A frank assessment of the current state of blogging

current state of blogging

I was recently on a super fun broadcast with my friend Joel Hughes of Glass Mountains Design and we discussed the current state of blogging.

This was particularly energizing for me since it has been so very long since I’ve talked about blogging, my content drug of choice! Here are a few observations about the role of blogging in the current business environment.

Is blogging still relevant?

Blogging’s status in the content eco-system has certainly diminished as streaming video, podcasts, and short-form content on Instagram and TikTok have grabbed the spotlight.

But this is more a matter of timing than fundamental changes in consumer needs. Allow me to explain.

The first opportunity to create content in the early days of the web was blogging because it was easy — it’s a written word.

Back then, making video content was still complicated. You needed equipment, editing skills, and software. Then there was the problem of slow internet connections which made uploads almost impossible. With the arrival of smartphones, creating video content became accessible to anyone. This development created an explosion in video that met a severely under-served consumer need.

Today, there’s a dramatic rise in podcasting for the same reason. More accessible technology and better distribution channels are rising up to meet the needs of consumers who enjoy audio content.

When everyone is working on video and podcasts, blogging can seem old-fashioned.

But let me share a little story. A friend of mine sits at the table each morning and checks the sports scores with his son. He reads the highlights while his son watches them on YouTube videos.  He said, “I could not imagine watching videos of the sports news. I need to read the news.”

People learn in different ways. Some people like to read and they always will. I had a woman ask me to transcribe my podcasts because she literally can’t learn by listening. So blogging won’t go away until reading goes away.

In fact, blogging has never been more vibrant. There are a record number of posts being created. And communicating some complicated messages, especially in the tech industry, often requires written communication.

For many companies, there’s still no better way to build some short-term SEO muscle than a strong and useful blog. And a new poll of LinkedIn users showed that written content was far and away the preferred content form on that platform, according to Sue Parker of Dare Group.

And even if you’re broadcasting and streaming, a blog can play a central role in your strategy.

Ian Anderson Gray has built his business on being a video livestreaming expert:

“I think blogging is still one of the most powerful content formats out there. I know live video is my focus these days, but in the end, every piece of content comes back to my blog. Where do my podcasts go? On my blog! Where do my live video goes after they’ve broadcasted? On my blog. I use my live videos as a way to create blog posts as well as engage with my audience. But it’s still my blog that allows me to go in-depth and create high quality, engaging, and powerful content that is evergreen.”

Video and podcasting are growing a lot faster because they’ve been an under-served niche for a long time but blogging remains a reliable content staple.

How do you stand out as a blogger today?

The biggest question in marketing is, how do you stand out amid all this noise?

My view is that you really only have one choice. And that’s to have the courage to add your own voice, your own story, your own personality to your content. You have to include a little piece of yourself in every story you tell.

There’s only one you and you have no competition. No one has your stories, your perspective, your heritage.

Realizing that was a turning point for me.

When I started out as a blogger, I was terrible. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was floundering.

I had come from the corporate world. So I was really buttoned up with my content and very formal and stiff with my writing. And I had this idea that I had to show everybody how smart I was — I had to create this very targeted content for this targeted audience of personas that I made up.

And in those early days, two things happened.

First, nothing happened. Nobody cared about my content, nobody read it, nobody commented, nobody shared it.

The second thing that happened — I became bored from writing this uptight content to personas I made up in my head.

So about nine or 10 months into it, I started to relax. If I felt funny, I let it go and wrote something funny. If I was sad about something, I wrote about that.

And I learned an important lesson. Sometimes you don’t have to have all the right answers. You don’t have to show how smart you are. Just asking the right questions can be the best blog post.

Once I relaxed and started adding my own personality, something profound happened. Instead of finding my ideal audience, my ideal audience found me.

My voice started to be heard and shared, not just in this little area of America where I live, but all around the world. And I found hundreds, and then thousands, of people who said, I believe in this guy. I like the way he thinks and I like the way he writes, and that never would have happened if I just had stayed in this buttoned-up writing style.

Can you make money from a blog?

There are seven ways I know to monetize your blog:

1) Advertising. This will not work for 99 percent of all bloggers because the traffic simply is not great enough. You need millions of views to make a decent income.

2) Affiliate links (for example, links to products on Amazon). Every time somebody clicks and buys, you get a small pay-out. This also will not work for most bloggers because (you guessed it) the traffic has to be huge to make any significant money.

3) Re-purposing blog content. Many bloggers have assembled blog posts to create books, e-books, and other content they can sell in a number of ways.

4) Sponsored posts. Link-hungry SEO promoters are eager to pay people to add links or even entire pieces of content to a blog. Once you do that, you turn your blog into an ad. Many people do it, even a few famous bloggers. I won’t sell links or let others place their content on my blog because I think it crosses a line of trust with the reader.

5) Selling adjacent products. I have no plans to monetize my blog directly, but I’m hoping that people who love the free content will support me by buying adjacent products on my website such as my popular marketing books, or instant coaching services.

6) Pay for posts. Some writers are beginning to make a pretty good living by posting on Medium. Writers are rewarded based on how much the posts are read on the site.

7) Indirect sales.  This is the primary strategy behind my blog. I want to create great content that will build authority and make people want to hire me as a consultant, come to their office to teach a class, or give a speech to their association. My blog is the centerpiece of my marketing strategy.

By the way, there are many good reasons to keep blogging besides making money!

What’s the key to creating great content consistently?

I get this question a lot.

I don’t believe I have missed a week of blogging since 2009. I’m not necessarily more gifted than anybody else, but I might be more disciplined.

There are four disciplines that lead to consistent creativity.

Number one, you have to assess your day and your environment in terms of stories. You need to look at the world through this constant filter and ask, “Could this be a relevant story for my blog?” What is making you curious?

Second, you have to have the discipline to write those ideas down right away. Just a headline … it doesn’t have to be anything more than that. Write it on your smartphone, write it in a journal, write it as a note on your site before you lose it.

Third, schedule time to create. If creating content is important to you — and it should be — you need to prioritize this and schedule it just like you would schedule a meeting, going to the gym, or having a date.

I block out time for writing every week. On Sunday morning I get up early — maybe 6 a.m. — put on a pot of coffee. No distractions The house is quiet, and I get my blog ready for the week. And the beauty is, I’ve got these ideas to choose from because I made notes all week. There are always ideas to choose from.

How often should you blog?

I’ve often said that the answer to every question in marketing is, “It depends!”

To make a dent in the world through content, you need to be consistent. My recommendation for most bloggers is to shoot for a goal of publishing once a week.

If you have a particularly compelling opportunity to win SEO, you might increase the frequency (go deeper on this topic here.)

If I go to a site and see a blog post frequency of less than once a month, it seems like they can’t be too serious about creating meaningful content.

But of course … it depends.

Quality or quantity?

Both.

Focus on evergreen content?

Evergreen content refers to content that isn’t dated — it will still be fresh and meaningful a year or two from now.

This is a very timely question because of the pandemic crisis.

When the pandemic hit, I had a lot of content already produced and ready to go. But I realized it was irrelevant.

So I immediately did a pivot and created content that was very specific to the moment. How do you sell in a pandemic? How do you handle uncertainty? What is the role of marketing now?

I know that years from now this content might be a curiosity but not very relevant.

To me, it doesn’t matter. The most important consideration is to serve your customers and help them right now.

I can’t worry about the future, I can’t worry about SEO. Those things will come back eventually. I think the most important consideration when it comes to content is relevance.

Isn’t the world too crowded for another blog?

Yes.

Just kidding.

Whether you’re starting a blog now or you started 10 years ago, the rules of engagement are the same.

You have always had to find that angle, some way to add unique value. You have to stick with it. You need to listen to your audience and adjust. And most importantly, you have to evolve with the times.

I’m seeing many amazing and wonderful new bloggers in the world. There are always exciting new people coming on board and I’m inspired by their creativity and energy!

There are many people out there trying to become Insta-famous. But I think bloggers might have the greatest long-term impact on society as they emerge as trusted thought leaders, not just people with a large TikTok audience.

What’s the biggest challenge for bloggers today?

There are many great reasons to blog. It helps me clarify my thinking, lets me explore new ideas … it’s even good for my health (I go zen when I blog!).

But if you’re looking to build an audience and create value for your business, the content has to move. The economic value of content that’s not seen and shared is zero.

It’s easy to push “publish.” It’s really hard to earn an audience with so much competition out there today.

And yet … there is still huge opportunity out there. Research shows that just 1 percent of people on the web are creators. If you’re blogging, you’re already in an elite class!

When I wrote my book KNOWN, I interviewed 97 people who became known in their field. All of them created content over many years to achieve their successes.

In my interview, the last question I asked was, “What advice would you give to somebody trying to become known today?” Almost every person said the same thing: “Don’t give up.”

Too many quit too soon, they said. You need to be patient, resilient, consistent.

I agree. I didn’t start realizing business benefits from my blog until about year three. You just have to keep plugging, doing a little better week by week and year by year.

That was the state of blogging when I started, and that’s the current state of blogging today.

Keynote speaker Mark SchaeferMark Schaefer is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions and COO for B Squared Media. He is the author of several best-selling digital marketing books and is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

All posts

The Marketing Companion Podcast

Why not tune into the world’s most entertaining marketing podcast that I co-host with Brooke Sellas.

View details

Let's plot a strategy together

Want to solve big marketing problems for a little bit of money? Sign up for an hour of Mark’s time and put your business on the fast-track.

View details

Close
Send this to a friend