“Um, what is a blog?”
It’s a question I get asked almost every day.
I guess when the same baristas see you day after day, seven days a week, they begin to get a little curious.
The conversation usually goes something like this:
Barista: “What are you studying in school?” (Because I look like I’m 16).
Me: “Oh, I’m not in school anymore. I’m working.”
Barista: “At a coffee shop? What do you do for work?”
Me: “I’m a blogger. I write for blogs and do other digital marketing stuff.”
And that’s where our inevitable opening question comes in. So if you’re curious and still don’t know, allow me to address the elephant in the room:
What is a blog?
That’s the most basic answer to “what is a blog.”
But to us (the DollarSprout team), and to many other businesses and entrepreneurs, the definition of a blog doesn’t just stop there.
A blog is a magical, traffic-generating machine that keeps our businesses running, money in the bank, and food on the table.
Oh, you didn’t know blogs could make money? That’s right,
A blog isn’t just an online journal anymore; it’s a business model.
When most people think of blogging, they picture someone like Jenna Hamilton, documenting her life as a millennial teen in the MTV show Awkward.
Jenna writes about her thoughts and inner conflicts, relationship issues, and life as a student at Palos Verdes High. Her blog is basically an online diary, which is how most people still think of blogging today.
Over the years, however, blogging has evolved into something much more than a place to simply share your thoughts and feelings.
Today, thousands and thousands of people across the globe are using blogs to generate an income online.
Blogging is an essential marketing technique not only for online businesses, but for brick-and-mortar ones too.
The site you’re on right now is a blog that was started by my good friends, Ben and Jeff.
The three of us have all started and grown money-making blogs, and we’ve seen and helped thousands of other people do the same. Stay-at-home moms, full-time employees, college students, world travelers — the faces of blogging are endlessly unique.
What’s the difference between a blog and a website?
Remember how I said blogs are updated with new content on a regular basis? That’s one of the main elements that differentiates a blog from just a boring old website.
A business owner may set up their website and only update the content on an annual basis, if that. Blogs, on the other hand, are typically updated on a weekly basis — or even multiple times a week — with new content called blog posts or articles.
Take what you’re reading right now, for example.
I wrote this article to explain to you what a blog is. Other examples of blog articles on DollarSprout include How We Made $347,675 Blogging in Two Months and How to Make Money Blogging as a Beginner.
Another difference between a blog and a website is that blogs are built for reader engagement.
At the end of most blog articles, you’ll see a space to leave a comment. You can let the author know what you liked/disliked, agreed/disagreed with, or ask questions about anything that was unclear.
This gives both the author (or business) and the reader a chance to engage with and learn from one another. It’s a great way to foster community and build relationships.
Technically, a blog is a website, but the blog/website function varies. A website can either:
- Be a blog
- Have a blog (but the business’s main focus is something else)
- Just be a website (with no blog)
Let’s look at a few examples.
The website is a blog.
The site you’re on right now is an example of a website that is a blog. Our main focus is on publishing content to teach others how to make extra money and find new side hustles.
You probably visit websites that are blogs all the time and don’t even realize it. BuzzFeed, Upworthy, The Huffington Post — these are all examples of websites with a primary purpose to create new content. They’re essentially blogs, albeit very big, viral ones.
The website has a blog.
Many businesses use blogging as a way to grow their traffic, attract new customers, and increase their sales. But just because a website has a blog doesn’t mean that’s its main focus.
Sumo.com is a perfect example.
Sumo creates tools to help bloggers grow their email lists — that’s their bread and butter. But their site also includes a blog where they teach readers about various marketing techniques and provide product updates.
The website is just a website.
And then there are websites that are just plain websites — no blog included. Take a look at this coffee shop’s site:
Side Note: This is where I’m writing this article from right now. If you’re ever in Blacksburg, VA, I highly recommend visiting Mill Mountain.
As you can tell, their main business is coffee and tea. And from the look of their site (and the lack of a blog), they’re not producing a whole lot of content.
See the differences? Now let’s talk about…
What do you write about on a blog?
The beautiful thing about blogging is that you can write about whatever you want.
Do you know a lot about health and fitness? Write about it!
Enjoy exploring new cities every weekend? Use your blog to document your travels.
Are you navigating the chaotic world of parenthood for the first time? Share your journey to help other new and expecting parents.
Blogging is a great opportunity to explore your passions and interests, as well as share your personal experiences. Whether we realize it or not, we all have something to give. Lessons learned, entertaining stories, professional advice — all of these are perfect blog topics.
Here are some other profitable blog niches to get your brain juices flowing:
- Travel + Adventure
- Fashion + Beauty
- DIY + Crafts
- Personal Finance
- Health + Fitness
- Personal Development
While some niches may be more profitable or easier to monetize than others, all of them are viable options for building a profitable blog.
This brings me to another common question I hear…
What is the point of having a blog?
The reasons for starting a blog are different for everyone.
Some people use their blog as a personal platform, some use it to promote their business, while others turn their blog into a business.
A few of the most common reasons people start a blog are to:
- Create a flexible and sustainable business. There’s a reason blogging is becoming a more and more popular business model. It’s super flexible. You can run a blogging business from anywhere in the world, as long as you have a laptop and Internet connection.
- Engage with other like-minded people. Whether your goal is to make money from your blog or not, blogging is the perfect way to share your thoughts and ideas online and to connect with similarly-minded folks.
- Build a personal portfolio. This isn’t just true for freelance writers. I have a friend who’s into computer science. He started a blog to share his thoughts on some programming language that isn’t very widely used yet and was contacted by a big-name tech company (we won’t say who, but let’s just say you’ve heard of them). They ended up interviewing and hiring him onto their security team. All because of some techy article he wrote on his blog.
- Gain authority in your field. This sort of ties into the personal portfolio aspect. By putting your ideas out there and sharing what you know, others will begin to look to you as an authority figure in your niche.
- Share your experience to help others. The whole reason for this website is because we experienced a drastic increase in the quality of our lives when we started earning a good income. DollarSprout is our way of helping others make more money through side hustles, online businesses, etc. that can change their lives, just like it changed ours.
There are tons of other reasons you should look into how to create a blog. Our personal reason for starting ours is because we were tired of working at jobs where we felt underpaid and under-appreciated. Blogging allowed us to take our first leap into entrepreneurship and leave the 9-to-5 grind behind.
And we haven’t looked back since.
So now, after all this hype, you’re probably wondering…
How do blogs make money?
There are many different ways to make money with a blog. Some are easier, while others are more difficult. Some take time, and others produce results almost immediately.
On this site, we make money through display ads and by recommending our favorite products to readers in exchange for a commission (i.e. affiliate marketing).
For example, sometimes we talk about our favorite email marketing software, ConvertKit. If a reader clicks the link and makes a purchase, we get a portion of what they pay at no additional cost to them.
But these are just a few of the ways bloggers make money. Other options include:
- Services (e.g. design, virtual assisting, freelance writing)
- Paid Products (e.g. online courses, ebooks, printables)
- Membership Communities (people pay to access premium content)
- Sponsored Content (companies pay you to write about their product or service)
In the same way that you get to decide what you write about, you also get to decide how you want to make money.
If you love teaching and feel you have something to share, then creating your own products may be a great fit for your blog. On the other hand, you may prefer to talk about the products that have helped you get where you are today. If that’s the case, affiliate marketing could be the better move.
With all we’ve talked about today, I know you have to be thinking…
How can I start a blog to make money?
We’ve put together a step-by-step tutorial on how to start a blog (even if you’re not a tech person).
And to make sure you get going on the right foot, we’ve also created a FREE 7-day eCourse to show you the ropes and get you ready to make money blogging.
Check it out below, and join our free Facebook group for bloggers to stay in touch and get support on your journey.