Well, you’re here to answer the question, what is a blog? So, here we go.
A blog is a regularly updated website where new content is frequently published, typically written in an informal or conversational style—often with the goal of attracting readers and achieving some sort of goal, whether community-building or growing a business.
There’s one big point in the definition of a blog here that I’d like to point out—a blog is regularly updated. We’ll get to why that’s so important in a minute.
You most likely read blogs every day without even realizing it. You’re actually on my blog right now. Major websites like Forbes, BuzzFeed and CNN are all blogs too.
While I’m sure you’ve heard of the term blog before, do you actually know what the difference between a blog and a website is?
Unless you’ve already started a blog—or have held some other type of web-based job, you may not realize there’s a real difference between a blog and a website.
All blogs are websites, but not all websites are blogs.
What is a Blog? How a Blog is Different than a Website (Blog Definition) in 2020
- What is a Blog?
- A brief history of blogging
- How is a blog different than a website?
- Is it better to have a blog or a website?
- Key pages every blog and website should have
- Why every website should have a blog
Now, I want to cut through some of the confusion and really nail down on what a blog actually is and how it’s different from making a website. The true blog definition you’re looking for 🙂
But first, if you haven’t yet gotten your blog off the ground yet, then open up my ultimate guide to starting a blog and bookmark it for coming back to (soon) after we talk through some of today’s blogging basics.
Ready to Start Your Blog Today?
Check out my ultimate guide How to Start a Blog (on the Side).
Now, let’s go over a little history of how blogging got started and where it is today.
Blogging has been around since 1993—that’s now over two and a half decades.
While there is some debate over who the first blogger was, one man makes a compelling case.
In 1993 Rob Palmer began working for a company in London where he wrote a quarterly publication for the company and posted it on their website. Considering the World Wide Web was going open source, the company decided to continue this quarterly publication as a free online journal—or what's now known as a blog.
While Palmer was blogging for this early online company, less than a year later, personal blogging was born by 19-year-old Justin Hall. His blog really only consisted of ramblings and links, but people (and companies) quickly took notice of the potential of this new sharing platform.
While the term “online journal” and “online diaries” can certainly be a mouthful, in 1997 Jorn Barger, an American blogger, coined the term “weblog,” which was quickly shortened to “blog.”
Web developers quickly began to notice that people were becoming interested in blogging—and came up with a solution.
In 1998, Open Diary was born. This platform provided people a place to share their thoughts and ideas while also allowing others to comment. More blogging platforms like LiveJournal, Blogger, Tumblr and Xanga soon emerged.
Then in 2003, blogging changed forever when two college kids developed WordPress, a content management system (CRM) that now powers over two-thirds of the Internet.
In 2007, micro-blogging emerged with the emergence of Twitter and the ideal blog post length at the time was around 300-400 words.
In 2016, WordPress opened up the .blog domain extension, solidifying the popularity of blogging in a major way.
So here we are in 2020, with approximately 70 million new posts being published every month on WordPress. And even though the average blogger spends about three and a half hours writing a 1,500-word post, their audience reportedly only spends about 37 seconds reading it.
While a seemingly sad statistic, there are certainly ways that bloggers can increase that 37 second read time.
But that’s not the focus of our topic today...
The main difference between a blog and a website, is that a blog is active (dynamically changing as new content is published) and a website is more static without regular updates.
As we covered already, all blogs are websites by definition—but not all websites are blogs.
One of the main differences, is that a website is comprised primarily of pages—such as the home page, a services page and contact page. A website can even be just one single page.
A blog, on the other hand, is comprised of both pages and posts (of which there are usually more posts than pages).
Each post is its own distinct article, most often hosted on the blog page of the greater website.
Put simply, a blog is designed around the principle of releasing regular new content—while websites are more static and don't usually change with regularity.
With a website, they're generally built, published and more or less just sit there. Unless the business needs to update the website in order to do something like add new services or change their address, these static websites that aren't as central to driving a significant amount of business remain relatively the same for long periods of time.
Blogs are very fluid web properties (which means you need to choose one of the best web hosting plans to get your blog online). Blogs are updated and changed on a regular basis with new and relevant content.
When you publish a new blog post, that most recent article often shows up in reverse chronological order, like here on my blog:
This way, your readers get your most recent content first.
That being said, there are many ways to organize your blog in order to guide your audience toward what you want them to read.
Disclaimer: I'm a little bias when it comes to blogging. I feel that blogging is better than having a static website—in most situations.
However, it really comes down to the business goals you have, and what your priorities will be with your digital property.
Remember when I said that websites are made up primarily of pages?
A website that only has pages is usually there to convey very specific (limited) information. That includes things like:
- Your business hours, address or menu
- A freelancer’s portfolio of work
- Your physical (or digital) products that are for sale
- Service offerings you provide and sample projects
Even with one-page websites that have a more marketing-focus, that one page should have a very specific intention too.
Often these are called “squeeze” pages that give something (like a free download) in exchange for the visitor’s email address—to later market a related product or service to them.
What are your business goals?
In order to determine whether a blog or website is better for you, start by determining what your goals are.
- Are you trying to collect email addresses to build your online community? A website with a blog will be a powerful combination.
- Do you have a small local restaurant with the goal of letting people know your menu and hours? A website with a few pages should suffice.
If you have a lot of information to communicate, then a blog is your best option.
Blogging is a great way to not only interact with your existing community, but to attract new potential customers to your website (and physical location).
What’s the difference between posts and pages?
This is another common question I usually get after someone asks me... what is a blog?
And this question is natural, as blog posts and website pages can be quite similar-looking.
There are however, several differences between blog posts and the pages of your website.
- Can be added to an RSS feed
- Are active and regularly updated
- Have several headings and subheadings
- Are archived based on month and year
- Organized based on tags and categories
- More likely to be shared on social media
- Encourage conversation through comments
- Get the author and date published on a post
- Are generally formatted the same based on your website template
- You can have an unlimited number of posts
- Contain information that doesn’t change often
- They are not tied to specific dates
- Are not (usually) written with the intent to be shared on social
- Don’t include comments
- Hierarchical by nature (you can add sub-pages)
- Each page is often formatted somewhat differently
- Don’t include an RSS feed
- Do not have an author or publish date
- The number of pages should be relatively limited
When writing a blog post for your site, you'll have a more in-depth process that begins with crafting a blog post outline, strategizing on a headline that'll attract readers and determining the narrative arc of your content all before you even get to putting any content down. Pages are a little different.
Now, let's talk about the key pages every blog and website should have—regardless of your goals.
Even if you are “just blogging,” there are still several core pages that you should include on your website.
1. About page
The about page tells your visitors what or who your website is about.
Every company with a website—or blog—should include an about page. This helps your audience not only learn more about you and your brand, but to also make the decision of whether or not you'll be a good fit for each other.
As a business, you can use your about page to showcase your mission and vision statements.
If you are a blogger, you can use the about page to link to your social media profiles, encourage people to follow you, tell your personal story and provide popular content suggestions.
2. Contact page
Or, your contact page can be used to sell your products or services (like I do).
As a business, this is a great place to provide your address, email address and phone number.
Whether you're a business or blogger though, you should make it easy for people to reach out to you.
You also need to let your website visitors know that you're collecting their data (even if that data collection is anonymous through a tool like Google Analytics).
4. Terms of Service
This page is vital if you sell products, services or promote affiliate offers on your website.
This should be treated as a legal document. A Terms of Service page helps to limit your liability in the case that services or information from your site is misused.
These are the four main pages that every website should include, no matter what.
And of course, in addition to these key pages—I'm a big advocate of everyone also blogging.
Here’s why: Blogging gives your website a better chance to attract more visitors.
Let’s do some simple math to illustrate why having more people on your website is a win...
More (of the right) visitors = more potential customers = more revenue.
You can get more people to visit your website when you increase your traffic through tactics like search engine optimization and blogging.
1. It’s all about traffic and search engine optimization (SEO)
When you first start a blog or launch your website, people don’t just magically flock to read all of your amazing content.
One of the biggest things that new bloggers and website owners get hung up on, is how to get traffic to their sites.
When you first start out, getting traffic to your blog can seem like a really overwhelming task. But believe me, it’s not as difficult as it sounds.
I've already broken down 32 ways of how to get traffic to your blog (based on my experience growing this blog to 400,000+ monthly readers).
So, it’s safe to say that I know a thing or two about growing a blog. And these aren’t just surface-deep "tips" you've read about on major publications...
- “Share your latest and greatest post on your personal Facebook page!”
- “Tweet your new blog post every 10 minutes for the next hour."
- “Comment on other people’s blogs and link to your own content.”
While these quick "tips" might get you some growth to start with (or unfriended by your cousin on Facebook), they're not long-term, sustainable strategies.
Your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategy is what is going to keep bringing you more traffic month after month. One of the best ways to build a stellar SEO strategy is to have a blog that publishes regular high-quality content for search engines to index and surface to their users.
If you’re new to blogging, SEO can sound like this mystical thing that only the Jedi masters know about.
While there is a bit of a learning curve, I can promise you, anyone can learn SEO.
Think about this for a minute... How did you find this article you're reading right now?
I'd be willing to bet you typed into Google, something like "what is a blog?" or “what’s the difference between a blog and a website?”
It’s no accident that you landed on this page. You're here because I did my keyword research, focused on user-intent to create a comprehensive answer to these two main questions and then worked hard to nail my blog SEO strategies.
User-intent, simply put, means that the posts that you write are meant to answer a question or solve a problem that the user has.
You can no longer just write a blog post that contains a bunch of filler content with a string of keywords at the end.
People don’t learn anything from that and major search engines like Google know you're trying to game the system, so they won’t show that content to their users.
2. The benefits of blogging
I love blogging, and I've built an entire business around it.
But there are many benefits to blogging, beyond just getting your ideas out into the world.
You don’t need a product or service to get started
Unlike a website that's centered around an already established business, you can start a blog without an existing product or service today.
While you can certainly add products and services over time (as you build up an audience), you don’t need anything other than your blog in order to get started on audience-building.
People often choose a blog name and just start writing content about their passions at first. Then after they've truly found their audience, they can work to develop products or services that resonate with them. Things their readers will actually want to buy.
You can also start making money from a blog without your own products or services, but more on that in a minute.
Why people start blogs (instead of websites)
Websites are great for an already established business.
They are not as great for someone just starting out that doesn't already have a product or service to offer (let alone an audience to market to).
If you're a wedding photographer, you can certainly start out with a static website, rather than a blog. But the fact is, that you already have an established business. You can create pages that outline your hours and services—and eventually use your website to attract new clients.
However, if you don’t have a product or service, it's much better to start with blogging.
Perhaps you want to share your love of French cooking with the world. You don’t have a cookbook, you haven’t created a cooking course (yet), so you start sharing all of your favorite recipes, photos and recommendations on your blog.
You can draw in an audience through social networks like Pinterest and begin to collect email subscribers and generate repeat readers to learn from.
The basics of making money blogging (vs through a website)
Now to the nuts and bolts—how websites make money versus how blogs make money.
If you have just a website (without a blog) there are a few ways that you can generate income from your website.
Most commonly—from selling the physical or digital products and services you already have (to your existing customer base) and hoping more people discover your site from either organic searches or paid advertising campaigns with search engines and social networks.
A blog, on the other hand, can make money in a lot of ways—including the above methods... while also building you that audience of potential customers along the way.
While there are many ways to make money blogging, here are five of the most straightforward:
- Sponsored opportunities
- Selling services
- Affiliate programs
- Physical and digital products
Ads are one of the most common ways bloggers start making money relatively early on.
There is a very low barrier to entry and you don’t need a ton of traffic to generate some income—albeit very small until you're driving a hundreds of thousands of monthly readers.
That being said, if you get a lot of traffic and are part of a strong ad network, you can make good money doing little else but publishing new content.
Sponsorships are when a blogger collaborates with another company (for a fee) to promote their products or services.
This can be a one-off sponsored blog post like this—or a continued working relationship with regular promotions over a duration of time. Although it can take some time to get sponsored opportunities, as sponsors want an ROI from their investment, so they like to see reasonable traffic and engagement stats of your readers before diving in.
Services can be classified as anything from selling your work as a freelancer to coaching people through the same career path you've built for yourself.
Put simply though, this is where you're trading hours for dollars—so it's not the most sustainable way to build a large business from your blog in the long run.
However, it can also be very lucrative, especially if you build up a raving fan base and people are banging down your door to work with you. That can justify charging a premium.
Another very easy to get started with making money on your blog, is through affiliate programs. There are affiliate programs for literally every blog niche out there that you can think of—from WordPress plugins to obscure camping equipment that's sold on Amazon.
The basic principle of affiliate marketing, is that you simply place a link in your blog posts referencing a productm and when people purchase through your link, you earn a commission (at no extra cost to them).
Most affiliate programs have a low barrier to entry, and you often don’t need a ton of traffic in order to get started either.
But generally speaking, the more traffic you have to your blog posts, the more affiliate sales you'll be likely to generate.
Physical and digital products
Products, both physical and digital, are also smart options to make money with through your new blog.
Digital products are a lot easier to get started with as you can make them yourself (such as an online blogging course) and market it to the readers on your blog.
Physical products take a little more time and money to create brand new.
However, you can start with dropshipping, which is where you launch an online store (from a new page on your blog) and you don't have to keep any actual inventory yourself.
You can also work with a wholesaler to develop your own brand using white label products where you just put your branding on their product.
What'll it be?
Do you already have a business that needs more exposure... or do you want to build a new business by sharing your thoughts with the world?
Either way, blogging can significantly help further your goals.