Google search confession: A few months ago, I was in the midst of a blogging identity crisis and I punched in this shameful question: Does personal blogging still matter?
And, er…it’s not the first time I’ve entered that search term.
Many moons ago I started a blog because I was a baby-faced, unknown author who needed to start building a personal brand. I published my first post on brittskrabanek.com on May 29, 2012.
It was cringe-worthy, a timid introductory post rambling on about what I thought my blog essence would be, which oddly included Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical” music video. (Don’t ask.)
“They say” the first year of marriage is the hardest. Blogging is too, and most don’t make it past the first year. Against the odds I made it a commendable 5 years — for emphasis, in dog years that equals 36 human years.
Somewhere in there, everyone and their dog started blogging. Here I was starting out in 2012, and look at where we are today…
Somewhere in there I also became a content marketer and co-founded Superneat Marketing, where we offer SEO and content strategy services. Needless to say, I’m certainly more cynical than the average bear about content.
Much of the joie de vivre I once knew as a blogging pup disappeared, and 2017 saw the least amount of personal blogs I have ever published. The longer I blogged, the harder it got, and I pined for those devil-may-care days from my early years when I didn’t know what the hell I was doing.
A person running their own blog might be an author, photographer, foodie, traveler, fashionista, knitter, mom, film buff, crazy cat lady, yogi, cancer survivor, retired couple — at this point in the game, there is pretty much a blog for everything.
On top of that, damn near every business has a blog too. And, then we have all the other happy digital distractions skipping around our brains, taunting us: Look at me, look at me. When you’re determining the fate of a long-running blog, questioning its existence is part of the fun.
Despite it all, there is something to be said about the voices and stories coming from real people. Which is why I don’t think blogging is dead, and I haven’t deleted my personal blog.
In fact (trumpets blaring)…these past few months, I came full circle. And, here’s why.
The Battle to Win Attention When You’re the Little Guy
On Medium, readers can see an estimation of how long it will take them to read an article before they commit. (This post is an 8-minute read…thanks for your time.)
So, what does it all mean? Every day we battle distractions, and we only have so much time to spare for the distractions we choose.
In an era of short attention spans, it’s semi-shocking that blogging lives on. Not only does it live on, but readership has increased along with the surge in blog publishing over the past five years…more on that later.
There is definitely no easy button when you are blogging, whether you’re a business or a personal brand. Building an audience takes time…as does content creation, promotion, and relationship-building.
You might think your blog about creating sock puppets doesn’t stand a chance when every business has a blog too. While you’re competing for attention, you’re not competing for the same topics — unless you’re up against a successful sock puppet eCommerce company.
What it means for the little guys is that you do have a genuine chance of standing out if your voice is strong enough.
With a personal blog, a few crucial things to keep in mind are: being authentic, creating quality, and staying passionate. Without these three things, you will struggle. And likely one day in the not so distant future, you will surrender.
“My blogging life is basically goalless. I like the zen nature of that, and paradoxically, it improves results.”-Seth Godin
The advantage of a personal blog is making it personal. That means being yourself. This is the same rule that applies to brands churning out business content, but it is especially true when you’re running a blog as an individual.
“Finding your niche” is an infuriating concept when you’re just starting a blog, because you probably don’t have a freaking clue what you’re focusing on. You’ll have to find your way — and your voice — and, that’s totally okay. Trying to write a personal blog that borrows from someone else’s idea or success will show to your readers. When in doubt, write like the real person you are.
In the blogging of yesteryear, we could get away with more of a carefree approach. Today people expect quality. Everyone recognizes a poor experience on a website and openly judges blurry, grainy images. My mom mentioned a bad user experience on a website a couple of years ago, so “everyone” means generations be damned.
People also have a lower tolerance for a blog post that’s been slapped together. Typos happen to the best of us — I’m sure there is at least one in this post. But multiple typos scream “I didn’t bother reading this after I wrote it.” Review with care — read aloud or with text-to-speech to catch typos you might miss when you’re too close to the piece.
In many ways it’s easier to give up on personal blogging than to stay with it. Most of us run these blogs in our free time: the wee hours before the workday begins, on Sunday afternoons when it’s WAY too gorgeous outside to be inside, and late at night when we can barely keep our eyes open.
Unless you’re a blogger unicorn who “makes it,” you need something else to pay the bills. So the majority of us moonlight with our personal blogs and a paycheck isn’t the motivating factor. The motivation could be any number of things, but it sure as hell better be writing if you’re blogging.
Why Personal Blogs Still Matter to Readers
Over 409 million people view more than 21 billion pages every single month. At its peak month in March 2017 (another year when blogging was allegedly dying), people read nearly 25 billion blogs. And, that’s just on Wordpress.
The digital world is a very different place, where people have the power to customize experiences across the board. Personal blogs are an accessible way for people to search for something they want and potentially stick around if they like what they see. That might mean learning how to cook the perfect batch of fluffy quinoa, or finding sisterhood in a breast cancer survivor’s story.
With the onslaught of distractions we face, why are people still viewing blogs at an increasing rate year after year? Quite a few reasons, actually. And they all have one common thread…the human connection.
- Hearing about real life experiences.
- Reading about uncensored, raw emotions.
- Connecting with others about special interests.
- Supporting creative people, businesses, and causes.
- Joining communities and tribes.
- Meeting like-minded people they wouldn’t meet otherwise.
- Gaining free inspiration.
- Trying new things.
- Listening to people instead of brands.
- Learning from others.
- Seeing similar life experiences and feelings as therapy.
- Slowing down to spend time with a good read.
Why Personal Blogs Still Matter to Writers
If you zoned out or skipped the previous section, get your writerly butt back up there and look at the Wordpress readership data. There is hope for us writers…turns out, people still read!
Obviously there are plenty of grim realities we bloggers must face, most of which involve setting realistic expectations for ourselves. I once met a fellow talented freelance writer who started a new blog and told me his goal was to have 10,000 subscribers by the end of the first month.
I was in awe. If he would have pulled that off, I would have reenacted the “we’re not worthy” bow from Wayne’s World without remorse. That, of course, didn’t happen. But he still blogs today and I’m proud of him for perservering.
Focusing on a specific number of subscribers and/or doing everything in your power to generate revenue because you saw it work for someone else aren’t the best motivators. Looking beyond that, there are many rewarding reasons to start or continue a personal blog.
- Practicing their craft to become better at writing.
- Expressing their emotions to fuel creativity.
- Writing freely, without rules and formalities.
- Disciplining, with consistent publishing.
- Leaning on a supportive community.
- Keeping their website alive, with fresh content and regular traffic.
- Connecting with others who have similar and unique interests.
- Socializing with boundaries as an introvert.
- Reaching anyone in the world.
- Telling stories through a creative outlet.
- Sharing their life experiences and feelings as therapy.
- Finding their voice.
During my most recent unexpected blogging hiatus, after I tried Google, I asked myself: Does personal blogging still matter?
I decided it did. Humans talking about life perhaps matter more than ever, especially now that businesses, influencers, and Alexa’s have taken over.
Four months have flown by since my last personal blog post, but I’m not ready to surrender. I’m happy to say I have a new post queued up and a fresh series I’m starting to keep me inspired.
I realized there are still more reasons for me to keep blogging than to stop. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a writer experiencing similar woes or you’ve faced them at some point in your blogging life.
The best thing you can do as a personal blogger — as cheesy as it sounds — is to do it for the love. Once you stop loving it, a blog becomes an unpaid job…and yes, you will resent it.
For those bloggers who are still in doubt about progress and/or purpose, I challenge you to read your first blog and see how you feel. I bet you’ve come a long way since then, much like I did with my horror show with Olivia Newton John. Then, decide if the reward is enough to merit the time you’re spending.
For me, the human factor always wins with blogging. The great people you connect with along the way make everything worth it. There’s just something so therapeutic about sharing experiences with others.
Maybe that’s why we’re all still here, writing blogs and reading them. It’s that human commodity.