What it Means to Be a Blogger
For the purposes of this course, a blogger is someone who creates content on a regularly recurring basis that is typically presented in a reverse-chronological order. Content provided by bloggers may provide education, information, or entertainment. It may be carefully-edited, professional, and formal, or raw and personal.
The three most popular delivery mechanisms used by bloggers are:
- Blog posts
Many bloggers use a combination of the above formats to deliver their message, starting or specializing in one format, then expanding to additional formats to reach a wider audience.
Very few bloggers create content as a full time job. Most bloggers, vloggers (that is, bloggers who primarily publish in video format), and podcast creators (that is, those who regularly publish audio recordings available for download) create content as a part of an existing job or during their free time on nights and weekends. Though part-time and recreational bloggers may make some money passively via ad revenue, income typically generated by a blog, vlog, or podcast’s ads is not sufficient to support oneself entirely.
The most common means by which serious bloggers monetize their work include:
- Taking an entrepreneurial approach
- Creating formalized publication
- Asking for donations from audience members
Bloggers, vloggers, and podcasters who behave like entrepreneurs typically leverage their audiences to sell sponsorships, products, services, and subscriptions. Those who create full-blown digital media publications hire additional editors and contributors and earn income through ads, conferences, and affiliate sales. Bloggers who run their blogs like nonprofits garner funds from audience donations, grants, and support from external organizations.
The Perks of Becoming a Blogger
The perks of blogging, vlogging, and podcasting include:
- Flexibility with regard to the content you create and the subjects you cover
- Highly creative work
- Work with which others can immediately interact (it is satisfying to get feedback mere minutes after you publish)
- The potential to become self-employed (should you build up an audience and decide to get serious about your work)
- The ability to focus on your passions by covering them extensively through your published work
- The potential to gain influence and fame
- The ability to build a stronger, more engaged network- not just of followers, but of colleagues and potential mentors, clients, customers, and employers
- An excuse to build a robust, well-constructed, and pervasive digital identity
- An excuse to sharpen your writing, video production, and/or audio production skills
- An excuse to gain a better understanding of SEO and new media formats
- An excuse to research your favorite subjects in greater depth
- An excuse to reach out to leaders in your favorite fields (a.k.a. your heroes) for interviews
- The ability to make a significant impact on others’ lives
- The ability to start a new business or drive more people to your existing business
- The chance to establish yourself as an expert within a specific niche
- Greater odds of being approached or accepted by publishers once you have built up a sizable audience and reputation
Major Myths Associated with Blogging
Some of the most common myths associated with blogging are that:
- Blogging is easy: Blogging is an incredibly demanding pursuit; in addition to maintaining an excellent understanding of your audience’s likes and needs, you must be able to turn out high quality content on a regular basis, adapt to a constantly-changing media environment, and find creative ways to monetize your blog without alienating your followers
- Professional bloggers have tons of time: Those running serious, profitable digital publications often work 16-18 hours a day
- Blogging is all about your personal life: Though many of the internet’s early blogs resembled public diaries, most of today’s successful blogs are more like magazines- though often embellished with personal flare, modern blogs are anything but personal journals
- Bloggers can support themselves via ad revenue: Few bloggers can support themselves from ad revenue alone; even when ad revenue is high, it is risky to depend on it as changes in search algorithms can decimate the amount of traffic driven to your site (and your ad revenue) in a matter of seconds
- Any blog can become successful with enough work: If you enter a niche that is over-crowded or that lacks an actual audience, you aren’t likely to succeed no matter how long and hard you try
- Any blog can make money: In reality, a blog’s subject will have a significant impact on whether or not it gains a large, engaged, lucrative following; some subjects just aren’t conducive to sponsorships and sales
- Quantity trumps quality: Prolific publication is not more important than everything else; while a large archive of posts can aid your cause, every piece of content you publish should provide something value to your audience (those who publish just for the sake of publication aren’t going to build up loyal audiences of devoted fans)
- You have to have excellent grammar skills to be a successful blogger: As much as we love polished prose, full mastery of the English language is not a requirement to become a successful blogger, especially given the prevalence of non-writing-based blogging formats like videos and podcasts
- Comments and social media promotion are the ultimate signs of success: Au contraire- what matters most is that you are able to earn an income through your blog and reach the right people; if your blog only gets 120 views per month, but your readers are the top executives within your industry and you sell a sufficient number of services through your blog to make a comfortable living, you can consider yourself to be quite the success
- Blogging is dead: The old concept of blogging in which people operate only on their own websites may be dead, but only because it has given way to a new, cross-platform, multimedia approach
Major Trends in Blogging
In-Depth Content is Gaining Precedence
There was a period in the online world in which shallow, short content was able to perform very well, however a series of algorithm updates rolled out by the Google Search team have made it much harder for low-quality content to succeed. These updates have spurred a slow renaissance in thoughtful, high-quality, long-form content.
Though you would do well to consider occasionally publishing in-depth posts, do not forget the typical mindset of an internet browser. Make long posts easy to digest and skip around by breaking them up into clear sections with descriptive subheadings, presenting information in reasonably-sized paragraphs, and supplementing written content with photos, maps, videos, and tables.
Growing Importance of Mobile
Whether you produce posts, videos, or podcasts, you should keep in mind how you work might be found and consumed via mobile devices, which are being used to consume higher and higher proportions of web content. Make sure that your website is fully optimized for mobile devices and regularly access your content using mobile devices to make sure that random formatting bugs are not ruining mobile visitors’ experiences.
Diversification Has Become Essential
A blogger can no longer make a self-sustaining income by treating his or her blog as a stand-alone island. Successful blogs today are multi-media, multi-platform brands rather than single-note destinations. In addition to maintaining an active presence on social media, bloggers will do well to diversify their assets by presenting them across multiple platforms and in multiple formats. In addition to publishing podcasts in addition to blog posts, or videos in addition to posts, consider sharing your content through ebooks, special products, exclusive communities, and in-person meetings.
Why has diversification become so important? First, modern audiences expect media outlets to come to them wherever they’re hanging out- be it Facebook, Tumblr, or their email inboxes. Second, modern audiences are increasingly fragmented- there is no longer just one way in which everyone is expected to consume content, and everyone has a different preference. Many people only have time to listen to podcasts whereas some just check out posts and videos that pop up in their Facebook feeds and others prefer to take the old-fashioned path and visit sites one by one.
What’s more, it has simply become too risky to depend on any one platform or service for success. Search engine algorithms, site-based suggestion algorithms, platform policies, and community preferences change. If all of your audience arrives through one channel, and if that channel suddenly ceases to perform, you will find yourself in a bind that is nearly impossible to escape.
More People, Organizations, and Companies are Blogging
With the rising popularity of content marketing, more and more people are getting into blogs. This means two things for bloggers: more competition and more opportunity. In addition to having to compete with more content creators, you will need to create truly stellar content.
That said, additional competition will do you more good than harm. In addition to serving as potential platforms on which you to post guest posts, other blogs can offer new opportunities. For example, many companies are looking to hire part-time bloggers to keep their fledgling online properties populated with fresh content. If you play your cards right, you can get paid to contribute to other blogs within your field while maintaining your own byline, thereby gaining additional income, influence, and coverage.
Intelligent Analysis is On The Rise
Free analytics services- be they Google Analytics or the in-house analytics features provided by YouTube and Facebook- are more sophisticated and helpful than ever. As a blogger, you can now gain an intimate understanding of how visitors find your work, what piques their interest, what makes them click away, and what they find to be worth sharing with friends and followers.
Take time to learn how to use your analytics services’ more advanced features, such as Google Analytics’ event tracking and event reports. When used intelligently, these features can help you design a more efficient, effective website and provide readers with a significantly more enjoyable experience.
Social Media is Becoming as Important as Search
Even just a few years ago, search was seen as the most important means by which bloggers gain viewers- by far. Given the manner in which search algorithms have evolved, this opinion has shifted. Now, social media is seen as just as important (if not more important for some types of digital properties) than search.
Does this mean that you should not focus on SEO? Absolutely not. Both search and social media are important. What is different now is that you have to optimize your content and digital properties for both discovery methods, which is not quite so simple as one might think.
In addition to considering the terms people will use when running queries for your content via traditional search engines, you must contemplate the social media channels through which audiences would like to find your content (keep in mind they don’t necessarily want to hear from you everywhere). You must then make sure your content at once contains keywords that cater to searchers as well as alluring titles and opening images that cater to those on social media sites.
Images Are More Important than Ever
The online world is moving in a very visual direction. Take even a cursory glance at the hippest up-and coming social networks and apps and you will find it hard to disagree. Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram place a very heavy emphasis on visual content, and traditionally text-based services like Twitter are playing up visual experiences through apps like Vine.
You would therefore benefit form incorporating as many relevant images into your work as possible. Create informative infographics. Compile how-to guides into long, Pinterest-optimized images guides. Incorporate compelling, relevant, and alluring images into text-based blog posts. Overlay short quotes and excerpts over attractive backgrounds and colors so that they can be easily shared across image-based social networks.
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