Over the last few years the concept of “blogging” has gained ever more in popularity.
These days with all the excitement around the “blogosphere” you could be forgiven for thinking that everyone should be blogging.
However that isn’t necessarily the case.
You see, running a blog is only one way to communicate with your audience, build traffic and, hopefully, start to make some money. But there are plenty of other alternatives, including:
- Building static websites
- Writing Kindle ebooks
- Creating YouTube videos
…and so on.
These days “starting a blog” is touted as the magic elixir that will solve all your business-building woes.
Many people seem to believe that if you don’t have a blog then you’re severely hampering your online results. The truth, however, isn’t necessarily that clear.
In this article then I want to look at the benefits of blogging; particularly when compared to other ways to build an audience (and a business) online.
Hopefully over the following paragraphs you’ll gain a better idea of whether starting a blog really is appropriate for you – or whether other alternative solutions would be preferable.
Building a static website is largely a “one-off” affair. You build the site once, put the necessary content on it and set the thing running. Sure, there’ll be degree of maintenance but this will be minimal on a weekly basis.
Now compare this to a blog…
By its very definition a blog is updated on a regular basis, with new posts being added consistently.
That means that the act of blogging, as opposed to running a static website, can in itself take more time and effort. After all, you need to be constantly brainstorming new content ideas and writing new blog posts.
Most bloggers – even the successful ones – generally agree that blogging takes a lot more effort than many other forms of online business.
However there are benefits to this regularly updated content too.
For example, you’re able to launch a blog long before you would launch a static website. The reason is simple; you can start with minimal content and then add to it over time.
With most websites you’d hope to have all the relevant pages completed before you actually launched the site.
This new content being added consistently will also encourage the search engines to visit your site on a regular basis because every time they scan your site they find plenty of new content.
Over time they visit more and more often and, as a result, your latest posts get indexed far quicker. This means that it can be possible to publish a new post and then find it show up in the search engine results within hours.
Lastly, regularly updated content is excellent for keeping visitors coming back time and again. Think of your blog as a newspaper or magazine and if a visitor has enjoyed your content enough then they’ll be highly likely to come back when the next “issue” is released to enjoy yet more.
As a result, over time, one can build up a considerable audience who keep on returning whenever you publish a new post.
Building A Subscriber Base
These regular visitors – the ones who keep on coming back to read your comments are generally known as “subscribers”. They subscribe to your blog either via your RSS feed or via your autoresponder so that each time you publish a new post you are informed.
Over time, this repeated exposure can not only help you to gain the trust of your readers as they get ever more familiar with you, but can also let you grow your following consistently as you attract more and more subscribers over time.
Compare this with a static website, perhaps one giving information about a local charity you’re involved in. Sure, people may arrive the first time and spend some time reading all the information on your site but they’re less likely to return in the future.
Why should they, when there are no updates being made?
This means that the vast majority of your visitors will be “first time” visitors rather than “repeat” visitors, as in the case of blogging.
Building your own base of subscribers has other benefits too, most notable of which is that it reduces the risk felt by your website.
Let’s imagine for a moment that your website is doing well in the search engines and receiving hundreds of visitors each day. Life is good and you’re making a decent income from all these visitors.
Then one day, Google updates it’s algorithm (as it does on a regular basis) and your traffic dries up. It happens more often than you’d think. For a static website that relies on the search engines for most of its traffic, this could spell disaster.
But what about our blog? Well things would be rather different here. Sure, it would be a shame to lose all that traffic from the search engines but thanks to our subscriber list we have a measure of protection. Each time we publish a new post we can email our subscriber list and a fair chunk of them will return to our site to read the post.
In essence with a blog – which builds a subscriber list – we have far more control over the future of our site and the traffic levels we’re receiving.
Building Relationships With Your Readers
Blogs are, by their very definition, focused around “community” and “relationship building”. It’s not just the repeated “contact” through regularly updated content.
In addition blogs are typically well-intengrated into social media, encourage social sharing, openly link to one another and have a comments section where any visitors can discuss issues.
Over time many blogs therefore build up a regular “base” of readers and subscribers and, thanks to the inherent benefits of blogs, these readers start to build up a relationship with the blogger.
You, as the blogger, get to recognise the same names and faces appearing in the comments. You see the same people linking to your content or sharing it on social media. You return the favour where appropriate and over time relationships are built online.
Compare this to a static website.
In many cases these are “faceless” websites where it isn’t clear who has written the content. As if this isn’t bad enough, the “one off” nature of most visits to such sites simply doesn’t provide enough “touch points” for a relationship to be built.
It has been said in the past that we are far more likely to buy from someone we know and like. This means that when a blogger recommends a product or service they are likely to sell more of it than if a similar recommendation was made on a static website.
Furthermore these relationships can open up other opportunities. For example you can find yourself being offered free products to review, or the opportunity to guest post on another blog and so on. When you have built genuine relationships with others the business-related opportunities just seem to flow like clockwork.
Providing Numerous SEO Benefits (When Done Right)
Search around the web for information on blogs and SEO and one of the most common comments you come across is that Google “rewards” sites that are updated regularly and that as a result blogs tend to rank higher than static websites.
Indeed, it has been jokingly commented that the word “blog” actually stands for “Better Listings On Google”.
Hundreds of websites share this nugget of information.
Sadly, in my 10+ years of experience online, working with hundreds of client sites, I have seen absolutely no evidence of this. Quite frankly, I think the above statements are essentially an urban myth, repeated by people who don’t know half as much about online marketing as they think they do.
These statements, for me, are always a “red flag” to be careful of whatever else this “authority” is claiming as “fact”.
However what is true is that blogs can have an unfair advantage over static websites in the search engines – just not because they’re being updated so frequently. So what are these benefits?
As things stand right now, Google tends to favour what we call “content heavy” pages.
These are pages that contain lots and lots of useful information. Within reason, the longer they are the better. So it follows that, for example, a 2000 word article is likely to rank higher than a 500 word article, all other things being equal.
The thing is that many static websites have pages that each have very little content on them.
Think of the last website you visited of a specific tourist attraction or small business in your area. Their pages are normally short and sweet – because there simply isn’t too much to say. With a blog post, though, you can easily include all sorts of information and advice and run over thousands of words (if that’s what it takes).
Let’s take an example from this blog. There are numerous websites which allow you to submit your infographic to them, and in doing so build links back to your website. These are known as “infographic directories”, and there are dozens – even hundreds of them – out there.
Now let’s consider what a Google search for this same keyword phrase might turn up. Either it might turn up a load of individual directories, each with their “think content” and minimal words on each page. Or it might turn up articles discussing, and linking to, all manner of infographic directories.
I think you can guess already what happens; the bloggers writing about the subject find it easier to rank than the “thin content” of the static sites.
Blogs win in the search engines because they’re rammed full of content – the exact same thing that Google and the other major search engines reward.
As a blogger, you often find yourself writing something that closely relates to another post you’ve published in the past.
In many cases it is perfectly natural to link to this other post, in order to make your new one more interesting, or to help newer visitors reference the older material you’re talking about.
But this doesn’t just happen with your own blog posts. In the blogging world, it also often happens between blogs. You’ve read a really nifty post about something on another site recently and while writing a new post it just seems natural to reference the other blogger’s post as a useful resource for your own readers.
Over time this means that each post is far from an “island”.
Some of your better or more interesting posts may naturally end up with links pointing to them from a number of other related posts both on your own blog and on other blogs.
And as we know, links are one of the biggest factors that Google uses to determine where to rank a page. Generally speaking, more links equal better rankings.
Another reason why blogs can be so effective for SEO is quite simply this “linking” concept which occurs naturally over time.
Compare this to your local static website trying to sell window cleaning services and ask yourself how many other websites will naturally link to them? Not many, I think you’d agree.
We’ve already mentioned that Google rewards pages and websites with plenty of high quality links pointing to them.
A large part of “SEO” – or getting your site ranked in the search engines – has involved the manual process of trying to build these links that will help your site to rank.
But there’s a problem.
You see, Google doesn’t like us manually building links to our sites. This is considered manipulation of their search engine results and, if caught, can land you in hot water.
You can receive ranking penalties or even be de-indexed – either process can dry up your search engine traffic like a snail in the desert.
So if link building is frowned upon, how can we still build links without actually building links? The answer is a change in mindset; to be successful at SEO you need to move from “link building” to “link earning”.
In other words you make your site – and the content present in it – so darn good that it stands head and shoulders above anything else in your niche. Content like this naturally receives social shares and backlinks – basically you’ve earned those links based purely on the quality of your site.
This seemingly simple process is known as “content marketing”. Quite simply these days one of the safest ways to consistently grow your search engine traffic is to produce fantastic content (blog posts) and then promote them in such a way as to encourage natural authority.
And blogs are, understandably, perfect for this very reason.
Blog-Only Traffic Generators
People love to read blogs. But with literally millions of blogs out there, trying to find blogs worth reading is rather more problematic.
As a result a whole suite of websites and apps have sprung up to try and make it as easy as possible to uncover the “hidden gems” of the blogging world.
There are, for example, directories focused specifically on blogs. Then there are RSS directories where you can search for specific post titles.
Then there are content discovery apps which look at what posts you have enjoyed reading in the past and recommend up new suggestions that you might enjoy. And so on.
Each of these “blog only” traffic sources represents a potential benefit of blogging simply because they’re not open to other web businesses – including static websites.
It is perhaps even more interesting to note that all the various marketing avenues that are open to static websites are also open to blogs. So setting up a blog you lose nothing and yet gain plenty.
Opening Up New Revenue Opportunities
The last benefit of setting up a blog is one of increased revenue opportunities. In other words, rather like the blog-specific marketing avenues mentioned just now, there are also opportunities open to bloggers to earn money that aren’t available for any other business model.
For example you can receive free products to review on your site. You can get paid to write posts about a certain product or company.
You can display “blogger only” ads that can be more profitable than the networks open to all sites. And so on.
While if you’re considering blogging to promote an existing business of yours this will likely not be of much interest, if you are considering setting up a blog as a way to earn some money online then you will often find there are many more opportunities open to you – and as your blog traffic grows this list can grow with it.
Static websites and all the other ways of attracting an audience and making money online all have their place. I am not in any way suggesting that everyone should blog and that any other business model is a waste of time and money.
However hopefully by now you agree with me that blogging does have a very unique place on the Internet; one that opens up far more opportunities than most other business models.
To me, that makes blogging one of the most enjoyable and diverse business models around. It’s also one I highly encourage you to consider getting involved with.
Do you have a blog of your own yet? What do you think are the greatest benefits of blogging over other online communication methods?