Ever asked yourself how this whole blogging thing works?
The truth is, blogging has a lot of moving parts and it’s easy to get caught up in one little aspect of it.
But now and again it’s good to take a step back and look at the big picture:
- Where did blogging come from?
- Why has blogging become such a powerful business tool?
- What are the key blogging strategies?
- What’s the best style and format for writing blog posts?
- How do bloggers monetize their blogs?
If you’ve ever asked yourself any of these questions, keep reading!
1.History of Blogging
One of the keys to understanding how blogging works is to understand how it transformed the Internet.
I created my first website in 1999.
Back then there were no drag-and-drop page builders – if you wanted to create a new page it was a slow and laborious process.
And you had to know HTML (the first online course I ever took was a course in HTML).
There was a lot of work in creating a new web page. And once created, web pages were difficult to update. All this meant that websites were basically static.
But in 1998 ‘weblogs’ started appearing.
Unlike conventional websites, weblogs were like diaries, with new content appearing in chronological order on a homepage.
John Barger, creator of the Robot Wisdom blog, is usually credited with coining the word ‘weblog’ in 1998.
The next year, in 1999, Peter Merholz jokingly shortened ‘weblog’ to ‘we blog’ in the sidebar of his ‘blog’ and so was born the word ‘blog’.
- 1.History of Blogging
- 2. Blogging as a Business
- 3. Blogging Platforms
- 4. How Blogging Works - Blogging Strategies
- 5. Blog Writing
- 6. How Blogging Works - Blog Monetization
Five years later, in 2004, the Merriam-Webster dictionary named ‘blog’ the word of the year.
Amongst the first blogging platforms were LiveJournal, created by programmer Brad Fitzpatrick as a way of keeping his friends up-to-date on his activities, and Blogger, created by Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan.
Another early blogging platform was b2/cafelog.
When it was discontinued in 2003, Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little got together and built a new platform based on the discontinued b2/cafelog.
And that’s how WordPress was born.
The period 1999 to 2006 saw an extraordinary explosion in blogging.
To give you some idea of how rapidly it took off: in 1999 there were a total of 23 blogs and by 2006 there 50 million.
Publishing on the web was suddenly within reach of everyone – it was as easy as writing an email.
By 2010 there were 152 million blogs and today, in 2017, there are over 440 million blogs.
Another innovation that came in with blogging was commenting.
In 1998 OpenDiary introduced reader comments, giving visitors the ability to leave comments on someone else’s post.
This brought about another revolution:
Not only were websites now dynamic (they could be updated several times a day) they were now two-way conversations:
Readers could interact with writers!
This increased the level of trust (something that had been sorely lacking on the Internet before 1999) and created the conditions for some bloggers to build massive followings of loyal readers.
Now, large followings of loyal fans who are engaged with your writing and trust your opinion are a marketer’s dream come true.
And so blogging took on its next manifestation – as a marketing tool for online business.
Of course, not all blogs are about business. Here are some other types of blogs:
- Online journal where someone shares what’s going on in their life
- Place where someone talks about their hobby (e.g. cake decorating, scrapbooking, photography, wood turning)
- Place where someone shares their knowledge on a particular topic (e.g. Capitalism, Global Warming, International Arms Trade)
- Place where someone expounds a political view
Watch This 4 Min Video 'What Are Blogs and How Do They Work?' by LearnMyPC
2. Blogging as a Business
This is a key aspect of how blogging works:
As we saw above, a blog can be a very powerful business tool, a way of bringing in a constant stream of new leads and new customers.
For example, a pool builder might write blog posts about the different types of swimming pools he installs. A camera shop might write blog posts about different photography techniques.
Very often you’ll see websites with a menu item titled ‘Blog’.
These are often websites that are not primarily blogs. Typically, they offer a product or service and use blogging to extend their reach.
So how exactly can blogging help an online business?
The main benefit is that blogs are built upon fresh, regularly updated content.
And that’s the kind of content that search engines like.
So blogging regularly within your industry niche is going to help your business get its website on Page #1 of the search engine results (SERPs) for the keywords associated with your industry.
Now, getting your website on the first page of the SERPs is not as simple as writing blog posts within your niche. The competition to get on Page #1 is huge.
And that’s where SEO comes in, Search Engine Optimization.
But the mere fact of having a blog on your business website is going to help you get listed because a blog website is much more SEO friendly than a static website.
Beyond the traffic, the leads, and the potential customers that a blog can bring to your business, a blog is also a way of:
- Establishing yourself as an industry expert
- Injecting personality into your website
- Keeping your visitors on your website for longer
Alternatively, blogging can be a business in itself: a blog about blogging.
This is a whole industry in itself, with various specialized niches:
- Ramona Sukhraj - Blogging for Business? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
- Aaron Orendorff - The 5-Point Survival Guide to Blogging as a Business
- Corey Wainwright - 10 Amazing Blogs About Blogging to Start Reading Now
3. Blogging Platforms
WordPress dominates the market in blogging platforms and as the graphic below illustrates, nothing else comes even close:
Website Setup reports the following figures for market share in blogging platforms in 2016:
- WordPress (58.8%)
- Joomla (6.5%)
- Drupal (4.8%)
- Blogger (2.5%)
- Magento 1.5%
- TYPO3 (1.5%)
- Bitrix (1.4%)
- PrestaShop (1.3%)
- Shopify (1.3%)
- SquareSpace (1%)
With over 20 million active websites, WordPress has generated a whole ecosystem around its blogging platform.
And that in itself brings huge advantages.
For example, on the WordPress platform you can get a plugin - usually free - to do virtually anything (a plugin is an add-on that extends the functionality of WordPress).
At time of writing there are 53,133 WordPress plugins that you can choose from.
All of this means (in my opinion) that deciding on a blogging platform is not a difficult choice.
- WPBeginner - How to Choose the Best Blogging Platform in 2017 (Compared)
- BloggingBasics101 - Choose the Best Blogging Platform – Comparison 2017
- Roshan Perrera - Top 15 Blogging Platforms – A Detailed Comparison
4. How Blogging Works - Blogging Strategies
Blogging strategy usually refers to one of two things:
- Getting more traffic to your blog
- Converting your existing traffic to subscribers and / or customers
4.1 Getting More Traffic
When bloggers talk about strategies for getting more traffic to your site, they very rarely mean paid advertising.
After all, that’s the whole point of blogging: producing high quality content within a specific niche, on a regular basis, as a means of attracting leads and potential customers.
For bloggers, getting more traffic usually boils down to one of these two basic strategies:
- Using your content to get organic traffic from the search engines
- Using your content to tap into other people’s traffic
Of course, each of these two basic strategies covers a whole range of more specific strategies.
For example, here are some of the sub-strategies that come under the heading of getting more organic traffic form the search engines:
- Keyword Research
- Long Tail Keyword Research
- Competitor Keyword Research
- Building Backlinks
- Broken Link Building
- Resource Page Link Building
- Weekly Roundup Link Building
- Building Topical Authority
- On-page SEO
- Off-page SEO
And here are some of the sub-strategies that can be used to tap into other people’s traffic:
4.2 Converting Your Traffic
Converting traffic into customers usually involves, as a first step, turning visitors into subscribers.
The reason for this is simple: people vary rarely buy something on first exposure, so you need a way to stay in contact with them and bring them back to your website.
And that’s the purpose of a list.
Getting someone to join your list is usually the first stage in a blogger’s conversion funnel.
With good use of segmentation, sales funnels can become sophisticated and very effective tools for delivering the right message to the right people at the right time.
What is segmentation?
It’s simply the process of dividing a market of potential customers into groups, or segments.
These are some of the segments a blogger might use to better match the message to the needs of the reader:
- Age Group
- Geographic Location
- Stage in Buying Cycle
- Problems or Challenges Prospect is Facing
- New Customer or Existing Customer
Other techniques bloggers use to convert visitors into buyers are:
- Case Studies
- Live Chat
- Blog Tyrant - A Proven Blogging Strategy that Works in Any Niche
- Will Blunt - How to Create a Successful Blog Strategy: A Step-by-Step Guide
- Nicholas Tart - The Most Advanced Blogging Strategy I’ve Never Shared
5. Blog Writing
According to Statistic Brain our attention span is constantly shrinking.
In the year 2000 the average attention span was 12 seconds but by 2015 average attention span had gone down to 8.25 seconds.
To put that in perspective, the average attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds!
This ever-shrinking attention span is putting pressure on blog writing. Moz reports that 80% of readers never make it past the headline of a blog post.
5.1 Engaging Your Readers
The fact is, to get someone to even start reading your blog post (let alone make it to the end) you have to write in a completely different way to the way most of us were taught.
You literally have to grab your reader with your opening line, sometimes called the ‘hook’.
And you’ll have to use a combination of hooks and engaging transitions every couple of paragraphs to literally pull your reader down the page.
The best example of this kind of writing (that I know of) is Brian Dean over at Backlinko. Notice how his whole blog post is almost a conversation with his reader. Notice how his sentences are rarely more than 10 words long. Notice how his paragraphs are 1 or 2 sentences at most.
Brian Dean’s writing is so effective that he’s managed to build a blog that gets over 100,000 unique visitors a month with less than 50 blog posts!
For some actionable tips on how to grab your reader’s attention right from the outset, read my article: The Definitive Guide on How to Write a Compelling Intro for Your Next Blog Post.
5.2 Popular Post Types
Here are some of the most common types of blog posts:
This is a hugely popular type of article, as the people at BuzzFeed can attest!
Why so popular?
Because they’re easy to read – it’s as simple as that.
But they’re also easy to write because the structure is simply the list of items that you’re going to discuss – what could be simpler?
This is a very effective type of post for getting on the radar of Influencers within your niche.
Just contact 10 to 20 leaders in your industry and ask them a simple question, such as:
- what are your 3 favourite tool for ____
- what’s the one piece of advice you wish you’d had when you started out
- what’s the biggest mistake you see beginners making
Once the article is live, let the contributing experts know and chances are they’ll share it with their followers on social media (and some of them have huge followings!).
A link roundup is a post that brings together the best articles on a particular topic, with a link to each.
Again, let the authors know their post has been included. With any luck they’ll be flattered and will share it with their subscribers / followers.
Long-form content (over 2000 words) ranks much higher on Google so a Definitive Guide of 3,000 to 5,000 words is likely to rank well on Google.
Interview articles are a form of ego-bait and work well because very few people are immune to effects of being in the limelight.
Do your interview by email or live. Once published it’s almost guaranteed the person you interviewed will share it with their followers. Lots of free traffic!
Top List articles
People like top list posts because they can read them quickly and they promise to deliver something we’re all looking for - the best of whatever it is we’re interested in.
Someone who has generated masses of traffic using this type of blog post is Michael Dunlop of IncomeDiary.
- Michael Dunlop - How I Get Over 100,000 Visitors a Month With Top List Articles
- Liz Longacre - How to Write a Blog Post – The Ultimate Guide
- Tom Ewer - The Blogger’s Style Guide: How to Write Stellar Blog Posts
6. How Blogging Works - Blog Monetization
Monetization is a key part of understanding how blogging works.
Bloggers generally monetize their sites using one or more of the following strategies:
- Affiliate Links
- Their Own Products
- Their Own Services
The revenue per click from ads is so minuscule that unless you have huge amounts of traffic, you’re not going to make any serious money from displaying ads on your website.
I wouldn’t bother with ads: they are the least effective way of leveraging your traffic and in return your website ends up looking like a junk yard.
6.2 Affiliate Links
This is a strategy that many bloggers have used with great success.
An example is Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income. He built his blog (which now generates $145,000 a month) entirely through recommending affiliate products to his readers.
6.3 Create Your Own Product
Creating your own product – an eBook or an online course – is another way of monetizing your blog.
The main issue with selling your own product is pricing.
Let’s say you create a video course and sell it for $97.
To make $100,000 you have to sell 1000 units.
Let’s assume a conversion rate of 1%. That’s a lot of traffic you’re going to need.
And then there’s customer support for 1000 buyers – a lot of work if you’re a one-person team.
But let’s say you create an online video course with 12 modules and you price it at $970.
Now you only need to make 100 sales a year to make the same amount of money as the $97 product.
That’s a lot less traffic that you need and a lot less customer support.
This is why a big-ticket item is often the best monetization strategy for intermediate bloggers who don’t have large volumes of traffic.
6.4 Coaching / Mentoring
This same logic is why coaching is a great monetization strategy for bloggers in their second or third year of blogging.
Let’s say you have 5 coaching clients at any one time and you charge $100 per hour and manage to get 20 hours of work a week.
That’s $2000 a week or $104,000 a year.
Again, it’s the same principle we saw above: you need fewer customers and therefore less traffic.
And because you have fewer customers you spend less time in customer support.
But more than that: coaching is an excellent monetization strategy for intermediate bloggers because it gives you a special insight into the problems and challenges being faced by your readers.
Once you’ve coached 10 to 20 customers, you’ll have a very good idea what your readers’ stumbling blocks are.
And that puts you in a very good position to create a high-priced product that solves exactly those problems.
- Matt Smith - 30 Ways To Monetize Your Blog & Make Money Blogging!
- Michael Dunlop - How to Monetize a Blog: The Two Main Ways We Make Money Online
- David Risley - Top 10 Blog Monetization Strategies, Ranked In Order (2016 Edition)
So we've covered all the main aspects of how blogging works:
- where it came from
- why it became a powerful business tool
- the two main strategies that bloggers grapple with
- strategies for monetizing your blog
That's the bird's eye view.
But how to put it into practice?
Well, that's another blog post for another time.
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