2011 might be the best year to start a blog with one caveat. Ed Lee agrees in Blogging – Alive and Kicking:
I’ve seen a few posts from the Pew survey talking about the decline of blogging and the rise of Twitter. Boyd has the best link here but my first thought was:
Isn’t Twitter a form of blogging? RSS feed? Reverse chronological order? Comments? Blog roll (of sorts)?
Last I saw there were 200m blogs being tracked by Technorati – of which 10m or so are probably legitimate (not spam) and active. There are 160m Twitter microblogs and about 6m tumblr accounts – also blogs.
So like RSS, where the act of subscribing to a feed may be on the decline but the use of RSS is still alive and kicking as the backbone of the Internet, blogging as an expression of longform content may be waning – but blogs as a technology and trend is very much alive and kicking.
I actually have more to add to this:
There is less competition for any particular topic
While there may be a number of professional blogs out there blogging on your topic, the relative number of blog-curious and casual bloggers has decreased. It is impossible to be a successful casual blogger and blogging is hard, so the blogging “middle class” has thinned out.
Therefore, most of the people who are saying that blogging is dead or who have given up their blog for Twitter or a Facebook Page actually just don’t have the heart, passion, talent, or commitment. They’re the same people who tell you to forget about writing a book because books are dead. No, books are not dead and neither are blogs — they’re just hard!
Most of the remaining blogs out there are ghost towns on life support
Now there are just aggregation blogs and spam blogs in the ghetto and there are the professional and advanced amateur blogs in the elite. Since blogging is so hard and requires so much commitment and talent resources, all you need to do is commit time, talent, and long-term budget and you should be dominating your space in no time — well, as long as you consider “no time” to be between 6-18 months.
What that means is a minimum of four short posts and one long post a week, each and every week until forever. Yes, forever. Until your company closes or you sell it — and even then, you might want to keep the blog as it will help you leverage yourself into you next thing.
A blog is like an African Gray Parrot in that it is a long-term investment requiring that you build it into your estate planning. In the past, businesses really didn’t think long-term about their social media and blogging strategy and their plan often didn’t outlive their Summer Intern.
If you plan to honor your employer, your company, or yourself, you need to be willing to not just maintain your blog on life-support just by paying for hosting and renewing your domain name but you really need to invest.
Success begets success in blogging and with your blog
Case in point is Marketing Conversation, Abraham Harrison’s corporate blog. Until 6 months ago, I was really the only person writing for it. Then Phillip Rhoades got the passion, and now we have made it a priority to hire bloggers to fill out the daily posting requirement. In just a couple months, our ranking on AdAge Power 150 went from almost 300 to 130.
While I had never let Marketing Conversation become a ghost town, it wasn’t a priority of the company as a while. I didn’t have enough buy-in from the 34 other members of the team. Now, everyone’s committed. And success begets success — and success makes it much easier to assure that I will have the budget of talent and money I need to make sure MC keeps improving and growing, including budget for a design and template make-over.
I hate to say it but people really so love a winner.
Blogging technology and blogging platforms have gotten easier, simpler, and more convenient
With Tumblr and Posterous as well as Twitter, Facebook Pages, and old reliables such as Blogger and WordPress.com, it couldn’t be cheaper, simpler or more convenient.
Even Moveable Type, WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, and other blogging and content platforms have gotten less complex — and even hosting companies have started to meet their clients half or all the way to installing blogs.
One click and your software is updates, one click and you’ve installed a new plugin, one click and you have installed WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla from your Web Hosting administration control panel dashboad like cPanel, Webmin, SirectAdmin, Fantastico, etc.
Plus, it is easier to get a pretty nice template for free or for just a little bit of money. I am not proud but I use the Thesis WordPress Theme from DIYthemes for both Marketing Conversation and for Chris Abraham — Because the Medium is the Message. I plan to upgrade them both, but for now it is essential that I just make everything as simple, easy-to-read, and SEO-friendly as possible as Thesis meets all of those needs for me for now.
Blogging courses, blog platform developers, and blog template designers are easier-to-find and afford
Back when I started blogging back in 1999, it was all me. Even 5-years ago, it was tough to find s Drupal guy or a WordPress guy — it was even tougher finding a quality (and also affordable) designer who did more than create a design in Photoship, slice it up, and dump it on me to shoehorn and hack it into a proper Drupal or WordPress template.
Now, awesome programmers, developers, plugin developers, Drupal and WordPress programmers, and designers and shops that are able to go from initial branding brainstorming through blog and site design, through to user experience and content, through designing and approval, all the way to a final product: an easy to install, widget and plug-in compatible, theme template. What’s more, they’re able to add all the bells and whistles, too, as well as develop and program any particular bespoke plugin that can really make your blog or social media web 2.0 website hum.
These folks were almost impossible to find and when you did, back in 2006, 2007, 2008, even 2009, they were not what they purported to be or they were over-booked, too expensive, or unresponsive. In 2010 and 2011, with the economy as it is and since most of the deepest pockets already are wired for sound, these coder rockstars are willing to work with you to make sure that everyone comes out feeling like they’re a winner.
Bloggers, community managers, content curators, and comment moderators are well-trained and plentiful
If you decide that you want a blog but can’t really commit to more than one post a week or one post a month; or if you’re considering turning off the comments on your blog; or, if you’re keeping away from committing to Twitter or Facebook Pages; or your current blog, Twitter profile, or Facebook Page is a ghost town, then you really need to hire a dedicated blogger, a blogger who understands that writing is only 1/4 of the job.
Another 1/4 needs to be spent on engaging with the social mediasphere and blogosphere, moderating comments, responding to questions and comments, and the like.
The third quart needs to be spent monitoring what people are saying online to make sure you remain on top of what people are saying as well as searching for opportunities to engage in questions and conversations online, on Twitter, on Facebook, on blogs, and on message boards.
Finally, the last quarter needs to be spent on marketing and promoting the blog and your brand online. Making sure you remain part of the conversation. Reading other peoples’ blogs, keeping on top of your industry and the other blogs in your space, and seeing if you can connect to them and become part of their community.
In the past, finding someone like this was almost impossible. It is still tough but easier. And there are so many people looking to get into this sort of work that the fees are reasonable.
Don’t expect your community management to be found all in one person, however. Your social media team requirements might require several people. Be sure to try out Odesk and Elance as we have found some excellent staff there. Also, be sure to check out Craigslist, though I highly recommend not making “must be in the same city as the company” a requirement as the best people are often not in your city or even in your country.
The real-time web is alive and blog content is hotter than ever before, just ask Google
In the past, Google treated every page on the Internet with just about as much attention. Since the resources allocated to Google was finite, it did tend to give more attention to online content that was updated regularly, but blogs were no different than newspapers or any other active content. However, in recent years, Google has felt the heat from the real-time web, its biggest dog being Twitter. Search.twitter.com as well as Facebook search have replaced Google in many situations in the past when Google wasn’t able to keep up with tasks such as monitoring. In response, however, Google has caught up. Now, any blog that is not a spam blog is considered to be just about holy.
Google now has a dedicated blog index, Blog Search, and makes a point of indexing blog content immediately. If you sign up for Google Alerts, you will see your blog content come into your inbox just seconds after you commit to Publish or Post — if you’re blogging on a daily basis, Google will allocate more than your fair share of Robots to indexing your blog.
Blogs are inherently better at search engine optimization because search engines still prize text above all things
A blog is written in text and search engines are expert at indexing and finding content online based on literal strings of search text. While the future does hold fuzzy-logic searches that use synonymic and logical search results, for now, literal text is still king. If that string isn’t on your corporate website, your site won’t come up.
Blogs, on the other hand, are a culmination of hundreds or thousands of articles written by and commented on by lots of different people in different situations and a sundry of contexts, therefore, there is a prodigious amount of messy copy — lots and lots of similar string of content that mean something close to what your company does and offers and sells but not exactly what you would say or how you you say it.
That’s a good thing.
It is called keyword diversity and keyword diversity is good because unlike your behavior when your do a vanity search on your company or your company keywords, you can never be sure how your prospective clients will find you.
For example, when I started in 2003, what I did was new media and I was an expert in new media strategies and new media marketing. Then it was emarketing and ePR, then digital PR, social media marketing, and all these other things. Blogging allows me to keep up every day as opposed to the once or twice a year when I edit and update the Abraham Harrison corporate website — if that.
So, there is lots and lots of keyword diversity, lots and lots of natural keyword density — not stilted like is often found on a professionally search optimized website — and there are links, hyperlinked keyword phrases, and lots and lots of pages with copy and text by the barrel-full.
What’s more, each page of a WordPress or Drupal blog has a user-readable URL, such as http://ahpr.us/case-studies instead of http://ahpr.us/node/196 — which is something you see all the time and not very pretty.
Finally, while your corporate website probably had dozens of pages updated periodically, blogs have thousands of pages, each of which can be seen any number of ways: via post, category, tag, year, month, week, day, etc. This means that, in aggregate, you can have 5x-10x the number of “pages” for search that you actually have posts for.
If you’ll notice, though, that I put all these SEO incentives at the end of this post. If you write a blog based only on its SEO prowess, then your blog is going to really suck. You will write your blog into that ghetto I talk about.
All modern blogging platforms have RSS built in, making sharing with Facebook and Twitter effortless
Each and every blog post has its own unique page and each of those pages has a unique URL. That URL represents not a static page but a record in your blogging platform’s relational database. While that URL represents a page, your blog can render that content in other way. For example, as an RSS feed. Blog posts with their unique, user-readable links and their RSS feeds are super-easy to share as well as index as well as reference as well as link to — much easier than a lot of companies make it with their Adobe Flash-based sites that don’t have “permalinks” or “anchor links” built in.
Twitter and Facebook thrives on content links. If you run a blog and install “digg this,” “share this,” “tweet this,” “like this,” “reddit this,” and “Facebook this”to make sure sharing your content is as convenient as humanely possible — and write compelling, timely, and popular content — then you too can be part of feeding the giant maw of the 24/7/365 Twitter, Facebook, and social media monster that lives and thrives on content like yours.
That’s it for now — and sorry to hit you with this firehose! Merry Christmas!