Goodbye, cyberspace! hello, blogiverse! blogosphere? blogmos?" asked writer Brad LGraham in jest when speculating about the future of blogs in a post on his own blog on 10 September 1999. A report by Technorati, a search engine for blogs, says that in October 2006, the number of people associated with Graham's blogosphere (worldwide network of blogs) was 57 million and counting, whereas in January 2000 the number was around a modest 3,000.
Anybody maintaining an online diary or a blog is a blogger. Bloggers have their own community, an idea, a message, and a spirit to share and initiate healthy debate. With the mouse as their muse they have gained followers all over the world, who read and respect their opinion. Although purists would scorn, some bloggers are making serious money from their blogs, and so can you.
What you need
A computer, an internet connection and a bit more than basic literacy is all you need to start blogging. However, among a sea of blogs on the net, only a handful are read, respected and talked about.
Decide on a topic to write
"More than specialisation it is important to have a certain passion. Successful bloggers write on a niche topic and stick to that," says Kiruba Shankar, a professional blogger from Delhi and the founder of Business Blogging. He has his blog at www.kiruba.com. His firm advises companies on using blogs to promote their business.
Amit Aggarwal, a computer science engineer and author of the blog Digital Inspiration (www.labnol.blogspot.com), provides value to his readers by telling them how to take maximum advantage of software tools and web technologies. Readers reward him with 1.2 million hits per month.
Hosting your blog
You can either use a blog-hosting service like blogspot, wordpress and livejournal or buy your own domain name. "Having your own URL is the best as it shows that you are a professional and also helps in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) activities," says Shankar.
Daksh Sharma, author of themarketingblog, says it pays to plan at the start. "There's a risk of losing your readers and Google page rank (PR) if you change your blog domain at a later stage."
Designing your blog
"Your blog should be easy to navigate, have a clutter free interface, and no deadlinks," says Sharma. Shankar recommends taking specialised help if you are blogging seriously.
Mumbai-based Sakshi Juneja's blog is called To Each Its Own, on which she writes about Bollywood and gender-related issues. She got Chugs Design, a design studio to lay out the blog for her when it started earning money.
When heavy Traffic is good
There are several ways of creating, sustaining and increasing a steady flow of traffic, a prerequisite when you start harbouring money-making dreams.
Content is king
Content remains the first and the last mantra of a successful blogger. "Write good content which is unique, or provides a value-add if you are saying similar things," says Aggarwal. Aaman Lamba, publisher, desicritics.org, warns against being a doppleblogger.
Blogathy or apathy to post regularly can ruin your chances as a blogger. "You do not want people to come and find out that there is no new post. Once you lose a reader it is very difficult to get her back," says Juneja, who posts every day except on weekends. Not surprisingly, the Technorati report says that the blogging elite, constituting about 4,000 blogs "post nearly twice a day".
Subscribe to RSS
Subscribing to really simple syndication (RSS) ensures that others can read your content in their mail whenever there is a new post without having to visit your blog.
Link to other bloggers
If you find interesting content on any other blog, you can provide a link to it, hoping that they would link back to you. Inbound links improve your Google PR. "Let other people know what you are talking about," says Gautam Ghosh, management consultant, who blogs at www.gauteg.blogspot.com. Having a Google PR of 4 or above can also help you earn some bucks through selling links, but it is not encouraged as Google does not encourage link exchange.
Use search-engine friendly keywords. Ensure that the titles of the posts are search engine-friendly. Try to be more specific and gauge what category of readers you are targeting and what keywords they are likely to use.
Making money from blogs
There are many moneymaking options from your blog. While you can use contextual advertising (ads relevant to your topic) from day one, other revenue streams can be implemented only after you have a substantial audience, for which you need to concentrate on content for the first one or two years. The benchmark is 10,000 readers (both direct and indirect) per day.
Here ads relevant to your topic appear on the page and you get paid every time someone clicks on the ad, also called cost per click. Google AdSense is the leading network, but there are others like Chitika or Tyroo. "You can sign up free and then integrate a given code to the page where you want the ads to appear," says SEO expert and Internet marketing professional Saptarshi Roy Chaudhury, who blogs at www.seo-kolkata.blogspot.com.
Manish Vij, co-founder, Tyroo, says, "Selecting the right ad network that suits you and using those words for which advertisers pay more per click will help increase your earnings. You can find which words make more money through trial and error testings."
Blog owners who write on a particular niche can approach companies selling similar products or services for ads. For example, Shankar sells ad space to corporates as a part of video podcasts on his blog. "This took about a year and happened after working really hard," he says.
Here companies, like amazon.com put up links for their products on your blog. Whenever a reader makes a purchase, through such a link, you get a portion of the sales revenue. "Sign up as affiliate partners with companies that sell some product or service related to your topic of discussion. You can also use sites like www.cj.com that actually allow you to review hundreds of affiliate opportunities," says Roy Chaudhury.
If you are a specialist, somebody might want to use your content on their website as that brings them ads and share a part of the revenue with you.
Pay per post
There are various companies and websites who pay bloggers to post details of their product or service on the blog and add a link to their website. "Bloggers can sign up with websites like www.payperpost.com for this purpose. It is important that your blog is focused on specific niche," says Roy Chaudhury.
You can also get paid to review a film, a book or a gadget.
Jobs as a blogger
Once you have become a blogebrity, a whole host of earning options arise. Mainstream media or blogs offer editorial roles. Since your contribution will increase their readership, they will pay you for it.
When blognation, a blog about budding entrepreneurs in the technology and mobile space came to India, they were looking for a person with passion and experience. Shankar fitted the bill. At present, he is the editor-in-chief of blognation India. Juneja is a guest blogger for Channel V's show My India Report. However, she says that she takes up such "offline offers" only when it interests her.
Paid subscription, donations, venture capital funding and selling your blog are other moneymaking options that can be worked out. But these are extremely unlikely and cannot be banked on.
Management consultant Ghosh feels that the best way to monetise your blog is to use it to "get visibility". Shankar says visibility can mean good business for a company or an individual. The image he has built through his blog helps him to get more clients for his business. "CEOs can use blogs to have a two-way communication with the stakeholders; politicians too can build their brand image through blogs," he says.
Blogging and beyond
"Blogging is not just about making money. You can draw attention to issues or if you are making money from it, you can donate it to welfare organisations," says Lamba. Delhi-based Anouradha Bakshi, 55, social activist and founder of Projectwhy, has been doing just that. "Many who read my blog connect and reach out to help in different ways," she says.