How to open a blog: complete guide for both beginners and experts
We may not realize it, but there are (still) hundreds of millions of blogs on the Internet today: according to some estimates, there are nearly 500 million blogs hosted on platforms as varied as Tumblr, Squarespace, and WordPress, and in fact even the article we are reading right now is hosted within a blog. In short, by now we have become so fully familiar with this term and what it means that we no longer even mind the form, and “blog” is a virtual space that occupies a permanent place in culture and, more importantly, in our digital lives and daily actions. That’s also why, changing perspective, a blog is an extremely powerful and versatile communication tool, used both personally and professionally, and in this guide we will try to define what a blog is, how to create one, the reasons and advantages of starting such a project, and, no less important, what are the management tips in the specific context of an e-commerce.
What is a blog
The term “blog” derives from the contraction of “weblog” and indicates a log (log) published on the web.The word was coined in 1997 by Jorn Barger, an ante litteram blogger from Robot Wisdom, who intended to describe his process of having access to the web (logging) while surfing the Internet, while the final abbreviation of blog was due in 1999 to programmer Peter Merholz.
In its early stages, a blog was a personal web log or journal in which someone-and potentially anyone-could share information or opinions on a variety of topics; information was classically posted in reverse chronological order, so that the most recent post was displayed first.
By definition, then, a blog is a website that presents content, usually in the form of articles or posts, in reverse chronological order (from the most recently published to the oldest); the topics covered are wide-ranging, from personal life to news, from entertainment to education, and can be written by individuals or groups of authors. It is thus an online communication tool for sharing information, experiences, opinions and knowledge through articles called “posts,” which are published on a more or less regular and cadenced basis. While blogs were initially used primarily as personal digital diaries, over time they have evolved into powerful tools for businesses, e-commerce, professionals and brands.
More specifically, today a blog is essentially a site that is regularly updated with posts of various types and can serve a personal purpose or meet a business need.
Difference between a site and a blog
It is perhaps appropriate to open a small digression on the difference – not only lexical – that exists between a blog and a site.
Basically, blog can be an entire Web site, and often is, especially when it is used for personal use, such as a travel or recipe blog. More often, however, by the word blog we refer to a section of a business website, and in particular to the most dynamic and most frequently updated part through the publication (more or less regularly) of new content, the posts.
In addition, a blog is a medium that allows for more interaction with an audience, allowing readers to comment on individual posts or even analyzing how many readers share posts on social media. In this sense, it allows you to set up a two-way conversation, or at least one that is more open and interactive than the rest of the website.
A look at the history of blogs
The history of blogs can be traced back to the mid-1990s, when people began creating online diaries to share their personal experiences and opinions. According to reconstructions, it was Justin Hall who invented this form of communication, creating the first blog at Links.net in 1994, which essentially contained a review of HTML examples found from various online links. Four years later (with the term weblog already coined, as mentioned) Open Diary was launched, which introduced a community approach to blogging, allowing members to comment on each other’s work; in 1999 the word blog became popular and, in the same year, Blogger platform was launched, offering people opportunities to publish online (and later acquired by Google), followed by other platforms such as LiveJournal and Xanga – in Italy, however, it was Splinder that since 2001 intercepted the growing interest in blogging, reaching 400 thousand blogs in 2008.
An important moment in this timeline is 2005: in that year, blogger Garrett Graff with his Fishbowl DC obtained press credentials for the first time to gain access to the White House and the Huffington Post was founded, which scholars say helped diminish “the line between news and blogs”; this site began as a “political forum” or “group blog,” gradually becoming an aggregator of high-profile content (and later renamed HuffPost).
Social media have also tapped into these trends: for example, Twitter in 2006 ushered in the era of microblogging, or the sharing of stories, news, and other content in the smallest possible format, and so too did the launch of Tumblr in the following year pushing even more experiential blogging. Moving fast forward, in 2009 the White House opens its own blog, in 2012 Medium and LinkedIn‘s influencer blogging platform are founded, and in 2016 WordPress launches the .blog domain to take advantage of the rapid rise of this multimedia form, although in reality the phenomenon has stalled (at least from the perspective of the original and personal blogs) due to the increasing use of social platforms for sharing stories, experiences, and personal narratives.
Statistics and interesting facts about blogs
Before we go into depth about what the benefits of blogging are, we can read some statistics and curious facts about these platforms.
For example, the company Impact estimated in 2016 that 77 percent of internet users regularly read blogs, demonstrating the extensive reach of this communication tool. Also very interesting is the impact of blogs with fresh and relevant content to improve SEO ranking and increase traffic: according to DemandMetric, companies that update their blogs regularly have 434% more pages indexed and 97% more links indexed by search engines than those that do not. HubSpot surveys, on the other hand, indicate that companies that publish more than 16 posts per month get 3.5 times more traffic than those that publish between 0 and 4 posts per month.
Other “hot” numbers include those revealed by Tech Client, for whom websites with a blog are 434% more likely to be ranked high on Google; BlogHer reports that 61% of consumers have made at least one purchase based on a recommendation in a blog post; and for nymarketing.com, 94% of people share blog posts because they believe they can be useful to others.
Looking at the profitable aspects at the business level, it is still Demand Metric that explains that content marketing, including blogging, costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times more leads; for the Content Marketing Institute, 81 percent of B2B companies use blogs as part of their content marketing strategies; 56 percent of marketers who use blogs believe it is a successful strategy; and in 10 percent say they see increases in ROI.
Returning instead to the golden age of blogging and blogging, we can turn the spotlight on at least 10 success stories that started simply from an online journal, both nationally and globally:
- Huffington Post. As mentioned earlier, this celebrated news and opinion site was originally founded as a blog by Arianna Huffington in 2005, becoming one of the world’s largest news sites and being acquired by AOL in 2011 for $315 million.
- Mashable. Pete Cashmore founded Mashable in 2005 as a technology blog, and today it is one of the most influential sites on technology, digital culture and entertainment.
- TechCrunch. Started in 2005 as a blog about tech startups founded by Michael Arrington, it has become a benchmark for the tech industry and was acquired by AOL in 2010.
- Perez Hilton. Mario Armando Lavandeira Jr., known as Perez Hilton, created a celebrity gossip blog in 2004 and achieved enormous popularity, becoming an influential figure in the entertainment industry.
- Gary Vaynerchuk. This entrepreneur and motivational speaker, known to all as Gary Vee, gained notoriety initially through his Wine Library TV video blog, in which he offered wine advice through direct and casual reviews.
- Tim Ferriss. Author and lifestyle experimenter Tim Ferriss gained enormous popularity through his blog, where he examined personal experiences and shared life lessons. Ferriss is also the author of the bestselling The 4-Hour Workweek.
- Sartorialist. Scott Schuman, known as The Sartorialist, started his blog in 2005 to share photographs of impeccably dressed people, capturing street fashion around the world. Over time, his blog became extremely popular and influential in the fashion industry, and Schuman was included in Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in fashion.
- The Blonde Salad. Italian blogger Chiara Ferragni founded The Blonde Salad in 2009 as a fashion and lifestyle blog. Since then, her blog has become an established fashion brand and herself a world-renowned influencer.
- GialloZafferano. Started in 2008 as Sonia Peronaci’s cooking blog, GialloZafferano has become one of Italy’s most popular recipe portals, with a vast archive of recipes and videos.
- Beppe Grillo. Italian actor, comedian, and political activist Beppe Grillo launched his personal blog in 2005, becoming one of the most widely read and influential Italian-language blogs. Using his blog as a platform, Grillo helped found the 5 Star Movement, a political party that has become a major political force in Italy.
What are the benefits of blogging for businesses, e-commerce, professionals, and brands
Although with the rise of social media and the phenomenon of influencers, personal blogging seems to have declined somewhat, this tool still retains its relevance and centrality in the strategies of brands, companies, and in general of all those who aim to have something other than a simple showcase site.
Indeed, starting a blog has numerous attractions and positive aspects, but it must be understood that the level of potential success depends on the basic motivations (and goals), the chosen theme, the skills and the way we approach the production and publication of posts.
In any case, in principle we can say that creating a blog and keeping it active and dynamic offers a variety of advantages, whether it is the project of a company, an e-commerce, a professional or a brand. Just to give a self-referential example, our blog hosts content on various topics that relate to SEOZoom’s core business, and thus SEO, digital marketing and updates from the Google world, as well as delving into the use of the suite’s tools, and the type of readers who read these articles are similar to those who make up SEOZoom’s user base, sharing their interests and, probably, needs and curiosities.
To summarize, we can say that possible positive effects include:
- Reputation management. A blog allows you to show authority and expertise in a given area, helping to establish credibility and build trust with readers and customers.
- Generation of qualified traffic. Creating quality content through a blog can attract visitors to the site, increasing the visibility and reach of the business; more importantly, it could make it easier to convert these visitors into leads or, by diverting them to ecommerce product pages, into buyers.
- Improvement of SEO. Regular posting of relevant and original content on a blog can help improve the website’s search engine rankings, making it more visible to people interested in the products or services provided.
- Engagement with visitors. A blog can help establish a direct relationship with readers, promoting the sharing of ideas, feedback and the creation of a community around the brand or business. To cultivate an online community and interact with an audience.
- Content Marketing. A blog can be used as a tool to promote products and services, such as through reviews or tutorials, or to share company-related news.
And so, we can say that starting a blog could have useful reflections on a “personal” level, because it allows you to share your passions, opinions, and interests with a wider audience and community, but most importantly, on a professional level: well-written posts can rank on Google, helping to establish your authority in a specific industry, increase your online visibility and attract new clients or professional opportunities, and can serve to demonstrate to Google itself the famous EEAT characteristics, which identify the quality of content.
In addition, creating and managing a blog can help develop useful skills in writing, marketing, SEO, and social media management, and this special site can become a source of income through advertising, affiliations, selling products or services, and collaborations with other companies.
How to start a blog
Basically, then, blogging is about sharing knowledge with the online world, and passion for the topic(s) at the center of the posts is one of the secrets that can lead to success. Basically, people read blogs to get a different perspective on topics and news, a more personal and, why not?, conversational approach: for example, people who visit a culinary recipe blog are not looking for a scientific text or an in-depth examination of the properties of foods, but want to read the tips and experiences of someone who has actually cooked those meals and shares his or her creative process, including even any mistakes and other storytelling elements, so they can decide whether or not to repeat the preparation at home.
Given its nature and format, a blog can also host a wide variety of topics, although often the projects that gain the most attention are those that are very vertical or even niche, curated and written by people who know the subject they are talking about and who know how to tap into readers’ curiosity.
Turning to the practical aspects, starting a blog can be a simple and accessible process even for those without advanced technical skills, because there are essentially few necessary requirements needed. Indeed, we can outline a simple list of basic steps to create a successful blog:
- Choose a platform. There are several blogging platforms to choose from, such as WordPress, Blogger and Medium, each of which has its pros and cons; therefore, the choice will depend on personal needs and preferences, while also considering variables such as usability, customization and associated costs.
- Registering a domain. The domain is the blog’s web address (e.g., com) and in some way represents its “name”; therefore, it is important to choose a domain that is catchy, easy to remember, reflects and represents the blog’s theme and style, and register it through a reputable domain registrar.
- Choose a hosting provider. Hosting is the service that provides the space on the web to host a blog.There are several hosting options, such as free or paid services, that vary in features and performance and support the blogging platform of choice. Options that can guide the choice include cost, ease of installation, and customer support, among others.
- Install and configure the blog. After deciding on the platform, domain, and hosting, you need to install the blog software and customize it to your needs-this includes choosing a graphic theme, installing plugins, and adding features that may be most useful to your project and goals-by following the instructions provided by the hosting provider or platform to install and configure the blog.
Managing a blog on a SEO level
If these are the basic tips for setting up a blog, there are then other steps that can make a difference in terms of performance, and that above all distinguish an amateur project from a blog that is built and managed in a more professional and focused way – that is, a site that has a mission, vision, and goals.
Similarly to what happens with regular sites, for example, you also need to think about the structure of the blog, configuring its key pages (the home page, the “About Me” page and a contact page that will allow visitors to get in touch with the editorial team, but also the categories into which to channel content) and determining what the target audience will be, so that you have an idea of the type of content you will need to produce; in this sense, it can also help to do comparative analysis and find out if there are already opponents occupying the niche market and how they operate, to make it easier to identify trends, any gaps in content, and ideas on topics and ways to promote the blog. In a word, to build strategy.
Indeed, to be successful, a blog should publish content that is interesting, original, useful and valuable to its readers.This means, as with sites, that it is important to plan an editorial strategy, defining the topics to be covered, the frequency of publications and the tone to be used. We can use various tools then to identify the topics most relevant to the target audience and start creating and publishing quality and informative posts on a regular basis to keep the blog updated and interesting, following the rules of SEO keyword research that also apply to sites tout court.
However, publishing alone is not enough to guarantee visibility, nor can one expect readers to find the posts only on Google (assuming one wins good rankings): that is, one needs a blog promotion strategy, which goes through sharing posts on social media, engaging with the users through comments or discussions, and implementing activities such as guest blogging, collaborating with other influencers in the industry, or sending email newsletters to reach current and potential customers.
Finally, strategic management also involves analyzing and monitoring the results obtained, using tools such as Google Analytics to monitor traffic, visitor behavior and the effectiveness of promotion strategies, and making changes and optimizations accordingly when necessary.
How to run a blog for e-commerce
Starting a blog, or rather a blog section within the main site, is one of the most widely used and probably useful options for e-commerce businesses, which with posts can promote products, engage and inform readers and, most importantly, increase sales.
Although SEO optimization of an e-commerce blog tends to follow the classic SEO best practices that apply to all sites, there are nevertheless some precise aspects that are worth dwelling on, especially from the point of view of the potential risks of unplanned and inadequately maintained management.
To begin with, the blog section of an e-commerce site can be successful and make sense if it publishes useful and informative content, studying what customers’ questions are and structuring articles that provide useful advice, using this space to present the products sold in depth. Examples of content include buying guides, tutorials, reviews, and product comparisons. To succeed in improving the ecommerce site’s position in search engine results and to attract new visitors, then, blog content must be researched and optimized with relevant keywords, must include internal links to the products or categories mentioned, not neglect external links to in-depth sources, and must be shareable on social media and other marketing channels.
It is perhaps trite to say, but it is crucial that the blog is easily accessible from the e-commerce site and that the content is consistent with the company’s image and branding; then, as mentioned, posts should include links to products and pages on the e-commerce site to facilitate purchases in a smooth and seamless process for the user. To evaluate the effectiveness of the blog, one should focus on KPI metrics such as traffic, conversions, time spent on the site, and cart abandonment rate, using the information gleaned to further optimize content and marketing strategies.
Fundamentally, then, an e-commerce blog should encourage communication and feedback from readers and customers by allowing comments, answering questions, and creating a community around the brand. Through this involvement, it is possible to establish more direct interaction with visitors/customers, offering useful information, tips and product demonstrations, encouraging trust and loyalty in the brand, so as to generate interest in the products sold through e-commerce even with special offers and launches.
However, we have hinted at the potential risks that can result from inappropriate strategies in this area. The first problem, which is quite frequent, is the cannibalization of keywords between blog and e-commerce site: that is, posts may get better rankings on Google than the target keywords of products and categories, but emerge in queries of different intent than what is actually useful and therefore without effective feedback in terms of conversions. In other words, getting good rankings in a strongly transactional query with the blog has very little value and it would be more appropriate to push the specific product page toward that goal. Similarly, if the brand puts too much emphasis on the blog and everything related to it, the focus on e-commerce and sales may diminish.
Maintaining a blog, then, requires constant time and effort to ensure that quality content is created and published: not having this time or the resources (financial as well as professional) to devote to this activity could lead to an abandoned blog or one with poor quality content. A blog with poor quality content, grammatically incorrect content, inaccurate information, or controversy could then harm the reputation of the brand and lead to a decrease in customer trust.
Finally, speaking of trust, a blog that promises promotions and offers on the e-commerce site could generate high expectations among customers: not actually fulfilling these premises or promises may disappoint users and push them away from the brand, thus achieving the opposite effect from the one desired and sought after.