Search Engines

Blogging. A lot of us are doing it. Some of us are doing it poorly. And while some people seem to be saying that they are getting great results from it, the vast majority feel like they’re wasting their time and effort. What’s going on? Let’s go!

What I’ve learned after writing over 500 blog posts on various sites. 🥵

I’ve been blogging now since around 2004 when blogrolls were still a thing, Live Journal was massive and blogs were “weblogs” that were about our thoughts and opinions, rather than a tool for attracting search engine results to our websites.

According to my Googling this morning, there are now 1.1 billion websites in the world. Only 200 million of which are actively updated on a regular basis. There are 600 million blogs, but two-thirds of them have been abandoned. I’ve written over 500 blog posts myself since 2005. Which really isn’t a lot in the scheme of things. Just under half of those are in blogs that I have abandoned.

From my early opinion site (and long since deleted) “The Dalai Banana” to my current blogs on my current websites I’ve seen some patterns. I have one blog post that generates around 1200 views a week and is a default snippet on Google, shown below…

­­­­And then another that generates around 800 views a week is another default snippet on Google (see below.)

­­­These are both old articles. One is over three years old and the other is over two years old. And while they generate a lot of traffic to my website, that traffic is kind of useless to me. It’s mostly from the United States (and for a while I had a lot of traffic from Indonesia) and it’s not relevant to what services I am selling.

While some would say that it does add some credibility to what I do, I doubt that any customer or mine has ever seen these two articles. And from what I can tell, nearly 99% of people who see these articles don’t continue on to anything else on my website. Certainly not the services that I provide.

And I’m seeing this pattern appear again and again across small business websites – especially of those that I am talking to in workshops and webinars.

Almost nobody is getting any traffic to their blogs. And those that are getting some say that it’s not leading to anything more than some pretty spikes in their Google Analytics

Blogging has a brand problem. 💩

The blogging we see today isn’t blogging. “Blog” is short for “weblog.” And a weblog was originally a kind of online diary popularised by services like Live Journal, Open Diary and Blogger. These weren’t information sources. They were diaries. Thoughts. Opinions. When WordPress was released in 2003, the blogosphere really took off.

And it was around this time that a scrappy little search startup called Google was starting to take over Yahoo, Altavista, Excite and Lycos as the way people found new things online. This was the birth of Search Engine Optimisation. The blog was now something that got you found. And that meant that those who got found got the customers. And blogging was never really the same again.

Blogs became rich information and research sources, well-thought-out explorations of topics and how-to guides on everything from baking scones to understanding quantum physics. As blogging matured and Google got better at working out what was useful and what was rubbish, blog posts got longer and longer and longer.

Now, in 2023, you need to write a blog of at least 700 words, but preferably over 3000 words for you to be considered as some expert in what you’re writing about. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to read a 300-word exploration of a topic that I need a quick answer about. Which brings us to the impact of Google Snippets and ChatGPT (you knew I had to mention it…)

Give me the answer I need now 😤

The internet isn’t a gimmick or a fun place to waste some hours just idly exploring topics anymore. It’s an everyday tool that we use to research, do business, find people and learn.

When we hit Google, we want an answer to a question, a calculation or an idea quickly. And we don’t necessarily want to have to see a webpage to get that answer. Google’s snippets (like the ones in the images I showed earlier) are annihilating search traffic to blogs.

Why go and skim a 3000-word article on a topic that you can get the answer from right there in the search results? In fact, according to a SEMrush study last year, around 57% of mobile searches on Google led to no click-through to a website – and 53% of desktop searches had the same result.

Blogs are beginning to be seen as a long-winded, indulgent, word-heavy and time-wasting way to find information. And in a TikTok world, the attention-span needed to read your comprehensive exploration of your expertise on your blog just isn’t there as much as it used to be.

Google Trends even shows that interest in the world of blogging has been steadily declining for the last five years while interest in creating video has steadily increased. Blogs now compete with podcasts.

There’s now over 5 million podcasts (around 2 million that are regularly updated in 2023) and TikTok is becoming a search engine for younger internet users who are seeking quick answers in a format that they have learned to like and trust. And that ‘aint Google or blogs. Does this mean that blogging is dead?

The challenges that blogging needs to overcome in the next few years 🧐

It’s not all doom and gloom for blogs. And it’s far from dead. But the role of the blog – and even the term itself – is in decline. Already I am seeing less websites having a “blog” section.

The word “blog” is ugly and a little nasty sounding. I am seeing more instances of the blog section being renamed as “Free Guides” or “Resources” or “Learn.”

One challenge that blogging needs to overcome is the explosion of low-quality content being generated by ChatGPT and other tools. Google and Bing both are able to, in a limited way, detect articles written by AI. So it will be harder to surface bad content in searches.

Google and other search engines also have a weakness where they rely on a consensus between similar articles.

Where there are 1 million articles on the same topic, it will assume that the credible answers are those that match the majority of answers given across the internet.

When the majority of answers are AI generated and perhaps even incorrect, this will affect search results. But blogs aren’t dead. They are still useful, but declining.

The trouble with blogs isn’t so much their declining use, but the poor quality of blogs being produced.

And with some 30 million being posted-to everyday, we get to a point where everything that can be said about your business, industry or product has been said better by at least 10,000 others in your same area of expertise.

And that’s when blogging, as a small business, becomes a complete waste of time and effort.

If blogging is just another “tick and flick” task in your calendar each week, you’ll get nowhere. But there is still value in blog posts that are written well, consistently delivered and have more than just a tonne of words on a page.

How to write a decent blog? That’s a topic for another day.

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