What is a blog?

Lots of people think blogs are just a kind of online diary, but that’s underestimating the reach and impact of professionally managed blogs. Bloggers of all kinds – solo entrepreneurs, companies, artists, lifestyle influencers – have become an integral part of social media and online marketing. If you want to establish new online customer bases and build customer loyalty, starting a blog is a great idea.

Blogs: Definition and history

Blogs are online journals where content on specific or general topics is published for a community of readers at regular intervals. Most blogs are run by one person – the blogger – and are hosted on a website or blogging platform. Other blogs are managed by a team of authors, and posts are written by different bloggers each time.

The word blog comes from the earlier term ‘weblog’, which Peter Merholz jokingly shortened to ‘we blog’. Like so much in the universe of the World Wide Web, weblogs originated at the CERN nuclear research facility in Geneva. Although blogs, or weblogs, were not common at the time, on August 6, 1991, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web and the HTTP protocol, started the first website and connected users all around the world using the first web clients and servers. He, therefore, laid the foundations for bloggers.

Thanks to sites on the World Wide Web, internet resources, new scientific publications, and links could be easily published, shared, and linked together for the first time. As to who created the first ever blog, that’s as difficult a question to answer as ‘Who wrote the first diary?’

It is generally believed that the first private online journals emerged in the mid-1990s. The forefather of blogging is held to be Justin Hall, who shared information about the growing digital world and personal anecdotes from his everyday life in an online diary called ‘Justin’s Links from the Underground’.

How does a blog work?

Just like a diary or a logbook, a blog is organised chronologically. In other words, bloggers publish new posts at regular intervals, and older content is shifted down the page or stored in monthly archives. However, individual blog entries do not necessarily have to relate to one another – not all blogs unfold logically like books. In this respect, blogs are a bit like online news magazines, although they differ from these because bloggers usually focus on one topic and write in the first person.

Blogs cover all kinds of different content, including:

  • Fashion, lifestyle, and celebrities
  • Culture (books, films, games, music, and so on)
  • Food and cooking
  • Science and technology
  • Advice, tutorials, and guides on different topics
  • Health and fitness
  • Politics, religion, and spirituality

Based on their focus and target readership, blogs can roughly be divided into personal blogs and business blogs. Whereas personal blogs are run by private bloggers and often appeal to a diverse readership, business blogs target niche audiences of readers and customers that match their business model and their products and services.

In both cases, the main role of a blog is to create a personal connection between the blogger and their readers or potential customers. This is possible because unlike paid newspaper-style publications, free blogs are more flexible, accessible, and widely connected. The connections are established thanks to hyperlinksand trackbacks (automatic linkbacks), which link together blogs offering similar content to extend their reach.

The blogosphere – a world of bloggers?

It is estimated that in 2020 there were around 500 million blogs worldwide, accounting for more than two trillion posts per year! Bloggers therefore really do form a world of their own. While all these different blogs and bloggers of course have their personality, they are collectively referred to as the blogosphere.

As well as personal blogs, the blogosphere now includes B2C blogs (Business-to-Customer) and B2B blogs (Business-to-Business). By promoting themselves on social media and using blog content as part of their marketing strategy, many companies find they can significantly extend their reach and boost customer retention.

Blogs that have a niche topic and target audience are most likely to attract a large community and loyal audience. Bloggers who create valuable, original content can either become part of an existing community or create their own community.

It is not always easy to distinguish between not-for-profit and commercial blogs, or between personal and professional blogs. Personal bloggers can earn a lot of money through ads and product placement, and corporate bloggers can directly or indirectly refer to their own products and services.

The blogosphere is therefore definitely a very diverse universe.

What types of blogs exist?

As well as ‘What is a blog’, another frequently asked question about blogging is ‘What type of blogs exist?’ Well, there are as many blog types as there are blog topics! However, some types are especially popular.

Popular types of personal blogs

  1. Fashion and lifestyle blogs
  2. Food blogs
  3. Travel blogs
  4. Tutorial blogs (on topics such as software development, fashion, arts, and crafts, DIY, interior design, parenting)
  5. Pet blogs
  6. Cultural blogs (about books, music, films, or series)
  7. Political blogs
  8. Fitness blogs
  9. Gaming blogs

Popular types of corporate blogs

  1. Knowledge blogs (to develop a knowledge network)
  2. Service blogs (information about products and services)
  3. Campaign blogs (temporary blogs used for marketing campaigns
  4. Expert blogs (on specialist topics within certain fields)
  5. Product blogs (blogs that focus on brands and products)
  6. Crisis blogs (for crisis communication between companies and their customers)
  7. News blogs (blogs from news agencies on general or specific topics)

Where should I blog?

Before you can start a blog and think about its design, content, and style, you need to decide how you’re going to publish it. Driven by the number of people taking up blogging, the number of blogging platforms is increasing all the time. Thanks to user-friendly Content Management Systems (CMS), blogging software and blog hosting platforms with their flexible blogging tools, software templates and building blocks, you can create a blog in a matter of minutes.

The key question to ask yourself before you get started is whether you want your blog to be hosted or self-hosted.

Hosted blogs

Hosted blog platforms offer building blocks and tools that you can use to create your own blog. The blog and its software will run on one of the hosting platform’s servers. This means that the provider will take care of data management and web hosting.

Although the blog building blocks are free, you usually have to pay a monthly or an annual fee for hosting and an individual domain name. However, note that if you choose a free blog, you will not be allowed to generate any profit, and will have to sign up for a premium version to block adverts from the host.

Lots of providers offer free or very inexpensive beginner packages with very limited features. These can then be upgraded for an additional fee.

The most popular blog hosting and CMS platforms with free and premium packages are:

  • WordPress.com
  • Joomla!
  • Shopify
  • Drupal
  • Squarespace
  • Wix
  • Bitrix
  • Blogger
  • Magento

Self-hosted blogs

If you opt for a self-hosted blog, you can control and manage the web server, paid domain, and web space yourself via a Content Management System. Although going down the self-hosted route means more effort, you will own your blog and have more control over its design.

As a self-hosted blogger, you will have to purchase or rent a host server, web space and domain and then install blogging software on the host server. Whether or not you add other features will depend on your knowledge of programming and software.

The most popular and most successful self-hosted blogging software is WordPress. While WordPress.com provides a paid hosting/domain service and blog building blocks, WordPress.org offers users practical website and blogging software free of charge.

The first five steps to creating a blog

Once you’ve chosen a hosting platform and an appropriate domain name and purchased a web space, the world is your oyster!

  • What kind of design will you pick?
  • Can you think of a catchy name?
  • How often will you update your blog?
  • Will you share photos and videos, or just text?
  • How broad or narrow will you make your chosen topic?

Step 1: Find a niche

Whether you’re creating a personal blog or a business blog, identify and analyse a niche and an interesting topic to write about. The blogs that stand out from the crowd are those that offer original and valuable content. What answers or information might your target readers be looking for? What is the goal of your blog? What problem are you aiming to solve? What question do you want to answer?

Step 2: Give it a personal touch

Give your blog a distinctive personality by adopting a catchy name, an appealing writing style, and a striking design. How you prepare and present your content is important. By carefully choosing your fonts, colours, and layout you will attract new readers and keep your long-term followers happy.

Step 3: Plan your blog posts

Above all, plan your blog posts in advance. Create a stockpile of posts so that you can publish new content regularly without leaving long gaps. In the blogosphere, publishing regular content is as important – if not more important – than publishing valuable content.

Step 4: Link your blog

You might have the most original and unique blog in the world, but if you don’t have any readers, it will exist in a vacuum. Use social media and get networking. The lines between Instagram, blogs, vlogs, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms are blurred. Lots of bloggers run a linked Instagram account alongside their blog or collaborate and network with other bloggers.

Make sure that you use links and pingbacks or trackbacks, to get noticed, build a community, and spread the word.

Step 5: Build trust

If you want to turn your readers into a loyal blog audience, your blog has to consistently deliver quality. Address your readers’ questions and issues and stick to the topics you’ve chosen. Surprises can be a good thing, but when it comes to blogging it’s better to be reliable and consistent so that your readers know what to expect.

Blog or website?

The main difference between a blog and a website is how visitors interact with the site. The design and menu structure of a website is static. Although websites can be updated, they are not intended for the regular publication of new content. Think of a website as more of a showcase.

Blogs on the other hand are designed for user interaction thanks to features such as chronological entries, hyperlinks, permalinks, comment sections, news and RSS feeds, and their focus on social and personal content.

Companies have come to understand how blogs can benefit them. Lots of business websites have a built-in blog so that they can interact with readers and customers rather than simply presenting the company.

Tip

If you want to create a website or a blog but don’t want to learn special programming skills, the IONOS MyWebsite Creator is a great way of designing an online presence that will get you noticed. Alternatively, the WordPress hosting packages will allow you to create a professional blog in just a few minutes.


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