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When it first started in the 90s, blogging often took the form of a personal diary that an individual shared online. But it has since expanded into a powerful marketing tool, allowing individuals and companies alike to raise brand awareness and make money online. So what is a blog in 2021 exactly, and what is a blogger?
We’re going to take a closer look at the blogging definition today, as well as some blogging examples to show you how blogs attract readers and make money.
- What is a blog?
- Why is blogging popular?
- What is a blogger?
- How to start a blog
- How to make money as a blogger
What is a blog?
Blogging (shortened from the term “weblog” in 1999) refers to writing and photography that’s frequently updated and appears in reverse chronological order. When you go to a blog page, you’ll see the most recently published article at the top, and the older ones will appear on the last page.
Although most blogs contain written articles, bloggers experiment with all different mediums today, including video (aka, vlogging) and social media posts. A blog can be a fun way to share your thoughts and ideas online (for instance, you or someone you know might have created a travel blog during a semester abroad).
But it’s also a powerful way for individual bloggers to grow an audience and make money online. Plus, many companies use blogging to provide value for potential customers and get the word out about their products.
Let’s take a closer look at each type of blogging so you can better understand the difference.
Blogging for personal passion
There are tons of blogs out there on the internet today — 600 million, according to Growth Badger. Many of these blogs were created for personal passion.
Maybe you create a blog on WordPress or Tumblr to share thoughts about your day, favorite recipes, or travel photography.
The possibilities are endless, and blogging can be a fun and fulfilling creative outlet to share your writing, videos or photography with others.
Blogging as an individual to make money online
But blogging isn’t just about sharing your interests online. If you’re interested in making money with your blog, you absolutely can — but you’ll need to take a somewhat different approach.
If you want to make money blogging, you’ll need to think of your blog as a business.
You probably won’t make money by writing about random or unrelated personal passions.
Instead, you’ll have a better shot of turning a profit if you center your content around a specific niche.
For instance, the blog Organizing Moms is all about organization, decluttering, and time management tips for busy moms.
For blog example #2, check out Mike Pearson’s Credit Takeoff, a personal finance blog that focuses on credit repair.
Or for a third, head to Bakerella, a baking blog that specializes in “fun and easy” recipes for cookies, cupcakes, and other easy-to-make desserts.
By focusing on a specific niche, the creators of these blogs were able to establish themselves as experts and leaders in these fields.
Plus, they attract a specific readership, ones who are interested in organization, credit repair, or easy baking, respectively.
Once you know what problem your readers are looking to solve, you can offer a solution — and make money as a result.
How to make money blogging
A few ways to make money off your blog include,
- Affiliate marketing. You recommend products or services to your readers. When they purchase it through your link, you’ll make a commission.
- Selling digital products. You could create and sell eBooks, printables, online courses, or other digital products to your readers.
- Ads. You allow ads from a network such as Google AdSense or MediaVine on your site and make money from readers’ clicks or purchases. This approach works best once you’ve built up a good amount of traffic.
- Sponsored posts. Companies pay you to create and publish a post, and in turn, they get to market to your readership.
For an in-depth look at how to make money blogging (plus successful blogging examples), head to this guide!
Blogging for business
A lot of businesses also employ blogs as a powerful form of marketing.
Blogs allow a company to improve its website’s SEO (search engine optimization) and rank better on Google.
With the right blogging (aka, content marketing) strategy, some companies have thousands or even millions of readers per month pouring in through organic traffic.
Without a blog, companies have to bring their brand to customers. With a blog, companies are able to get customers to come to them.
What’s more, they establish a positive relationship with potential customers right off the bat, since they’re providing them with free, valuable content.
In fact, this free content represents the top of the sales funnel. Through email marketing and other strategies, marketing teams nurture these leads that came in through the blog and convert them into paying customers.
Now, you might have another question related to, “What is a blog,” and that is, “What’s the difference between a business that is a blog and a business that has a blog?”
Allow me to explain.
Businesses that have a blog
Businesses that have a blog use it as a way to improve their SEO, attract readers (i.e., potential customers), provide value for free, and increase brand awareness.
They’re usually not making money directly from their blog, but instead use it as part of their sales funnel or to grow a community of fans.
For example, Tortuga is a company that sells travel backpacks and gear. It runs a blog, where it shares packing tips, reviews travel gear and clothing, and other related topics.
Tortuga doesn’t rely on its blog to make money, but instead uses it to connect with and educate its audience while raising awareness about the travel products it sells.
Companies like Tortuga usually aren’t making money directly from their blogs, but blogging is still an important part of their marketing and sales strategy and helps direct readers to their products.
Businesses that are a blog
Other businesses rely entirely on their blogs to make money. There are lots of big publications that produce blog content on a consistent basis and make money through affiliate marketing, ads, or another revenue source.
NerdWallet, for example, is a popular personal finance site that provides a wealth of free information and resources to readers. If you end up opening a credit card, borrowing a loan, or using another of its recommended products or services, NerdWallet makes a commission.
In fact, CEO and co-founder of NerdWallet, Tim Chen, started NerdWallet with $800, and it’s now valued at over $500 million.
Another example is Wirecutter, a product recommendation site owned by the New York Times. Wirecutter gives in-depth reviews of electronics, appliances, kitchen tools, and more. If you click on a link and make a purchase from one of its affiliate partners, Wirecutter makes a commission.
As you saw in the examples above, both businesses and individual bloggers can make money blogging this way. By recommending products and services as an affiliate, you can make money when a reader clicks on your affiliate link and purchases an item.
Why is blogging popular?
Blogging is popular for so many reasons. For one, it can be really fun. If you enjoy writing, photography, and expressing your creativity online, blogging could be a great outlet for you.
Plus, there’s a ton to learn and adapt to in the blogging world as technologies develop and people experiment with new mediums.
But perhaps most importantly, it offers a way to make money online while being your own boss.
If you can crack the code of how to make money blogging, you can run your own online business from anywhere.
You could use it as a side hustle for some extra spending money or even make it your full-time job.
But as mentioned, you need to treat your blog like a business, rather than a personal hobby.
You need to focus on providing value for readers and establishing yourself as a go-to source in your niche.
If you do that, you could establish yourself as a leader in your field and convert your blog’s traffic into profitable sales.
What is a blogger?
If you’ve been wondering, what is a blog, you’ve probably also been wondering, what is a blogger?
A blogger is typically a content creator. A blogger writes posts on a somewhat regular basis and posts them on their blog.
This person might also do photography, make videos, share social media posts, or work in other mediums.
If blogging for profit, a blogger also must understand the basics of growing traffic, whether through SEO or social media. And they must understand the marketing and sales side of the blogging equation, along with the creative side.
That said, some bloggers outsource their content creation or other aspects of their blog so they can focus on generating revenue.
If working for a company, a blogger might also be called a “content writer” or a “content marketer.” Content writers usually understand the ins and outs of SEO and can help a blog rank highly on Google.
They’re skilled at creating useful, informative content that provides value to readers and promotes a positive impression of a brand.
While bloggers do usually write articles for their sites, they also work on many other aspects of their blogging business.
How to start a blog
Are you interested in starting your own blog and wondering how to start a blog?
Setting up a blog is easy, and you can do so in a few simple steps:
- Purchase a hosting plan. Buying a hosting plan is like renting out your corner of the internet. While there are some free hosting plans, their options are limited and you typically can’t choose your own domain name. If you want to make money off your blog, you’ll want to go with a paid hosting service. I recommend Bluehost or Siteground. Both are excellent hosting services with attentive customer service.
- Register your domain name. Choose a unique and memorable name for your blog. If you’re feeling stuck, use a blog domain generator tool or a simple thesaurus to brainstorm ideas. Most paid hosting plans will come with one free domain name, so you can purchase it and connect it to your host at the same time you buy your plan.
- Install WordPress on your website. WordPress is the free platform that will hold all your lovely content. It’s free and easy to connect with a Bluehost or Siteground account. Remember to install the free WordPress.org content platform (not the fee-based WordPress.com hosting plan).
- Choose a theme and design your site. WordPress comes with lots of free built-in themes, which should be fine as you get started. As you grow your blog, you might choose to buy a plan for increased customization options. I’m a fan of the Sydney theme, but you can go with whatever catches your eye. As you design your site, you could install an “Under Construction” plugin so that no one can see your blog until you’re ready for it to go live.
- Make your site live. Once you’ve designed your site and published a few blog posts (I recommend 5 – 10 to start), it’s time to make your site live. Simply deactivate your “under construction” plugin and your site will be available to the world!
For an in-depth look into how to start a blog, step by step, head to this guide!
Now, remember that blogging takes time, and you can’t expect traffic to pour in right away. In fact, it can take several months for your content to even rank on Google, though there are strategies to speed this up.
You might get some quick hits by sharing your blog with friends or family or introducing it in relevant Facebook groups. You could also start a Pinterest account and create pins for each article.
Read on for a closer look at how to get eyeballs on your blog and write posts the right way.
How to make money as a blogger
Want to make money blogging? These tips will help you start your blog off on the right foot.
- Choose a specific niche
- Make the most of SEO
- Start with evergreen posts
- Set up a regular publishing schedule
- Go after backlinks
- Don’t spread yourself too thin with social media
- Get your readers’ email address
- Nurture your audience while you grow your blog
1. Choose a specific niche
First off, it’s useful to choose a specific niche, such as luxury travel or credit repair or raising healthy goats. By specializing in a certain niche, you can boost your blog’s authority in Google’s eyes and improve your SEO.
Plus, you’ll have a much clearer idea of who your reader is and what they want. Once you understand this, you can find ways to monetize your blog in a way that works with your specific audience, whether through affiliate marketing, selling digital products, or another strategy.
Rather than going with a broad topic, such as travel or personal finance, try to narrow down your niche to appeal to a target audience, such as budget travel for digital nomads or work-from-home side hustles for stay-at-home parents.
2. Make the most of SEO
A lot of new bloggers get intimidated by SEO, but there are a few easy best practices you can follow to boost your blog posts’ chances of ranking well on Google.
For one, try to target a specific keyword or key phrase with each post. It’s best if you start with long-tail keywords, or key words that contain four or more words.
Keywords, by the way, are what a person searches for in Google. The phrase, “what is a blog,” for instance, is searched for over 22,000 times per month.
So how can you find out what people are searching for? You could use a free tool such as UberSuggest. Eventually, you might invest in a paid service such as Ahrefs or SEMrush.
Start by targeting keywords that have a decent amount of monthly search volume but not a ton of competition.
You want to target a single, primary keyword in your article, but you could include some related supplemental key phrases as well.
Try to use your primary keyword at least three times throughout your article (you can adjust it slightly if it’s not grammatical), including in at least one header.
Not only will using SEO help you rank on Google, but it will give you ideas for blog posts and help you create content that people are actively searching for.
3. Start with evergreen posts
When you’re starting to create content for your blog, aim to create evergreen posts. Evergreen posts are ones that will always be relevant to your readers; you likely won’t need to make major updates to them in the foreseeable future.
A news post about the 2020 election, for instance, probably isn’t evergreen. A lot of people were searching for election news during the election, but they’re not going to be seeking out that article from month to month.
But if you write an article on, “what is a blog” or “what is a blogger,” people will search for it pretty consistently on a month-to-month basis. And your article will be a valuable guide for a long time. You might need to update it every once in a while, but you won’t need to do a major overhaul anytime soon.
Evergreen content is great for SEO; once it ranks, you can bring in traffic to your blog on a consistent basis.
4. Set up a regular publishing schedule
One part of the blogging definition is that blogs are frequently updated and feature new content. As a blogger, it’s your job to publish on a regular basis.
A good rule of thumb is to try to publish three blog posts per week when you first get started. That way, the “Google gods” will recognize that your blog is active and smile more fondly on your SEO attempts.
Of course, writing three blog posts per week is a tall order, especially if you’re working a full-time job at the same time as you’re growing your blog. Just do what you can, and prioritize quality over quantity.
Even if you publish fewer posts, it’s a better idea to create great, in-depth content than to hit a quota. Because the stronger your content, the better chance it has of ranking well on Google.
5. Go after backlinks
Besides creating epic, keyword-driven content, you can also improve your chances of ranking on Google by building backlinks to your site.
A backlink is simply a link to your blog from another site. Backlinks indicate to Google that your site is trustworthy and reliable.
A backlink from a site with high domain authority is especially useful. Domain authority is measured on a scale from 0 to 100, with 100 being the highest domain authority.
If a site with high domain authority links to you, you’ll get a boost in SEO. You can check the domain authority of your site and others with Moz’s free tool or browser extension.
So how can you pursue these valuable backlinks to boost your blog’s SEO? Here are a few strategies to get started:
- Offer to write a guest post on another site in exchange for a link to your site. Make sure you write a post that’s valuable and informative to the other site’s audience.
- Contribute an expert quote to a journalist. Journalists are always looking for sources, and you can often find opportunities to contribute commentary on Twitter, LinkedIn, or HARO (aka, Help a Reporter Out). By signing up as a source on HARO, you get journalist inquiries on a daily basis and can submit your quote, usually in exchange for a link.
- Ask a website to do a link exchange. You could reach out to a blogger and ask them to link to one of your posts. In return, you’ll link to one of their posts.
Although you might not have expected this type of outreach to be part of what blogging is, it can be well worth the effort for valuable backlinks to your blog.
Some bloggers even suggest outsourcing your content to ghostwriters so you can focus solely on building backlinks and increasing your site’s domain authority.
6. Don’t spread yourself too thin with social media
A lot of new bloggers think they need to get on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, TikTok, and any other social media platform that’s out there.
But jumping on every social media platform probably isn’t going to get you much traffic, because you simply won’t have the time and resources to grow your channel.
Instead, I recommend focusing on a single social media platform.
To choose which platform would be best for you, ask yourself, where do you spend most of your time? Which social media platform would you be most interested in leveraging for business?
If you’re in the travel or lifestyle niche, Instagram might be the way to go. If you’re into building communities of like-minded people, Facebook could be better for you.
Social media not really your thing? You could do a lot better on Pinterest. In fact, Pinterest isn’t really social media at all; it’s a search engine, just like Google and YouTube.
People input certain searches on Pinterest looking for ideas. If you can create pins that match these searches, you could get Pinterest users to come to your page and ultimately, click over to your blog.
7. Get your readers’ email address
Here’s a harsh but true fact: the majority of users who come to your site will never return. 🙁
But you know how you can stay in touch with them? Collect their email before they leave your site.
As you’ve seen on other websites, you can collect someone’s email with a pop-up or form on your site.
The most effective way to get someone’s email is to offer a free gift in exchange. This could be in the form of a cheatsheet, a checklist, an eBook, or any other useful resource.
You could also simply say, “Sign up for my newsletter,” but this is less effective. You’ll have more sign-ups if you offer a cool freebie.
One free service you can use to collect emails is ConvertKit. With its free plan, you can create forms and manage up to 1,000 subscribers.
If you want to manage more subscribers or set up automated email sequences, you can upgrade to its paid plan for $29 per month (or $25 per month if you pay annually).
ConvertKit is my favorite email marketing provider because it was made by bloggers, for bloggers. It’s super user-friendly, and it makes it easy to create visually-enticing forms, collect emails, and send messages to your list.
You can learn more about ConvertKit here.
8. Nurture your audience while you grow your blog
Once you’ve got people on your email list, you can stay in touch with them via email. You could send them valuable content once a week or so, as well as any links to new posts or recommendations for services or products.
By staying in touch with your audience, you build a relationship with them. Once you’re ready to pitch affiliate products or your own products, they’ll be more likely to buy from you since they trust your advice and expertise.
You can eventually even set up an email sequence that leads readers down a sales funnel. While you don’t have to worry about creating a sales funnel yet as a beginning blogger, you can keep it in mind once you get serious about making revenue from your blog.
What is a blog in 2021? Final thoughts
As you can see, there’s a lot more to blogging than just writing blog posts. If you’re serious about making money blogging, you’ve got to treat your blog like a business.
In particular, you must focus on SEO, growing traffic, and converting that traffic into customers. But don’t worry, even if you feel like there’s a ton you don’t know yet, all of this is totally learnable.
In fact, the process of trial and error can be a big part of succeeding as a blogger; it’s part of the process to experiment and figure out what works and what doesn’t work for your particular audience.
And if you’re using a blog as part of your business, you’ll find that it’s a powerful tool for raising brand awareness and converting readers into buying customers.
Ready to take action? If you’re ready to make your blogging dreams a reality, get started with a hosting plan at Bluehost or Siteground today.