What makes blogs so successful (and how to make yours so too)
Blogging has taken the world of web publishing by storm over the past decade. In this post, I want to review the reasons that made blogs evolve into the leading form of online publishing.
The core aspects that made blogs into the absolute rulers of the industry are the ones you should be focusing on, in order to make your own blog a success as well.
Once Upon A Time…
About a decade ago, online publishing was about mostly about creating static websites. These beasts were coded in HTML and PHP, or published using a content management system such as Joomla or Drupal.
They looked something like this website which I created back in 2004. It took me a weekend to create it. That’s it. Coded by hand without using themes or plugins and with almost no need for updates. It’s made just over $2,500 over the years. Not bad for a weekend’s worth of work.
Like many webmasters, I used to create dozens of these websites. Some I sold, others died out, a few are still here, making a nice drizzle of entirely passive income. At the height of my empire of websites I had more than 400 domain names, about half of them developed and the other half awaiting development.
In my previous post I reviewed the 5 things that have changed in web publishing over the past decade. Quite a lot has changed but the most notable change is that blogs took over the place of “regular” websites as the preferred platform for web publishing.
There are a few good reasons for why this has happened. I think each one of them is incredibly important to understand, especially for those new to blogging. These are the key reasons for the success of blogs as a “genre”. Understanding – and following – these lessons are also key to the success of your own blog.
First things, first –
What is a blog?
I checked Wikipedia and I think their definition for a blog is – at best – lacking.
A blog (a truncation of the expression weblog) is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first).
Hmmm. Here’s what I think most people mean when they use the word “blog” in 2016 –
A website that offers a unique personal perspective (by one or more individuals) through constant updates in the form of posts.
A blog is a form of a website. A unique form, that has gone through a process of gradual evolution over the past two decades. People have been publishing personal websites since the beginning of the internet but about a decade ago, blogs gained an evolutionary advantage over other types of websites which gained them unprecedented dominance, especially in the unique ecological niche of independent web publishers.
Understanding the four key aspects that brought on this evolutionary “jump” is crucial to the success of your blog. With that in mind, here what I think they are and along with the key industry players that brought them on.
1.The Right Platform: WordPress
WordPress is so much more than a piece of software. It’s a vibrant online community of developers who collaborate to constantly improve the infrastructure of blogs. It triggered nothing short of a revolution. The ability to instantly create a professional-looking website has opened the gates to a flood of new web publishing initiatives.
WordPress was released back in 2003 and caught like wildfire. It offered a clean and easy-to-use interface – far easier than that of other content management systems – and took away the need for advanced coding skills. Now, anyone can be a web publisher.
Stick to wordpress. In 2016, WordPress is definitely the platform to use if you’re an independent web publisher looking to start your own website.
2. Fresh Content And Constant Updates
Back in 2004 when I published Goldfish Care and hundreds of websites like it, Google loved them. Throw in some link building and on-page SEO and you could fairly easily score a good place in the SERP’s.
I’m not sure if it was the shift in people’s surfing habits that has made Google alter their algorithms, or the other way around, but things have definitely changed. Google now clearly prefers fresh content. A website that offers constant updates will be getting more search engine traffic. It will also get more returning traffic simply because it offers something new to the same readers.
Guess what kind of website is easiest to update with fresh content? And guess which platform lends itself so naturally to always having that fresh content displayed on the main page of your site?
Keep your blog updated. Constantly. Set up a schedule which includes at least one new post every week and stick to it.
3. Real People Coming To The Front
I blame Facebook for this one.
A decade ago, most people were afraid of having their identity out there “on the internet”. Many web publishers felt far more comfortable creating websites that never mentioned their name. If you wanted to contact the owners, there would be a contact form or a generic email such as email@example.com. Communication between webmasters was mainly through forums where each one would have their own “handle” or “nick”.
Then Facebook exploded into the world and social media came to be. Facebook offered a huge amount of gratification for users but also demanded authenticity. The whole point was about connecting real people who actually knew each other. Using their real names and sharing their very real photos and stories. Bye bye anonymity.
This had a crucial effect on web publishing (which by now was fast becoming blogging thanks to WordPress and Google’s preference for fresh content). Suddenly, bloggers who presented their real selves, wrote in the first person and – lo and behold – shared their image, gained a huge advantage. Perez Hilton blogged about celebrities, Ariana Huffington took over the news world and Brian Clark began showing newbies how to create a successful blog. Today their projects are online empires but they all started as blogs with one identifiable blogger clearly and visibly at the helm.
Authenticity is key. People want to know who you are, so bring forward the real you.
4. Monetizing Through Affiliations
Yes, affiliate marketing has been around the block for ages. Many non-blog websites have effectively utilized both affiliations and other forms of advertising. Landing pages were the mark of affiliation-oriented websites long before blogs became popular.
However, once bloggers came to the front, the rules of the game changed. With the advent of authentic voices, showing their real self and putting forward their personal reputation, affiliation marketing took on a whole new direction.
Selling products no longer depended on sending a mass of traffic to shady landing pages with cloaked links. Instead, it became a matter of leveraging people’s trust in the blogger to generate sales.
Create quality content that offers real value to your readers. Aim at gaining followers who respect and trust you and promote products and services you feel will genuinely help them.
There you have it.
I believe these are the four key elements that made blogs win over the individual web publishing industry. A combination of an awesome platform and changes in search engines and social media – along with a financial reward for the people who supplied the new demand for authentic voices that keep constantly in touch with fresh reliable content.
If you want to join Team Success of web publishing in 2016, a quality blog with fresh content that brings forward the real you is definitely the way to go.