Unless you are living in a dark cave inside the dense jungles of Amazon, you must have heard the term ‘Blogs.’ Most blogs start as a hobby or like a personal diary or for staying connected with friends and family. But there are people who have quit their regular 9-to-5 jobs to take up blogging as a full-time profession and they are called pro-bloggers.

In this first part, we discuss topics like getting started with blogs, choosing niche topics and the general rules of blogging. In Part II, you’ll learn about various methods to make money from blogs, using advertising and affiliate programmes. The concluding part III will feature advanced techniques for tracking readers, optimizing your blog for getting more traffic and how to convert those “staring eyeballs” into “serious money.”

A blog is an online website, in which posts are arranged in reverse chronological order. The activity of posting contents on a blog is called blogging, while the person who writes content is called a blogger. The entire universe of blogs and bloggers is called the Blogosphere.

Blogs gained much popularity during the US 2004 Presidential elections. Merriam-Webster also voted “blog” as the most requested definition of the year 2004. According to Technorati, a service that tracks the Blogosphere, there are 33.5 million blogs and a new blog is added every second. That’s double the rate at which the Indian population is growing.

Even when there are millions of blogs already in existence, there’s no such thing as missing the boat. It’s still a perfect time to start a blog. After all, only a few percent of those blogs are actually putting effort to create good content. It is even possible that few blogs cover topics that you want to blog on.

This ‘Professional Blogging as a Career‘ series aims to help you turn your blog into a cash cow.

So let’s get started. Google Blogger, MSN Spaces and Yahoo 360 are popular services for creating blogs quickly. These services even provide professional looking web-design templates, incase you wish to change the default look-n-feel of your blog without requiring any programming skills. The only caveat is that you do not own the blog domain and the blog URL will end either in blogspot.com or spaces.com/username depending on the blogging service you choose.

Always invest good time in choosing a blog platform since migration to a different blog platform is not only tough (and sometimes impossible), you risk losing your site visitors and search engine rankings. For giving a more professional touch, you can consider buying your personal web domain name and install the WordPress blog platform. WordPress is free to download, community support is excellent and millions of users are already using it. Another good alternate is the Movable Type publishing platform.

Once you have a good blog domain, the next question in your mind is – what should I blog about? Since I want to make “real” money, should I blog about Asbestos related lung cancer or NYC lawyers, since these topics attract the top-paying advertisements? Or should I write about my cat, activities of my school-going daughter or what my wife cooked the last night?

Choosing a niche for your blog can sometimes be the toughest part. But here’s a simple answer – write on topics that you are passionate about. Think of topics that really interest you, topics on which you can continue to write for months to come.

Your blog can be just about anything ranging from shoes, cooking, technology or even about the latest happenings in your city. You will always find readers who are interested in your topics, provided you keep supplying them with good content. But if million other bloggers are already covering your favourite topics, study their blogs and research areas that they are neglecting. Then you will have just discovered your niche.

To be really successful as a blogger, you always have to keep your momentum going. New bloggers tend to write too many posts in a short span of time, or write infrequently over a long period but the real target should be to write regularly. Publish at least one good post per day. Visitors will revisit your website in the hopes of seeing new updated content, it becomes your duty not to disappoint them.

Once your blog is up and running, there’s a big urge to send an invite to friends and relatives. Before doing that, ensure that you have written at least 10-15 good articles. All links must work and there should be no “Under Construction” pages. This may give a bad impression and visitors may not bother visiting you in future.

There are a couple of rules that bloggers must strictly follow. Most important, if you quote from another website, always give credit and a hyperlink back to the original story. For images, the issue gets a little more complex. Always check the image licence before using it on your blog. Do not hotlink images, since it is equivalent to stealing someone else’s bandwidth. If you plan to use someone else’s image with permission, store a copy on your own server.