Many an aspirant writer has toyed with the idea of writing a blog and many millions get going. After a slow start in the late 1990s, blogs caught on – but today they are no longer the simple online diary or weblog of old. 

 

The terrain of the blogosphere has changed radically. Blogs are now a focus of social media marketing and sales pitches. Microblogging via Twitter the current big thing. For some the blog has lost its innocence and with it much of its charm. For others, blogging presents all sorts of opportunities, from democratizing journalism to flogging goods. Anyone contemplating starting a blog today would do well to get a grip on how different – and how difficult – successful blogging is now.

 

Beginner bloggers may have started out on one of the many free blog-hosting websites (such as Blogger, WordPress and similar), lovingly crafted their post and sat back, only to realize that no-one has read it. Some give up. Others investigate, only to discover that for their blog to reach a readership they will have to divert time away from writing and put it into search engine optimization, link-building, directory listings and other methods of self-promotion.

 

Obviously those with the time, energy and motivation have the edge. The sad thing about the blogosphere is that those people are often those with something to sell. They will be skilled in putting their blogs forward, while Joe Bloggs languishes in obscurity at the bottom of the rankings, swamped by professional competition.

 

 

Blogs can be still be worthwhile for amateur bloggers. A blog designed for the entertainment of your circle of friends and family is still a great way to keep in touch. If the writing is good enough, it may pick up a following beyond that, through word of mouth. Quality still rises to the top amongst in the ocean of trashy content that the internet can, with some justification, be described as.

 

There are some simple strategies for those who aren’t overly ambitious to improve their profile. The biggest mistake beginner bloggers make is to define their blog too broadly. A targeted blog, focusing on niche subject matter (cats, cars, political commentary or whatever) has the best chance of floating.

 

The online journal is no longer a novelty and average lives aren’t of interest unless your life has something special to convey. If so, your blog could catch on. Think of Nightjack, a British police officer who won awards for his blog about his experiences in law enforcement – for a while (see below).

 

A little bit of SEO (search engine optimization) isn’t too arduous. Choosing a few keywords and attending to tags doesn’t take much time. Listing with directories and indexes (Technorati is a well-known name) can’t hurt. Joining a blogging community can help – after all, if you don’t read and respond to other people’s blogs, why should they bother with yours? But the fact remains that to gain a wide readership you either have to have something reasonably spectacular to offer or a lot of time to spend on promotion.

Blogging gets people into all sorts of trouble. Oppressive regimes persecute bloggers. Blogging about work regularly opens the door to disaster. The award-winning police blogger known as Nightjack was outed by the press and subjected to disciplinary proceedings. In a recent case, insults about a model led to the disclosure of the blogger’s identity and a lawyer’s banquet. Exposing your personal life can be dangerous, even if you remain anonymous.

If you’re prepared to walk the walk as well as talk the talk, blogging can make your career or be a vastly satisfying pastime. As a business tool, blogging has become a serious option, in tandem with the trend of using social networking sites to promote your products or views. A blog is a chance to show the human face of your business and keep up your search engine ranking with a regular injection of the fresh content that the search engines value highly.

 A hundred million people can’t be wrong about the power of the blog. Some blogs are today’s literature, and show history in the making. The blogosphere may not be the land it was, but it’s still worth trying your hand at it, as long as you know what you’re in for. A blog on one of the major providers’ sites gives you a platform to express yourself that is almost as versatile as a website, but needn’t cost a cent.