I spend more time than I’d like to admit talking clients out of adding a blog to their site. They simply don’t need one in the current state of the internet.
Whilst they can be an amazing source of traffic, they often become abandoned or an unproductive time sink that doesn’t yield results.
Why is it like this? Why do people still think they absolutely need a blog? This is where history helps provide context.
The history of blogs
Over time blogs have gone from being everywhere and the main point of information to being one of the many options in a sea of never-ending content.
The SEO age
Before the age of social media blogs were very influential. People read blogs, people used blogs to find answers. Traditional media didn’t really understand the internet and blogs filled the gap they left.
Google was the traffic source and a blog was the way to capitalise on it. SEOs were the primary content creators.
Optimise it and they will (the traffic) come.
Then there was social media.
The blog golden age
When Facebook became the dominant social force and social media was something businesses felt they needed to do, blog articles then became a useful tool for engagement.
Facebook was happy for people to put content on their platform and rewarded you by sending you traffic. That traffic signed up to email lists, purchased products and all was well.
Twitter and LinkedIn came into existence, they were additional channels for content and people had success with them.
The big media organisations were just starting to work out how to internet, and whilst there were big blogs, we were yet to see a consolidation.
Blogs thrived with these new channels of traffic open to them. Businesses were rewarded for playing in this arena. It was lucrative.
Everybody started making content. However a blog’s original marketing purpose as an SEO tool was lost on most.
The closed social age
Facebook changed the rules. It wanted people to remain within the platform to view more ads rather than visit another site. It made more money this way. Link posts were only rewarded if they received higher than average engagement (or a paid boost!).
The next wave of social media became more prominent (Instagram, Youtube, and later TikTok) which are less link friendly than previous networks.
Social media was becoming closed. The platforms no longer needed to send people off-platform in order to garner engagement. More time on-platform meant more ad-revenue.
Meanwhile every business, influencer and their dog was now creating content. People are making a living out of filming themselves for Youtube or TikTok. People were even charging for access to exclusive Facebook groups!
Mainstream media had established themselves online by now. The established large blogs were able to compete, but this increased competition meant blogging was becoming no longer viable for some parties.
The content landscape had dramatically changed. It has become saturated and much more complex than the original SEO age.
With this change user behaviour had changed with it. People had options. Why read a ‘how to’ post when you can watch a 5 minute video?
Google is no longer the sole information provider and traffic driver. Blogs were far from the golden goose and driving traffic with them to your site became harder than ever.
The content golden age
We are now living in a golden age of content. There is more content created in a day than what could be consumed in a lifetime, and if you have an internet connection it is accessible. There are many different mediums available to people now all with a global reach.
The podcast renaissance has led to an explosion in volume and variety. Streaming services have given a local band’s EP global distribution without requiring any kind of intermediary.
Video is everywhere –YouTube, Tik Tok, Twitch. How the format, creativity, quality, and technology is so rapidly evolving so rapidly amazes me! Not to mention the far too many streaming services available (both paid and free).
Blogs were once the only format for content on the internet, now they are but a tiny slice of the pie. There are still many amazing blogs doing well out there, but it’s no easy feat.
We are currently in the gold age of content.
Now is the time to be a content creator.
However, this isn’t ‘Field of Dreams’. Build it and they won’t come.
With limitless competition and finite attention, being average doesn’t work.
Being average is a waste of everyone's time.
Why does everyone think they need a blog?
Blogs worked amazingly in the past. But the past is the past. Digital marketing moves quickly, books and courses typically do not.
Without understanding the content landscape today a lot of people think and operate like we are still in the golden age of blogging.
The golden age makes a great story: anyone can have a blog, post things on Facebook and watch their followings grow. This couldn’t be further from the truth now.
Content creation is hard and it is time consuming (well creating great content is, asking ChatGPT to spit something out is easy and ordinary). Content markets are absolutely saturated and you need to know what you are doing.
Your blog is now competing with all mainstream media, content creators who make a living from it and a consumer whose content consumption habits have drifted to different mediums (i.e. video, audio/podcasts).
Reasons why you shouldn’t have a blog
People talk up the importance of having a blog, but rarely discuss the downsides. Here are 5 reasons as to why you shouldn’t have a blog.
Reason #1: Abandoned blogs undermine your credibility and devalue your website
An abandoned blog is a bad look. You want your website to feel relevant and up to date and the quickest way to prevent that is to have your latest post being from 2018.
Abandoned blogs make users ask questions: is this business still active? Is this information reliable and accurate? Is this credible?
It doesn’t matter how frequently you are updating everything else on your site. If your last article was published on it is a date from a long time ago it will make people question everything else about your site.
You will improve your credibility without your blog. If you are not updating it, remove it.
Reason #2: If you don’t know what you are doing, you’ll receive no traffic
After reading a few enthusiastic articles about the wealth a blog will bring, the naive will jump in and publish their first post–and promptly receive no traffic.
Or they will keep publishing posts and not check their analytics and wonder where the money or leads are.
Blogging is so competitive that you need to know a lot more than just writing to break through.
There is a lot of knowledge and skills required to run a successful blog that isn’t necessarily just writing. You can be a brilliant writer, have very funny, clever and insightful articles and not have any traffic.
A few skills to start with are:
- Research - what do people want to read? What other content exists out there about your topic? What new or novel thoughts can you bring to your topic?
- Content positioning - How can you position what you want to write about in a way that people want to read about it?
- Promotion and distribution - how are you getting your content out there? Who can you work with to ensure your content has a wider reach?
- Analysis - are you able to look at your analytics (i.e. Google Analytics) and turn what you see into something actionable?
You don’t need to be a master in all of these things, but being aware of them will definitely help you more towards success.
If you don’t have time to learn some of these things and more, you don’t shouldn’t have a blog.
Reason #3: It takes a lot of time and effort, which you won’t be willing to put in
I think the biggest reason people stop writing for their blogs isn’t the lack of traffic or success, it is because it takes so much time and effort!
Writing a good article is time consuming! Researching, writing, editing, formatting, editing, and editing. I put hours into the articles I write which is why I don’t write much.
Launching a blog is exciting and it is fun to write the first few articles. But then it becomes a chore. Then it becomes a burden. Then your blog is abandoned.
Building a successful blog takes consistency and dedication. This takes a lot of time and effort that most people won’t be willing to put in.
Reason #4: Your time and resources are probably better spent elsewhere
We’ve established that content creation is time consuming. Where time is spent, opportunity cost needs to be considered.
Blogging and content creation is all about opportunity cost. If you could spend the time elsewhere, would it be more productive for you than creating this content would?
Say it takes you 2 hours to write a great blog–this would be on the quick side–and you publish weekly. Could you be doing something else for two hours a week that would yield a greater return on your time?
Would cold calling for two hours a week create more leads than your blogs?
Would emailing existing customers two hours per week lead to better loyalty?
Would working two hours less help you be more productive in the long run?
A lot of businesses pay freelancers or third-parties to write content for them. This makes your opportunity cost calculation even easier.
If you put the money you’d spend on creating the content and then promoting it directly into ads, would that be more productive?
It is important to note that content creation is a long term plan that takes a long time to see fruit. When creating content your time and money is invested into the life of that content.
You can’t be shortsighted when thinking about it, and you can’t be shortsighted when evaluating the opportunity cost either. To have a successful and productive blog you need to write a lot more than one article which means your time investment will be a lot more than two hours.
Could your time and money be better spent elsewhere? Is content creation the best return on your investment in the long run?
In most cases, the answer is an obvious yes.
Reason #5: Chances are better content already exists
You will not be the first person to think about writing about your given topic, chances are better content already exists than what you can create.
There are some insanely talented and creative people out there. It amazes me the quality of content you can get on YouTube. The length and depth of the articles on some of my favourite blogs is intimidating.
This is what you are competing with. Are you willing to put the effort in and do better than that?
What can you do if you want to have a blog?
There are many reasons to not have a blog, but there are still opportunities out there. The two biggest ones in my mind are the curation and underserved niches.
Opportunity #1: Use your expertise to curate other people’s content
The problem with a world where content is in surplus and the barriers to entry are ultra low is that you get a lot of really bad content out there. If you are researching something like dieting without prior knowledge, it is really hard to decipher what is fact, opinion, conspiracy or simply rubbish.
We see this problem with the rise of fake news and conspiracy theories. People are unable to discern for themselves between fact and fiction. It’s overwhelming.
Who or what can you trust as true and right?
This is where you come in.
You have a particular expertise that you can use to curate other people's content. Your audience/customers trust you (well they should) and will trust your recommendations.
You can bring value to people by discerning the quality for them.
A master sommelier is sometimes in higher regard than the winemaker whose wines they recommend. The sommelier doesn’t make wine, but uses their knowledge to benefit their clients/patrons.
Be a sommelier! (But content for your audience instead of wine…)
The email newsletter and website MorningBrew is doing this to huge success at the moment. They aggregate and summarise news from a lot of different news networks. They have built a huge following based on their curation whilst doing very little content creation themselves.
Opportunity #2: Start with a very specific niche
There are still niches out there that are underserved by content. They are exactly that though–a niche.
It would be really hard to break ground writing about general diet and exercise. However, if you find a specific diet that doesn’t have much information or specific type of exercise then that could be your starting point.
You build an audience serving that niche and then expand from there.
An obvious opportunity to me is local news in regional cities in Australia, which is where I live.
A few years ago News Corp bought up a lot of the local newspapers and news sites for regional cities and then proceeded to put them behind a paywall.
I don’t know anyone who pays for my local news site (the quality of the journalism doesn’t make a compelling case for purchase). Nobody I know reads the local news, but they would if it were available to them (and good).
Surely there would be a way to put together a news site for my regional city that would be able to be profitable.
Local advertising online is tricky outside of Google and Facebook, where you just have to trust that they are showing your ads to local people. Trust which is pretty low.
I think there is an angle and an opportunity.
What a client of mine should have done with their blog
I had a client who ran a physiotherapy studio. They really wanted to create content for their clients. Lots of videos demonstrating stretches and different techniques, articles about how to stay mobile etc.
Really good intentions, but that kind of content already exists, times 1000. They were having to pay to get their videos made and complained to me about the cost. We’d delayed launching their new website because they wanted to launch it with lots of resources they hadn’t had time to write.
We eventually launched the site without the blog section and planned to release that at a later date. That date came and went a few times and the blog eventually launched.
There are no additional posts on it.
I’d previously tried taking them out of it, but they really wanted to have their content for their clients and for SEO (I’d also explained it was a bit more complicated than just building it and expecting people to come).
What I think they should have done is curate other people's content. There are hundreds of YouTube channels dedicated to rehabilitation and stretches. I couldn’t tell you which ones are good and going to help, but these physios sure could.
It would have been much more valuable to the physio’s clients if they had gone down the curation path for their blog. For the physio’s it would have been a much better use of time and money curating content than having their own blog.
Unless you are committed and have really thought about it, don’t have a blog on your site.