What is a blog?
A blog is a website containing articles, known as posts, that are usually listed in chronological order (newest first). Originally, a blog (short for “weblog”) was a way of keeping an online diary, or of expressing your personal views. These days, there are blogs on practically every topic, from news and opinion blogs through to tutorial blogs, fan blogs, and product review blogs. If you can write it, you can blog it!
To add a post to your blog, you don’t need to code in HTML or use an FTP program. You just log into your blog, enter the text of your post, and hit a “publish” button. This ease of use has helped make blogs one of the most popular types of site on the Web today.
Another great feature of a blog is that anyone can easily comment on your blog posts. This helps to attract more visitors to your blog, and makes your blog posts more useful to readers.
So how do you start a blog? There are many options to choose from. This article walks you through some of the most common ways to create a blog, and helps you choose which type of blog is best for you.
Choosing a blog platform
There are two main ways to start a blog:
- Hosted blogs are the easiest to use. You don’t need to install any software; you just sign up as a new user, set up your blog, and start posting. Examples of hosted blogs include Blogger and WordPress.com.
- Self-hosted blogs are blogs that you set up and host yourself, on your own Web server or hosting account. This means that you need to install and set up the blogging software on your server (although some Web hosting companies will do this for you). Blogging software is usually easy to install and free to use. Common examples include WordPress and Movable Type.
The advantage of a hosted blog is that it’s really quick and easy to get your blog up and running. However, the downside is lack of control — you usually have limited control over the look of your blog, you often have to put up with ads running on the blog, and you can’t easily move your blog to a new server or domain.
If you need more control then consider hosting your own blog. You do have to fiddle around with installing blog software, and you need your own Web hosting account and domain; however, it’s a better bet if you’re in it for the long haul.
Starting a hosted blog
Usually you need to name your blog, and choose a URL for the blog (for example, you might choose
http://myblog.blogspot.com/ if you’re setting up a Blogger blog). You can also choose themes and set various options for things like comments and your profile.
Starting a self-hosted blog
Hosting a blog yourself takes more work, but it gives you a lot more flexibility. The basic steps for setting up a self-hosted blog are:
- Get a domain name and Web hosting for the blog. In order to run your own blog, you need a domain name and a website. Find out about registering a domain name and setting up Web hosting.
- Download the blogging software. Download the software of choice to your computer — for example, WordPress or Movable Type.
- Install the software on your server. Usually this involves unzipping the downloaded software file, editing a couple of text files in the unzipped folder, then uploading the whole caboodle to your Web space. You usually need to create a database on your server too (ask your Web hosting company if you’re not sure how to do this). Here are detailed instructions for installing WordPress and Movable Type.
- Set up the blog. Once you’ve installed the blog software, follow the installation instructions for logging into your blog and setting it up. This usually involves giving your blog a name, setting up categories, and so on.
Once you’ve set up your blog, you can start posting! Usually there’s a “New Post” link on your blog’s admin page that you can use to create a post. A blog post has a title (or headline), and the post text itself. You can often specify other attributes for your blog post, such as the publication date and time, as well as tags and categories:
- Tags are similar to keywords — they’re a free-form way to describe the content of a blog post. A single post will often have several tags. Each tag is generally one or two words long. For example, a post about poodle food might have tags such as dog, poodle, food, feeding, and diet.
- Categories are more structured than tags. They classify your posts, much like Yellow Pages classifies its adverts. A category frequently has subcategories; for example, a top-level category called dogs might have a poodles subcategory.
A new blog post is added to your blog’s homepage, and is also available on its own page (known as its permalink). Newer posts usually appear at the top of the homepage and category pages.
Increasing traffic to your blog
If you want to start a popular blog then you’ll need to think about ways to get new readers, as well as how to keep your current readers coming back for more. Search engine optimization is a key place to start. There are also many other traffic-building techniques that are worth exploring.
Blog directories such as Technorati are also a good way to promote your blog and get a steady stream of readers.
The most important technique of all, though, is to write quality, focused content that your visitors will want to read.
Making money from your blog
Some folks run their blog as a hobby, while others blog for a living. Either way, it’s nice to be able to bring in a bit of revenue. There are many ways you can make money blogging, including:
- Selling adverts on your blog directly
- Signing up for a contextual ads program such as Google AdSense or Yahoo! Publisher Network
- Finding sponsors for your blog
- Selling value-added products and services such as paid subscriptions and e-books
Now you know how to start a blog and write blog posts, as well as how to build traffic and make money from your blog. Go forth and blog, and good luck!