The 2010s was the decade of the blog.
From wellness gurus to jet-setting fashion influencers, global brands to local plumbers, it seemed like everyone and their brother jumped on the blogging bandwagon.
In fact, we cranked out such an enormous volume of content in the past decade that we’ve reached a state of content shock. I.e., A term author and marketing consultant Mark Schaefer created to describe what happens when the amount of content we create is so obnoxiously massive, it outpaces our limited human capacity to consume it.
And that’s how we, as brands and content creators, live today: Perpetually wading through a veritable flood of content while attempting to hawk even more.
Now, as we kick off the 2020s, you’re probably wondering: Does blogging still work? And are blogs still worth the resources it takes to keep them going?
The answer, it turns out, is a bit more complex than you probably hoped. (And, ultimately, it’s one you’ll have to answer for yourself.) But, here’s what you need to know:
Blogging Will Live As Long As Search Engines Need Content
Nearly every year, someone predicts the imminent death of blogging. And yet, brands are still publishing blog posts and audiences are still reading them. Blog content is still driving conversions, and companies are still tracing traffic and revenue back to their blog.
So, why does blogging still work when we’ve theoretically reached a point of content overload?
The short answer is, blogging will continue to live so long as people turn to Google (and other search engines) for answers to their questions. And, more specifically, so long as users continue finding answers in the high-quality, relevant results served on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Let’s try something:
Go to Google right now and enter a search query — a question for which you’re dying to know the answer.
Chances are, many (if not all) of the top results are blog posts or articles in popular publications.
Even when you ask Siri, Alexa, or Ok Google to find something for you, your trusty little pocket-dwelling AI assistant will likely pull info from a recently published blog post or article.
…But Some Types of Blogging Can Be a Waste of Time
Yes, blogging can help your brand achieve several marketing priorities — but it’s not a magic bullet.
Sure, some brands rave that their commitment to blogging helped them establish credibility in their industry and transformed their internal subject matter experts into respected thought leaders. Others say blogging drives a steady stream of highly qualified buyers to their site, and guides website visitors further down their buyer’s journey.
And I’ve personally witnessed all these things happen for many brands across my decade-long career in content marketing. But, I’ve also seen blogging totally flop.
Why do blogs work for some organizations and not others?
Failing blogs usually fall into one of these categories:
The bulletin board
These blogs publish all sorts of exciting changes happening within the company. Big industry award! Fancy new office! Employee of the month!
But here’s the brutal truth: your audience doesn’t care. And not only do they not care, but they’re also annoyed you’re wasting their time with irrelevant nonsense.
If you have exciting news you’re dying to share, then post it on LinkedIn or send out a press release. Save your blog for solving your audience’s problems and answering their questions.
The garbage bin
Your company was totally on board with creating a blog and filling it with all sorts of useful, helpful posts to improve SEO and increase traffic. But then they realized content creation isn’t cheap — at least, not the good stuff.
Once you realized no one on your team had time to write blog posts, and hiring a full-time writer or working with seasoned freelancers wasn’t in the budget, you started panicking.
Then, your brother-in-law’s best friend’s coworker’s cousin told you about this really cool site where you could have dozens of blog posts written super fast for about $20 a pop. Nice!
But even after publishing heaps of posts, your blog is still failing to drive traffic or conversions.
And for good reason: they’re total garbage. Because — and I can’t stress this enough — you get what you pay for.
The half-assed project
In this case, you’re doing everything right — or so you thought. You’re publishing well-written, well-edited, highly relevant blog posts chock-full of insightful information. And yet… crickets.
That’s because a blog isn’t “Field of Dreams.” Just because you build it doesn’t mean anyone is going to come.
If you want your blog to generate legitimate ROI, you have to invest time and effort into promotional efforts. (At the bare minimum, that means sharing your content on social and encouraging your coworkers to share it, too.)
And, of course, you’ve got to make sure your posts are optimized for search so they have a better chance of appearing at the top of SERPs.
(If you need more ideas, CoSchedule has 107 content promotion tactics proven to drive traffic.)
So, yes, blogging still works — if you’re willing to write about topics your audience cares about, make room in your budget for high-quality content, and spend time on promotional efforts. Otherwise, it’s an enormous waste of your precious time.
Blogging isn’t Dying, But it Is Changing
We’ve already concluded that the internet is saturated with content. But here’s the good news: much of the brand-created content on the World Wide Web is mediocre (at best).
And that means, so long as you’re willing to create really good stuff, you still have an opportunity to outshine the competition.
Of course, thanks to the sheer quantity of content available, consumer behaviors are changing.
If you want your blog to succeed in 2020 (and beyond), here are a few things you need to do
Focus on content experience
When you create content, ask yourself the following:
- Is your content delivered in a way that’s aesthetically pleasing? (i.e., Does your blog use clean design, easy-to-read fonts, and include high-resolution imagery?)
- Are you considering audience members with disabilities by improving content accessibility?
- Is your content skimmable and broken up into small paragraphs and bullets for easy reading?
- Do you offer your content in a range of formats (text, recordings, videos, etc.)?
Solve real customer problems
How do you decide what to blog about? As marketers, we often make assumptions based on our experience in our respective industries. We think we know our customers through-and-through. But customer needs and habits rapidly evolve, and our assumptions aren’t always accurate.
So how can you determine what people really want to know?
- Ask them! Reach out directly, chat with salespeople who regularly talk to leads and clients, or send out surveys.
- Perform keyword research and stay abreast of industry news and events that impact your audience.
- Keep an eye on the content your top competitors are publishing, and identify ways you can tackle the same topics — but better.
Write for voice search
More than half of households will own a smart speaker by 2022, according to data from OC&C Strategy Consultants. If you’re not already factoring voice search into your content optimization efforts, then now is the time to start.
Most of the time, voice search answers come from Featured Snippets. (About 40 percent of them, according to Internet Marketing Ninjas). So, it’s important you create content that lands you in that highly coveted Featured Snippet spot.
- First, strive to get your content into the top 10 results by ensuring it’s optimized for search and the highest possible quality.
- Ensure your content is highly specific and highly relevant to the exact searches your customers are making.
- Answer common questions in your content using short paragraphs or short bulleted/numbered lists (about 29 words long seems to be the sweet spot). For example:
So… Does Blogging Still Work?
Yes, blogging still works.
In fact, blog posts remain one of my top requests from my clients (spanning from global brands to small businesses). And as a strategist, I can confirm that businesses of all sizes are still seeing plenty of high-converting blog traffic.
But (because there’s always a “but”) just because it works for others doesn’t mean it will work for you.
If you’re not seeing the results you want from your blog, I highly suggest you take the time to identify why. And if the solution to your problem isn’t something you can (or want) to correct, you’re better off spending that budget elsewhere.
Blogging works — and it can work really well — but only if you’re willing to put in the effort.
Originally published at https://carriedagenhard.com on January 22, 2020.