define Blogging Success
- Choosing a WordPress Theme
- Blogging and Blogging Tips
- Make Blogging with WordPress Part of Your Daily Routine
- A Day in the Life of a Blogger
- ProBloggers – Blogging for Beginners Series
- The Power of the Link
- How People Search the Web and How They Can Find Your Blog
- When is the Best Time and Day to Post on Your Blog?
- How Search Engines See, Search, and Visit Your Website
- If I Had Ads Here, Would You Click Them?
- Understanding Pings and Blogs
- The Key to Blogging Success: Perseverance
- The Top 10 Clues That You Are an Amateur Blogger
- Why Do You Blog? Do You Have a Purpose?
- How to Know When to Stop Blogging
Blog Writing Tips
- The Best Bloggers Edit
- How to Write Like a Wanker
- Judging Blogs by their Post Content Styles
- Blog Writing
- Blog Writing: I lk yr blg
- How to Write Good – Tips For Bloggers on Blogging
- Blogging Rants: Tangential Blogging Can Lose Readers
- Too Much To Write About
- Fortune Cookie Blogging
- How Easy is Your Writing to Understand?
- 100s of Resources for Finding Content for Your Blog
Building a Blog
- Do-It-Yourself Search Engine Optimization
- SEO Secret: Exploring How Search Engines Explore
- How Do You Know If a Blog Has Integrity?
- Technical Tips for Publishing a Series of Articles on Your Blog
- Secret Out: How Google Ranks Websites
- Genealogy Blog: The Blog Budget – How Much Does a Blog Cost?
- Website Development – Make a Schedule and Calendar
- Step-By-Step Website Development – Check List
- Spring Cleaning or Fall Brush Off – Season Blog Cleaning
- A Day in the Life of a Paranoid Website Administrator
- The Clutter of Dead Blogs on the Web
- The Taboo Topics You Need to Know When Choosing A Web Host
- Business Blogging Strategy: Build Trust and Rapport
- Are You a Traffic Hound or Blog Authority?
- Blogging Tips Book: Blog Branding and Identity
- Promoting Your Wares to Bloggers
- How Much Will You Accept To Put Ads on Your Blog?
- Bloggers Can Learn from Tips for Law Firm Bloggers
- Put Some Personality Into Your Blog
- How Not to Tick People Off and Keep Them Coming Back For More
- Creating Attention Getting Linkable Content
- Blog Housekeeping and Maintenance
- How is Blogging Like Stand-up Comedy
- Make a Boo Boo. What Do You Do?
- Using Your Feeds for Story Ideas
- Ripping the Blogging Mask Off to Find a Real Person
- Because Ignoring Reality Is The Next Best Thing To Changing It
- When Blogging is Threatened: Losing a Finger
- Truths and Consequences of Blogs That Stand Out
What You Need to Know About Blogging for Business
- Should Your Small Business Have a Blog?
- Full Disclosure on Corporate and Commercial Blogs
- Blogging Yourself Into a Job: Is Your Blog Your Resume?
- Corporate Bloggers Blogging for Business
- Blogging Challenge: Should All Business Professionals Blog?
- Now Blogs Not Safe for Work
- Explaining My Weekly Digest Post
- Chris Garrett on Blog Branding
- Developing a Business Model with Greg Balanko-Dickson
- Learning Lessons from The Planet Blog
- Who is Making Blogging Bucks and How?
- Chris Garrett: Series on Blog Branding, Promotion, and Monetizing
- Business Blogging: The Elephant in the Room is the Customer
- Airline Weather Drama: Handling Emergency Announcements on Your Site
- Hotel Industry Bloggers Blogging the Hotelosphere
- Tips for A Good Corporate Blogging Guidelines
- What Businesses Should Know Before Building a Website
- Blogging For Hire: Professional Blogger Wanted
- Evolution of the Corporate Web Into Bloggy Web
- Big Business – Listen to Bloggers, Please
- Blog Advertisements: Begging for Bucks and Clicking for Cents
What You Need to Know About Your Rights as a Blogger
- Ethan Zuckerman: Blog Anonymously with WordPress.com
- The Committee to Protect Bloggers – Risking Your Life for Your Words
- 10 Things You Need to Know Before You Blog
- Understanding GPL and Copyright in WordPress Community Podcast
- Age Discrimination a Factor for Bloggers?
- One Year Anniversary Review: Blogger’s Rights and the Risks of Blogging
- Blog Challenge: Blog About Those Who Dare to Speak Out
- Blog Battles Over Gallaudet University Presidents
- Are Blogs Now News Sources? Google Thinks So
- The Committee to Protect Bloggers – Risking Your Life for Your Words
- Freedom of Speech – Bloggers Legal Rights
- Reporters Without Borders – Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents
- Delaware Supreme Court Extend First Amendment Protection to Online Comments
- Just a Reminder About Freedom: Blogging Comes With a Price
- Blogging Threatened by Impending Legislation – Be Warned and Be Armed
- Imprisonment for Annoying People Online
- Big Brother, Government, Corporations, and Perverts May Be Reading Your Blog
- US Federal Protection for Political Bloggers
- Michael Crichton – Freedom of Speech vs. Patented Speech
- Social Networking Safety
What You Need to Know About Copyrights and Splogs, Scrapers, and Thieves
- What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content
- Finding Stolen Content and Copyright Infringements
- The Growing Trends in Content Theft
- Do You Need Permission to Use Feeds
- Do I Need to Ask Permission to Put a Blog in My Blogroll?
- Do You Need Permission to Link to Someone’s Content?
- Podcast Release WordPress Plugin Helps You Get Permission
- Copyrights and the Blogger: Protect What is Yours
- The Biggest Copyright Infringement in the World But Nobody Cares Enough
- Reporting Spam Blogs – Splogs
- Content Theft from Feeds – It’s Time To Take Action
- AntiLeech Splog Stopper: Fighting Back Against Content Thieves
- Copyright Law Tips from Daily Blog Tips
- Google Gives Tips to Eastern European Bloggers
- WordPress Plugins Battling Evil
- Applaud Those Who Warn You: Your Blog’s Content Is Being Stolen
- Tell Your Story: Have You Had Your Content Stolen
- The Bitacle Battle of Blogs
- Can We Work Together To Stop Comment Spam?
- Understanding GPL and Copyright in WordPress Community Podcast
- Can The DMCA Be Used Against You If Someone Doesn’t Like What You Blog?
- Proud to Showcase YOUR Work: Sploggers Turn Dopplebloggers
- Splogging or Clogging: The Worst of the Worst of Blogging
- Splogs on the Rise on Blogspot
- Blogs That Look Like Blogs But Ain’t – Splogs
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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network, and author of Blogging Tips, What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging.