Are you a blogger? Have you ever tried to explain to a non-blogger what you are doing for a living? I have. And I find it extremely hard to tell someone who is not a digital native what I do as a blogger. That’s why this post is about the question What is Blogging? and what does a blogger do?
What is a blog?
Let’s start with a slightly easier question: What is a blog?
“Blog” is short for web log or weblog. A blog started out as a form of an online journal. Today I’d say it is more of a content hub. A place where informational content is published.
The different pieces of content are usually displayed in reverse chronological order. But even that is not so strict anymore. As some blogs publish content for various topics, there are also blogs where you find numerous categories and content within each of them.
The content on a blog does not have to be written content. Blog content can also be images, graphics, photos, videos, and even podcasts.
A blog is a place on the web that you own and where you can publish your content for various purposes.
What is blogging?
The simplest meaning of blogging is creating content and publishing it online on a blog.
But today, blogging refers to much more. In essence “blogging” is a creative profession that includes many more tasks like content distribution and marketing and the selling of products to make money.
Blogging has turned from the creative act of publishing content online into a full-scale business model that includes everything that goes with this.
The definition of blogging
Originally “blogging” was the act of publishing blog posts on a weblog.
That leads to a ton of misunderstandings. Blogging as a business is a lot more.
When I talk to non-digital people this old definition of blogging is what some people have in mind when I say “I am a blogger.” They perceive blogging as a hobby or something crazy and maybe fun people do online like they post photos on their Instagram.
But that does not nearly describe what blogging as a profession includes. And it is dangerous to believe that you can become a successful blog entrepreneur by just writing and publishing blog posts. More on that later.
What is the purpose of blogging
When weblogs came into existence it all started more like an experiment or hobby. But with the triumphant advance of content marketing in the online world blogs got more into the focus of business and marketing.
And “suddenly” blogging turned into a way for entrepreneurs and solopreneurs to compete in the online world. With the added monetary power of digital products, blogging turned into a profession and blogs became an online asset.
The purpose of blogging today can still be a hobby. Some people still use their blog as a form of a creative personal journal.
But the majority of blogs today have a purpose: to provide an ROI.
The benefit of a blog can vary slightly.
Companies can use blogs as part of their marketing asset.
Entrepreneurs can build their blog as their main business entity using the blog to build an audience and turn part of this audience into customers for digital products.
So the narrow definition of blogging is “publish blog posts” but the bigger blogging meaning is a complete blogging business from publishing blog posts and growing an audience to creating products and turning the audience into customers – and all the steps in between and around this.
What does blogging mean – what tasks does blogging include?
If blogging is so much more than what is commonly perceived as “blogging” what does it really entail?
If you are a new blogger, what can you expect from your job?
Here are some tasks that you will have to face – either you or you have to find someone else to do them for you.
Setup and preparation
The first thing you need is a blog. Nothing fancy, nothing complicated. Just a place to publish your content. Plus, you need to decide which niche you want to tackle and what audience you are addressing.
Sure, these two tasks of blogging are not recurring. You do them once and then use the results daily in your blogging routine.
Blog Setup and maintenance
While you don’t have to be a programmer some basic technical skills will help you to set up your blog.
It all starts with getting a domain name – yes, I know you can use a blogging network. But if you are thinking about turning this into a business, you should get your own branded domain. This leaves you more options for using affiliate links and promotions and it is a space you own.
Once you have your domain, you need to decide on hosting. I know that many big-name bloggers recommend blog hosts like BlueHost. I don’t. We used it for our blog The Social Ms and it blew up when we got a little more traffic in the middle of a launch. You don’t want that to happen to you. We then switched to Cloudways in the middle of that fateful launch. We never regretted the decision and since then run everything on Cloudways.
(Disclaimer: I am an affiliate for Cloudways. If you click on the link and decide to use Cloudways, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. You will also be awarded 25$ in hosting credits if you use this link to join Cloudways.)
You can use a blog platform like WordPress and a theme that fits your design. You can either Google for WordPress themes or look in the WordPress theme library.
Now you are ready to launch your blog – maybe add a couple of plugins like Analytics and Yoast – but more on that later.
Niche and Audience research
A blogging business needs a niche and a target audience. You cannot simply post what comes to your mind or you will have a hard time growing an audience. The simple reason is that no audience will be interested in (almost) all your content.
Decide first on your niche. You don’t have to find an empty niche. Rather find a niche where YOU and YOUR expertise can compete with the competition and provide a unique viewpoint. Trying to find an empty niche will limit you to very few options. But as a blogger, you need to have something to say in your niche.
While the best content in one niche will not necessarily win, you want to be able to create awesome content in your niche. You can only do this if you are passionate about this niche and have at least some knowledge (and a unique viewpoint).
Make some audience research, it will influence your content – and your content distribution. Check out the existing blogs in your niche and make a plan for how you will be different, better, or unique.
Age, gender, family status, workplace or private life, and location of your audience are just a few aspects that might influence ALL your blogging.
Blog post creation
Once you have a blog and decided on a niche, you are ready to start creating your first blog post.
But if you think that this is all about writing the blog post you are still mistaken.
Andi Crestodina did an experiment during content creation once. He measured the time he needed for each task involved in creating the blog post. The time he spent writing the post actually was around a third of the time he needed to create and publish the post – and that did not yet include any blog promotion:
Image Source: Orbit Media
There are many factors that influence the final decision to cover a topic. And while many people reduce this to keyword research, I would mention others first:
- The interest of your audience. Choose topics that your audience will be interested in.
- Competition. If everybody else has already covered the topic, you may still want to cover it. If you have something to add. Try to provide more and better information than what is already out there.
- Keywords: yes great keywords can influence the topic decision.
Even if you are not looking for search traffic, keywords can still be important. They tell you which terms your audience mainly uses when talking about this topic. You should use the words your audience uses.
Plus, keywords and the keyword research results can give you a hint about how important this topic is to your audience and what related aspects you should include in your post.
Related keywords and phrases often make great subsections for your blog post.
I never said, blogging is not about writing blog posts – it is one of the fun parts of the blogging business.
If you don’t like writing, you can either consider aiming for a video blog or become a podcaster. Or you might want to consider if blogging is the best way for your to go.
Make sure that you create the best possible content you can – if you need help with blog writing, check out this content creation process!
Create other content – graphics, images, videos, and more
A blog post is not the best blog post if it is just written words. You should consider adding some visual content to your posts. There are several reasons:
- Images add structure to your post. Online content can be more difficult to read. To help people skim it, visuals can add focal points.
- Some people remember visuals better than written or spoken words. The picture superiority effect claims that after 3 days you will remember only 10% of something you read or hear while you will remember 65% of what you read in combination with a visual.
- Images can add marketing power. Some images can be used for blog post distribution and some images can add some SEO power through Google’s image search.
- Images can help to keep readers longer on your posts – that will help with SEO
- Great visuals can also attract backlinks – for instance, the image I quoted earlier from Orbit Media earned them a backlink from this post.
Sometimes creating the visual content for our blog post can take up more time than writing the post. Images can be quick screenshots or complicated graphics.
Remember that images for your blogs should not be unrelated stock images but images that add value and information.
Audience Building and nurturing
Your blog audience is one of the most important assets of your blogging business – if you have an audience. Audience building needs to be on your radar from the start. And you can never neglect to nurture your audience and grow it further.
This includes social media conversations and answering emails.
Write other content – Lead Magnets, Emails
As a blogger, you need to write a lot more content than your blog posts. You need some ebooks, checklists, or quizzes as lead magnets. You will write regular emails to your email subscribers. You will create course content and even write books you can sell.
Your email list will be one of your most important traffic channels. Your email subscribers are most likely to turn into your customers. But you need to nurture them with valuable emails.
Blogging as a business requires you to write – even if your blog posts are not written content but you create videos or podcasts.
There are many reasons why connections to other bloggers from your niche will help you to grow your blogging business. Blogging connections give you guest blogging opportunities, the chance to create joined blog posts, and ask fellow bloggers for a review or feedback.
Bloggers from your niche are not your enemy – they can be your friend if you find a way to reach out to them and connect.
Networking – coffee/lunch, group activities
No, I don’t go to blogger lunch or some group activities every day. But there is a lot to be gained from networking and making new friends. Business friends help each other out, they cooperate on content and pass on useful contacts. A thriving network can be the foundation of business success.
And you don’t have to make them in real life – social media and Facebook or LinkedIn groups can help you to connect just as well.
Build your audience – blog distribution
Distribution is going to be one of the most important and time-consuming tasks.
You can have the best ever content on your blog, if no one knows this content is there you will not succeed.
If you want to be a blogger you need to learn marketing and blog distribution. Work on your social media and audience building.
When you are a new blogger, distribution is the crucial step from a hobby blog to a blogging business. You need to learn how to reach your target audience in your distribution channels, and what type of posts they like and engage with. You need to understand the algorithms that are at work in most distribution channels. You have to learn about tools and tactics. Plus, you need to build community and an audience.
You could argue that SEO is a distribution tactic and that is true. But SEO is a little different than social media and audience-based community-building.
You don’t grow an audience in search engines. You build links and authority. You learn about keywords and content clusters.
Traffic from search engines is often highly targeted: you reach people with your content exactly at the point when they are looking for it.
Even if search traffic is not your first traffic channel, you should learn about SEO and how to use it to increase your traffic from search engines.
This can so easily be forgotten. But if people take the time to comment on your blog, you should pay them your respect and answer their comments.
Plus, you have to moderate the comments on your blog since there are still many spammy comments, you don’t want to leave on your blog.
Make money from blogging
If you are building a blogging business you are doing it to make a living from it. And that always involves some money making.
But even if you are blogging as part of your marketing for a small business there needs to be some accounting involved. Blogging costs money and you need to make sure that it is worth it.
Create and maintain products – ebooks, courses
If you want to make money from blogging, you need to have something to sell. Even if you are selling consulting, you still need to provide this consulting. That is going to take a considerable amount of time.
The typical products for blogging businesses are digital products like ebooks or online courses. Before you can sell them you need to create them.
Create, schedule, and execute launches and sales campaigns
I am not a natural salesperson. I learned the hard way that even the best product does not sell without a sales strategy. But there are online sales tactics like sales letters, launches, and webinars that can work wonders.
But whatever you choose to sell your products, you have to create it. Emails, bonuses, landing pages – they all need to be created. And it all costs time that you are not spending writing blog posts.
Other ways to make money – affiliate, sponsorships
There are other ways to earn money online and all of them include at least a minimum of work. You need to research affiliate programs. You need to figure out how you are going to promote the affiliate link. Often it involves some blog creation or email writing.
We are all using tools, plugins, and apps for our blogging and social media channels.
These tools need some setup and maintenance.
Every social media automation needs some maintenance – mentioning it, even your social media channels need some maintenance apart from posting new updates.
Even if you are creating evergreen content this content can still grow old and outdated.
Some content is worth the effort to update and adjust. Sometimes, you should even consider to republish the content if the changes you made are significant enough.
Regular updates to Setup, Hosting, Apps, and Plugins
Your blog needs some updates too. Your plugins, and the WordPress installation, all need to be catered for.
We are talking about tasks that are relevant for a blogging business. And no business can do without some business administration.
If you are running a business, there is no way around some accounting and taxes.
How are your products doing? Which products are making the most money? Which products are the easiest to sell? What products get the best responses from your customers?
What products are you planning for the future?
Can you afford some more help with some of your blogging tasks?
These are all questions you need to have on your radar and answer sooner or later in your blogging business.
I have seen more tasks that may come into the mix. But most of them are niche specific.
For instance, a travel blogger needs to do the traveling.
A fitness blogger needs to do some workouts.
And at least in some cases this definitely is work. Travel bloggers often take on hotel and regional projects. They cannot simply lie back and enjoy the spa in the hotel. They often have a really busy schedule and not all of it is fun and leisure. But it is part of the (blogging) job.
Outsourcing some blogging tasks
Does this sound overwhelming? It should not. But you should be aware of all the tasks that a blogging business needs to thrive. You can get some help and you will learn what you need along the way.
True, as your blogging business matures and grows, you will start to get more people and more experts into the mix.
Many bloggers have a more tech affine persona to help with setting up and maintaining the blog and website.
You will probably have a tax advisor and maybe an accountant.
Final words on “what is blogging?”
From a blogger’s perspective, it is slightly short-sighted to equal blogging with writing blog posts. When you are starting a blog, you need to be aware that there is a lot more to a blogging business than the creation of content that you publish on a blog.
From the non-blogger perspective, blogging can stand for a relevant business. Instead of limiting it down to the old and antiquated view of a web diary, I hope that blogging and other online business models become more natural and more commonly understood outside the close-knit blogging community.