Read this post to understand the basics of starting a blog. Below are some of your top beginner blogging questions answered.
What is a blog?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a blog (noun) can be defined as:
- “a regular record of your thoughts, opinions, or experiences that you put on the internet for other people to read“
- “a website on which one person or group puts new information regularly, often every day; weblog“
- “a record of news, people’s opinions, photos, and videos about a particular subject that someone puts on the internet and adds information, pictures, etc. to regularly“
On the other hand, to blog (verb) means to manage a blog or to create new material for a blog.
So, to sum up, a blog is a place on the internet (i.e. a website) where you can share different types of content (e.g. text, images, videos, etc.) on a particular topic and which you update regularly.
What is the difference between a blog and a website?
While a blog is in essence a website, people mostly distinguish blogs and websites by the type of content they have. Typically, a website has a more static nature as its webpages are not updated as frequently as those of a blog.
At the same time, many websites have a blog section. This means that while the rest of the site is mostly static, the blog section is regularly updated with news and other updates. One reason for doing so could be to keep their community and regular audience (i.e. people who visit the website often) engaged. Another reason could be content marketing, but this a whole other topic for discussion.
What is the difference between a post and a page?
You will find many references to (blog) posts and pages, so it is important to ensure that you know how to distinguish the two terms.
When you want to create a new entry for your blog, then you will want to create a new (blog) post. A post is created in a similar way to a page, with the main difference that it will be automatically included in the blog section of your website. Posts can be organised into categories and tags.
In general, the majority of your blog will consist of posts, while only a small part will be pages. Both pages and posts can have text, images, and other types of content.
Can I earn money from a blog?
The short answer is yes, you can earn money from your blog, but when you can start earning money and how much depends on your strategy. Some ways to earn money are display ads, affiliate links and product selling.
You don’t need to set up your blog for monetisation from day 1, as it is important first to generate some content. However, when you do decide to do so, you should also consider the paperwork that comes with it. Usually, in many countries, even if you only have a tiny income, you should register your blog as a business and start paying tax.
What do I need to start a blog?
Apart from a great idea and a good amount of determination, the most basic things you will need are:
- A domain name, this is the name of your website (e.g. ours is tipsforbloggers.com);
- A web host, this is the place on the internet that will store your website for other people to access, and;
- A website builder and/or content management system to allow you to create your website and upload content to your blog.
Overall, the process of starting a blog may sound complicated, especially if you are just getting started, but it is one of the easiest parts of owning a blog. Luckily, there are many resources online to help you with this and Tips for Bloggers is one of them.
Can I create a blog for free?
Again, the short answer is yes, but I wouldn’t recommend that, as free blogs have very limited capabilities.
Free websites are possible by using a hosted blogging platform to create your blog. These platforms can provide a domain name for your blog, web hosting services and website builder capabilities.
Usually, these platforms have both free and paid services. The big difference between the two is the domain name. With a paid plan, you can choose to have your own domain name, while with the free plan you don’t have this flexibility.
Although initially, you get to choose a name for your blog, this name will be followed by the name of the platform. For example, if we had started Tips for Bloggers as a free website using the AbcXyz blogging platform, our domain name would be tipsforbloggers.abcxyz.com. Hmm…, not very professional, right? Plus, in this case, you are completely dependent on that blogging platform, if they ever cease to exist, you immediately stop too.
If you are just starting and want to try out first how it feels to run a blog without spending any money, then go for it. Some popular platforms for free hosted blogs are WordPress.com, Wix and Blogger.
Note that some of them allow you to pay for additional features, but then your blog will no longer be free, in which case, I recommend you start a self-hosted blog. This type of blog, even though it is not free and has a steeper learning curve, as you will have to handle your hosting and website creation on your own, will give you more controls (and can be cheaper in the long run).
Lastly, if you ever want to convert your free website to a self-hosted one, you will need to start again from scratch.
What is the difference between hosted and self-hosted blogs?
In simple terms, a hosted blog uses one of the blogging platforms which provide integrated hosting and website building tools, like the ones I described above. On the other hand, to have a self-hosted blog you need to use a third party to host your website, and an additional website builder and/or content management system, such as WordPress to create and manage your blog.
Both types of blogs allow you to use your own domain name, but you may need to purchase this separately.
So, overall, with a hosted blog, you are dependent on the platform you use to host your website, while with a self-hosted blog you have complete control of your site.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS) that allows you to manage your blog content and your website in general. WordPress is one of the most popular CMSs for self-hosted blogs, with many features for bloggers. It allows you to control the theme of your website, install plugins and easily write and manage your blog posts.
WordPress is an open-source piece of software, which means that it was created and is kept up to date by its large community of developers. At the same time, this means that it is free to use by everyone.
What is the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com?
The .org version is the website of the platform. There, you can find information about its features, themes, plugins and other support pages.
On the other hand, the .com version is a website company that provides hosted plans for WordPress sites. In other words, by creating an account with WordPress.com you can create a WordPress website without the need to arrange for a separate hosting plan. As I said above, WordPress.com allows you to create a free website with limited features, but if you want to use premium themes and install plugins you need to have one of the premium plans.
To start a self-hosted WordPress website, i.e. the one where you choose your host and have all the features of WordPress available for free (as described in the .org website), you need to find a web host which offers WordPress hosting plans. These plans automatically install WordPress on your website and manage all the major updates.
What is a website theme?
In simple terms, a theme defines how your website looks. A theme controls the fonts, the colours, the layout of your pages and posts and more. Usually, your theme should align with your overall brand identity.
There are different ways to create a theme for your blog. If you use WordPress, you will be able to access hundreds of themes, which you can then customise to your needs. Note that not all themes have the same customisation options and some are more flexible than others. WordPress provides both free and premium themes, with their main difference being the price and the amount of support available.
Another way to create a website theme is to use a website builder. Usually, such tools are not free and have a monthly or yearly fee, but allow the most customisation as you get to create your website the way you want it. If you are not confident in doing that you can always hire someone to design your theme for you.
What is a plugin?
Plugins are short packets of code that you can install on your website. They and allow you to perform specific tasks and extend the capabilities of your blog without you having to write any code. Plugins are very popular on WordPress websites, and indeed one of the reasons that many people choose this CMS.
Some of the most popular uses of plugins are to help with SEO, security, caching, image optimisation, backups, social sharing, cookie management and form creation. However, keep in mind that you need to ensure that your plugins are always up-to-date and that you are only installing the plugins you want to use so as not to slow down your website.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and refers to the set of practices that you should follow if you want to increase the chances of your blog posts appearing in a Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The most popular search engine is Google, hence many people refer solely to Google, but in reality, these practices help to increase your rankings in any search engine.
SEO is big and at points complex topic, as it needs a good understanding of how search engines work and how they rank content. Luckily, there are many resources and tools online (both free and paid) that can help you understand more about it and its different types.
In a nutshell, the most common sub-types of SEO are on-page SEO and off-page SEO. On-page SEO covers what you are doing on each page/post you are creating, while off-page SEO refers to your overall online presence and authority. You may also come across local SEO and international SEO, but these terms mostly affect companies with a physical presence.
What defines the authority of a blog?
There many many factors that affect the authority of a blog, or a website in general, and what reply you will get depends on who you are asking. In ideal terms, we want the response to match with Google’s views on authority, as research shows that it hugely affects rankings. However, as Google hasn’t yet shared their exact algorithm for creating SERPs, there is no correct reply, only best guesses.
A factor that many parties agree on, is the number of backlinks, i.e. the number of times your blog is mentioned in other websites with the presence of a link back to your blog. However, there are other important factors too, and a company called Moz managed to create a metric that combines everything into a single number. That number is between 0 and 100 and it is called the Domain Authority (DA).
Many bloggers use this number to understand the authority of their blog and compare their progress. Although, keep in mind to compare using the same metric, as there are other authority scores created by other companies that take into account different parameters.
Do you have another blogging question? Let us know in the comments and we will our best to answer it!
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