Everytime I meet non-bloggers and encourage them to start a blog, they ask, what's in it for me? what's the benefit? why should I blog? Even I ask myself these questions from time to time. Why do I blog? Why do we blog?
In thinking about the reasons for blogging, I thought of geology and rock stratum. If you could slice through rock cliff, you would see various layers, with different textures, compositions, colors, and constituencies for each layer. Kind of like this:
The reasons for blogging are as numerous as the layers that make up the ancient rock stratum. That is to say, one blogs for many different reasons. One reason may be more appropriate for a different time and condition. The reason may suddenly change due to an altered atmosophere. Some reasons are buried deep and we hardly see them. Others protrude along the surface visibly. Here's a possible stratum underlying the blogger's motivations:
The reason/layer can be more important at different times of your life and fulfill different purposes. I expand on each reason below.
Blogging increases your visibility and helps you market yourself professionally. The more you blog, the more others become aware of you. Particularly in a field like technical writing, where probably less than 1% of writers blog, maintaining an active blog makes you stand out. People in other states and countries suddenly know you. You begin to exist to others. I blog, therefore I am. In a global community of people, you are no longer another indistinguishable grain of sand. You are a real, visible person through your blog.
Blogging forces you to analyze and process what you read, hear, and experience. When you blog about ideas and information you encounter, you're no longer a passive absorber of information. You become an active analyzer, confronting life by processing, reflecting, and synthesizing your thoughts on it.
Just as novelists see people they interact with as potential characters, the events of their lives as possible plots, you also begin to think in blog. You see the world differently. An idea becomes blog worthy, and writing about it forces you to engage with it. In a world where information bombards us, blogging allows us to do something with it.
Blogging provides a space for creative expression, with the rewards of validation and feedback. Many technical writers were English majors or other creative types, with literary energy and inspirational muses waiting to be unleashed. Through blogging, you are given a purpose, an audience, and an unlimited supply of electronic ink. Even without being a novelist or columnist, you can still publish regularly and fulfill that part of you. Blogging allows the writer within you to be released.
The interaction that blogs yield provides a social appeal. It feels good to get comments and interact with others. Moreover, blogs allow you to interact with others who share your same interests. While you may have more rewarding interactions in real world settings, blogging adds another dimension to your sociality.
Blogging increases traffic to your site and optimizes keywords for your name or product. The more others link to you, the more Google moves you up in the page rank. Blogs also provide a tremendous amount of content — and therefore keywords — for your site. Even comments from users add more keywords to your site.
After blogging for a year, you will probably move up significantly in the search engine rankings, allowing more people to find you. (For example, when you Google my name, Tom Johnson, you see I'm on the first page. Considering how common my name is (think of all the Tom Johnsons there are in a world of 6 billion people), that's pretty amazing to be #7.)
Now think how many people use Google to find information. If your blog gets you onto the first page of Google, you've just leveraged the most important knowledge tool on the planet.
Blogs enable collective sharing of intelligence. Bloggers share their knowledge with each other, and this knowledge is distributed through the search engines. The more we share knowledge, the smarter we become.
As more people start blogging and sharing knowledge in a written, online form, Google becomes a more powerful tool for finding knowledge. Essentially, blogs are transferring the knowledge inside each of us and putting it out on Google. The world's brain is being morphed into one centralized, accessible location. With smart keyword searches, you'll soon be tapped into all human knowledge.
Blogging provides you with feedback on your ideas. When you publish your thoughts, people read them and make comments. Sometimes it can be like having 100 personal researchers working for you, as one writer put it. Readers enrich your thoughts by providing important additions, corrections, reflections, and other feedback. Ask a question, and you get responses.
Getting comments on a post is one of the most rewarding aspects of blogging, because it means your post connected with someone else. Their response deepens the meaning of the original post. This feedback helps you avoid writing in a vaccuum.
Blogging helps you stay current with the latest trends and industry news. Blogs usually distribute the latest information, so as a blogger, you'll read other blogs and stay on the forefront of the latest news, announcements, and other practices.
Unlike traditional print media, which is planned months before publication, and then published periodically (such as monthly or quarterly), blogs can instantly publish and distribute information as it takes place. You're connected with what's current — immediately. And you can respond to it — immediately.
Blogs allow you to record your thoughts and learnings in a journal. By writing down what you learn, you can recall it later by searching for it on your site. A convenient link, quotation, idea, or tip you write in your blog becomes yours forever. Months from now, you may vaguely recall something you wrote on the topic. A quick search on your blog allows you to easily find it. If you are compiling notes for a book, there's no better journal than a blog.
Blogging can be a convenient way to publish and distribute information. If you have job listings, events, newsletter articles, announcements, podcasts, or other information that you frequently publish, blogs provide the easiest method for distributing it. If you respond to frequently asked questions in your blog (rather than by email), you can point people to posts already written (a concept John Udell calls "the conservation of keystrokes").
Blogs also provide an RSS feed that readers can subscribe to, so you don't have to email your users every time there's an update. Additionally, blogs allow multiple authors to collaborate in the publishing. You can have a team of distributed authors who can publish on the fly from any Internet connection.
Blogging provides an open access point between you and the world. With comments enabled, your blog is an open conduit that allows people to access you. This can be especially important if you're a corporate blogger. Readers can submit feedback, recommendations, and provide other information to make your product stronger. Readers with questions can contact you.
Blogging helps you build relationships with readers, whether they be users of your products, your employees, chapter members, or friends. For example:
We don't know all the reasons why we do things. I leave this last section with a question mark. Maybe readers can fill it in with reasons I've missed.
Credit to Alan Scott for the stratum diagram.
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I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. Topics I write about on this blog include technical writing, authoring and publishing tools, API documentation, tech comm trends, visual communication, technical writing career advice, information architecture and findability, developer documentation, and more. If you're a professional or aspiring technical writer, be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here.