You’ve probably landed here because you’re looking for the answer to the question – “What is a blog?”
To sum it up it in one sentence – a blog is a type of website, or part of a website, typically run by one person, or a small group of people, that’s regularly updated and managed through a browser or app.
This means you can run a blog without buying specialist software and with nothing more than a device for connecting to the internet. That’ll be a laptop, mobile or PC, and the ability to get your thoughts out of your head and onto the interweb.
Of course, there is way more to it than that! Keep reading to learn more.
What’s the dictionary definition of the word ‘blog’?
Let’s go back to the beginning for a moment. Just to add some context.
The word ‘blog’ is a truncation of ‘weblog’ – the term originally coined for an online journal, which is essentially what a blog is, or was – an online diary with content typically organised and displayed in reverse chronological order (newest first).
Before the term ‘weblog’ appeared, people referred to this type of website as a ‘personal homepage’. Simply because that’s how blogs started – as a personal online space to share your thoughts, activities and the like.
Cambridge Online Dictionary hosts a number of definitions for the word blog. Here are three for you.
“A regular record of your thoughts, opinions, or experiences that you put on the internet for other people to read.”
“A website on which one person or group puts new information regularly, often every day; weblog.”
“To write or add material to a blog”
Modern blogs are way more than ‘personal homepages’
Modern blogs and bloggers are more commercially aware than ever. With the rise of social media, influencers and the vast amount of traffic swirling around the web, there’s a lot of money to be made from a successful blog.
But why do people start blogging? Search for the answer to that question and you’ll find plenty of reasons.
Some blog to chart a journey, it could be a physical journey from one location to another or a journey about personal development (weight loss, muscle building, learning a skill). They write about their thoughts and experiences. Their successes and their failures.
Probably, and I’m kinda guessing here, most people start a blog to make money. There’s nothing wrong with that and many people make a success of it. But it’s not an easy journey.
If you’re the shy type or you don’t want to blog about your personal life, you might prefer to start a blog about a particular topic instead.
Here are a few examples that have tremendous scope:
- Making money
And there are tons more. In fact, you’ll find blogs on just about any subject you can think of.
If you’re struggling to think about the kind of content you’d create for a non-personal blog, here are a few ideas:
- How-to guides and tutorials
- Product and service reviews
- Expert roundups
Remember, part of the definition of ‘blog’ is a ‘regularly updated website’, so if you don’t want to blog about what’s going on in your personal life, blogging (or writing) about another topic is a perfectly acceptable alternative.
What are the differences between a blog and a website?
There are many different types of website on the internet. Here are a few examples:
- Business websites (Microsoft, Apple, your local plumber and other service providers)
- Web directories (Yell, Best of the Web, Yelp)
- eCommerce websites (Amazon, eBay, Walmart)
- Forums (niche specific)
- Streaming websites (Netflix, Amazon)
- Photo sharing websites (Flickr, 500px)
- Personal portfolios
- Social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest)
- Wikis (Wikipedia, WikiHow)
- SaaS (software as a service) – (Adobe, Slack, Dropbox)
- News portals (BBC, CNN, Fox)
You can’t describe any of these types of these sites as your typical blog. However, each and every one of these websites could incorporate a blog. Either in a subdomain or a subfolder.
In fact, plenty of these websites do have a blog. Here are a few famous names you’ll know and links to their respective blog:
It’s hard for the average person to set up sites like some of the ones listed above without investing heavily in its creation and marketing.
A blog is different.
You can start a blog for free or for very little outlay. Which is one of the reasons why starting a blog and growing it into a full-time business appeals to so many people.
Once the blog is set up, you can start adding content for free. After a while, if you do things the right way and create content that answers people’s questions or entertains them, you’ll start seeing more and more traffic coming to your site.
Once you get a decent amount of traffic, you can start generating income.
And you can do all this on the side, while you’re working at your day job, without any financial risk to yourself or your family.
How does a blog compare to a typical small business website?
A typical small business website consists of a set number of pages: a home page, an about page, a services page etc. If you’ve searched for a service provider in your local area, you’ll know the type of website I mean.
The website is enough to get the message across about the products and the company. It’s also enough to get some decent rankings on Google locally for keyword phrases that bring in business.
The pages on the site never change. The content you see today is the same content as a year ago, two years ago, day one.
Why should the content ever change? What’s the point? The service stays the same. It never changes. So there isn’t much point updating the website.
A blog, on the other hand, can grow and grow and accommodate any amount of content. And you don’t need the help of a webmaster or web designer to add content like you did in the early days of websites. These days, you can do it yourself through a browser or app.
How do you make money from a blog?
There are many ways to make money from a blog. Let’s look at a few:
- Display ads from an ad network or sell ad space directly (the first option here is easy to set up, the second isn’t)
- Affiliate marketing (this is when you promote products by other people or brands and you earn a percentage from each sale – read our beginner’s guide to affiliate marketing)
- Sponsored posts or endorsements
- Create and sell digital products such as eBooks, printables and courses
- Promote your own services
- Create a membership area that people pay to access
Is blogging right for you?
It depends upon how much effort you want to put into running your blog and how much business or money it generates for you. A profitable blog takes a lot of time and effort to run.
Let’s look at how a business can use blogging to grow its customer base.
If there is a lot happening in your industry and you enjoy writing about it, somebody within your company enjoys writing about it or you hire a freelance blogger, then a blog is a great way to make sure new and fresh content is regularly added to your site.
From a traffic/search engine perspective, this is good because:
- Publishing new content keeps your site active and relevant
- More content means more keywords in Google which potentially means more traffic and more customers
- You have plenty of new content to share on your social media channels
It’s also a good way for you to build relationships with customers.
Another reason you should think about setting up a business blog is this – competitors.
Do they have a blog? Are they in the process of creating one? If the answer to these questions is yes, you’ll likely lose out in the long run.
If you already have a website and you’ve been thinking about adding a blog, I would certainly urge you to do so. Google loves fresh content and it’s really easy to add a blog to most websites, especially if you’re already using WordPress.
Examples of blogs
Let’s look at some examples of blogging in the wild.
Think about sites like Huffington Post and Lifehacker – these websites follow the typical blog format. They publish new content multiple times per day and the homepages always change to show the latest content.
Would you call them blogs? Probably not. But they both started many years ago as blogs.
Major news sites, although they fit the criteria and publish content just as often, are not blogs.
I guess you could call them portals.
Let’s have a look at a few more down to earth blogs. The type the typical person can start today to build into something bigger. Something that can become a profitable and successful business. As the people listed below have done – over many years.
Do you need technical knowledge to run a blog?
It helps to have a little technical knowledge, especially an understanding of HTML and to some extent, CSS, but essentially, the answer to this question is no – if you can use Word or Google Docs you can master blogging.
There is a learning curve as all the blogging platforms work differently, but most of them are really intuitive (otherwise people wouldn’t use them).
WordPress is the most popular blogging software. It powers 35% of all websites and blogs you see online.
So, there you have an answer to the question “What is a blog?”
I hope you found it useful. If you want to learn more about the process for starting a brand new blog, check out this post, imaginatively titled “How to Start a Blog“.