Blogging and social media in times of coronavirus pandemic

As a media/ social media watcher and blogger, I have some insights to share on both these areas in the midst of coronavirus epidemic. Experts of media research organizations will definitely make a detailed study when the epidemic is over, and we will then learn many more things. For now, let's see what is happening now:


  • As expected, social networking and chat platforms are agog with advisories and updates. Almost everybody seems to be sharing them, making them go viral. The top trends (in fact, on some days, all the trends) on social media platforms are on corona virus.
  • By format, besides text, images and videos, other formats are being used to spread information. These include animations, live dashboard/ graphs/ maps and infographics. Liveblogs are seen on websites of media and other organizations.
  • A large number of fake stories are in circulation. In some countries, people have also been booked for misleading messages. Also circulating are doomsday scenarios and supposed predictions made many years back. Religious scriptures are quoted with meanings suiting the present situation. Conspiracy theories have been floated and made virulent by highly opinionated people, blaming spy agencies of super-powers or Chinese biological warfare lab for coronavirus origin and spread. People (and agencies?) are working overtime to use this to spread hatred against specific ethnicitiess, religions, cultures and people with special eating habits.
  • US President Trump has added controversy to the discussion by calling the virus as 'Chinese virus' rather than COVID-19 or coronavirus.
  • Heads of many nations and international organizations, especially WHO, have come out with messages, assurances and appeals.
  • Indian Prime Minister Modi has taken a lead, besides holding a video conference with SAARC heads of state, in spreading messages on social media. He incessantly puts messages on his social media accounts, in the form of advisories and appeal. He also shares others' messages and publicly appreciates good work being done by public figures and common citizens.
  • Besides authentic advisories, traditional cures are being suggested. Even chanting of prayers has been recommended by a few religious leaders.
  • There are reports and I have personally observed that people are getting impacted emotinally due to excessive updations on social media. Situations of panic have arisen even in countries not too badly affected by the epidemic so far, when fake news claiming complete lockdown by government, people dying in hordes, daily need provisions and masks not being available in shops, etc are spread on social apps. 
  • The group supposed to be vulnerable, e.g. very old people and those with respiratory issues, must be under tremendous stress, which is aggravated by repeated messages and information on television channels and social media focused on them. 
  • Mental/ emotional issue are likely to rise as there are more and more lockdowns and 'work from home' - resulting in more time spent on television/ online media/ social media. Some of my colleagues have reported elevated hypertension and anxiety.
  • There is a preliminary report that watching and download of porn content has spiked in some regions.
  • Social media giants are supporting governmental and societal actions by spreading correct information and advisories. They have also come out with technological solutions such as chat bots. However they are found badly wanting when it comes to removing fake news and advisories.
  • Social media is also helping governments, health agencies and various service providers in reaching people with correct information, tips and support. Without social media, it would not have been possible to reach the nook and corner of the globe, so fast and so exhaustively.

Coronavirus, blogging and social media impact


  • Television, news websites and social media have left hardly any space for blogging on the coronavirus epidemic. Big news blogs, of course, are a class apart.
  • Many organizations have opened liveblogs on the epidemic. These liveblogs are doing a good job in updating visitors with correct advisories and updates.
  • Some world organizations and governments have chosen to use their blog as the primary source of information on corona virus, which they cross-post on social media.

Talking of how the epidemic has impacted blogging,

  • Professional blogs have suffered badly, especially blogs that make money for the blogger. There are reports of a UK blogger couple who had started a food outlet after success in blogging had to close the outlet even as the established restaurants somehow managed to survive. A blogger in India who gives regular updates on his earnings and traffic has shared that the traffic and clicks on his blog have declined to near-zero. This must be happening to all bloggers, in all niches.
  • By common logic, travel bloggers must have suffered the most, and also those in the fields of fashion and beauty blogging and finance blogging.
  • It appears that book review blogs, health and fitness blogs and some types of finance blogs would be getting more traffic. 
  • On some Facebook groups on blogging, I found small bloggers looking for cheap hosting plans and asking for help as their blogs have been hit with low traffic. There are plenty who have come out with assurances but they would not disclose their terms except on 'ib' (=personal inbox).
  • On YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Helo and SharChat (the ones I tracked for a while), hundreds of small bloggers have posted videos with advisories on corona virus. I browsed many of them in English and Indian languages (specifically Hindi, Nepali, Marathi, Gujarati, Bangla) and found them (especially on local video-sharing apps) copied from other sources and with wrong information. Some of them are propagating outright harmful remedies and spreading rumors. They have many followers and they make these videos with local touch - that makes the videos more potent in spreading misinformation.
I intend to do my own research over time and also follow what institutional researchers find on how corona virus epidemic impacted blogging and social media and the other way round. I will sure update you on this in about 3 months from now.

How to get free SSL certificate for a website or blog? Why is SSL important?

What are HTTPS, SSL and TLS?

As a blogger or website owner you would know that the world wide web (www) runs using a protocol called Hyper Text Transfer Protocol or HTTP. So, all websites must have an HTTP declaration in their URL.

But it is possible for miscreants to 'phish' or display their website and present it as another, genuine, website. The HTTP protocol is not able to check such illegal actions. Moreover, during data transmission between the website server and the user's internet browser, there are 'sniffer' programs that can read the data.

So, there is more and more stress on making the protocol secure by making it difficult to fake a website or to read its secure data. HTTPS (S in the abbreviation represents 'secure') came in response to such need.

When you see HTTPS at the beginning of a web address, it is an indication that the website has been verified to be 'secure'. This security is achieved through security protocols, SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security).

Let the confusion between SSL and TLS be removed. The first protocol that came up for securing websites through a security layer was SSL, which ran till version 3.0. It has been succeeded by TSL but both the protocols are in operation. For a user, their distinction doesn't matter as long as his website has HTTPS security implemented through a security certificate that says that it is secured with SSL or TLS. In common parlance, the certificate issued to the website is called SSL certificate. I will also use this expression to refer to a certificate that provides SSL/ TLS based security to websites.

There are many levels of SSL/TLS security and they all do not make the website secure to the same level. When you type the web address of a reliable bank website, it shows the entire ID of the website given in full, with a lock preceding it. Now, use another website with HTTPS (not a bank or such high security website) and you find a lock before the URL. Non-HTTPS sites do not have a lock.

SSL certificates and web security

How SSL actually operates for keeping websites secure?

When you get your website or blog hosted on a web hosting server, you tell the web host to provide you with a security certificate. Once your website has the certificate (SSL/ TSL certificate), it means a SSL/ TSL security software has been placed on the server and will interact with web communication before it reaches your website.

Suppose someone now wants to visit your website. He enters your website's URL on his browser. His browser now sends a request to the server of your website, asking for the information on your website. As your website is HTTPS-enabled (it has a security layer/ certification), your server does not give information to the visitor's browser but sends its SSL certificate to his browser. The browser has a database of genuine security certificates, and it checks whether your website's security certificate is trust-worthy. After verification of the certificate, there is 'handshake' between your server and his browser. Now all the data-flow between the two ends during that session happens through encryption. If your site accepts money and he puts his credit card details on your site, the details cannot be read by a spying software.

Is HTTPS security layer really that important?

When a website shows that it has HTTPS security, it is taken as safe by visitors as well as search engines. That is a huge credibility improvement over non-HTTPS websites and blogs.

In addition, with encrypted communication, those lurking to snoop into user behavior or data cannot succeed. That includes not only criminals and miscreants but also competitors and those wanting to steal data. It is also difficult for others to inject ads or malicious code into such secure communications.

For businesses and small bloggers alike, HTTPS has many advantages besides making the website more secure. When the website is seen as secure, visitors are likely to be more confident in viewing the content, clicking on links and doing transactions on the site. Being technologically up-to-date also gives a positive signal to the visitors about seriousness and professionalism of the website owner/ business/ blogger.

Internet browsers have started deprecating HTTP sites. Chrome and Safari give a warning 'not secure' before the web address of non-HTTPS websites. Mozilla Firefox shows a broken lock before the URL. Edge browser does not show a warning sign but on clicking the 'i' before the web address, you get a warning, 'Be careful here.'

SSL security and browser behavior

It is natural that the credibility gained due to SSL implementation puts secure websites higher in the eyes of search engines. In fact, Google has publicly stated that HTTPS is a quality signal for search ranking.

How to get SSL certificate?

How is your website or blog hosted? If it is a blog hosted on Blogger, Wordpress, LiveJournal, Medium or some other big free blogging platform, it must already have SSL security. Your social media accounts come with HTTPS because Facebook and Twitter have implemented it across their platform.

If your blog/ website is a self-hosted, you must get SSL certificate without losing time. Ask your  web host to give it to you. If he charges you a big sum, get an SSL certificate free from a third party and install it. If he does not allow you to use the free SSL certificate on your blog/ website, it is time you look for a new web host.

If you are yet to start a blog/ website and are in search of a web host for it, look at the plans of major web hosts active in your region. It is likely that SSL certificate is not included in their basic web hosting plans. As said above, buy only a plan that has a free SSL certificate included or it allows you to implement a free SSL from outside (read below: Best Free SSL Certificate). As a small website owner or blogger, you don't need an expensive certificate.

Buy a higher level SSL certificate if you want users to submit personal/ financial data

SSL certificate is given by Certification Authorities or CAs (e.g. Comodo, Symantec, GoDaddy, DigiCert). Big web hosts themselves are CAs.

As said above, there are different levels of SSL certificates issues by CAs to cater to different security requirements. As such, they do antecedent verification of website and its owner differently:
  • Domain-Control Validation (DV) is done to verify the domain, nothing else: done for basic level of SSL.
  • Organization Validation (OV) verifies the identity of the owner organization behind the domain.
  • Extended Validation (EV) does the strongest, highly rigorous, checks of the owner's identity. This is done for top SSL security.

If your blog/ website allows buying of products or you ask visitors to submit their sensitive information for availing some benefits or you carry out e-commerce through it, the website needs a more secure layer. You should buy it from the web host or a third-party CA. The CA will ask you some documents for proving your genuineness, before it gives you the certificate.

Whichever SSL certicate you put on your blog/ website, be sure that it is updated, valid one. Old SSL certificates (pre- version 3.0) may give you only a false sense of security. A bad certificate also shows a warning on web browsers, thus making the website suspicious in the eyes of visitors.

Best Free SSL Certificate

Let me introduce you to Lets Encrypt, a free certification authority supported by a number of top technology companies. LetsEncrypt provides a basic level of SSL certificate, completely free. Moreover, it is regularly being upgraded.

As of March 2020, LetsEncrypt has issued more than a billion free SSL certificates.

You can visit LetsEncrypt website for knowing how to use the certificate on your blog/ website.

Does SSL certificate guarantee against phishing and sniffing?

As a visitor, when you access an HTTPS enabled site, you know that it is at least a genuine website and your communication or data exchange with the site is encrypted (unless, the SSL certificat itself has an issue, which is rare). But a website with basic SSL certificate can be owned by a fake. So, sites with SSL certification of the basic type could still be malicious to that extent. Moreover, if the website allows third-party content without discretion, criminals can harm visitors and the SSL security can be of no help.

However, if you are not doing a monetary or high-security transaction on a website, HTTPS itself is first level of assurance that you are using a safe site (yes, with rare chances of phishing). For confidential transactions, you must be sure that the website uses a higher level of certification (seen with padlock and company's name before the URL).

Visit this page if you are interested in browsing other articles on web security on this blog.

How to make money from reviews on the blog?

Are you a blogger wanting to make money from reviews on your blog? Have you opened a blog recently but don't know how to start reviewing products? You want to know how best to approach brands? What are the best practices to follow on product review blogs? 

Let us answer these questions one by one. Before that, some advice for bloggers who have only recently created their blog:

For new bloggers: How to open a blog and bring it to a respectable level?

If you are very new to blogging or have thought of starting your first blog, I will recommend that you first learn to maintain the blog in a professional manner. This post will guide you on creating the blog, nurturing it, avoiding pitfalls and so on.

If you are confident that you know the ropes of blogging, read on...

What are product reviews?

Product reviews are nothing but articles in which you discuss the special features of products (or services) produced and offered by others. The products can be daily-use items, books, music DVD, a spare part, big merchandise, a course for competitive examinations or an online service. Anything that people sell and buy. 

A good review is one that is honest about good as well as bad features of the product. Honest reviews are liked and shared by visitors. One-sided, unfair, reviews get your blog bad name.

I sometime review products that I use. How do I go forward?

As a blogger, you might sometimes review products after using them, but that is not what we are aiming at. Such reviews do not make a critical mass so that visitors come to your blog to find your opinion on products/ services. Such occasional reviews do not bring the blog high on search pages. Individual reviews might be liked by visitors but are not taken seriously by firms who advertise on review blogs and send products to bloggers for a review. 

So, the discussion here will focus on how to make money from reviews.

product review blogs can make money if done correctly

As a 'professional' review blogger, it is necessary that people start knowing you for your excellent product reviews. So, you must devote the blog fully (or its significant part) to reviews. 

In fact, keeping the reviews as one part of a wholesome blog works better than just reviews, especially when the other content has synergy with product reviews. For example, if you have a blog on make up, in which you write about this subject, you can regularly review beauty products on the blog. A photoblog can regularly review photography equipment. A yoga blog can review yoga mats, yoga pants and yoga classes.

There are so many product review sites. Why would firms and buyers care for a small blog? 


The web is so big and there are so many people surfing it that there is space for everybody. You have small shops along side huge brand outlets even in the most famous shopping malls, isn't it?

You can sure have your place, and it would shine in a crowded marketplace too, if
  • Your reviews are exceptionally good so that people visit your blog again and refer it to others;
  • You promote the reviews through social media, SEO etc so that people know where your blog is,  and they come to you for more;
  • You monetize them by having a paying arrangement with the brand/ seller so that you earn out of your hard work.

Yes, there are big review sites and blogs, but many people want to research beyond the opinion given there. People want specific information given without hiding facts. People also want a variety of opinion to arrive at a right buying decision. So, a blog that gains authority because of honest and informative reviews becomes more and more sought after.

Another points to note is that most big businesses of today started small. Most big travel bloggers (some with travel agencies, portals and many employees working for them now) have shared on their blogs that they started as individuals wanting to travel a lot and writing about it. Some didn't know a bit about blogging! So, be sincere in your effort, work in the right direction and work a bit hard - and success will be yours.

Should I review a range of products or go for a narrow niche?

That will depend on a dozen factors, and therefor you should do research. Don't go for a wide niche if you are a newbie blogger. How narrow, will depend on your location, the type of product you'd review, your expertise and so on.  

Generally speaking, go for a narrow niche but not too narrow. As an individual budding blogger, you can't compete with huge review and comparison sites and apps. The web is particularly crowded in some niches, e.g. electronic devices and beauty products. So, having a review blog on digital cameras will not get you anywhere unless you are patronized by a camera store or company. On the other hand, if you review products that are in demand and are special in some respect, your blog will soon be popular among those buyers and will come high on Google search pages when people search for those products. For example, review of restaurants in a tourist destination of medium size may have good scope.

On a paper, write down the range of products or services you will like to review. For example, you are a cook/ foodie/ food connoisseur and will like to review restaurants in Delhi. It is a fairly good market and would perhaps get you good traffic and affiliations. But there are at least two dozen well-established travel sites, two dozen blogs and a dozen trade directories with large number of reviews already posted there. Google and local apps come up with quick reviews the moment you type a restaurant's name, even when you type 'restaurant' on a search box. 

If you want to be a review blogger in such a crowded niche, you must realize that you need to narrow down your blogging topic. So, make a list like this:  restaurants in Delhi... non-vegetarian restaurants... restaurants serving Bengali cuisine... Bengali non-veg restaurants in East Delhi... Best fish dishes available in Delhi...etc. Now, if you go for 'Bengali non-veg restaurants in East Delhi' out of this list, this might be too narrow and you might not have many good restaurants to review after ten reviews. Because there are not many big Bengali restaurants in this location (though it is as large an area as Paris), you might not get advertisements from these restaurants. Moreover, there may not be enough people looking for this type of food, so even if you are on the top of Google search page, you might not get enough number of people coming to you. Hope the example helps how to determine how wide or narrow your niche should be.

Study your audience well. Try to profile your potential visitors. Who will come to you and go by your advice? Where does the audience live? What are the likely lifestyle and search habits of the target audience? Should you review product of mass use or those used by the elite? And so on. 

Study your competition and adjust your niche. Google keyword planner is a great tool to study the keywords which are most used for search. You should use it also for optimizing your review posts for the right keywords so that more people come to you by searching that product on Google and other search engines.

Also study the market. Whether there will be many firms advertising directly or through affiliation or through PPC advertisements? Whether the sellers in that niche pay bloggers for reviews?

Is it OK to approach brands/ sellers directly for ads and paid reviews on the blog?

You can have AdSense and affiliate ads (e.g. Amazon, CJ) from the very beginning but approaching sellers directly - wait for this. If you are a new blogger or you have not reviewed many products so far, it is necessary that you build up a solid portfolio before approaching sellers directly. 

And yes, once you have a good number of reviews to show, it is not only OK to approach them, it must be your regular drill. 

Make a directory of firms that sell your type of product, and approach them through whatever you feel as the best way - email, phone or meeting in person.

In whatever way you contact them, these are the best practices you should follow:

  • Choose the seller with care. You should not be desperate to get any seller. The chances of a shady seller giving you a good deal are more than an established one agreeing for it. But it will hurt badly in long run if you are not discreet in selecting the seller.
  • Be ready with your terms. Don't sell yourself cheap even in early blogging days. At the same time, don't show attitude. Be the real you. Offer short as well as long term deals, and make the long-term deals more attractive. 
  • Be ready with your arguments. Have convincing arguments - backed by facts. At the end, they should feel that they are not obliging you by giving you an ad or paid review assignment but a review on your site will help their business.
  • Showcase your assets. Make a one-page flyer about the blog, which should describe the blog, its target audience, any good comments you have received, any deals you have made, and its traffic stats. Say a few lines about yourself too, but not too much. Send it electronically as part of your email. Keep its print ready if you intend to meet sellers in person. 
  • Be polite and accommodative but slightly persistent. If the other guy wants to test your standing, he might  be cold to your offer. If that happens, walk out but leave the door open by suggesting that if they wish to still consider your offer in future, they could call you at ... number OR they should not mind if you ring them after a week just to see if they have a change of mind.

Is it better to buy the product than ask for sample for review?

You will learn the tricks of the trade as you go, and you will get plenty of free products, as some beauty, fashion and travel bloggers have shared on their blogs. We also know that books keep pouring it to bloggers who review books.

But one thing is sure; don't wait for the product to come to you if you feel you have a duty to review that product. For example, highly reputed reviewers get smartphones free when these are launched, but even mid-level bloggers are not likely to get them free for a review. As a blogger reviewing mobile phones, you need to review the mobile phone early. In such a case, you will need to read all the information available on the web and based on your understanding of the features, you will present your views on that smartphone. You must, in such case, tell beforehand that your opinion/ advice about the set is based on ... (links) and you have not used the set yourself so far. 

You might have seen many bloggers of beauty products reviewing products after buying and using them. Such bloggers get a fan following because these reviewers are under no obligation from the brand to project good aspects of its items. 

But there is no harm asking for the product or service, and it would come free especially when the seller is desperate or it won't cost him much to gift it to you (e.g. a book, an e-book, a software, a free stay before tourism season).

How to make money from reviews: blog

How do product reviews go with affiliate marketing and AdSense?

There is no harm having any type of advertisement on the blog along with reviews. However, sometimes a seller who gives you good money for reviews on your blog might put the condition that you will not serve his competitor's ads. But don't worry; such situations can come when you are an expert - and in that case you will have all the wisdom to take the right decision.  

What should a reviewer do if seller demands only praise, no honest review?

Yes, you will have to deal with such situations. That's why I said above, choose the sellers discreetly and be ready with your terms. 

You have opened the blog for earning from blogging and reviewing, not for fighting with sellers or teaching the bad ones a lesson. So, avoid bad sellers from the beginning. After that, you will have good sellers whose products and services will be genuinely good. The wiser the seller, the more open he will be to nuanced criticism.

If you find a product bad after using it for free, you can tell the seller, your review will have those bad points or at least the review will not be all positive. So, either he improves the product (e.g. customer service in a hotel or a bug in software), takes it back from you (e.g. key for a software), agrees for the review, or you don't carry the review. You can have your say only when you had made these terms clear before you used the product - that's what makes it even more important to make your terms clear in advance.

Should a review blogger put disclosure; does it not sound apologetic? 

Disclosing your affiliation with the product or service under review is a good practice. Instead of weakening you in any way, it gives you great advantage in terms of credibility: your visitors would develop trust in you when you do that. 

Disclosure also gives you higher marks in internal rating done by search engines. 

Moreover, if someone gets hurt because of your recommendation, your disclosure would save you from any legal action by the users.  

Take a few examples. You would caution that the face cream you have reviewed has a high concentration of aldehydes and products with extra formaldehyde can cause rashes. Or, this particular yoga posture should not be tried by people with a history of bone fractures. Now if a lady gets allergy after using that face cream or a guy breaks his bone after doing that tough yoga asana, they won't be able to sue you. Similarly, if you mentioned that your views about that food supplement are based on your experience and you are in no way connected with the brand, people would take you at face value. (But it must be true too.) If you review a restaurant after a press trip or a paid dinner and mention about it, people would believe you more and will even forgive you if they find that you have praised the restaurant slightly more than it deserves. Got the point?

By the way, the US FTC has detailed guidelines on what should be taken in mind when endorsing a product. Though they do not concern bloggers outside the US, they serve the purpose of telling what are good and undesirable practices when endorsing a product.

How blogging helped Sarah overcome a debilitating disease

For years, Sarah suffered from a painful disease of muscles, called fibromyalgia. That made her so sick and helpless that her life revolved round her couch and she needed help for even small personal chores.

Then she took to blogging!

And blogging made her what she is today. She and her husband Mike started a travel blog, List 'Till Dawn, and while she did the writing part, Mike helped with phtography. Now it is a formidable blog on travel. They not only post travelogues and advice for travelers but also do reviews and delve in lifestyle matters. The blog has a section on tips to bloggers and the bloggers run a course on blogging too!

Travel blog by Sarah

On how blogging came to her life and helped shape it, Sarah says this on her blog:
While working at the Big Four, I got really sick from the stress of overworking and got fibromyalgia. I quit accounting, moved to Amsterdam, and became a travel blogger since I’ve been consistently traveling since 2005 and have been to over 20 countries... I’ve always loved traveling, but blogging about it added a whole new passion to my life. Now I love talking about traveling, blogging, and the peace and happiness I’ve finally found in life.

Profiling the blogger of 2020

The following is an excerpt from The Manual of Blogging:


A large number of studies and surveys have been conducted to profile bloggers and to find their blogging habits. Since the blogosphere is too wide and scattered, no study can fully capture information about all bloggers. Yet there are some indicators that help us sketch the profile of today’s bloggers.

Today’s ‘blogger’ could be one who maintains an independent blog, one with a blog on a major blogging platform, a newspaper columnist whose columns are also posted by the newspaper on the web, a Facebook user who also writes occasional big posts on his timeline/ page, a person who posts his photos on Instagram or videos on YouTube – in fact, anybody who expresses himself in a long-form text or through a visual medium on the web. One could call himself a blogger even if he publishes short-form content on a regular basis...

The new blogger takes blogging seriously.

...Since one can open a blog free on one of the many blogging and other social platforms, a very large majority of bloggers tend to open one or more blogs, maintain them for some time in the hope of getting instant gains ( traffic/ recognition/ money) and when that does not happen, lose interest. It has been reported that the average age of majority of blogs opened in the recent past is less than six months!

Most bloggers who maintain their blogs professionally seem to have graduated from personal blogging.

Bloggers in the age group 25-45 years are reported to be most active. The activity goes down as the age goes up; however, active bloggers as old as 75 years or more can also be seen, though very few...

People of yesteryears who picked up blogging as the first social media activity seem to have reduced blogging as they have become more active on social networking and messaging sites.

Students constitute a special section of blogging community because of use of blogs by progressive schools.

The common blogger seems to love ready-made technological tools for sprucing up the blog and other actions, but he hates to learn the technology. So, unless the blog is being made for professional and earning purposes, or the blogger has some qualification in web technologies, it is likely to be ignored in terms of technological optimization.

Almost all bloggers do blogging part-time and do not earn much, but a few bloggers do earn their bread through blogging...

The traditional blogger still usually works on his blog on a big screen (desktop/ laptop), but (i) for visiting others’ blogs, (ii) sharing photos and quick posts, and (iii) commenting on others’ posts, he is most probably using his smart phone.

Today’s blogger generally does not comment on other standard-format blogs except when he engages with acquaintances, a blogging community or professional blogging network. In other cases, if he likes a blog post, he might rather share it on his social network or through a messaging app.

The average blogger expects a meaningful discussion on the thoughts and information on his posts but when it comes to treating other bloggers’ posts, he is likely to behave in the same casual way as other social media users do.

In a study quoted elsewhere on this book, D... found that list articles are the most popular types of content that bloggers produce. How-to guides are the second most popular type of posts. Other types, in decreasing importance, are case studies, opinion pieces, infographics, research, product reviews, news, interviews and roundup posts...

How to choose the best web host for your blog/ website?

[If you are new to blogging or are a new website owner and are still learning the basics, I will advise you to visit this article on web hosting and domain name basics before you move on.]

There are a number of web hosts available in 2020, and most of them have a number of plans suiting different requirements.This article explains the main categories of web hosting plans offered by most web hosts and which plan should a blogger/ website own should select.

What is free web hosting and how can I host a website or blog free of cost?

Free hosting of blogs is available from major blogging platforms such as Wordpress, Blogger, LiveJournal, Tumblr and Medium, as well as on Quora, Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Blogger is the most versatile of them, and gives you free hosting even when you buy the domain name from another service provider. (That means, if you have a blog and you map it to a domain name, Blogger won't charge you for that!) Blogger allows advertisements on your blog while Wordpress does not allow that in free version. (You can always upgrade it and get more facilities.) Blogs on other free platforms allow you to just post your stuff; no ads, no monetization, no or limited customization.

The beauty of the biggest of these free blogging platforms (Wordpress, Blogger) is that not only they host your blog, they also have a powerful yet simple content management system that allows you to format your posts, put photos, and customize the blog in many ways. They also give your blog a very robust security.

Free website hosting: Blogs also are websites, but other types of websites cannot be hosted on free blogging platforms. There are many free web hosting providers for non-blog websites, and they have many limitations of bandwidth, total space, up-time etc and may run their own advertisements on your site.

What is paid web hosting? What are self hosted blogs?

Except when you open your blog/ website on a free platform, you need to host it on some server on the www. (More on hosting basics in the linked post.). Blogs hosted this way are called self hosted blogs. The agency that hosts the website or blog is called web host or web hosting firm.

All major web hosts offer a number of plans. These come with different sets of resources, security, back-up, server management, customer service, etc and they cost accordingly. Paid plans can be fitted in these major categories:

Shared web hosting

This is the most common hosting plan, and can have many sub-plans and add-ons. In this type, a web server is shared by many clients (bloggers and website owners) and therefore the cost to individual client is a fraction of the total cost of maintaining that server.

You should go for this type of plan if you are a new blogger or a small business blogger with not much traffic on the blog/ website. 

Re-seller web hosting

In this type of web hosting, a big hosting company sells its space to techies or small companies and they are allowed to sell the space to small users. Often, the re-sellers add their own personalized services on top of those given by the big host.

Because the re-sellers make bits out of big plans and sell them to small website/ blog owners, re-seller plans can be very cheap - even cheaper than shared web hosting. However, since the re-sellers are not resourceful people, they cannot give good customer support or quickly deal with emergencies. Scaling the plan upwards may also be difficult. So, my advice would be to avoid re-seller hosting and not fall for low cost.

Virtual private server (VPS) hosting

This web hosting utilizes 'virtualization' to create virtual machines which are then given exclusively to clients. Since the server belongs to the website owner and dedicated resources such as space and bandwidth are allocated to him, he does not run the risk of the blog opening slow or becoming unavailable because of other clients' activities.

web hosting servers
Web hosts have huge servers and strong internet network.

A medium-level website owner or blogger does not need to go beyond this type of hosting. One can even have ecommerce activity and thousands of visitors a day in a VPS hosting plan.
The hosting types ones given below are more for general knowledge of web hosting.

Colocated (=collocated) web hosting

In this type of web hosting, the website owner purchases a server and locates it in the network of a web host. This needs specialized technical knowledge of running web servers and networks. Big companies and governments usually have this type of web hosting arrangement.

Managed server hosting

When the website owner needs lots of web space and resources but does not have a full-fledged technical team to do every aspect of web server management, he can ask the web hosting company to provide resources and also full technical support. In this case, the website owner pays for exclusive support in addition to the collocated / VPS hosting charges.

Dedicated hosting

This is very expensive type of web hosting and of course is highly reliable and gets the best resources. This suits big companies with huge websites/ portals and enormous amount of traffic. The servers as well as web services belong to the hosting company (unlike collocation) but the client uses them exclusively. For such high-end server management, though the hosting company gives support, the client must also have a dedicated team for taking care of web server management, which is a highly technical job.

Cloud hosting

This is nothing but the hosting company having servers across a very large area (even across the globe), which share resources among themselves and thus remove the risk of service deficiencies that come from one or a few servers physically located together. Your website on cloud servers will have its mirror images on many servers so that in case of any issue in one, the other ones take over. These are also very useful when one needs less or more resources 'on demand' or needs to provide for sudden escalation of demand.

These days like other cloud-based web services, cloud hosting has become popular and is getting cheaper. So, most web hosts are offering shared/ dedicated plans on cloud, at competitive rates.

Hybrid hosting solutions

Since the top rung of services can have a mix of leasing, management, placing the servers and services on the cloud, we can call them as hybrid solutions. Top companies have the muscle and different levels of in-house resources to negotiate terms with web hosting companies, and the resultant plans can range from just leasing data-center hardware to complete web hosting solutions.

Wordpress web hosting

Some web hosting companies have special plans for hosting websites created using Wordpress CMS. They are like other plans, but they have latest Wordpress software installed in them and taken some other technical actions for Wordpress websites/ blogs.

The takeaway from this discussion is,
  • Do not go for free hosting if you want to run your blog/ website for professional or business purposes.
  • If you are a small blogger/ small or medium business, buy a low-level plan, e.g. cloud based shared plan. Go for a slightly higher-end plan among shared plans if your business is growing  fast.
  • See before buying a plan that the host has good reputation, will hand-hold you during setting up process and will do trouble-shooting. Read reviews in forums and blogs. Ensure that the plan will be scaled up when you need more space and bandwidth later (all cloud-based hosting plans will have that built in). If you want to create your blog/ website using Wordpress, check whether the web host has special plans for such websites.

Tips for success in blogging in 2020?

In this article you will not only learn about starting a blog from scratch but also mastering the blogging craft. I have created this post with YOU in mind, especially if:
  • YOU are very new to blogging and don't know anything about this online activity.
  • YOU have a blog with good amount of information but you are poor in technological aspects.
  • YOU want to open a self-hosted blog - not on a free blogging platform.
  • YOU already maintain a blog but it is  not doing well, so you are looking for successful blog ideas.
  • YOU have a personal blog for a long time but you now want to make money out of blogging.

First thing first: Blogging is not hard but it is also not fast!

Please note that for success in blogging, you do not require much knowledge of technology.
Also, don't go blindly for the confusing stuff some people advise (SEO, on page and off page optimization, AMP, schema, markup, etc): they usually show off jargon to scare you so that you buy their services.

However, you need to love your subject and have expertise on that.

You must also be ready to give time to blogging on a regular basis. Success in blogging demands time and energy - and patience: ask any successful blogger if you have doubts.

Arrangement of this long article

This article is long because it is meant to guide you step by step and to explain why some blogging ideas work and some do not. In fact, this is like a big ebook on blogging with many chapters.
You can jump to these chapters and come back where you left, by clicking on links at the bottom of each chapter.

Go to Chapter 1 if you want to open a blog but have little knowledge about blogging.
Go to Chapter 2 if you have expertise on the subject you love, but you are poor in web technology.
Go to Chapter 3 if you want to open a self-hosted blog.
Go to Chapter 4 if you have a personal blog but now you want to do blogging for money.
Go to Chapter 5 if you are looking for tips to make your blog successful, as it is presently not doing well.

key to success in blogging


I want to start blogging but don't know much about it.

Before moving any further, let me assure you that you do not need any technical skills or someone's assistance for opening a blog.

I would suggest that you open a blog on Blogger. This is a free blogging platform. Blogger is also very simple to learn and so I recommend this platform for opening a new blog. In this article, I have given steps on how to open a blog and improve its looks within just a few minutes. But read that article carefully and do not be in a hurry - that will help you understand the basics of blogging.

Once you know how to create a simple blog, experiment with it. On Blogger itself, you can open more blogs to see which design or style works the best for you.

There is another good platform, Wordpress, for such experimentation with starting a blog. Once you are comfortable with blogging on Blogger platform, open an account on Wordpress and make a blog there. The options are similar to Blogger but may work slightly differently. Experiment on Wordpress also with 2-3 blogs. If you like this one better than Blogger, go for it.

There are other popular platforms, e.g. Tumblr and Medium. If you just want to give information or advice on the subject of your choice but are not interested in giving your blog a special look or making money out of it, I would suggest Medium. It is simple and without fuss - a great place for writers and readers.

Once you have made up your mind, stick to the platform and stick to only one blog.

Once you are comfortable with basics of blogging, visit other chapters of this article and the links given here and there. These will take you to the next steps: how to make the blog visible on search engines, how to bring traffic to the blog, how to make money from blogging, etc.

Jump back: how to start a blog.


I have a blog with lots of information but I don't know web technology.

Don't worry at all! As a blogger, you should become master of the subject, not of technology.

When you open a blog just for keeping information in it, you need not bother about technology. If you feel like applying a new background color, adding some widgets sand doing search optimization (SEO) yourself and your blog is on a free blogging platform (Blogger or Wordpress), let me assure you that these platforms have enough screen-based options for these little tasks. You can learn some tasks easily by clicking on the menu items in the blog dashboard. If you get confused, I have posted articles on starting and maintaining blogs here and you can make use of them  (Click on 'blogging' in the right sidebar).

If you're thinking of starting a blog for a more serious purpose (e.g. earning from it or for professional works), you must look at the blog as a business or self-employment. For such professional blogging, knowing technology helps in doing additional tasks. If that is your goal, I will advise you to open the blog on Wordpress CMS rather than free Blogger, Wordpress or Medium platforms. (If you are very new to blogging, start with what I have recommended in Chapter I above and then come back.)

In all cases (free or self-hosted blog), you will need to learn some techniques (not the coding/ technology behind them) for introducing important feature on the blog. These are no more difficult than sending a location map or taking a photo on your mobile phone. If you do not know them, you feel helpless at times, isn't it? Now that you have started blogging, it will help you greatly if you quickly learn such techniques within the blogging platform or website-builder that you use.

You will need to learn additional techniques for web hosting, registering domain name, web security etc in case you decide to open an independent blog (more on it in the next Chapter).

Then there are some blogging actions that need a some knowledge of HTML, but not too much. On some Wordpress themes/ plugins, even these are menu-based and do not require any knowledge of a web language. Some examples of such blog-features are:

  • Headline tags: these help in highlighting keywords.
  • Alt attributes on images: the ALT text makes images visible to search engines, otherwise search engines find it difficult to know the subject of images.
  • Rich cards: these help the blog comes high on search results when people search for local products/ services.

A somewhat higher knowledge of HTML and CSS (a language that is used for adding styles on web pages) is needed if you want to play with base code of the website. If you want to learn a bit of HTML and CSS, there are great tutorials on the web. I found this one very easy to understand.

Options if you are a technology-averse blogger

If you want to keep your blog modern in terms of technology and features but fear/ hate technology, you need not learn technology at all! Yes, you can succeed as a blogger without knowing even a bit of technology. These are the options before you:

* If you've created your blog blog jsut for hobby, don't bother about tech.

* If you want to maintain your blog professionally.

  • Either learn technology bit by bit. You can decide to learn HTML and CSS if your blog is on Blogger. If your blog is on Wordpress, a bit knowledge of PHP helps in sprucing up blogs there. There are many tutorials on the web on these web languages.
  • Or learn technology like a pro. You can join a course on web technology, either online or in a technology institution. Basic web technology is not difficult and even a matriculate can learn enough of it with some practice. 
  • Or hire a specialist. If you want someone to design a blog, you will need the services of a web developer. He will also set up the blog and help with domain name registration and web hosting. For search engine optimization, you might think of hiring an SEO expert - but that is optional, as this article on SEO would show you.  
Jump to the beginning: blogging basics.


I want to open a self-hosted blog, not one on a free blogging platform.

When the blogger creates a blog, buys a name for the blog and places it as an independent property on the web (not on a free blogging platform), it is called 'self-hosted' blog.

Advantages of self-hosted blogs compared to blogs on free blogging platforms

Free blogging platforms put a number of limitations on the blog. While Blogger is generous, The free plan of Wordpress has many more limitations. Tumbler is even more restrictive, and Medium does not allow any design change. On Blogger, you cannot have unlimited bandwidth or storage space, and you cannot do ecommerce through it though you can put advertisements. On others, you cannot even put advertisements.

On a self-hosted blog, you pay for all resources and therefore you are the boss: you can do whatever you like with the blog in terms of design, content, putting advertisements etc. The limits placed by free blogging platforms do not apply to you.

If you want to create a professional blog and want to earn money from blogging, do not go for a free blog except for experimenting. If you already maintain a free blog, migrate it to a self-hosted blog.

Steps in hosting a blog/ website

You may want to start the blog directly as a self-hosted blog or you might have already created a blog on a free blogging platform and now want to make it self-hosted. Let us handle both the situations separately.

A. Creating a new self-hosted blog

For a new blog (or any other website) to work on the web, you need to (i) get a name (domain name) for the blog so that it can be identified, (ii) place the blog on some computer connected with internet all the time (called 'host'ing of blog/ website) and (iii) create the blog, beautify it and add content to it. There are hundreds of technological actions that are done in the background but you need not bother about them.

For getting a name and hosting the blog, you need the services of a blog hosting service. Blog hosts usually give a complimentary domain name or you can separately buy the domain name from a different domain name registrar.

Bluehost, Godaddy and HostGator are some of the biggest web hosts. GoDaddy is one of the biggest domain name registrars. They have many hosting plans ranging from a few bucks  to many thousand dollars a year depending upon the resources they provide. You can buy a small plan initially and scale it up if your business grows and you need more resources.

You must give the blog a befitting name. The name should be small, memorable, relevant to the subject of the blog. If you want to brand yourself through the blog, you can give it a name that reflects your identity. The name is to be given to the web hosting during the hosting process.

Generally these actions do not need a technical help. If you get stuck during hosting process, the host will help you on chat/ phone/ email. But if you are technology-averse, you can take services of a techie.

Remember that hosting as well as keeping the domain name has to be perpetual and you need to pay fee to the service provider year after year.

Once the blog is hosted and has a name, the real job is in designing the blog well. For creating/ designing the blog, I strongly recommend Wordpress, though there are many website builders or blog making suites available. All the web hosts named above have separate sections for 'Wordpress hosting' customised for Wordpress. Wordpress has all the tools for designing a feature-rich blog/ website. There are many free resources (themes, plugins), and hundreds of experts are available on the Wordpress forums all the time to help you with an issue or guide you on some feature.

B. Shifting from a free blog to a self-hosted blog

If you already have a blog on Blogger/ Wordpress, you can easily shift that blog to a self-hosted Wordpress blog. You need to go to 'settings' menu of the existing blog, export the blog contents as an XML file and then import this file to the new blog.

Keep in mind that the content of the old blog consists of many content pages, media, styles, etc. The text content is generally transferred without much problem, but its formatting and styling, image placement, comments and other elements get disturbed. So, you must check each post/ page individually before publishing them on the new blog.

Back to the beginning of chapter 1, on blogging first time.


I have a personal blog for a long time but I now want to make money from blogging.

The first thing you should do is to decide the subject of your blog. Personal blogs usually are either limited by content (e.g. a poetry blog, a personal literary blog) or cover all things under the earth (e.g. in the same blog, one can write about his hobbies, experiences, and social and political thoughts). Blogs for money earning have to be focused on a subject.

Not all subjects are well-paying. For some years, blogs on finance, travel, food, beauty & fashion, and lifestyle are reported to be generating good income for bloggers.

But you should not decide on the subject based only on their earning potential. You must be passionate about the subject and have expertise on it - otherwise you will get exhausted soon.

As said in the above chapter, one of the thing you must do - when you want to earn money from blogging - is to make the blog a self-hosted blog.

I recommend Wordpress as the website designing tool. Among web hosting services, I have seen many comparisons in which Bluehost was found the best among web hosts. I suggest that you make your decisions after comparing different web hosting plans offered by web hosting companies in your country.

Write quality stuff. Stuff that is well-researched. Information that people are looking for. Advice that can help people. This all needs a lot of research into the subject of the blog. You must also keep improving your expertise as you go along. You must update yourself about new developments in that field.

Do all the necessary promotion and search optimization. However good the blog, you cannot make money if people do not visit your blog. Moreover, you need people who are interested in your subject, not all types of people. You must, therefore, identify the type of visitors you want: students? people wanting to paint their house? people suffering from diabetes? those interested in cheap travel? Find ways to meet people interested in the subject or at least interact with them online. Promote yourself on social media. Be present on web spaces frequented by your visitors. Send link on email or chat apps to interested people. And so on.

Search engine optimization or SEO is a must for blogs created for making money, because despite social media bringing a lot of traffic, search remains a major source of relevant traffic for blogs. You can visit this article if you want to see a list of SEO actions that should be taken/ avoided.

Finally, out of the many ways to monetize the blog, choose the best - those working for your type of blog. Some of these could be:
  • PPC advertisements (e.g. AdSense)
  • Affiliate advertisements (e.g. through ClickBank, CJ)
  • Direct advertisements (= when you get ads directly from a business)
  • Reviews (e.g. reviews of restaurants/ hotels, baby products, music, books) 
  • Paid posts (=when you write posts at a price or after being taken on a guided tour)
  • Using the blog as the base for getting offers (e.g. speaking classes)
  • Selling services and products through the blog (e.g. online courses, ebooks, merchandise)
Successful bloggers in different fields have shared that just blogging does not pay enough, and the blogger needs to tap more than one earning stream (for example, PPC ads and paid posts). It is also seen that all monetization methods do not suit all subjects and all regions. So, the blogger needs to look at the demand (local, in a  broad area or global) for products/ services linked with the blog's subject. For example, a fashion blog may earn very well when it is in English and focuses on New York, but may not earn at all when it is in a local language focuses on a small town in India.

If you are not earning well from the blog even after years of blogging, you might be doing it all the wrong way. Check whether your blog suffers from one or more issues given in the next chapter.


What is the key to success in blogging; why is my blog not doing well though I work hard?

You will already know that success in blogging depends on dozens of factors. When a blog does not succeed, that usually happens because the blogger has ignored one or the other area - or many areas. When a blog does not work well despite the blogger's best efforts, there could be something more deep.

I will suggest that you look at your blog closely and see if one or more of the following issues are pulling it down. Note that your diagnosis may not be perfect; you should diagnose the reason, take corrective action, measure the change... and if the blog still does not work well, you will have to again look at the list. The process must go on till you have found the right answers to your problems.

A. Content issues:
  • Low-quality articles, with poor language or grammatical mistakes. 
  • Very small articles. 
  • Articles not well-researched. 
  • Articles without useful advice or information.
  • Wrong information. Content copy-pasted from other websites.
  • Articles good but no good heading and sub-headings, Bad formatting. Long paragraphs. 
B. Design issues:
  • A poor design that is not appealing.
  • Too small or unreadable text.
  • Too childish design.
  • Poor navigation.
C. Traffic/ engagement related issues:
  • No search engine optimization (SEO) or faulty SEO or undesirable SEO.
  • Not on social networks or not using social media entities properly. 
  • Not engaging with commenters on the blog and other social media accounts.
  • Not promoting the blog at all among people interested in the blog's subject. 
  • Too much self-promotion that irritates and puts off visitors.
D. Improper monetization:
  • Not using different ways of money-making and depending solely on just advertisements.
  • Too many or too few advertisements.
  • Advertisements not placed in proper places.
  • Improper advertisements, unrelated advertisements.
  • Taken wrong action and so the blog has been penalized. Such actions include clicking on ads on one's own blog, asking visitors to click on ads, putting advertisements in a way that fools visitors.
E. Other issues:
  • Blog being on a free platform. That can result in low level of search optimization, low reputation and consequent low traffic/ no money. 
  • Low frequency of updation.
  • No internal links with other resources on the blog.

Jump to chapter I: Start blogging.

If you want to help other new bloggers by clearing their doubts and giving them ideas on being successful in blogging, think of tweeting this post: