Blogs and Blogging; What is a Blog and How to Benefit From it

The popularity of the Blogs and Blogging has made it a well known and used medium of marketing and communication via the Internet. A Blog has become the most common form of expressing yourself online with relative ease in a manner that is publicly viewable by all.

In today’s world where everyone has an opinion, a Blog is a great tool to voice that opinion – and there is no limitation on how one can use a Blog. Today, successful businesses are doing the same in promoting their brand and making potential customers aware of what they stand for and what they have to offer.

A “Blog” is short for a Web Log, and having your own Log on the Internet is a great way to give your website’s traffic a big boost. By loading good quality content on your Blog, you will be giving search engines a reason to index your website high in their search ranks. Additionally, your Blog can be your chance to express what you stand for and what you have to offer in a manner that is personal amidst the very impersonal Cyber World.

When you commit yourself to operating a Blog, you are committing to more than just a marketing mechanism for your business. A Blog will force you to display the person you are or publicly display the true purpose of your business. It is a journal! A diary! Only that it is public – which you actually want it to be!

Though a Blog does not cost very much to start, and in some cases it is free, you do not need to own your own Blog to benefit from its power. You can always find a Blog online that is related to the topic of your interest (and chances are there are many out there) and participate in it while still achieving your objectives. I highly recommend starting your own however once you get comfortable with the concept and how it works. Below are some things to consider in your journey around the Blogosphere.

Wander around and offer to help others

If you don’t have the time or interest in setting up your own Blog, wander around the Internet and find the many Blogs that relate to your topic of interest. Notice that I did not say “if you don’t know how to set one up”. I did not say this because anyone can set up a Blog within 5 minutes max.

Just go to a free Blog provider’s website such as Blogger or Blogspot or TypePad and follow the very easy step by step instructions and find yourself with your new Blog within minutes. A good option for those that want your “own” Blog, I highly recommend Wordpress, which is by far the most flexible and user friendly application out there in my opinion.

Take your time in choosing the right Blog host. Most of the hosts I mentioned are cheap if not free and you are usually restricted to a certain space and limited in the features you can incorporate into your Blog. The good news is that Blogs are less complex in structure that websites are and are often made or broken by their content. Therefore, a Blog is mostly a repository of verbiage based content.

It is relatively easy to move a Blog from your existing Blog host to a more powerful one when you feel the need to upgrade. Once you upgrade you can then consider adding more complex functionality to it such as video files, sound clips, Podcasts, etc.

As you wander around the vast space of the world-wide-web, you will notice that you have a lot to offer to the already existing Blog community within your topic. Not one person on this earth knows everything. Do you agree with that? If that is the case, other Bloggers will be more than happy to invite you to become a guest Blogger and use their Blog to post your own articles.

Many experienced Bloggers own their own Blog and then also allow other Bloggers to use their postings and post it on other Blogs. By doing this, the original Blogger can provide a brief introduction to themselves along with the URL to their Blog. It is one strong way to promote your Blog by tapping into the already existing traffic of someone else’s Blog.

Be careful however not to overdo this. Search engines do not like duplicate content and you are risking ruining your relationship with other Bloggers if you abuse this strategy. In addition, it won’t take some savvy Blog reader long to realize your post is a duplicate and chances are you will hear it in the form of negative feedback to your post.

Find your niche in the Millions of Blogs

Find these Bloggers on Technorati, a Blog engine that follows over 50 million (and growing) Blogs. You can search by keywords to locate the topic of your interest. Simply email the owner of the Blog that you are interested in posting your article on and offer to write a guest post for that author. Make sure you introduce yourself politely and convey your expertise at the onset to build your credentials. Tell the author the areas of your expertise and how you can add value to their already existing Blog.

It might not be a bad idea to send a sample of your writing as well, or simply a link to your work if you have it available elsewhere online. Some will accept you and some will not – it’s just all up to their personal preference. Keep moving on however. You will have a chance to make this decision yourself at some point in your experience on the Blogosphere once others start approaching you to post on your Blog. Keep reading to learn about some cool Blog tips.

Just on a side note, I recently performed a search on a Blog directory and found the following to be the most popular Blogs:
  • • Business Blogs
  • • Food Blogs
  • • Philosophy Blogs
  • • Electronics Blogs
  • • Computer Blogs

Voice your thoughts

Hey this is a free country so take advantage of it. I guess that depends on where you are when you are reading this discussion. Luckily, you are allowed to voice your thoughts and opinions in the United States of America (where I currently am).

Most Bloggers allow their readers to leave feedback and comments after each posting. In many cases the Blog tools come with this capability so you are stuck with it as a Blogger (so watch what you post and be careful ?). Take advantage of the fact that everyone and their dog these days wants their opinion to be heard.

We are just becoming more and more opinionated aren’t we? Sometimes what happens is that enough people voice their thoughts and opinions and next thing you know you have created a long discussion thread. This is very healthy for the Blog. It shows that it is getting the attention by engaging the reader and compelling them to take action. More importantly, it is helping the Blog’s web traffic. So I suggest not being shy and leaving a comment in the Blogs that you follow.

Voice your opinion and market yourself while you are at it. Most Blogs will allow you the opportunity to leave your email and website addresses. Some will also allow you to briefly introduce yourself. What will happen here is that other readers of that Blog will be able to see your post and comment on it. If they find your piece interesting enough they might come and visit your Blog.

Consider yourself as having struck gold when this kind of thing happens. This is exactly the point of this discussion as you want to divert as much traffic as possible to your website using nothing but 100% genuine and ethical Blogging strategies. Pretty soon you will find other Bloggers on your Blog as well. Take advantage of this situation by building relationships with them so that you can help each other going forward. Now instead of reaching out to other Bloggers, you will have others reach out to you.

Last but really not least, use caution while you are on your Blogging Pilgrimage and do not spam your way to getting banned from the Blogosphere in the future. Always post good quality content that others will find useful. Don’t deliberately offend anyone and of course use good grammar and clean language.

Beautify your own if you go that route

If you decide to start your own Blog, don’t take the concept of aesthetics for granted just because it is a Blog. Just as you would for your website, enhance the look of your Blog to make it as aesthetically pleasing as possible. Add some bells and whistles to it but with proper attention and caution not to overdo anything so that it overshadows the content in the Blog and the ease of navigation for your reader.

Load your Blog with relevant links, pictures and other tidbits that will be useful to your reader. Occasionally take your readers to a tangent (i.e. some good humor where appropriate or a short story to demonstrate your point) which you feel they might be interested in. When you are done beautifying your Blog (technically you should never be done as you will update your Blog frequently), it should look like an online magazine containing the latest and greatest while maintaining its beautiful aesthetic appeal.

RSS Feeds

Setting up an RSS feed is one of the best things you can do for your Blog. “RSS” is Really Simple Syndication; a code-based system that allows website visitors users to “subscribe” to their favorite sites – hopefully your Blog! When your reader likes your content and decides to stay on top of your postings and updates to your Blog, they will subscribe to your RSS feed.

The feed will notify them of new additions and changes to your Blog via email or direct transfer to their feed reader. If you have a Podcast feed your visitors may choose to have it downloaded directly into their Itunes software. Think about it as downloading songs on your Ipod.

Usually this is a manual process in which you select a song and add it to your machine. With the RSS feed, you simply subscribe once. As long as your computer is connected to the Internet, the feed will automatically send you information that you are subscribed to.

More on RSS feeds here.

If you want to make your Blog successful, you will have to update it on a regular basis. You need to give your readers an incentive to keep coming back for more, and that incentive is new content generated by you. Don’t forget the main reason why visitors become loyal readers and strive to exceed those expectations by continuing to provide good quality content.

The more consistent and regular you make your posts, the more keyword rich content you will have and the “fresher” your website will be. In turn, the higher the search engines rank will be. Always remember your main goal is to attract the visitor, engage them as a reader, and then keep them coming back for more. Make them a regular!

Update your website frequently and relay your posts to your visitors through automatic feeds. Incorporate an option for your reader to “subscribe” to your Blog. When a reader subscribes to your Blog, they are inviting your content. Subscriptions will allow them to get frequent updates on the various activities you conduct on your Blog (subscriptions can also be used with full websites).

Some examples of activities you might conduct include Blog posts, Podcast releases and video releases to name a few. Don’t worry you do not have to email each one of your readers individually. By subscribing to your content, your readers will get all the updates through a feed program, email notification or online through their web browser.

FeedBurner is the Best

Hands down, the best feed program out there (in my opinion) is FeedBurner. FeedBurner is by far the best program out there in the market today with streamlined functionality and ease of implementation and operation. FeedBurner is owned by Google. Remember Google’s motto…they do no evil! If Google is overlooking them, then I can assure you they are good as gold because if there is a God in the online capacity, it is definitely Google.

Again, this is my humble opinion. If you feel otherwise, I’d love to hear about it. Don’t stop after implementing FeedBurner; install the Chicklet Chooser as well. This will add several sign-up options to your Blog or website. Below is a picture of what this looks like (attach here) RSS/XML Feed

If You Can’t Do It, Hand It Off

I can’t emphasize how important it is to regularly tend to your Blog. It is no different than a website, especially if you are serious about it, you need to put in the time and continuously improve it to keep it fresh and full of good, useful content. If you don’t think you can put in the time, then spend the time in looking for someone who can help you or just do it themselves.

Provide them with some incentive so that they can fully dedicate their spare time (or even full) to this endeavor. But then again, why would someone “work for someone” if they can start up a Blog themselves since they will be loading the content anyway. Isn’t this the million dollar question! Bottom line is that someone needs to be dedicated to your Blog for it to be successful.

Leverage the power of Trackbacks

Think about a Trackback like a small trail that simply connects you between two patches of land; in this case two Blogs. Experienced Bloggers often use this strategy when they want to respond to a post on another Blog in detail. So let’s say you wanted to respond to a post you saw on another Blog in extensive detail. You would simply post the lengthy response on your own Blog and then use the trackback feature in your Blog to link back to the original post. I know that WordPress offers this feature.

This feature is becoming more common as more Bloggers are demanding its use. When you see a post to which you want to reply to, check to see if it has a Trackback button or a Trackback link. Take this link and include it on your Blog’s Trackback field. Give it a little bit of time and your readers will be able to trace your post back to the original post to which yours is based. For more information on trackbacks, the TypePad Knowledge Base has a good article called "What is a Trackback?"

Join and Host Carnivals

A Blog carnival is when someone researches a topic and puts together all the Blogs related to that topic. The final product looks no different from a regular Blog post but only it contains a ton of links to other Blog articles on the same topic. Blog carnivals are a good way to instantly bring in visitor traffic as your search engine indexing will most likely increase due to the links of other Blogs that are included on yours.

Many use Blog carnivals like the time share invitations we all get in the mail. A hotel is usually willing to give you 3 nights of free stay in exchange for 2-3 hours of your time in where they pitch you the idea of a time share. A Blog carnival is similar in many ways.

A Blog carnival promises you a one stop shop for all links related to a particular subject. In exchange, it is hoping that you read its author’s own original content with the hope that you might like what you read and become a regular reader. The key here again is the abundance of good quality content on your website. Only your content will determine if your temporary visitor converts into a loyal reader.

Host your own

Visit Blog Carnival and search for one that fits your interest. There are other websites like these as well so search for them and read some discussion on each website to determine which one is the best fit for you. These websites usually include easy to follow instructions on how you can host a carnival.

Make sure your visitors know about you as they enter your carnival. It takes time and effort to set these up and you want to make sure that your random visitor at least knows who you are and what you do. You just don’t know whose interest you might peak.

Link Building

Just as you would do for your website, establish Link Exchange partners for your Blog. Treat your Blog no different from your website when it comes to this area. Link exchanging is a very effective and proven strategy to gain popularity with search engines.

Therefore, go on a rampage and collect as many links as you can. Start quoting and referring related pieces of work within your Blog and direct your readers to other relevant content. You will soon see your visitor traffic increase as a direct result of inbound links coming to you from other sources. Everyone involved benefits in this kind of a partnership.

In conclusion

With the innovation of Blogs and Blogging, anyone can benefit from its capabilities if used effectively. I hope this discussion has given you a broad overview as well as some specific guidance with how and what to do with your Blog to make it successful. Online businesses run by entrepreneurs like you and I are using Blogs very effectively to generate traffic and business.

Since we do not have the million dollar advertising budget that Wal Mart does, we have to rely on tools such as the Blog to build rapport with our potential customers. This is our chance to build a connection with our visitors and establish a strong name for our brand. Many online entrepreneurs directly make money with Blogs as well by advertising on them.

Blogs are a low cost but very powerful marketing tool in today’s fast paced online world. Let your visitors connect to you and build your credibility. Engage them and compel them to take action through your posts. And make sure you update your Blog frequently so you stay fresh in the eyes of search engines. You can definitely get very creative. But in the end, be yourself and your niche will come to you. The biggest advantage of creating a Blog is its low cost nature so take advantage of it.

Though I’ve specifically geared this discussion to address Blogs and Blogging, most if not all of the discussion in this section applies to full websites as well. A Blog is really a small website if you think about it. So no matter what you have or are working on, keep this discussion handy for reference.

If you are at a critical confusing junction in your website vs. blog career and don’t know which one to pursue, I strongly urge you to read this detailed article on the pros and cons of each.

Happy Blogging to you!








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