This is a page designed to give a lot of information to you, the reader, about the topic of blogging. Make sure you have plenty of time to read this–it’s a really L-O-N-G article.
Origins of Blogging
Blogging began as a simple way to chronicle a person’s life; it was an online diary of sorts. In fact, the word “blog” is a shortened version of “web log.” To quote Wikipedia:
A blog (a contraction of the words web log) is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web and consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first).
Many blogging early adopters simply wanted a way to record the goings-on of their day. The weblog was born to satisfy that need.
While blogging may have started with the advent of the World Wide Web in the 1990s, it really didn’t become remotely popular until the early to middle 2000s (when the Blogger platform, co-founded by Twitter’s Evan Williams, was bought by Google), when it took off like gangbusters. Soon, everybody was “blogging.”
A number of bloggers and blogs cropped up in the middle to late 1990s but the blogging phenomenon didn’t get into full swing until Blogger and WordPress arrived on the scene to make blogging a lot easier for the masses. Interestingly, blogging may have grown so quickly due to the political climate in the US–many political blogs that still exist today had their origins in the early 2000s, particularly after 9/11 and the beginning of the second Iraq War.
As time passed, more and more blogging platforms were created. TypePad, Movable Type, Blogger, WordPress, LiveJournal, Drupal, twitter and Tumblr (microblogs) all were designed to bring blogging to the masses. Each has its strong and weak points. WordPress is the most popular blog platform today, probably most likely due to its ease of installation and setup and plethora of themes and plugins.
Blogs as Websites
Eventually, due to their ease of use and popularity, blogs became fairly ubiquitous and everybody started a blog (or so it seemed). There are now over 150 million blogs, the majority of which run on Tumblr and WordPress (over half).
But they are no longer just online journals. Blogs and blogging platforms, particularly WordPress, are now running full-on websites, not “just blogs.” Big name brands like Coca-Cola, Best Buy, UPS, Public Storage, Samsung, General Motors, and Xerox all use WordPress to power some of their web properties. WordPress actually keeps a running list of Fortune 500 companies that use their platform here.
Many “mom and pop” merchants set up their online presence using blogging software like Blogger and WordPress.
In the past, WordPress, Blogger, and other web blogging platforms were strictly for blogging. Now, however, you can configure them in such a way that they look like any other website, having landing pages, specialized sales pages, opt-in forms, and other neat functionality previously reserved for “static websites.”
Blogs as a Social Network
The way blogs are designed, having extensive “plugin” capabilities, they can be modified to suit a variety of needs, one of which is as a social network. Yes, there are literally plugins (little pieces of code that add to the core components of the blogging platform code) that will allow you to set up your “blog” as a social network! If you can drive enough traffic to a site like that, you can build your own personal Facebook 🙂
Darren Rowse, Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Seth Godin are just a few very well-known bloggers. Darren literally wrote the book on how to earn a living blogging, and most of the top-notch bloggers write and publish blog posts for a living; one thing you may notice is that they also are excellent public speakers and have each authored best-selling books. It’s a pretty amazing phenomenon.
The Future of Blogging
What does the future hold for blogging? You can rest assured that “blogging” is here to stay. It will evolve, much like it has over the past decades. But as new web standards emerge, new technologies take hold, and more people want to have their voice heard online, blogs and blogging platforms will adapt.
As more businesses realize that–in order to survive–they need more than just a web presence, blogging will take off on another major growth spurt, simply because it’s so easy to create a blog and have it up and running in less than a day. In fact, WordPress touts its “5 minute installation,” and they’re not exaggerating. Anybody can set up a WordPress blog in less than an hour.
Of course, the real power of a blog lies in the author’s ability to add fresh, new content as easily as typing up an email. It’s really that easy — if you can use a word processor or compose and send an email, you can blog! It is also a lot easier to get blogs indexed and ranked in the search engines, so many local merchants with little to no competition can build a website, add content, and rank on the first page of Google quite easily.
With these blogging platforms, many small-time operators can do most–if not all–of the work themselves, leaving graphics and light SEO to the pros. And in many cases, SEO isn’t even necessary because competition on a local level is pretty weak (i.e., they’re not doing it either).
The Keys to Blogging Success
The number one biggest key to blogging success is writing high quality blog posts. Nothing beats that. And the more you publish, the better. So quality and frequency of blog posts are two critical factors.
“Social signals” would rank #3. Once you publish a post, you want people to read it, like it, and share it. Make it easy for them to do so by employing sharing plugins that insert share buttons and other social media functions (like Facebook “likes” and Google+ “plus 1s”) and put those in every single post (the plugins do it automatically for you, so no worries there). You can also jump-start your “social signal” efforts by sharing each of your posts on Facebook, Google+, and twitter, at the very least.
The more shares the better.
Encourage and make easy not only sharing but commenting. You want to build a community and the single best way to do that is through interacting with your readers via comments.
Make sure you make it easy for people to return to your website. How? Make your RSS feed obvious and place it near the top of each of your pages (most themes build this right in, so you don’t have to do anything); additionally, consider placing an “opt-in” form on each of your pages so that a reader can subscribe to your newsletter and get updates when you publish new content. WordPress has a plugin called JetPack that makes this super-simple to do.
Then, tell the world about your site. Put your website URL on your business card, flyers, and printed promotional material. List it in local directories. If you are a member of a Chamber of Commerce, make sure your web address is listed in their directory. Partner with businesses that offer complementary services and offer to “trade links” where you post their URL on your site and they post yours on their site. For example, if you are a Realtor, partner with appraisers, mortgage brokers, home inspectors, and pest control companies.
If all of this still sounds too daunting, hire a qualified professional in your area. Take a look at his past projects. Make sure he does quality work; get referrals, read reviews, and ask your friends and business colleagues about him. Be honest with your web professional with respect to your budget. There is nothing worse for either of you than for you to initially overstate your budget, only to then “pull it back” once work has begun.
But make no mistake: This work is not difficult and a professional can get you up and running a lot faster than you can. But web services don’t necessarily have to be expensive.