A Google search for “Is Blogging Dead?” returns over 14 million results that offer a wide range of opinions. On one side is the “blogging is more important than ever” camp. On the other side is the “blogging is dead” group, who argue that social media, mobile devices, and other emerging technologies are replacing blogging within the online communication mix.
Within many of the Internet marketing strategies we create and execute for our clients here at JB Media Group, blog content is at the center. The blogs we create are aimed at achieving multiple goals, including search engine visibility, social media support, email support, PR support, and advertising support. Email, social media, public relations, and advertising serve as distribution, awareness, and audience development tools that support increased traffic to the client’s website and visibility for their brand.
All of these tools are important aspects of the current marketing mix, but the traditional blogging format, layout, and mindset are outdated and can create confusion and a lack of organization when trying to achieve many of the aforementioned marketing goals. For this reason, I argue that blogging is not dead, but is overdue for a metamorphosis into a more strategic tool that better supports comprehensive content marketing strategies.
Or Just Overdue for an Evolution?
Benefits of Blogging
In my opinion, blogging in its common format has several key benefits that add value to a company’s marketing:
Ease of publishing – One of the main benefits of blogging is that most blog content management systems (CMSs), such as WordPress, are very easy to use, making publishing content more doable for businesses that cannot afford a full-time webmaster or programmer.
Ease of customization – Many CMSs that support blogging include a wide range of plugins that allow for easy customization. WordPress is the best example, but many other blogging content management systems also offer a robust set of customization options.
Content architecture – Any respectable blogging platform allows for categories and tags. These content architecture tools create a system that allows the publisher to easily organize content based on topics and audiences, which is critical to the current best practices for search engine optimization.
Limitations of the Blogging Status Quo
Naming – The word blog was derived from “weblog,” a term that originally described an online journal. However, in the context of marketing, the word “blog” does not offer enough value or clarity for the site visitor. There is absolutely a place for business storytelling within the blog, but the content architecture of the blog offers so many other opportunities, including answering common customer questions, often described as an FAQ. Blogs can also provide:
- Case studies and testimonials
- Thought leadership content
- How-to information about your products or services
- Educational content about uses or applications of your products or services to solve common customer problems
- Coverage of industry news and trends
Format – If your blog is simply a journal of stories about your business, then the standard blog page layout will serve your business well. However, as content marketing strategies get more complex and small businesses use blog posts as the primary content type for the consumer-education opportunities listed above, the standard blog format quickly fails to deliver a useful navigational and organizational structure.
On most sites, the blog page shows either entire posts or post snippets in reverse chronological order (with little consideration for topic or theme). There is typically a category list on the sidebar to filter the posts and show a reverse-chronological list of blogs for a specific topic. This format requires too much effort from the site visitor, making them dig into the site to find what they are looking for. There are a variety of ways to work around this; one example being to create static pages for topics that link to blog posts about the topic in an organized and structured format.
Content Types – The other main limitation of the standard blogging approach is that most blogs focus on text content. Over time, this poses challenges, especially on larger blogs with greater opportunities to create more dynamic content. Dynamic content types include: infographics, slide shows, educational slides, and videos. Content types can also describe various formats of text content, such as interviews, list articles, tutorials, ebooks, and white papers. So in order to support a comprehensive online marketing strategy, it is important to create a variety of content pieces around your key audiences and topics. A diversity among content types will make your site more interesting and will allow you to better leverage the full mix of online marketing tools for distributing and sharing your content.
The Next Phase
The Learning / Resource Center Model
Most businesses need to rethink their blogging design and strategy to ensure that their content development efforts are setting them up for online marketing success. For some companies, this will mean creating new types of content aimed at providing value to visitors, while also demonstrating expertise. Filing this under “blog” can devalue that content. In some cases, a new organizational structure will be necessary to make their content sortable and accessible.
And so I argue that while blogging is not dead, the traditional blog in both name and function does not accurately cover all of these content opportunities or address the organizational needs of website visitors to sort, find and engage with informative content. Instead, I suggest a more comprehensive name and strategy such as “Learning Center” or “Resource Center.” REI is an example I often share of a website that has converted their blog to a learning or resource center structure:
New Tools for a New Kind of Blog
For those who need a new organizational structure to the page formerly called a blog, we have been working on a WordPress plugin to re-organize the standard blog format into one that better serves a site visitor looking for specific information. The plugin attempts to create a more organized, topic focused navigation of the main Learning Center or Resource Center page (aka the blog). This article by Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion offers a glimpse into the design structure that we are working on. We’ll share more on this once we have it ready and look forward to hearing what you think once it’s implemented on our own website.
Also, for anyone looking to set up your first blog or learn the basics of blogging in order to get started, please check out this Beginners Guide to Blogging from First Site Guide, it has great tutorials, videos, and ebooks and other helpful resources.
Concerned about how to create all of this content we’re talking about? Check out Mandy Gardner’s awesome blog about the easiest way to create blog content.