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What Is a Blog … and How Does It Work?

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

What is a blog? And how does it work? Used to be that there was a clear line between writing a blog and writing an article. These days, not so much.

The changeover was subtle. Online publishing exploded in the early part of the 21st century and print publishing declined. 

Meanwhile, more and more website owners outsourced content to freelance writers. Magazines and newspapers added their own online versions. And the rise of inexpensive (or free) blogging platforms meant that anyone could become an online writer.

Soon, the lines blurred between what is a blog and what is an article.  Maybe you’re struggling to understand the difference between an article and a blog … and who does what in the blogging equation. If so, this article (or should I say blog post?) is for you.

What is a blog? with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #blogging #WritingTips

What is a blog?

A blog is a specific kind of website.

Blogs (“web logs”) first emerged in the 1990s as online public journals. They have since grown to include informational web pages. A blog can be a standalone website or part of a larger one. (Mine is. Here’s the page with my blog feed.) Blogs may be written by an individual or a team.

Each blog entry, or post, typically focuses on a specific topic. Topics are categorized when posted so that readers can surf past blog entries on a specific topic.

For instance, I have topic categories on the left side of my website. This way, if readers want to jump directly to a specific topic, they needn’t wade through my other posts.

What is a blog post?

A blog post is a single entry on your blog. It is published on its own dedicated page.

A post can be an information piece, an opinion piece, a news piece, a how-to piece … these days, a blog post can take whatever form you choose.  

As for content, a post is narrow in scope. “A blog post typically covers a specific topic or query,” says Rachel Leist in HubSpot.  A blog post is also …

  • Written in a conversational tone. An article can be conversational, too, but it also can be more formal, as in newspaper articles.
  • Published exclusively on the web. Articles are published both on the web and in print.
  • Can range up to 2,000+ words or more, but usually is at least 500 words. An article can be a filler (less than 300 words) or several thousand words.

What is a blog writer?

A blog writer – blogger – is anyone who writes blog posts. Many bloggers run their own blog sites. They control and write the content but also manage technical aspects of blogging, like loading the content and creating images

Some blog owners invite other writers to contribute content. Those pages are called “guest posts.” And some businesses hire freelancers to write posts for their blogs.

Why do people run blogs?

Some individual bloggers run their sites purely for self-satisfaction. They want to share their story or keep track of their experiences. Other bloggers grow their audience to make money.

Businesses operate blogs for that same reason.

Every blog post increases online exposure, which in turn increases web traffic – particularly when blog posts use carefully-selected keywords. Optimized pages increase a business’s visibility in search engine results. That connects a business to relevant prospects and generates leads. 

How does a blog work?

Since a blog is a type of website, you build it in the same way – most often with a content management system like WordPress

Blog content is published in reverse chronological order, which means your most recent post appears at the top of your blog page.

But its content is also organized in categories with tags. This way, when you select a blog’s tagged term, the site will sort its posts and list those that you tagged with the same term. Your blogging platform guides you through tagging and categorizing your posts as you publish them.

For instance, let’s say you run a home aquarium website. You create all kinds of content about different kinds of aquarium fish from a 5-year-old’s first goldfish bowl to the passionate aficionado’s exotic marine life.

On your blog, you tag certain posts with “goldfish.” This way, a user can access all your posts about goldfish by inserting that search term … and won’t wade through posts about cichlids and pufferfish.

Use this Blog Post Worksheet to save time and frustration ...

How do blogs get traffic?

If your blog is properly optimized with keywords, your posts will come up higher on search engine results than other sites. Readers will begin to find you. Then, the more you post – and the more you optimize your posts – the more traffic you’ll get. (LeeAnn Fox has a helpful course on search engine optimization for blogs.

You also develop traffic as you acquire regular followers. Let’s say a reader finds you and likes your content. There are two big-picture ways you can convert them to subscribers:

  • Readers subscribe through a feed reader, like Feedly. The web feeder automatically notifies the subscriber when you publish a new blog post. You can set up a web feeder opt in on your site so readers can subscribe.
  • Readers subscribe by email. In this scenario, you as the blogger you also create and send an email to readers (using an email service provider) when you publish a new post.

What are the different types of blogs?

Website builder Wix says there are 20 different types of blogs, including food blogs, entertainment blogs, fashion blogs, and business blogs.

WebsiteSetUp boosts that number to 40 types of blogs by including car blogs, gaming blogs, and personal finance blogs. But the truth is that those lists describe niche blogs – sites that share information about an ultra-specific topic. 

The niche blog is one of the most popular types of blogs. There are others, including …

  • Personal blog: a place for the blogger to share ideas online. It’s an open, online journal where the blogger can share his skin cancer experiences or her journey in raising twins. 
  • Business blog: part of a marketing strategy. A business posts regular content related to its products and services in order to educate readers and build exposure.
  • Affiliate blogs: content, tutorials, and product reviews promoting products and services, with links for readers to buy the product or service.
  • Resume blog: an online calling card for an artist, author photographer, or writers, which showcases the blogger’s work. 
  • Counter-culture blog (also called a Rogue Blog): creates discussion or controversy about a particular issue in order to generate awareness.  
  • Guest host blogs (also called collaborative blogs or reverse blogs): curates posts from other writers to generate content, rather than creating 100% original content from the blog owner.

Should you write a blog?

If you’re a freelance writer, you need to learn to write a blog post. Or article. Because these days, they’re nearly the same. As online publishing continues to flourish, your skills are needed to produce all that content.

And if you want to reach more prospects … build an online following … or simply have a creative outlet beyond your other writing … well, a blog may be for you. You have complete control over what you publish and when.

And now that you know what is a blog and the basics of blogging, you can decide if you want to write one.

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