Blogging for Fun & Profit
Recently, some friends asked me about learning to blog. I started at Blogger.com back in 2004, and started a second blog last year using Blogger tools that's hosted on one of my own domains. Wordpress.com is another popular platform where you can start blogging for free.
Blogging can be a very individual art form. Some people just post one-liners like Instapundit, while others go in for long-form essays based on a particular field of expertise such as Dr. Sanity. Betsy's Page is another good example; she has enough traffic that a) she has to pay for her bandwidth, and b) ad revenue helps. Some people like Instapundit and the Anchoress moved from their original (growing) blog to find a new blog home as part of a larger enterprise site.
There are group blogs such as The Corner at National Review, where they keep a lively conversation going about current events (it helps that they're all professional writers). Powerline is another popular group blog. WattsUpWithThat has become a very popular blog, posting lots of technical papers and articles about weather and climate science; the comments are an education in themselves. "Hockey stick observed in NOAA ice core data" is worth a read ;-)
How do people find blogs? They start by word of mouth, seeing a reference or hyperlink online, or in an email. One way to promote your blog is to comment on other blogs and link back to relevant content on your own (a "trackback"). Another technique is to post an article to a site like Ezine Articles and include a link back to your site and/or blog. Some of my traffic comes from people doing Google searches.
Many blogs have a list on the side with links to their favorite or allied blogs; this is known as a blogroll. Lucianne.com just started a new site, Blogs Lucianne Loves, to highlight stories from selected blogs rather than main-stream media (MSM) as on her original site.
Blogging is one way to build content for your business website. One of the functions of blogs is to let your readers know not only what you're expert at, but what info you find valuable (or bogus) elsewhere on the internet. That's why you'll see lots of hyperlinks in people's articles, especially on opinion sites. The downside to linking elsewhere is that people leave your site. But if they find the content valuable and you keep it fresh, they'll keep coming back for more.
Perry Marshall is a good example of the business-focused blogger, which makes sense since his business is coaching people how to use Google AdWords and other internet marketing techniques. Ed Dale, another internet marketing guru, uses Twitter and Facebook to link people back to his blog or other interesting sites.
There are other tools available for bloggers. I use StatCounter.com to track my blog traffic, so I can see statistics such as what my visitors are reading, what countries they're from, what browser and operating system they're using, and whether they've visited more than once recently. I also use HaloScan for comments and trackbacks. Since I have light traffic, Blogger.com, StatCounter.com, and HaloScan are all freebies. These aren't the only ones by any means. I have a widget to link to my own Twitter feed on both blogs, and Real Simple Syndication (RSS) is also enabled.
One of the reasons I started blogging was because I found myself writing too many link-laden emails to family and friends during election season! By blogging, I've reached readers from around the world :-)