Do you think you’re not geeky enough to blog? You don’t have to! It’s true, blogging has changed a lot over the roughly 20 years it has existed. Over time blogging became
- more substantial
and thus also time-consuming. Yet there is the opposite trend. We’ve seen “content shock” redefine blogging each time to make it about “less is more” again. How do we blog in 2019?
How does modern blogging differ from past blogs? Can we still blog like it’s 1999? Yes and no!
Reading “How to Start a Blog” Guides is Not Enough
There are dozens of “how to start a blog” guides. Most of them explain how to choose a domain name, hosting and show you how to log in to WordPress and install a theme. That’s great!
No matter how much beginner’s guides explain, the majority leaves you alone with the more ephemeral question: how do you really write for a blog? This is a more complex topic.
The actual blogging style is quite different from most other types of writing and evolves constantly. What worked a few years ago is in many cases redundant now.
With large publishers and businesses dominating the blogging space it sometimes may see too difficult to even start. Yet there are certain things major publishers can blog about and others they can’t.
What Does Blogging Mean Today at all?
In 1999—around the time blogging got invented or at least the term blog coined—all you needed to blog was to write short updates. A sentence or two was sufficient. Some were accompanied also by a link. Others weren’t. Over the years more of these updates contained an image. By now many blog posts are
- large tutorials
- huge essays
- long lists of items.
It often takes many hours to research, write and enrich those with images, links, and ideally quotes. Why do you need all of them?
Images or better photos make your posts stand out or they make them visible in the first place. Without an image a post will most likely get overlooked. Each and every blog post needs an image to be seen in social media feeds.
For topics that do not deal with visual topics you can use images that illustrate the point or topic as whole in a metaphorical way.
Sometimes a photo of actual people doing something related is the best way to make your post stand out.
“An image is worth a thousand words,” they say, yet ideally you combine both. A photo without proper explanation lacks context and can be simply displayed on third-party sites without the need to visit your blog at all.
Ideally you do not solely rely on text or images to spread your message but find ways to use them both. Some things work better as text, others are better visualized.
Blogging without images barely works these days. There are lots of different image types to make your blog posts visually attractive though:
- animated gifs
- image quotes
- screen shots
You also don’t have to be an artist, designer or photographer to get beautiful images. Tools like:
- Canva for creating images of all kinds
- Giphy for searching GIF animations
- Unsplash for downloading free to use photos
Make it possible for everyone to create or use visually appealing images for your blog posts.
Links are the lifeblood of the Web. Without a link, your post is virtually a dead end. In the early days of the Web, the so-called hypertext was full of links to other pages on the Web. Early online publishers were enthusiastically linking to others. The hyperlink was the revolutionary aspect of the Web. Later links became a peculiar currency because of Google.
Blogs were also heavily interlinked. Indeed WordPress makes it extremely easy to link to your sources by automatically pinging all other blogs that are mentioned in your post. Sadly this feature got abused so much by spammers that many blogs disable it by default.
Over the years as traditional publishers took to the Web they brought the typical print style of writing back to the Web. It was about long body text without many connections to other pages.
Some publications are not even allowed to link out of fear of losing visitors or authority on Google. They attempt to keep users onsite and hoard so-called “link juice.” This is, of course, a shortsighted strategy.
Indeed you can still gain a competitive advantage by linking out to other bloggers. They may notice your post then and start reading your blog. In the best case they share your content or even link back to you sooner or later.
It’s important to understand that fellow bloggers are your friends. The competition is Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, major news outlets, even TV. All those who get the larger share of attention compete with your blog.
The easiest way to get attention is to go where existing audiences are—on other blogs. While guest blogging may work it is so overused that most bloggers get numerous pitches every week. The most straightforward way is to make other bloggers link to you.
The best way to get others to link to you is first to link to them. It’s a process of giving to get. One of the oldest law of human behavior—reciprocity—is at work online.
Quotes are like links but they are also more akin to classic writing techniques from before the Web. Good modern blogs quote a lot for the same reasons the old school blogs linked out.
Whenever you quote someone this person also gets a link but more importantly the people you quote are more likely to notice you mentioned them.
As it often happens with links such public quotes lead to other people reading, sharing and linking of your content.
It’s not about random people though! It’s highly active bloggers themselves. The most valuable friends you can have as a blogger yourself. Lurkers may read but other bloggers push your content.
Whenever you mention someone by name and give them additional publicity on your own publication they get even more respected as experts in their field.
Quoting dead philosophers may make yourself look good or educated by quoting others from your niche or industry will make you popular among your colleagues.
Unlike Journalism Blogging is Still Opinionated and Subjective
Journalism is still different than blogging. Why? While technically many blog posts rival proper journalistic work, one thing has remained unchanged: blogging is still highly subjective. Even when corporate blogs publish something—not just a person—the perspective is highly supportive of a particular viewpoint. That’s OK as most people by now know about it.
Blogging can not really be as impartial as real journalism because bloggers are often making money off the things they describe instead of being paid for writing objectively.
Indeed opinion is still what makes blogging so appealing. You do not get bloodless description trying to be as impersonal as possible but instead the writer or the organization behind the blog is talking. In the past it was just more obvious.
Past bloggers would rant a lot and not mince words. In the modern era when blogging is done professionally, the opinion is rather found between the lines. AI-based robots can write completely human-sounding posts. The opinion makes them truly unique. Without a personal touch, blog posts can be completely automated by now.
In the early years bloggers were very outspoken personalities in general and thus had large fan bases reading their blogs because of the particular person writing them. This has changed by now. As long as the topic and voice of the blog remains intact the name of the writer is secondary. Just make sure to have a recognizable voice at all.
There is no reason to read a particular blog when it’s only a rehash of the information that is out there. People love to see their opinion confirmed. When they disagree with you, you still may get some engagement, such as comments. A post that reflects no standpoint whatsoever is just random and redundant.
Why is Less is More Again Even Though Size Matters
Yes, size matters! It’s not exactly the way you suspect though. In recent years content size or length has steadily grown. One reason is that large content pieces seem to work better on search and social media:
“The average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.”
Brian Dean (based on SEMrush data)
“Long form content gets more social shares than short form content.”
It’s not about the sheer size though. Comprehensive guides or timeless tutorials have more value than mere opinion posts or simple news that get obsolete quickly. Usually, valuable posts tend to be longer. Adding fluff to enlarge your posts won’t help much though. It can even backfire as Google penalizes thin content and fickle social media users only scan content for clues.
Orbit Media publishes a yearly blogging survey. In it, bloggers get asked
- How long is the average blog post?
- How much time are bloggers spending on a typical article?
- How often are bloggers publishing?
For a few years all of the metrics showed that blog posts get bigger and take more time to create. Yet during the last few years the one trend reverted again:
“Blogging frequency has been in gradual decline for five years”
While Orbit Media surveys other marketing blogs and similar niches we know for sure that so-called “content shock” has happened a few years ago. The Web reached a point of oversaturation where the number and size of content were so overwhelming that the finite resource of human attention became scarce.
“Since the internet doubles in size every 12–18 months, but the time we spend on it does not, the cost of getting people to read your stuff is always rising.”
Thus we’ve also seen tiny content grow in popularity across all topics. Gif-animations and images with text on them often in the form of memes using the same image have spread like wildfire. Cute cat pictures still get shared far and wide while essays about cats don’t get shared as much. It clearly depends on the topic, niche and competition how long it takes to blog.
Ideally, you do both—large resources that also contain small shareable tidbits like visualizations, memes or infographics. In plain English: why not illustrate your point about science saying cats are nice with images of cute cats?
WordPress Makes it Easy to Publish
Do you think blogging is only for geeks? Not anymore! One of the major differences of blogging today and 10 or twenty years ago is the simplicity of the process. The first blogs were just websites you had to update manually in the HTML code. Later services like
allowed you to write online like you were writing a mail message but instead of sending you would hit publish. Those services put ads around your words and thus were “free”. You paid with your content in a way and couldn’t take it with you once you left.
Nowadays you own the content and can publish it with ease nonetheless thanks WordPress! Most proprietary blogging platforms have lost their popularity.
The early WordPress software was still made by geeks for geeks. Yet over the years more and more normal people embraced the tool and thus created a market for themes and plugins that made the user experience much more seamless.
The WordPress software became easier out of the box and hosting companies simplified the set up process further. By now we have tools that make it as easy to publish a professional blog as writing a mail message or local text document.
The probably easiest way to get a blog up and running is with—nomen est omen—EasyWP. The choice of words remains yours. Make sure to choose a contemporary writing style that works in your niche or for your topic.
- design, fashion, travel image heavy posts work best but longer text can sometimes work as well.
- for technology, gadgets or science both images and text work, depending on context.
- for so-called “boring topics” nobody wants to blog about you may be the first and thus a short update may suffice!
At the end of the day you don’t have to be a scientist publish new research in a blog post. Blogging can work despite finite attention spans. Sometimes it helps to
- choose a more specific subject matter
- choose a unique angle in your writing
- simply provide visual clues inside your post that catch the eye quickly.
Sure, a growing number of professional bloggers take more than 6h per average to write a blog post but often amateur find the tiny little sweet spot other people are truly intrigued by. Also authenticity is still key.
Business blogs can’t be too biased without compromising their integrity. Amateur bloggers can still write whatever they want and will find an audience of like-minded individuals.
With the technology readily available and easy to use you have to hone your writing skills but don’t give up from the start just because the bar is as high already when it comes to blogging.
Some bloggers even blog while travelling the world – not just travel bloggers. It’s a lifestyle for the the young and daring and may be very exhausting but for the adventurous it’s a dream coming true many want to pursue!
While “Instagram influencer” is still no job by itself using your Instagram profile to drive visitors back to your blog can work even though they make linking very hard to keep people on site.