“You should start a blog.”
It’s one of the first things you’re told to do when you’re trying to build your online presence. It’s been a rallying cry for years. Rainmaker Digital Services was built on content, and blogs have been a cornerstone of that. And, in content marketing, the blog is king.
Or is it?
Podcasts have exploded over the last several years. Today, video is taking over from podcasts. Both are taking traffic from blogs. So do blogs still really matter? Or is it something we hold onto as gospel long after its usefulness has expired?
There are two major reasons people start a blog:
- To establish authority on a subject.
- Improve search visibility.
These two may seem different, but they’re actually symbiotic. Google has grown in its ability to figure out what matters to people and show results that people want. SEO has become a much more “natural” language discipline than it was 10 years ago. There were a lot of hacks and tricks to rank a page higher on Google that just don’t work now.
You probably remember the rise of the content farms as Google came to power — sites filled with poorly-worded articles that dominated the top of the search rankings, created to build easy links and drive advertising revenue. Fortunately, those farms have been driven out of the rankings by great content as Google’s algorithm changed.
Today, useful content dominates the top of SERP rankings. You can click on something in the top 10 results for most subjects and find useful information, even if some of it may be repetitive. And blogs have been at the forefront of that change.
Rent vs. Buy
So why a blog? Why not lean on popular publishers like Medium? Or just do all of your posting on Facebook or LinkedIn?
It’s the difference between buying and renting.
You own your website. You don’t own your Twitter account, your Facebook content or any of the other publishing methods you’re using to push content out.
Rented space is important. It is the perfect distributor or publication channel for content you control. It’s basically everything that’s not your website. Today, the question isn’t rent vs. buy. Content marketers MUST do both. Still, many of us have limited resources and must prioritize.
So which comes first, rented spaces or owned spaces?
Always start with digital assets you OWN, not just rent.
It’s about alignment. As much as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Twitter and every other platform will help you share your message with the world, they’re not in business to help you. They want to sell ads.
Sure, you use these platforms to do business. But if you don’t own anything of your own, you’re going to find yourself running into problems. Creating a blog gives you an invaluable long-term content resource that you 100% own.
There are myriad businesses that have seen their entire business model evaporate overnight when Google or Facebook changed their algorithm. Many SEO firms relied on keyword stuffing and algorithm loopholes for their business, and these companies died out or had to change what they did. Exploiting loopholes might be profitable for a little while, but it’s not a good basis for long-term success.
If you have your own website and you’re constantly generating quality content, you’re not at the whim of the big tech companies. They may change their algorithms, but they can’t take away sticky content that drives traffic, engagement and signups.
Blogs Do Matter
True, it’s much harder to get noticed through organic search than it used to be, but it’s still important to put in the effort. Voice search, image search and local search are on the rise, and Google is smarter about long-tail keywords than it used to be. Google’s natural language processing is making it more about the content. It may be a hard game to win, but you still have to play.
Your SEO is reliant on readability these days, not just “who has more keywords.” Don’t stuff articles with keywords. Write things people want to read. That plays into the best length for a piece, too.
There’s been a lot written about the proper length for a blog, but we tend to see our best returns on articles around 1200 to 1500 words. This length strikes a good balance between readability and depth. People usually don’t want to read extremely long articles — these may have value as link bait, but not as much for reading. Better to get four articles out of that one big article so people can bookmark them.
People start a blog because they want to show that they’re an authority and build their SEO. Above all, a blog represents a commitment to your audience and your field. Don’t just publish because you think you “have to do it.” Don’t just say the same thing everyone else is saying. Publish because you have something worthwhile to say. If you don’t have something worthwhile to say, create it.
Consistently publishing good content shows your audience you know what you’re talking about. It shows that you’ve done more than surface research. Think of every one of your blog pages as another potential landing page for your site. Each one demonstrates knowledge and gives readers a call to action.
Blogs are More than Just Text
Blogs are more than just long-form articles. In fact, some of the best “blogs” out there aren’t even blogs or didn’t start their life that way.
Rand Fishkin is one of the best-known SEO authorities out there, and even he has been a bit critical of the “blog at all costs” ethos that many content marketers subscribe to. But as he noted in a 2018 post on the declining state of the blog, there are other methods of publishing content that may be more effective for some businesses than others.
Maybe for your business, a vlog (video blog) is a better idea. You have a highly visual product like art, landscaping or architecture, or you want to pull a Gary Vee and have a camera follow you around to all your business meetings and presentations.
Maybe a podcast is more your speed. Look at the success Joe Rogan and other major content creators have had with their podcasts.
Blogging in its traditional sense still has a place. But a text-based blog is not the be all and end all any more. It’s part of a broader mix. The good news is that you can use these other types of content like blogs and create pieces that you own. Many sites publish both video and text to capitalize on both Google and YouTube audiences. And there’s even more you can do if you think of your blog as a source of cornerstone content.
Keeping Things Evergreen
A blog is the main source for your cornerstone content.
We put out a guide to evergreen or cornerstone content recently. Put simply, it’s content that establishes a message framework that everything else builds on.
You can take one piece of content — blog, video or podcast — and use it to build a ton of smaller pieces of content. You can pull snippets from a podcast, video or article to get engagement on social media and drive people to your website. It’s a crucial part of your social media strategy.
That one piece of cornerstone content can also serve as the backbone of a course, white paper or book down the line. Many books created by content marketers are just a synthesis of a couple of years’ worth of blogs or vlogs.
So Do Blogs Matter?
Yes, they matter.
Simply put, we have to broaden our thinking and understanding of the term. Blogs are more than just long format written content. Today, we must include podcasts and videos to meet our audience’s expectations.
Regardless of format, these cornerstone content pieces connect us with the audience and drive engagement. We share what we have to say because we think it can help, not just to make a sale.
If the idea of creating a blog, vlog or podcast strategy seems overwhelming, know that you don’t need to go it alone. We’re in this with you. If you need a little help, just drop us a line, anytime.
Rainmaker Digital Services