Real Talk: Is Blogging Dead for Marketing?
A recent study showed that the only epidemic that has killed more things than the Black Plague in the last century is the digital marketer.
(...don’t ask me for the name of the name of that study.)
OK, yes, this was a tad dramatic of me, but I’m not exactly wrong either.
On what feels like almost a weekly basis, marketers grab their pitchforks and rally proclaiming the death of yet another tried-and-true tactic or platform.
Twitter is dead.
Honestly, the grief is too much.
Digital marketing thought leaders and experts insist on declaring these (and others) flatlined, yet they still walk among us today, alive and well, in some form or another.
In reality, it’s not that these strategies need to be put out to pasture; rather, the ways we approach them do -- but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Today, my friends, we’ve gathered here to discuss the latest victim of a fatal industry prognosis -- my good friend, blogging.
A Brief History of the Blog
Turn the clock back about 10 years and blogging was just taking its first mainstream steps in the online world.
In their first incarnations, blogs were essentially personal, online journals -- I know more than a few of you had a LiveJournal back in the day, don’t lie! --but as we entered the early and mid- 2000s, they began to emerge as underground, but reliable sources of niche information and advice.
Politics, popular culture, technology, cooking, and travel, among other topics, all had prominent blogs dedicated to them.
It was only a matter of time before marketers and businesses took notice.
Blogging for business slowly started to rise as an effective digital marketing tactic and with good reason.
When done right, not only did it prove to be a powerful way to get found in search engines by a qualified audience; it was also a brilliant way to share your unique expert opinions and truly show that you knew your stuff.
Long story short on this article -- none of that has changed.
More Effective Than Ever
Frankly, if you’re reading this today, you’ve already answered the question of is blogging dead.
Blogging still accomplishes everything it did a decade ago. And then some.
More than ever, people are seeking answers to their questions online. This is especially true when it comes to making a purchase.
In 2018, 71% of B2B buyers said they consumed blog content during their buyer’s journey, up from 66% just one year prior, and marketers confirmed this, rating blog articles the most effective content format in the awareness stage, according to CMI and MarketingProfs.
(Note: There are more interesting content marketing statistics where that came from.)
Despite all of the naysayers, a recent poll from Databox even found that 68% of marketers find blogging more effective than they did two years ago.
So, why are so many others crying wolf?
Blogging Is Not Dead; It’s Simply Reincarnated
Like all of the tactics before it, blogging is not dead for marketing in 2019, it has simply changed.
The catalyst of this is mainly because the blogging arena is saturated.
As it became commonplace for brands over the years, consumers needed ways to sort through the noise and search engines responded with new regulations and algorithms to help make this possible.
In turn, in order to still see results, the way we blog and create content had to change as well and, unfortunately, not everyone was equipped and willing to change along with it.
As marketers, we’re only human and it’s natural to be resistant to dramatic changes to what we know, but it’s a matter of survival of the fittest, really.
To continue succeeding with blogging for marketing, you need to adapt to the current environment.
So, What’s Changed?
As the digital space has flooded with competitors creating content on many of the same subjects, quality has become a key differentiator, rather than quantity.
In 2009, you would create hundreds of blog articles with the same keyword to show your expertise. The more pages you had on the topic, the more of an authority you were, but in 2019, this is more spam than substance.
Pillar content was the solution to this.
Pillar Content & Topic Clusters Reign Supreme
Bear with me for a second as I try to condense this vast topic for you.
At its most basic definition, a piece of pillar content is a long-form (usually more than 4,500 words), high-quality piece of content designed to be the core of a topic cluster.
It exists with the goal of ranking for a competitive, high-volume search term and linking to several smaller related pages and articles on a website to help it overall be seen as an authority in the topic by search engines.
Here’s an example of one we did on how to create a content style guide:
When Google or another search engine sees a pillar page like this, it helps all those linked to it rise in rank, in turn, cutting through the noise of competitors.
IMPACT Director of Web & Interactive Content Liz Murphy talked about why at her IMPACT Live '18 talk:
Long story short, pillar content and topic clusters are a huge departure from the way many organizations have created content all these years and frankly, it is not for the faint of heart.
Pillar pages require a great deal of planning, strategy, and knowledge to create and the marketers who can create them effectively are a grade above the rest.
They show they truly know their crafts and can be trusted with your business.
It is only fitting that this effort and expertise be rewarded in search engines. That those who share their knowledge get brought to the surface.
If you ask me, it’s great to see search engines finally reward the earnest, but that’s a conversation for another day.
Overall, pillar content should have a heavy hand in your content strategy.
It’s not the end-all-be-all, but at IMPACT, for example, a good portion of the articles we put into editorial calendar each month are those that come out of our topic cluster and pillar strategies.
In the past, you might have risked one of your pages outranking another with your spam, but with pillar content, one article feeds the other, and all ships rise.
What Hasn’t Changed?
Our good friend and partner Marcus Sheridan always says that while the platforms we use as marketers may change, the principles that guide how we use them, should not.
The biggest of these principles when it comes to blogging for marketing in 2019 is what we refer to as “They Ask, You Answer” or TAYA.
They Ask, You Answer
No matter where blogging goes, your strategy should always aim to answer the questions of your audience. It should deliver the solutions they seek when they arrive on your website, blog, or even YouTube channel.
How search engines and your audience members digest content will always evolve, but what they want from it, likely will not.
Focus on creating high-quality, original, authentic content that speaks to your buyers’ concerns as you always have (hopefully), pay attention to search engines, and blogging will continue to deliver the results you seek.
Wondering where to begin?