During the spring of 2020, social distancing from COVID-19 forced a lot of people to have a lot of free time with nothing to do with it. Some people chose to use the time to learn something new, while others shared their knowledge online via videos, podcasts, and other media. Many coped by journaling the experience, and when this is done online in writing, it is called a blog.
Blogs are one of the oldest and most common ways people share information, whether it’s a news blog on Medium or a personal diary on Blogger. Sometimes, a blog might reach out and touch people in unexpected ways, drawing huge audiences with a compelling post or topic. Other blogs might only reach a small group, but can have a powerful impact on its readers or allow them to share a topic they enjoy or recover from a trauma together. Blogs can only exist because of the Internet, and the Internet rewards them by making them accessible to anyone with a connection.
Anyone can have a blog, and there are a lot of Internet sites that allow people to create blogs for free. Maybe you’ve always wanted to start a blog and didn’t know how, or maybe you have found yourself with the time, topic, and motivation to make one now. You might even realize you have a blog in mind just from reading this! Whether it’s a leisurely pastime akin to scrapbooking or journaling, or something you want to do to reach a wider audience, blogging can be a rewarding experience. Even if you’ve never thought about it before, come along for this deep dive into blogging. Who knows? You might build the next big blog!
Blogging is great for a lot of fun reasons. One of the best reasons to blog is because journaling has been proven to be healthy for your mind. Writing about your experiences helps you process them and cope with them, allowing you to de-stress from them or relive the excitement of a good memory. Journaling is a way to share your thoughts about the world around you in a safe space where the only judge is you. However, blogging is putting your journal online. Why would anyone do that?
Some people blog on specific topics because they are knowledgeable about them. There are a lot of beauty blogs, parenting blogs, blogs critiquing movies or politics, blogs that present different kinds of science or math for a layman audience, and a host of other topics posted by people who have education or experience in a topic. The movie critic might be an insurance salesman by day who has an education in film, and the beauty blogger might have picked up tricks working the beauty counter at their local drug store or mall, but they are still writing about topics they know about.
Other people might write social commentary on culture, current events, or politics, or share their opinions about other topics that interest them. For example, many video gamers post their user interfaces and game strategies in blogs, and philosophers might write their thoughts about life, knowledge, and religion. Many people even simply write about their everyday lives, telling stories about their day in entertaining ways and commenting on the events.
Blogging can even be a way of establishing authority on a topic. When a topic gets searched, the search engine looks for the most visited sites with the keywords generated. If your site is on top, that means that the search engine considers you one of the most knowledgeable sources about the topic. Even without being on top of the search engines, your blog is like a portfolio of your work, but available to everyone. A quality blog can establish your expertise on a subject so effectively you can even include it on your resume. Some bloggers have built new careers from their online activity.
For readers, blogs can be nourishing because it can give them a sense of solidarity in a shared hobby or idea. A good blog is informative and the reader comes away knowing something they didn’t know before or seeing something a new way. The best blogs keep readers coming back by consistently giving them something they want, even if it is as simple as companionship.
Many bloggers choose to blog about something they know, either professionally, academically, or through a hobby. Often they specialize in aspects of one overarching topic, such as some of the ones already named – beauty, video gaming, educational topics, or technical critiques. Independent journalists write news stories based on their research, or the family cook shares their recipes or techniques for all types of at-home cooking. Some bloggers whose topics have smaller audiences might cover a range of related topics, such as a gaming blog that includes tabletop games, video games, and multiplayer online games.
An amazing number of people also have success just blogging about themselves. That family cook is simply sharing their everyday experience with readers. Nature enthusiasts share tales and photos of their forays into the wild, while athletes might talk about their strategies, philosophies, and techniques to their sport. Blogs like these are almost like journals, and are driven by the personality of the blogger.
Choosing your topic will depend on what you are comfortable sharing with others, and how much you know about what you’re blogging about. The best way to choose a topic or group of topics is to think about what you enjoy talking to others about, or enjoy thinking about. Your enthusiasm for your topic is what will drive your blog the most. Even if you are a beginner at your topic, don’t worry! A new topic that you are learning about could provide inspiration to build a blog, perhaps documenting as you learn.
A lot of people don’t like to write. For some people, putting words together to form sentences in a written medium is as arcane as algebra is to others. In fact, the two are comparable, because a sentence is similar to a mathematical formula. They both contain a series of elements that need to be assembled in a certain order to achieve a result.
To write a blog, one doesn’t have to be the next Pulitzer Prize winner, but it helps to be able to construct a coherent sentence. There are a lot of tutorials and, yes, blogs online that can help you perfect your technique, but the best way to learn to write is to start writing, and just keep doing it. Reading will also help you learn to write, as it exposes you to both sentence structure and an increasing number of words.
Maybe you already know how to write, but still struggle with blogging. That’s because there is one more thing about writing to consider. There is no reason to write anything down unless you expect someone to read it, even if that someone is yourself at a later date. If you are blogging, you want other people to read, so you have to consider who your likely readers are, and the appropriate way to talk to them about your subject. The one thing you know about every single reader you have is that you both share an interest in whatever you are writing about. You don’t want to stereotype your readers, but you absolutely want to emphasize what you all have in common.
A second aspect of how you talk to your readers also depends on the levity of your topic. The tone of voice refers to the emotional mood of what you are saying, and sets the readers up to feel how you want them to feel. An inappropriate tone of voice can alienate readers, especially if you make light of a serious topic. Setting the right mood is an important part of getting people to read your blog. An entire blog, or even an entire blog entry, doesn’t have to have the same tone of voice throughout, but knowing when to be serious and when you can joke around is key to establishing a “personality” for your blog. Don’t fret if you can’t find one right away. Sometimes you just have to practice until you find it.
If you follow all of this advice and are still nervous about presenting your ideas online, it doesn’t hurt to get feedback from family or trusted friends. With millions upon millions of people online today, getting a small sample of opinions on your blog entries can only help make them better. Unfortunately, there are people online who use the anonymity to “troll,” or leave rude or aggressive comments on your blog entries just for the sake of doing so. There are a lot of ways to deal with trolls but they can make a nervous blogger even more nervous, so feedback can also help cope with these nasty naysayers. In fact, the more controversial your topic, the more feedback can help.
There are a lot of web hosts out there that can handle your blog, depending on what you want to do with it. Some are more customizable than others, and some can attract income as a feature while others can’t. When looking for a host for your blog, you want to consider what you are likely to include in it. Even with all the writing, some blogs still have video embeds, animations, graphics and pictures. What each blog host allows will affect what you publish online, so research this before committing to one blog host.
You also want to consider how much involvement you want in the operations and promotion of your blog. Some blog hosts, such as Medium, curate blog entries based on a few factors, such as keywords and popularity, and allow bloggers to monetize their work. Others, like Blogger, don’t promote at all, but give users access to more detailed reader statistics. SteemIt can be rigorous for people who don’t know basic html commands, while WordPress gives you near-complete control over what your blog looks like.
Some platforms also charge for their services, or for greater access to services. Medium allows bloggers to post for free, but the small monthly fee opens monetization and distribution to other paid members. The WordPress fee is also very small, but you can design your blog however you want, and even give it a custom domain name.
Patreon deserves special mention because it allows you to solicit donations from patrons, but also allows you to post your work, including blogs. Thus, while it is not specifically a blogging site, its services should be taken full advantage of. By displaying your work on Patreon you can get donations from people who enjoy your work. Even if it’s just an extra $20, who couldn’t use a little extra money? If you plan on monetizing your blog you will want to publish here anyway, but emphasizing the site can work in your favor, especially if you write about displayable hobbies and projects such as crafting or programming.
The most important factor to getting traffic to your blog is how much traffic you really want to get. This ties into a lot of other questions, such as:
Some blogging platforms, like Medium or SteemIt, do the distribution for you, by curating your content based on a few different factors. Both of them take into account “likes,” boosting popular stories to the top of their categories, where the most popular topics occupy the front page. The “front page” will be different for each reader because many platforms allow readers to customize their experience based on their interests.
Others require you to do the work yourself. WordPress or Blogger, for example, don’t do as much to promote the blogs they contain. That’s where social media comes in handy. Having Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms gives you a place to share links to your blog with the public, and a reliable network of friends, family, and colleagues to share your work can get it out even further. Some people may just want to have a blog for family and friends, so these blogs also give you less visibility if that’s what you want.
Many bloggers use multiple platforms for wider readership, especially if they monetize their blog. They might have a central location, such as WordPress, and then self-publish in other locations, such as Medium or SteemIt. Some apply to publish their work in publications, which are collections of writing overseen by an editor, often a blogger just like you. Editors often do the distribution for their publications, which can also ensure your blog is seen.
Monetizing your blog means you are using it to earn money, either through the information you are providing or through associated products. Some bloggers review products in their blog and might receive a stipend or free merchandise for their reviews. Some people wind up generating other salable merchandise from hobbies, which then gets sold through their blog. Diligent bloggers can even make a living at it if they are willing to put in the time and effort to build a platform and a following.
Some blog sites have options to monetize, especially if they have paid plans or paywalls. Medium and SteemIt both have monetization options built in. Medium’s requires a paid membership, but it distributes your blog to other paid members, and you get paid for every “clap” you generate. SteemIt money is also generated by “likes,” and you can get paid in Bitcoin, but is a feature of the platform.
Another common form of monetization is by soliciting donations from readers. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are a way you can get paid for your blog. You can also use other outside sources like Patreon and PayPalMe to receive donations directly. You can link them all in a prominent place in your blog, no matter where you post it (unless the site has rules against that, but Medium, SteemIt, WordPress, and other more popular blogging sites don’t have such rules). Some donors might only do it once, while others will donate monthly. Even small donations can add up.
Blogs can be just for fun, an important part of your income, or something in between. They can be used to establish your credibility and authority on a topic, or they can share your leisure activities with other enthusiasts. No matter what moves you to blog, it still wouldn’t be a blog unless you post it online, and that requires reliable, high-speed Internet. Especially if you make money from your blogging, knowing you have the best Internet in your area is a great investment to help your blog succeed. With just your zip code, we can show you all the providers available in your area, and what packages and rates they have that can help make your blog the best it can be!