Individuals and companies publish blogs for a variety of reasons. Some blogs are launched for marketing purposes; others are posted just for fun. Here are a few things you can do with a personal or professional blog:
- Journal – Most sites support private blogs that can be used as a journal or public blogs for sharing. Some bloggers use weblogs to publish their travelogue, personal thoughts, or daily events.
- Special Interest – Write on your favorite hobby or subject. Share tips on genealogy, historical topics, cooking, photography, gaming, or other hobby. You can write on any subject from Victorian Literature to Zhu Zhu Pets. There are no boundaries.
- Family or Society Blog – Most blog services let you set up multiple users with passwords. With this arrangement you can start a family or society blog. Family or society members can login and add posts and images to share with the rest of the members.
- Product Promotion – Many individuals and companies use blogs for free marketing. Posts can be created as product reviews, articles, news, or whatever. You can also link your blog to your corporate or sales sites.
- Customer Education – Blogs can be used to inform customers. A corporate blog can contain product news, tips, company news, articles, and more to educate customers or shareholders about products, services, or corporate happenings.
- News and Information – Numerous blogs are used to relate current events. Some bloggers publish national news and commentary; others use blogs to cover local events.
The blogging process is surprisingly easy. You could be writing your first blog post ten minutes from now.
First, let's examine a few statistics:
- More than 147 million Americans use the Internet.
- Over 57 million Americans read blogs.
- Over 12 million American adults currently maintain a blog.
- 9% of internet users say they have created blogs.
- 6% of the entire US adult population has created a blog.
- 89% of companies surveyed say they think blogs will be more important in the next five years.
- Technorati is currently tracking over 70 million blogs.
- More than 120 thousand blogs are created every day.
- There are over 1.4 million new blog posts every day.
- 22 of the 100 most popular websites in the world are blogs.
- 37% of blog readers began reading blogs in 2005 or 2006.
- 51% of blog readers shop online.
- Blog readers average 23 hours online each week.
Creating your own blog is now easy. In fact, you don't have to install any software or perform other "techie tasks." If you know how to surf the web and how to use a word processor, you can create your own blog.
The question is, "What will you write about?" I will leave that to you. This article will describe the process of making the blog. The information to be added is left to your imagination.
The easiest method of creating a blog is to use an online blog service, such as Blogger, TypePad, WordPress, or LiveJournal. In fact, there are probably one or two dozen other online blogging services available. You can create basic blogs for free, and most of these toolsets have additional features available for a price.
The free blogging services generally pay their bills by selling advertising that appears on your blog pages, although there are a few exceptions. As of this writing, these sites work quite well and usually do not run obnoxiously intrusive advertisements. In some cases, no advertisements at all will appear on your free pages. You also can either pay for an ad-free service or possibly install blogging software on your own web server.
One disadvantage of using someone else's blogging service is that the web address, or URL, typically shows that service's address, not yours. For instance, if you decide to use the popular Blogger.com service with its default settings, your blog will be at http://myblog.blogger.com or some similar address. Some services do allow for customized URLs that reflect your own domain name, such as http://blog.my-domain-name.com or something similar. Customized domain names typically involve an extra fee. Again, you might find an exception.
Installing blogging software (such as Movable Type or WordPress) on your own server can be satisfying and will allow you to control the appearance of the blog pages. In addition, hosting the blog software on your own server eliminates the issues with domain names. Since everything is on your server, the domain name will be that of the server. However, web server installations can be complex and may require expertise that will not be presented in this article.
Creating a simple blog on a hosting service can be free or very low-priced and only takes about five minutes. You select the blogging service you wish to use (see the list at the end of this article), and then enter your name, e-mail address, and a few other pieces of information. You select "the look" (template) for your blog from a set of standard templates. Click a few buttons and you're done.
Now you can add new entries to your blog. Basically, all you do is type in the entry and push the "publish" button to post it. You can edit the entry as much as you like by clicking the "edit" button. When you are happy with the new entry, you push the "publish" button to make your new entry visible on your public blog.
For instance, you might add a one-line post:
I really like this site: http://www.eogn.com
That's it. A blog entry can be that simple. Or it can be an entire story. It's all up to you. If text isn't enough for you, many blogging tools also allow you to post photos, video, and audio files. You can even post via your cell phone. I have been known to snap a picture with my camera's cell phone, add a few words of explanatory text, and then upload the picture and text to my blog. All this is done from anyplace within cell phone coverage, no computer needed.
Using a Word Processor
You can write your articles by typing directly into the blogging service's web pages. However, I prefer to write my articles offline by using a word processor, then copying-and-pasting into the hosting service's editing window. Using a full word processor has numerous advantages, such as spell checking, grammar checking, and more. However, you typically want to ignore special formatting when first writing the article. Formatting can be inserted later.
Once you have written your article, spell checked it, grammar checked it, and performed whatever editing you wish, you can copy-and-paste it to the blog site. However, many word processors add "hidden characters" and formatting commands that will not transfer easily to the blog. In many cases, the blog software will interpret these hidden characters in a manner you do not want, resulting in a blog entry with strange-looking formatting that resembles a ransom note. There is a simple solution: first copy-and-paste from the word processor to a simple text editor (such as Notepad) to remove all formatting, then copy-and-paste from the text editor to your blog. Finally, use the blog's editor to add the desired formatting such as font variations, bullets, and the like.
All modern operating systems include a simple text editor, such as Windows Notepad or Macintosh TextEdit. Both are rather simplistic but will suffice for this purpose. As you gain experience, you might want to upgrade to a more powerful text editor in the future. I'd recommend the free version of NoteTab at http://www.notetab.com for Windows users and the free TextWrangler for Macs at http://www.barebones.com/products/TextWrangler.
The process is simple:
- Write your article in your favorite word processor. When complete, press Control-A to select all the text in the word processor and then press Control-C to copy the text to the clipboard. (Macintosh users will use Command-A and Command-C.)
- Open the text editor (Notepad for Windows users or TextEdit for Macintosh users or whatever text editor you prefer). Press Control-V (or Command-V) to paste the text into the text editor.
- You have now removed all formatting. Now you repeat the previous steps, only this time you are copying FROM the text editor and pasting to the blog. To do so, make sure you click inside the text window of the text editor, press Control-A to select all the text in the text editor and then press Control-C to copy the text (without formatting) to the clipboard. (Macintosh users will use Command-A and Command-C.)
- Go to the blog's writing window (called the editor), click inside the window as if you are going to write the text, then press Control-V (Mac users use Command-V.). All the text, without formatting, will be placed into the blog's text editor.
- Finally, use the blogging text editor to add bold, italics, indented paragraphs, or whatever formatting you wish. When complete, click on PUBLISH.
With a bit of practice, the above process becomes simple and can be performed within two or three seconds. I used this process when publishing this article: I wrote the article in NeoOffice (a Macintosh word processor), sent it to Pam, the newsletter editor, who then edited it on her PC using Microsoft Word for Windows. She then returned the edited article to me; I copied-and-pasted it into TextWrangler to remove any unwanted formatting, then copied and pasted it from TextWrangler to the TypePad blog.
Online Blogging Services
The largest free service describing itself as a free blog host is Blogger, a subsidiary of Google. Blogger is available free of charge, supports text and pictures, and is very popular. It is not as powerful or flexible as most of the other blogging services, however. You can sign up for a free Blogger account and then start posting your words within minutes. Blogger Mobile lets you send photos and text straight to your blog while you're on-the-go. All you need to do is send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org from your phone. You don't even need a Blogger account. The message itself is enough to create a brand new blog and post whatever photo and text you've sent. http://www.blogger.com
Another solid option is LiveJournal, which employs a different, more user-friendly vocabulary but offers essentially similar capabilities. LiveJournal is more popular with those who don't wish to learn about web publishing, those who expect their journal to be read by a relatively small audience, and young people, especially teenagers. LiveJournal provides good tools for "locking" journal entries so that only particular people can read them, while those who self-identify as "bloggers" are usually seeking to reach the largest audience possible. http://www.LiveJournal.com
WordPress is a very popular blogging service. WordPress is both good news and bad news. The good news is that it is highly configurable, and third-party developers have developed hundreds of "plug-ins" that add extra functionality. You can customize your blog in many different ways. The bad news is that there are many configuration choices to make and hundreds of plug-ins to peruse and choose from in order to get what you want. WordPress is very popular with experienced bloggers who already know what they want; however, it can be overwhelming to the newcomer who is not yet familiar with all the terminology and technology available. http://wordpress.com
NOTE: WordPress is available both as a hosted service that runs on the company's servers or as software you can install on your own server. The two versions are nearly identical in operation and, in both cases, are free but with extra features available for a fee. The "install-it-yourself" version is available at http://wordpress.org, not at http://wordpress.com.
My favorite blogging service is TypePad. TypePad is designed for the professional or advanced amateur who does not want to spend hours designing the blog and installing plug-ins. TypePad does have plug-ins, but they install in seconds, usually with no configuration needed. TypePad has recently introduced a free blogging service, called TypePad Micro. However, my preferred TypePad services are available only for a fee, either $8.95 a month for the Plus version or $14.95 for the Unlimited version. The EOGN newsletter runs on the Unlimited version. Even higher priced options are available but will appeal primarily to corporations, not to private individuals.
The fee-based services of TypePad allow for domain mapping (use http://myblog.my-domain-name.com instead of http://myblog.typepad.com); thousands of designs (templates) to choose from or create your own templates; multiple authors with each having a unique user name and password; an excellent spam filter that filters out undesirable comments to posts; post from your cell phone; post from an email message; audio and video podcasts; photo albums that can be separate or else integrated into your blog posts; the ability to publish posts at a future date and time; integration with Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, Flickr, Feedburner and more; as well as eCommerce integration with Amazon, eBay, Google and PayPal. TypePad never displays ads on your blog unless you select ads that you want to publish. You can even receive payment for the ads you select, or you can also insert your own advertisements. The Unlimited version of TypePad allows for multiple blogs on one account at no extra charge – a bargain, in my opinion.
If you prefer to host the software on your own server, look at Moveable Type. It is essentially the same software as TypePad but the name TypePad is used when that software is hosted on the company's own servers.
You can find TypePad at http://www.typepad.com.
Other blogging services include:
Creating and maintaining a blog is one of the most satisfying experiences imaginable. If you have something to say to the world, blog it!