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What is a blog?

Find out what a blog is and how to set up a blog.

Blogs have become a popular resource for information online. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Blogs have become a popular resource for information online.

According to the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, a blog is a chronological series of any combination of text, data, image and media files arranged for viewing in an HTML browser.

The term "blog" is a shortened version of the word "Web log," an online method of journaling information called "blogging" via individual posts. Blogs often focus on a central theme chosen by the author, (known as a "blogger"), and range from private journals to humorous stories to statements of political opinion. Blogs are often augmented by photos, Web and video links, polls and other interactive media.

How Blogs Work

After creating a blog online, a blogger decides who will have viewing access. Based on personal preference, the blogger can open the site to the public, allow only a select group of people such as family members to view the site, or deny all outside access to create a personal journal. The author also decides whether to grant readers commenting capability to encourage social interaction. Many blogs are left open to the public for both viewing and posting comments, with the hope of forming a social network around the blog.

Once access is established, the blogger is free to add a variety of content to the site. Links to other blogs and items of interest are common. Each new post supersedes the last, keeping fresh content at the forefront. Readers can add links to their own blogs, or write notes to the author and one another. This exchange of ideas and opinions can result in camaraderie and online friendships. Readers who want to follow the blog carefully can subscribe to a blog feed in order to receive frequent blog updates.

Blog Feed

Blog feed is the information contained in a blog without any design elements. It's read online through an Aggregator (commonly called a "Feed Reader") such as Feedzilla

Blog feeds are obtained on a subscription basis, with readers signing up for the blogs they enjoy the most. Rather than checking numerous blogs repeatedly for new posts, Internet surfers can save time with feed subscriptions that automatically check for updates multiple times a day. All content is displayed in one location for quick perusal without page loading delays caused by blog graphics.

Setting up a Blog

Simple blog platforms are available at no cost. Internet users unfamiliar with sophisticated technical capabilities can use sites such as WordPress.com and Blogger.com that offer free fill-in-the-blank templates to create professional looking blogs in minutes. A brief sign-up form requires the creation of a user name, password and blog name, as well as acceptance of the service's terms of service contract. Once submitted, the Web site automatically forwards verification to user via the e-mail address provided. The new blogger can then create content within the blog.

What to Write in a Blog

Within blog platform terms of service parameters, content is at the discretion of the blogger. One author may write exclusively on timely political topics, while another posts humorous stories of family life. Others might offer tips for dog training, Web site reviews, or personal opinions on current news events. While not required, blogs commonly revolve around a theme of interest. Themed blogs give the site structure and attract readers with similar interests, but blog content can be anything the blogger chooses to explore.

Promoting a Blog

Bloggers promote their sites in a variety of ways, primarily through the use of keywords and strategic Internet links:

  • Linking to other blogs in posts or in a semi-permanent sidebar called a "blogroll."
  • Commenting on other blogs and adding links to those sites. Submitting the blog to search engines such as Google and Yahoo.
  • Using frequently searched words called "keywords" within posts, and submitting them through search engines.
  • Linking the blog through social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.
  • Trading readerships by guest-blogging for another blogger.
  • Creating contests, polls and blog awards that encourage reader participation.
  • Adding blog links to signatures in e-mail and on social forums.
  • Creating several blogs that cross-promote one another.

Making Money with a Blog

When a blogging platform's terms of service agreements allow the practice, blogs can generate both active and passive income. Bloggers can earn passive income by placing click-through advertising such as Google AdSense within the blog. Relevant advertising is automatically generated based on click-throughs driven by page keywords, and bloggers earn a small commission each time an ad is clicked by a viewer. Such partnerships depend upon genuine click-through traffic, and bloggers suspected of tampering with ad clicks can be terminated without warning.

Active income can come from a variety of sources. Advertisers associated with sites like PayPerPost or Blogsvertise will pay for blog posts that favorably discuss a product or service.

Professional blogging positions are also available, usually paying a flat rate either by post or word. Sites such as ProBlogger compile and update lists of available job openings for this lucrative field.

Blogging has grown into a massive source of online information; rivaling traditional Mass Media for readership. The New York Times estimates a sizable percentage of all Web surfers (14 percent male, 11 percent female) are contributing regularly to the blogosphere.

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