How does a blog work?

Updated July 20, 2017

A blog may be comprised of news, commentary, diary-like passages or some combination of all three, but the defining characteristic of a blog is always chronological order. Whenever a writer creates a new post, it appears on the page directly above the last post. This allows visitors to read the most recent happenings first and scroll down to as many later entries as they like.

Inner Workings

Bloggers begin their work by logging in to a Content Management System. This is the inner workings of the blog, where the writer can create new posts, edit old ones, manage user comments and set up the blog's look and feel. Blogging tools such as Wordpress and Blogger have slightly different systems, but their main functions are the same, allowing writers to manage their blog through an online interface. While Wordpress's software can be hosted on any website, both services provide web hosting for bloggers who need it.

How it Looks

As with any website, a blog gets its look and feel through different coding languages, usually a combination of HTML, PHP and CSS. However, most Content Management Systems make it easy to change a blog's appearance through preset "themes." The default theme for blogs using Wordpress, for example, contains black text against a white background, with a blue heading. Other blogs may have a black background with white text.

Themes can also control the way columns appear on the right or left sides of the page. These columns are useful for linking to the blog's archives, popular posts, recent reader comments, advertisements or to other blogs entirely.

Changing the theme is easy to do without any knowledge of coding languages and the theme has no effect on existing posts.

Writing and Tagging Posts

Most blogs focus on one subject or a range of topics, so it helps to tag or categorise each post for future reference. For example, a political blog might write several posts on polling issues. Tagging a post as "polling" will allow readers--and the blogger--to quickly look up all posts about polling by clicking a link on the blog's main page.

The one exception to the chronological nature of blogs is the option to write a post that is permanently linked on the main page of the blog. This is particularly useful for dedicated information pages about the blog or its writer.

Community Interaction

One key feature of blogs is the ability for readers to publish their own reactions directly underneath the blogger's original post. Bloggers can control how this process works: A reader may need to supply a valid e-mail address or register an account with the blog to comment. In some cases, the blogger must approve comments before they appear on the site.

Expanding Readership

"Trackbacks" are a way for one blog to expand readership. Usually, when one blog's post references another blog through a link, the linked blog is automatically notified, and sometimes the mention is displayed on that blog's page in the form of a comment.

Another way to connect with another blog is to link with it permanently in a section of the main page called the "Blogroll." Like a trackback, the linked blog is typically notified of this through a Content Management System.

To rapidly expand readership is to get attention from a major blog or website, or from a content aggregator such as Digg. Because these sites have such a large readership, many blogs clamour for this kind of attention, so getting it is difficult.

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About the Author

Jared Newman is a freelance journalist who writes about video games and technology. He currently writes for PC World, CD Freaks, Technologizer and the uCrave Network, and holds a master's degree in journalism from New York University. Jared is based in Los Angeles, Calif.