Even if you're not sure what a blog is, you've no doubt come across one at some point in time. Perhaps you've stumbled across a blog when you've searched "healthy dinner recipes".
Alternatively, maybe you used a blog to get more information on SEO strategies.
In fact, if you're reading this, guess what? You're on a blog. (Very meta, I know.)
If your business doesn't have a blog, you might want to reconsider -- B2B marketers who use blogs receive 67% more leads than those who do not, and blogs have been rated the 5th most trusted source for accurate online information.
At its most basic, blogs can help you develop an online presence, prove yourself an expert in an industry, and attract more quality leads to all pages of your site.
If you're contemplating creating a blog for your business, or simply want to know what one is, keep reading.
Blog vs. Website
A blog is typically a section of your business's website -- but, unlike the rest of your website, you need to update the blog section frequently by adding new posts. Additionally, your blog is a tool that allows you to engage more with an audience, either by analyzing how many readers share your blog posts on social, or by allowing readers to comment on your individual posts. In this way, a blog is more like a two-way conversation than the rest of your website. However, a blog can also be an entire website, and often is, if the blog is for personal use alone -- for instance, a travel blog.
What is a blog?
First, let's go over a brief history -- in 1994, Swarthmore College student Justin Hall is credited with the creation of the first blog, Links.net. At the time, however, it wasn't considered a blog … just a personal homepage.
In 1997, Jorn Barger, blogger for Robot Wisdom, coined the term "weblog", which was meant to describe his process for "logging the web" as he surfed the internet. The term "weblog" was shortened to "blog" in 1999, by programmer Peter Merholz.
In the early stages, a blog was a personal web log or journal in which someone could share information or their opinion on a variety of topics. The information was posted reverse chronologically, so the most recent post would appear first.
Nowadays, a blog is a regularly updated website or web page, and can either be used for personal use or to fulfill a business need.
For instance, HubSpot blogs about various topics concerning marketing, sales, and service because HubSpot sells products related to those three subjects -- so, more than likely, the type of readers HubSpot's blog attracts are going to be similar to HubSpot's core buyer persona.
Alternatively, a woman named Kiki started a personal travel blog, called The Blonde Abroad, to document her travel experiences and provide readers with helpful tips and travel recommendations. Her blog doesn't serve a larger company, but it does help her create a personal brand.
If a personal blog is successful enough, the writer can also make money off of it via sponsorships or advertisements. Take a look at 5 Strategies to Monetize a Blog to learn more.
What is a lifestyle blog?
A lifestyle blog is a digital compilation of an author's personal interests, daily activities, or opinions on a subject. A lifestyle blog typically covers multiple hobbies or talents of the writer, rather than focusing on one subject alone. For instance, a lifestyle blog might include a section for fashion, health and wellness, travel, and relationships. A lifestyle blog is often highly personalized, so it can often feel like you're reading a friend's curated journal entries.
There are plenty of benefits to blogging -- it helps drive traffic to your website, it enables you to better convert that traffic into leads, it allows your business to establish authority in an industry, and it continues to help your business grow and attract new customers months and even years after publication.
A wiki is a collaborative space where anyone who visits the site can edit, share, or publish content -- Wikipedia is one of the most popular examples of this. On the other hand, there is typically only one person, or a team of people, with admin permissions to edit, share, or publish to a blog. Website visitors who come across the blog can potentially leave comments at the bottom of the blog post, but they cannot publish to the site or edit the posted material.
What is a blog post?
A blog post is an individual web page on your website that dives into a particular sub-topic of your blog.
For instance, let's say you start a fashion blog on your retail website. One blog post might be titled, "The Best Fall Shoes for 2019". The post ties back to your overall blog topic as a whole (fashion), but it also addresses a very particular sub-topic (fall shoes).
Blog posts allow you to rank on search engines for a variety of keywords. In the above example, your blog post could enable your business to rank on Google for "fall shoes". When someone searches for fall shoes and comes across your blog post, they have access to the rest of your company's website. They might click "Products" after they read your post, and take a look at the clothing items your company sells.
A blog post links back to your overall blog site. For instance, right now, you're on hubspot.com/marketing/what-is-a-blog. The "what-is-a-blog" section of the URL is tied back to /marketing/, which is the blog as a whole.
What is a blog used for?
To help your company rank on search engines.
To share information about a given topic and become an expert in an industry.
To attract visitors to your site, and turn those visitors into leads.
To cultivate an online community and engage with an audience.
1. To help your company rank on search engines.
Typically, a business will use a blog to help the business's website rank on search engines. You can absolutely employ SEO tactics, or use paid ads, to help your company homepage rank on page one of Google -- but a more effective, long-term solution is blogging.
To consider how your company can rank on search engines via a blog, we'll start with an example -- let's say you work for a web design start-up with very little online presence.
You decide to spend the first year writing and posting regular blog content that strongly relates to web design. Over time, your traffic increases and other companies link to your site for information regarding web design. When this happens, Google recognizes your company as a legitimate source for web design information. Eventually (with a lot of trial and error), your blog posts begin ranking on page one of Google for terms like "web design", "website builder", and "e-commerce website".
Then, one day, you search "web design companies in X city" and find your company is now on page one. This is likely due, in large part, to your consistent blogging efforts.
2. To share information about a given topic and become an expert in an industry.
In 2006, Boston-native Matt Kepnes quit his job and began traveling the world. He documented his travels in his now infamous blog, NomadicMatt.com.
After about a year, thanks to tireless blogging efforts and SEO strategies that enabled him to rank on Google, he began pulling in $60,000. Matt also created e-books, and used sponsorships and affiliate marketing to make money. Additionally, he wrote a New York Times best-seller, "How to Travel the World on $50 a Day."
If you want to become known as an expert in a topic that interests you, from fashion to blogging to fitness, you can -- and, oftentimes, it starts with a blog.
3. To attract visitors to your site, and turn those visitors into leads.
There's only so much traffic you can get from the homepage or About Us page of your company's website. Of course, those pages are critical for leads who are already interested in your products -- but they often won't attract traffic from top-of-the-funnel. That's where your blog comes into play.
Your blog can be a general resource to help your website visitors even before those visitors are ready to purchase from you. For instance, let's say you sell products for e-commerce stores. You might attract some e-commerce owners who are already searching online for your products, but in most cases, the e-commerce owner isn't going to be ready to buy right out of the gate.
Alternatively, if you begin blogging about tips to help the retail owner who is just starting out -- like "How to start a retail website", or "Benefits of e-commerce vs. physical store" -- you'll slowly attract an audience who enjoys your content and finds it useful. Then, when those site visitors' e-commerce stores begin growing (thanks, in part, to your blog), they'll already know about your brand and already trust it as a helpful source. That's when they'll check out your product pages.
4. To cultivate an online community and engage with an audience.
At the very least, you might create a blog to engage with an online community of readers with similar interests. Maybe you start a food blog and ask readers to share their own recipes with you.
Alternatively, perhaps you start a blog that focuses on DIY projects. You post the fun, DIY projects you've completed in your own home, and you ask your readers to share their own DIY tips in exchange.