We hear the word blog thrown around a great deal in the media today and for those already tech savvy, it may seem as if everyone’s got a blog, and maybe it’s because almost everyone does.
If you’ve been wondering what in the world all the fuss was about then you have come to the right place because today we are going to break down this term, talk about its history and discuss what makes it such a popular style of website right now.
By the end, you should know a lot more about this platform and have a good understanding of how it works and what it has to offer those using it.
The Definition and History of Blogs
So what is a blog? The word blog actually comes from an earlier term, ‘web log’, which meant a log of posts or articles put on the web. These posts are almost always shown in the order that they were posted, hence the concept of a log or journal which operates in a similar way.
The concept of the blog first became more widely known in 1997, although some early bloggers were blogging as early as 1994, and it was after this that blogs started to become more popular. They were an easy, straight forward way to have a website that could be updated very quickly so that its content would be more fresh than the unchanging, static websites of the past which often took hours to alter. As a journal or a broadcasting platform, the blog made sense and it is this simplicity and usefulness that helped it to become a wildly popular format for webpages.
It took time for blogs to become more advanced and easier to update so that those who were not programming oriented could run them on their own. After that began to happen and blogging software became simpler, people from all walks of life began to set up their own blog and that meant audiences diversified and increased dramatically. Political blogs began to gain popularity, as did more underground personal blogs of tech community personalities, and by 2004 things were really heating up in the blogosphere, as the realm of blogs is known today.
Once blogs became mainstream, as they are today, they became powerful in their own right. Today, not only are they used by people as a way to document their lives, they are used by organizations of all kinds, government agencies and businesses across every industry. The blog is one of the most potent forms of outreach on the web right now and also the cheapest.
Why Blogs Are Often Preferable to a Website?
Building a website not only takes a great deal of time, it also takes a great deal of money. Considerations include graphic design, development of structure, promotion of the site, regular upgrades and a continual process of development to keep the site current with modern software and all that this entails. For most people, this is not going to be something they want to undertake just to communicate with the outside world via the web. It’s also not necessarily the smartest move for organizations or businesses that have the same goal in mind. That’s part of the reason blogs are such a successful format today.
In addition, blogging software exists that is ‘open source’ which means it is worked on by many volunteer programs and offered to the public for free. You might have heard of TypePad or WordPress and these are good examples of that kind of software. There are also sites which host blogs and can be used either free or with a paid subscription. This takes even more technical work from the hands of those who want the simplest, quickest route to blogging.
Finally, when it comes to businesses and organizations, the simple fact is that people like blogs and are more likely to read them than to comb through a website. Those doing marketing or promotion of any kind need to keep a certain level of buzz going and with a blog this is easy since they are built to be updated regularly.
Keep in mind, for companies, groups or individuals that already have a website in place, it is simple to add a blog on as a good place to keep people abreast the latest news. Offering subscriptions to the blog via email or RSS feed will encourage people to keep following. Allowing them to leave comments can be another way to increase engagement, as well.
The Personal Blog
What is personal blog? For someone who wants to talk about their life or their hobbies and passions, a blog can be an excellent way to do this. Blogs offer the opportunity to write for the enjoyment of others or just to express one’s own opinion. The fact that photos and other graphics can be added helps keep blogs exciting, as does the ability (if the blog owner allows it) for readers to leave comments and respond to posts.
Sharing links is possible in blog format and often why people run a blog – to share the things they love. Personal blogs are usually very low-cost or free, created on sites that offer their users a blog free of charge or with easily downloaded and installed blogging software.
The Business or Marketing Blog
What is business blog? For businesses, blogging is a great platform because it allows them to reach out to their core audiences on a regular basis while having some control over the broadcast itself. The ability to share written content as well as photos is powerful here, too, and sharing links to products or other items of interest can be helpful, as well. Some businesses do allow comments, but with businesses this can get a little bit more tricky since not every visitor to the company blog may be a fan. However, even critics can be talked to openly to show the company cares about resolving complaints and making customers happy.
Even individual marketers and entrepreneurs can use blogs to their advantage, creating useful and informative sites that can help people while still making sales. The blog is a very flexible format and there are so many possibilities that, as a marketing tool, it is incredibly powerful. When used properly, it is possible to earn massive income from blogs, but there is definitely a learning curve to achieving that level of success.
It needs to be said that these days, companies should consider a blog an interactive space because this is how consumers view them. Even in the business to business space, there is a certain level of interactivity expected from visitors to a blog. Many companies have already successfully built dialogue into their marketing methods via the use of blogs and found success.
Blogs for Organizations
Organizations of all kinds, from religious to political to other causes and various groups, often find that with a blog they can keep donors, members and others connected with the organization better informed. They can also reach out to the public effectively through the use of a blog. Since blogs can easily be set up to feature the work of multiple authors, this can be a good way to show the strength of the organization and spread the work load out over a larger number of people.
For public relations, blogs can do wonders because inclusions of photos and videos can really add to what is being presented. The low-cost of running a blog is certainly another part of what makes it so effective as a platform for organizations which tend to rely on donations or have very modest budgets. Museums, churches, political action committees and even entire towns are putting blogs to work and creating something special for everyone to enjoy. In addition, people wanting to spread the word about the organization can easily include a link to it on their own blog, promoting the online presence better than a publication or meetings would be able to do.
What is Needed to Run a Blog
There are relatively few requirements to have a blog online, and keep in mind that there are ways to avoid any of these requirements by using a free blogging platform such as Blogger.com or WordPress.com that give their users everything free or through a paid subscription if they want advanced features. It does need to be pointed out, however, that those who go this route do have less control over their own blog and often have stringent terms of service or rules of conduct that they must adhere to. In addition, not all of these services will allow bloggers looking to earn money or promote a business to do so via their service. These drawbacks are what keep many independent minded bloggers, more controversial organizations and most businesses from using free hosting.
If a business, organization or individual would like to set up their own blog on their own domain name and retain full rights to its content then they will need a few things. Paid web hosting is one service they will need. This is where the software and the data that the blog is composed of will be held and it is through this service that the blog is made available to the web itself. Most blogs need limited amounts of hosting which is typically very cheap. Some web hosts even offer software for blogging that can be installed with just 1 click.
The next important step to have a blog – which is also the last – is to get the right software package. Assuming that the blog will be a standalone blog on a domain that does not have any other kind of website, choosing an open source Content Management System (known as a CMS) is a good idea in many cases. WordPress and TypePad are two examples of CMS software that is both open source and free. There are many free plugins, themes and other things that can help customize this kind of blog. For any company that wants ease of use and who does not already have a team in place to build their blog, this can be a very smart and low-cost way to go.
How Companies Market Using Blogs
For companies and solo entrepreneurs alike, few options for marketing are as easy and cost-effective as a blog. Search Engine Optimization can be performed on blogs so that they will be able to benefit from relevant traffic from the search engines. It is also possible to advertise blogs in many other ways, including Pay Per Click ads, banner ads and other forms of advertisements.
Blogs are a good idea for companies because if one does content marketing, which is marketing wherein content of various kinds is used to forge relationships with visitors and drive sales, blogs can be a place to house that content. Using social media, companies can spread the word about their blog and get others to come take a look. This is how many companies and individual marketers are finding huge success on the web today and a lot of it is because visitors know blogs are regularly updated and they are familiar with this genre of webpage.
For content marketing, companies will need to have quality content in the form of written articles, photos, videos, audio broadcasts and so on. If the content they create is interesting, informative or entertaining, users are likely to respond and this makes content marketing one of the most effective ways to build a brand, grow recognition and win customers over.
Properly built, marketed and tended to, a blog that performs content marketing can become a thriving community and very relevant in the lives of those who frequent it. This is the aim of most companies and entrepreneurs when they begin blogging.
Blogs Will Likely See a Strong Future
Although blogs have been around for close to 2 decades, they are certainly still a very relevant form of information sharing. Even the rise of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have done little to slow the flow of daily traffic to blogs from around the world. This tells us that this form is likely to have a long and bright future. It remains the simplest way to have a website and continues to be one of the most widely enjoyed kinds of publications found on or offline today.