Category Archives: Blogging Basics

Basic HTML Introduction for Bloggers


Hyper Text Markup Language or HTML is the basic language used for building websites. Hence, an HTML document is also known as a web page and consists of tags which may or may not come in pairs.

It’s important to have a basic concept of what this is mainly because this can help you understand why things look the way they do on your website. With some basic HTML knowledge you can already create a basic web page. HTML can help you achieve a number of different formatting preferences and options such as:

  • Tables
  • Paragraphs
  • Text formatting
  • Links
  • Lists

These are just examples of what you can do with basic knowledge. You can do a lot more when you acquire advanced skills. For example, advanced HTML can let you specify your desired web page descriptions and information that you want major search engines to know.

It’s not an absolute requirement for you as a blogger to learn the language. Most blogging platforms have built in editors that let you format blog posts and elements. Knowing HTML however can be particularly helpful in cases where an editor is not functioning properly or when you want to manually format something on your sidebar. Also, once you become a blog expert, you may also want to manually control elements without relying on the potential limitations of formatting editors or tools.

Some of the most common examples of tags are:

  • <p></p> – for opening and ending a paragraph
  • <br> – text following this tag will start in a new line
  • <ul></ul> – for specifying unordered lists
  • <ol></ol> – for specifying ordered lists
  • <li></li> – for starting and ending each list item
  • <strong></strong> – for making text bold
  • <a></a> + the “href” attribute contained in the opening tag – for creating links

You can watch the video above for a demonstration of these sample tags. The best place to learn all you need to know about HTML is w3schools.com.

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Basic Online Keyword Research Introduction


Many seasoned site owners treat online keyword research as an important regular task in developing their sites. In order to do this properly though, it’s important to first understand what keywords are, why research is important and how it’s done.

Defining Keywords and Research

More often than not, keywords aren’t single standalone words. They’re phrases that are related to the topics or niches of websites or blogs.

Not all site owners believe they need keywords so they don’t go into research. Those who do put value on them typically create lists of related keywords to use on their sites. The process followed to build these lists is known as keyword research.

For many site owners, research starts even before they pick and buy domain names. It then becomes a continuous activity before writing articles for posts and pages.

Why it’s Done

From my perspective, I like conducting research because it is one way to find related topics to blog about. For a lot of other webmasters however, research is done so they can find related phrases that can help increase search engine visibility.

Inserting keywords in certain sections in a blog post helps search engines find out what it’s all about. To a certain extent, the use of keywords is one factor that search engines consider to determine whether a site, web page or blog post turns up in search engine results pages for a particular search phrase. Because keywords can potentially be used to manipulate search engine results, there are general guidelines for their proper use and placement.

If the explanation above doesn’t make sense to you now, don’t worry. The section on SEO will explain keywords in greater detail.

How is Research Conducted

There is no single set way to do research. Different gurus have different methods. In general though, the task ideally focuses on looking for phrases that:

  • have some profit potential (profitable)
  • are searched by a good number of people (good traffic)
  • aren’t already used on a lot of other aged, frequently linked to pages (little competition)

You can follow the same basic steps outlined in the section on niche market research for evaluating traffic, assessing competition and determining profitability to come up with a list of possible keywords that are related to your topic. Set these aside for when you’re ready to buy a domain or start writing posts.

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Why Market Avatar Creation for Blogs Makes Sense


In Hinduism, an avatar is the manifestation of a deity as a human. In the online world, the term has come to refer to a variety of other things including the hypothetical individual that is a representation of a market’s collective qualities and characteristics.

In other words, as a blogger, you should consider an avatar to be that person you imagine yourself communicating to when you write a blog post. This presupposes one thing, that members of a market have similar traits and qualities, making it possible for bloggers and website owners to create avatars.

Avatar Importance

Imagine yourself for a moment talking to someone. What can help you keep a person’s interest? What can you say that can convince him to listen and interact with you for hours on end? If you know a person well enough, you’d know exactly what topics and themes to bring up during a conversation. If the person you’re talking to is polite enough, you might occasionally get away with references to yourself or to topics that don’t interest him.

Members of a market are a lot like any person you communicate with except that they’re not often polite. When people go to blogs to read or watch videos, they want to be shown exactly what they’re looking for. Write about a topic outside of their interests and they leave.

You need to have an avatar in mind when you blog even if you don’t intend to sell anything so you’ll always know what topics to blog about that are within the interest of your target market or target readers.

Creating an Avatar

You will find the task of creating an avatar less difficult if your blog topic or theme is one that you are also very much interested in. If you love what you blog about, you already represent your market to some extent and you are therefore your own prototype of your avatar.

If this is not the case, this is when you need to create from scratch which is not a very easy task for a lot of people. This is yet again another reason for you to consider from the very beginning blogging about something of interest to you.

Now even if you are already a perfect example of a member of your own market, you still need to clearly define your avatar on paper. This is to make sure you take into consideration other traits you don’t have that others do and to ensure you never forget who your avatar is.

To help you make your avatar, you need to ask these questions:

  • Who would be most interested in your topic?
  • What are his motivations for wanting to read about what you blog?
  • What are his traits, qualities and characteristics?
  • Does he have any fears and apprehensions? What are these?
  • Does he have any problems in life that you might be able to offer solutions to? What are these?

Some online marketers who are very precise about avatar creation go so far as to recommend that you also identify the smallest details including, but not limited to:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Civil status
  • Geographic location
  • Family composition
  • Educational attainment
  • Employment status

I would say it is important to be detail-oriented, mainly because, the more you know about your target market or reader, the easier for you to communicate with him and keep his attention. For example, identifying your avatar’s fears and life issues can help you create blog posts geared towards helping him solve those issues.

Online Research

The obvious question you’d ask yourself would be: How sure am I that the avatar I’m creating exists? What if I’m just creating someone in my head and there aren’t people like that? Again, you’d avoid this problem if you already represent your market to some degree.

If you’re having doubts about your avatar, online research is the only solution. Visit sites, forums, message boards and communities related to your topic. What kind of group or groups of people frequent these places? Are they mothers, fathers, single individuals? Are they looking for solutions to certain problems? How do they communicate with each other?

Avatar Example

Here is an example of an avatar for a yoga exercises site. This is by no means a complete representation but it’s good enough for the purpose of illustrating how to create and use an avatar.

  • 35 year old woman perhaps nearing quarter life crisis
  • on the brink of experiencing health issues because of lack of exercise
  • works in a 9-5 job while trying to take care of three kids and a husband
  • extremely stressed out and about to lose it
  • looking for a way to de stress, relax and be happier and healthier
  • with some academic background in physical therapy but shifted to sales and marketing for a pharmaceutical company
  • experience in PT convinced her to study yoga

What does this tell you? With this avatar in mind, you know that your avatar’s problem is stress. Hence, when you write blog posts, you’ve got to do so with the intention of helping this individual find the solution through yoga. Since your avatar is around 30 and has some knowledge in yoga and the health industry, you’d also know how to shape the tone of your posts so as not to appear like you’re talking to a total beginner.

This is just a starter’s guide to visualizing your avatar. Use the guidelines here to create your first avatar. Expect however that as you get better at what you do online that you might have to tweak your avatar along the way.

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Basic Niche Market Research for Bloggers


In the last post I gave you a short introduction about this topic and explained why it’s important to do this before you start blogging. I also mentioned the importance of having research objectives. To recap, research should help you see if a niche:

  • has enough traffic or interested people
  • has manageable competition
  • offers profit opportunities

Evaluating Traffic

Start by picking a particular niche you have in mind and typing it into Google.com. Remember, be specific. Do not settle for a single general word. In our example above, specific niches would be polymer clay crafts or polymer clay jewellery.

If there are sites and blogs dedicated to your specific topic, chances are, there will be people highly interested in it simply because other bloggers or webmasters have already started publishing information about it online.

Next, take your specific topic and type it into the Free Google Keyword Tool. On the right hand sidebar, tick “Phrase”, type in the (captcha?) and hit “Search.” Look at the list of words that appear underneath. Your main topic should be listed first. Look at the number under the heading Global Monthly Searches. The figure there is the average number of people who type the exact phrase into Google every month.

Obviously, the higher the number registered under the Global Monthly Searches, the more people there will be who will be interested in your topic.

Underneath your main topic of choice will be a list of other words and phrases. These should give you a clue about other niche topics that could be alternatives to your main one.

Assessing Competition

In a lot of cases, a niche might have a great deal of people interested in it. This doesn’t mean though that this is automatically an advisable niche to pick. This is because you might come across very stiff competition. You should go for a niche where you have a good chance of beating or at least standing on equal footing with the existing competition.

You’ll get your first clue about the quality of competition through the Global Monthly Searches. The higher the figure, the more likely other bloggers and website owners already have web properties that revolve around this topic.

You can confirm this by using a free tool like Traffic Travis. Download the free version of the tool. Open the SEO Analysis section and type your main topic phrase into the “Phrase to Analyze” box. Leave the “Search Location” to US unless your topic is tied to a specific geographic location.

Look at the top ten sites that appear in the results. These are the top sites that appear in Google.com when your niche or topic phrase is typed. This is your competition.

Generally speaking the higher the PR (page rank), Age and BL (backlinks) and the more green checkmarks in the grid to the right, the stiffer the competition will be in your niche.

You can also manually review the top sites that appear in the results. You’ll know if a blog or website is difficult to surpass if it has a solid following as indicated by the figures appearing in social networking follower or sharing widgets published on site.

Determining Profitability

As I mentioned in a previous section not all bloggers choose to go into blogging for the money. It’s still worth looking into the profitability of your niche though just in case you decide to monetize your blog along the way.

The first step is to again manually review the top sites for your niche. You’ll know there’s some money to be made from a niche if related advertisements, products or services are offered in these top ranking sites.

You can also use another free tool like Spyfu. Type your niche topic into the box and click “Search”. If a high “Cost/Click” figure appears and if there are “Advertisers” that register, there’s hope that you might make money in your niche.

Words of Caution

Keep in mind that what has been mentioned here so far is all very basic. Lots of internet marketers have very complicated methods and use powerful tools. These points however should be enough for starters.

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Niche Market Research Introduction for Blogging


When performing research, it’s sometimes not enough to settle for a general market or topic. Many seasoned bloggers enjoy success because they’ve chosen to blog about specific niches.

From General to Specific

A niche market is simply a smaller sub section of a larger market. If you imagine a big circle to be a general market, a smaller circle in it would be regarded as a niche market. You can go deeper than this. If you draw a smaller circle within the small circle, that would be what you would call a niche within a niche market or a micro niche.

Some online gurus take niche marketing to a whole new level, identifying increasingly smaller markets within small markets. Depending on the market or blog topic you wish to pursue, this may or may not be applicable to you.

Why Enter a Niche?

The reasons for going after a niche should be obvious. Because some markets are so big, blogging about every single sub category in it can almost seem like you’re writing about unrelated topics. Readers typically prefer blogs that can focus on a specific topic of their interest. They’ll lose interest when you stray from their points of interest.

It’s also worth noting that people who are interested in a niche usually share a common language, culture or vibe. You’ve got to tap into these to effectively connect with your readers. This won’t be easy if you’re blogging about different sub niches within a market, each niche having different qualities.

An Example

To illustrate, crafts could be considered a huge general market. A smaller market within it would be clay crafts and within this niche would be a smaller niche like polymer clay crafts. You can drill even deeper with a micro niche topic like polymer clay jewellery.

Research Objectives

Keep in mind though that just because you imagine that the topic or niche you have in mind is a good one, it doesn’t mean it is. That’s why you need to do research. Once you start looking into a niche, you should keep in mind a few objectives. Research should help you determine if a niche:

  • has enough traffic or interested people
  • has manageable competition
  • offers profit opportunities

In the next post we’ll look closer into these three objectives.

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Online Market Research for Blogging – An Introduction


When you embark on a business project, one of the first things you’d most likely do is to go into market research. Otherwise, you run the risk of running a costly business venture that might not earn you any money.

The problem with many new bloggers though is that they take the stance that blogging is “just blogging.” They think setting up a blog doesn’t cost as much money as establishing a business and therefore does not require extensive research to get started.

My belief is that, you should start to look at your decision to start blogging in a more serious light. Although it is true that you will not be investing a great deal of cash, you will be investing a great deal of time, effort and even emotions into jump starting a blog. If you have to give a lot of yourself into it and if you’ve got clear goals you want to achieve, you’ve got to research.

Depending on your specific blogging objectives, market research can help you:

  • determine if there are enough interested people in your topic
  • find out the level of competition you’re up against
  • establish the profitability of a topic

Before we move deeper into general research, it’s best to clarify what a market is. To borrow from the field of marketing an extremely simplified definition of marketing is that it refers to a group of people interested in a product and has the means or ability to buy it.

In even more simplistic terms, market research therefore involves finding out what to sell and if there are people who will buy whatever you’re selling.

I’d like to expand this definition to include bloggers who blog purely as a hobby and don’t want to have anything to do with sales, marketing or anything that implies selling. Market research for blogging in general involves finding out what your ideal topic is and if there are enough people who are interested in your topic to possibly visit, read your blog and take the kind of action you want them to make, whether this is to leave a comment on your posts or to follow you in Twitter.

General research starts with your seed topic. In the previous chapter we talked about identifying your intentions, interest and aptitude. Also I talked about identifying a topic that you know you’ve got something new to contribute to. Consider this performing internal research. So again you’ve got to ask yourself:

  • What are my intentions or objectives as a blogger?
  • What is/are my main interests?
  • What am I very good at?
  • In what specific topic can I contribute something new to?

Once you’ve done this take your seed topic, pop it into Google and take a look at the different sites and blogs that pop up. A seed topic can be general such as crafts, parenting, travel, recipes, cooking, etc.

Because you’re taking a general look at things, it’s likely that you will see a lot of activity and interaction in various sites. Take a closer look at what people are saying in comment sections, review areas and social network pages. Find out what sites and blogs are selling, advertising and publishing.

Again, you are simply doing a general sweep. Once you’ve done this, you’re ready to go deeper into niche research.

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Issues and Challenges to Starting a Blog


New bloggers often approach blogging with high hopes and visions of a bright future. While it’s true that some bloggers become successful and have become rich because of blogging, millions of others are struggling or have given up because they realized at some point how challenging blogging can really be.

Although it helps to approach an undertaking with a positive mind and to believe in your impending success, it also helps to keep your feet on the ground and be conscious of the real difficulties of blogging. You don’t want to have to be told I told you so.

Some real issues and challenges you might have to face include:

1. Steep Competition – There are millions of bloggers out there and there’s bound to be others blogging about your topic. This again is a good reason to be an authority in your topic. Also, you need to be able to present a unique angle to your topic so you stand out from the rest.

2. Technical Issues – Unless you have a formally organized business with a budget, chances are you are a one-man blogger with few resources. This means, you will not have technical staff to help you out so you’ll have to figure out such things as pointing domains to servers, installing WordPress, understanding permalink options, installing plugins, customizing themes, etc.

Add to these initial technical concerns, issues that just pop up at different points in time such as the need to transfer to a new registrar or host if your current one suddenly goes nuts on you.

3. Hackers/Trolls/Destroyers – One issue many bloggers have had to face is attacks from malicious entities that are out to destroy. These include hackers and creators of malicious scripts and software. These bad entities can get to you if you fail to take steps to keep your blog protected or if your host’s safety precautions fall short.

Trolls, or variations of these entities, are people who will dislike you, hate you or publish demeaning remarks about you for no other reason than they just want to. Encountering these people can pose an internal challenge to you. You’ve got to find ways to keep motivated when you encounter negativity.

4. Lack of Manpower – The tasks involved in blogging can build up through time. As a professional blogger, you’ll have to dish out regular content, perform maintenance tasks, engage with followers, look for better monetization models and entertain proposals among other things. Not having people to help you out would again mean you’d have to do a lot on your own.

Even if you’re able to financially support an employee or remote worker, you’d have to put some effort into finding the right person. Otherwise, you’d get burned.

5. Low Funds – Initially, you just need money to pay for registration and hosting. A domain is around $10 a year but most reliable hosting providers will charge monthly fees of about $5 or so. Depending on your economic situation, this may or may not be affordable for you.

Once your blog starts to grow, you might find the need to spend on support services and tools that can help make your blog better.

6. Minimal Income – A common challenge for bloggers wanting to make money out of their blogs is the inability to make enough cash. This may be because they may not be in a profitable market, they don’t know who their market is, they aren’t reaching their market or they have a bad product.

Even if you’ve touched base with your market with a good product though, keep in mind it’s not always realistic to expect that you’ll retire rich because of blogging.

7. No Readers – Just like the inability to generate a good income stream, having no visitors can stem from several different factors including not knowing your target market or incorrect promotional tactics

These are only some of the possible challenges you might have to face as a blogger. There are many more. Keep in mind that these are presented here not to discourage you or convince you not to blog. These points are meant to help you prepare for possible issues you may encounter and to keep your expectations realistic.

To summarize, preparing to blog involves defining your objectives, identifying interests, determining aptitude and staying realistic. In the next section we’ll tackle the all important step of market research.

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Preparing to Start a Blog


Now that we’ve got the basic definition of terms out of the way, the next step for you to take is to prepare yourself psychologically.

You might think blogging isn’t as tough as trading perhaps of taking the bar exams and shouldn’t have to require this kind of preparation. You’re right. Anyone can do a post, but if you wish to achieve something or if you want your blog to have an impact on beings other than yourself, your cat and your mother, you need to sit down and read through this.

Here are steps you need to take to prepare to blog:

Define Intentions or Objectives

Like every other decision you make, you should have a purpose, intention or objective for wanting to start a blog. This is all really just beginning with the end in mind. This is what will eventually give you the seed idea for your blog topic or niche.

To keep things simple, start figuring out your intentions or objectives by asking yourself — Do I want to blog about:

  • something personal, perhaps for therapeutic purposes or to keep family and friends updated
  • updates/tutorials/tips about a hobby, interest or topic I’m passionate about
  • a cause I want to champion
  • a profitable topic solely to make money
  • something personal or a hobby and to make money on the side

Figure Out Interest and Aptitude

It should be obvious to you what your interests are after thinking about your intentions for blogging. Often, it’s tempting to just pursue your interest. It’s crucial however to figure out if you have the aptitude to blog about your topic or at least the determination to develop that aptitude.

For instance, I’m very interested in music, but I don’t have the aptitude to blog authoritatively about it, nor do I have the time or desire to continuously learn about it. I should thus think twice about blogging about a music-related topic.

Why is aptitude assessment important? It’s important because people will not be interested in your blog if they can’t learn anything new or get anything valuable from your posts. You therefore need to be able to teach or demonstrate expertise.

You don’t have to be the best expert in town. You just need to know more than the average guy.

In the same vein, having the aptitude to blog about something you’re not interest in isn’t a good idea. For example, in school my highest aptitude score was in math but my abysmal actual subject grades proved that the either the teacher handed me the wrong results or I really didn’t like math. Imagine my misery if I had to blog the topic.

Of course, common sense should tell you not to pursue something you’re not interested in but some people pick topics they’re not crazy about because of the monetary value of those topics.

Thinking of your objectives, interests and aptitude is just the beginning of the preparations you need to take before you start a blog. In the next post, you’ll learn more about the actual challenges to blogging and keeping your expectations realistic.

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Types of Blogs According to Topic


There is no single accurate count for the total number of existing blogs. Many sources agree though, including Technorati, that there are now more than 100 million blogs on the internet today. Their sheer quantity makes it difficult to try to classify blogs. Add to this the fact that there are no official rules that specify the boundaries blogs should follow in order to fall under a particular kind.

For the purpose of learning how to blog however, it’s important to get an idea of some of the more popular types of blogs. This will make it easier for you to decide for yourself what tone, theme, approach or direction to take for your own blog.

Topic Classifications

There are many different ways to group blogs. To simplify matters, let’s look into classifying blogs according to topic. Blogs can fall under:

  • Personal
  • Themed/Niche
  • Mixed
  • Corporate/Business/Official

Personal Blogs

These are the most common kinds of blogs and are often the easiest to find content for. This is because these feature personal life experiences and events or author opinions and thoughts.

In effect, personal blogs are the closest examples of traditional blogs. They are essentially online diaries and journals that carry a personal tone. Examples of personal blogs include:

Themed/Niche Blogs

A blog of this type may or may not be written in a personal tone depending on the author’s preference. Themed or niche online properties however distinguish themselves from the personal kind because they revolve around a specific area of concentration, usually excluding highly unrelated topics.

Themed blogs can either be broad or specific. For example in the area of health, you can choose to write about the broad topic of health or the more particular sub topic of low card dieting. In the area of sports, you can choose to blog about all kinds of sports or you can concentrate on the specific topic of boxing.

Here are some actual examples:

Mixed Blogs

In between personal and themed blogs, there has emerged the mixed kind. These feature a variety of topics and tones as the author sees fit to publish. Bloggers have a variety of reasons and motivations for having these.

I wouldn’t recommend going down this path unless you’re already a popular person or you have a well formed objective in mind. This is because it is difficult to create a dedicated readership when you write about a variety of different topics.

Corporate/Official Blogs

These are the kinds of blogs written for and about a specific company, organization, movement, institution or public figure. Bloggers or staff members are usually commissioned to write according to the values, principles or identity of the official owner. Examples include:

Best Types of Blog

Unless you’ve been hired to write for an organization or you own a company, you really have only two options, a personal or a themed blog. The best kind will depend on your intentions, purpose or objectives for blogging.

Based on my own experience however, I would lean towards setting up blogs about specific themes or niches. Blogs with themes are the ones that are likely to develop a following. There are groups of people out there that are absolutely dedicated to specific topics and they might follow you if you develop a great blog about their interest.

Take note though that you should never go for a niche or theme that is too narrow. Otherwise, you may not have enough information or content to publish.

Now that you know what a blog is and what kinds are out there, it’s time for you to prepare to blog. The next section will tackle defining your intentions and forming the right mindset.

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What is a Blog?


Before you can start blogging, you naturally have to understand what it is. You might already have an idea or you might have read a couple of different definitions online. I shall attempt to combine here the important elements and features of a traditional blog to come up with an inclusive definition.

A Simple Definition

A blog is short for web log and is essentially a kind of website or part of a website, the owner of which regularly publishes content called posts. These posts are arranged in reverse chronological order and are open to visitor interaction in the form of comments.

From this definition it’s clear that a traditional blog:

  • is a kind of website or part of a website
  • has regularly published content
  • organizes content in reverse chronological order
  • invites interaction

It is because of these aspects that blogs were once often regarded mainly as online journals, diaries and logs.

Note that I specifically defined a traditional blog. This is mainly because there are now several blog-type web properties that no longer strictly fit this definition.

Blogs vs. Websites

Although a blog is a type of website, sometimes it’s easier to form a better picture of what a blog is when it is compared with a general website. As you might have guessed, a plain website:

  • may not be expected by visitors to have fresh, regularly updated content although it can carry new content when the webmaster sees fit to publish
  • may not be open to comments
  • can contain evergreen content such as non varying information about a company
  • can optionally have limited content that gives basic information about something like a company, corporate entity or organization

Some people call websites static. Unlike blogs where regular content pushes old content down such that a blog may contain a different entry at different times, some websites may contain the same pieces of information at the front so that visitors always see the same thing every time they visit or for extended periods of time.

Again, there are many exceptions here. News websites for example are required to be frequently updated. It’s important to keep in mind that today, the distinctions between blogs and websites can get blurred.

It’s also important to note that some webmasters choose to use various blogging platforms to publish content online but do so in a way that departs from the traditional definition of a blog. Some for example, turn off time and date stamps to create the impression of evergreen posts or content. Others also turn off comments.

Expanding the Definition of Blogs

There are also those bloggers who choose to expand the traditional definition of blogs. In short, they add or enhance the elements, qualities or features of their blogs to fit their needs, intentions and preferences. For example, blogs today can:

  • include options to share, distribute or spread content
  • offer a visible way for visitors to subscribe to get updates on fresh content
  • integrate with social networks to foster a sense of community
  • include forms of monetization
  • be used for marketing

This is as close as I can get to a simple answer to, “What is a blog?” but there’s a lot more basic information you need to learn about. Coming next, we’ll explore the different types of blogs.

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