Starting a new blog today feels considerably more challenging than it did ten years ago. SEOs and marketing professionals who used to earn their clients substantial traction with blogs are now finding it considerably more difficult.
The question is one of saturation. Many in the profession now suspect that we’re entering an era of diminishing returns. While early blogs lapped up market share, newer ones are getting buried under the mountain of content out there.
According to recent estimates, there are more than 600 million blogs on the internet, covering every topic and niche imaginable. As such, it’s hard to get noticed or say anything original. It’s all been done before. Blogging in 2022 seems dead.
As you might expect, this new reality is a bit of a touchy subject among marketing professionals. Many firms and individuals want their article-writing efforts to work, seeing it as a way to escape the never-ending pay-per-click money pit and drum up organic traffic. Blogs, they tell themselves, “engage” their audiences and build their brands.
But given the sheer level of competition out there, we have to ask whether these outcomes are realistic for the vast majority of firms. Is blogging still profitable in 2022?
The Decline Of Blogging
While it might have been popular for years, blogging is in secular decline, at least according to Google trends data.
Here’s a chart that shows interest in blogging globally since 2004.
As you can see, interest built significantly in the late 2000s and peaked around the start of the Great Recession. But since 2009, it’s been on a steady downward trajectory and doesn’t appear to be going back up any time soon.
You can see a similar effect for the term “blogger.”
Here, interest in blogging grew throughout the 2000s but then started to fall dramatically from 2012 onwards. Today, search interest is actually lower than in 2004, according to Google, nearly twenty years ago.
If all of this seems rather miserable to you, you’re not alone. Many marketers and bloggers feel the same. Content is supposed to be “king,” but it is looking more impotent than ever.. it is reminiscent of King Henry VIII in his older years!
Why Is The Popularity Of Blogs Falling?
Blogging was once the hippest and trendiest thing around. Futurist and former Google director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil, argued in the 1990s that we’d all be doing it by 2025 and getting paid to boot. His vision saw legions of writers tapping away at their computers, discussing everything from their deepest secrets to their dogs’ breakfasts.
And, in a way, he was right. That did happen to some extent. But it wasn’t quite as shiny and glorious as he thought. While we got a lot of articles, we also got a lot of trash. Ghostwriters spamming out 2,000 words per hour for business websites became the norm. And the high quality of writing that had dominated the early years of the internet all but vanished. Link-building agencies began publishing low-quality blogs on thousands of websites. And tired writers churning out 10,000-plus words per day simply ran out of ideas. As a consequence, we got thousands of variations on posts like “how to make a house a home” and “what to do to become rich.” Yawn.
We’ve also seen a lot of bloggers selling out, too. Link-building agencies didn’t just set up their own blogs. They actively sought out those that were already out there and asked them to become platforms for guest posts. A deluge of low-quality articles followed, and people stopped reading.
You can’t blame bloggers, of course. They just wanted to make a living. Many made deals with the link builders to bump up low incomes. An extra tenner a day for posting questionable articles on their sites seemed like a good deal at the time, even if it meant polluting their self-created work.
Unfortunately, the overall effect of this process playing out over thousands of websites is chilling. Today’s audiences are now more sceptical of blogs, wondering whether they can extract any real value from them. If they continue to be purely about pleasing the algorithm, their days are numbered
From the bloggers’ perspective, things aren’t perfect, either. Constant Google algorithm changes (and the general mystery surrounding them), are making it hard to know how to write blogs. Over the last twenty years, the world’s biggest search giant released Panda, Pigeon, Penguin, Hummingbird, RankBrain, Mobilegeddon, and a host of others. With each of these, creators had to adjust their writing significantly.
From Google’s perspective, these updates were all about improving the user experience. But for bloggers, keeping up with all the requirements was exhausting. Many had to go back through their sites to tweak previous posts to avoid losing their position in SERPs.
Added to this, bloggers are facing the challenge of constant hacks, spam, trolling, and sometimes a combination of all three. In 2019, for instance, hackers hacked into bloggers’ WordPress sites and then sent them emails demanding extortion payments. If they didn’t cough up the money, they would release footage of them looking at adult websites.
More mundane challenges also ensued. Constant spam links for viagra pills in comments sections caused many bloggers to wonder why they were in the game. And to add insult to injury, Google punished websites that did not disavow these links, forcing many bloggers to spend most of their time censoring comments instead of creating content.
Of course, there are things that bloggers can do: disallowing comments entirely, or moderating them. But that feels a long way from the original spirit of blogging, something that many bloggers remember as being care-free and open. Before the viagra bots, it was a real forum for sharing ideas.
Can Social Media Save The Day?
It might not all be doom and gloom, though. Social media may be slowing the rot.
Multiple factors pushing bloggers in the direction of social media. For starters, they don’t have to conduct their own SEO to get clicks. And while they might have to pay for likes and follow all the algorithm-related rules, getting traffic on a platform tends to be easier than for traditional, independent websites.
Social media platforms also open the door to networking. Creators can collaborate with each other, particularly on the more video-orientated platforms. Working together with other people makes it easier to build shared audiences and get themselves heard. It’s a totally different experience from the embattled self-publisher.
Then there is the in-built trend analysis. Content creators can see within just a few hours which of their strategies are working, and which aren’t. Thanks to these metrics, tailoring their blogs to their audiences is considerably easier. And if something isn’t working, they can change course rapidly.
Hence, migration towards these platforms will continue. The transition to social media is very much a death knell for the traditional blogger format. The days of independent blogs with their own domains may well be numbered. But that doesn’t mean that the demand for content is going anywhere. Consumers and audiences still want access to information. They just want it to be high quality. “Thin content,” as digital marketers call it, will continue to fall further into obscurity.
And in this respect, social media blogging has a fundamental advantage over traditional domain-based blogs. Unlike the latter, it does not directly contribute to SEO. Hence, it doesn’t pay link-building companies to target creators for links. As such, content remains fairly untainted.
It isn’t a saving grace, though. The rise of short-form content platforms, such as TikTok, are a serious challenge to classic, 1,500-2,000-word long-form blogs. It currently ranks number one for lead generation and engagement, and, according to HubSpot research, will be the leading source of investment for marketers in 2022, attracting more marketing pounds than any other content format.
Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are also fiercely competitive. While there might be millions of blog sites, the number of active creators is also on the rise. Estimates suggest that there are more than 30 million amateurs monetising content on Facebook and 500,000 professionals.
So, Is Blogging Dead?
Blogging might be in intensive care, but it’s not dead yet in our opinion.
The best way to view the situation is this: blogging hasn’t died, it’s just changed form. Bloggers are having to evolve with the times to stay relevant, moving more in the direction of social media.
People aren’t reading blogs with the same earnestness that they used to. That’s because the appeal of short-form videos among today’s “swipe right” generation is overwhelming. However, they are consulting blogs when they want answers to more detailed questions.
Google isn’t foundering, either. Annual search volumes are still increasing every year by 10 percent. And most people still use the search engine if they are researching a topic. They don’t automatically hop on social media.
How long traditional blogging will last is anyone’s guess. From the data, it looks like things are levelling out and that blogs will find their place in the content ecosystem, just like everything else.