“Nobody Reads Blogs”
“Darren, come on – nobody reads blogs anymore.”Numerous potential clients on numerous occasions, 2019/20
I get this so often when I bring up blogging in initial calls with potential clients. I ran a quick straw poll on Twitter recently that appears to debunk this claim:
So.. I could simply end the argument right now. I win. Plain and simple. Lot’s of people do still read blogs.
Darren 1 – 0 Numerous Potential Clients. The end.
However, I have a theory that what they mean is something like…
“Darren,come on – nobody follows blogs.”
As in – nobody follows blogs in the 1990’s – bookmark my favorite blog or save a shortcut on my desktop and return to it every day as one of my primary sources of news / information / entertainment kind of way.
Even then – some feedback to my poll on LinkedIn suggests that this isn’t quite true either:
OK so that’s a sample size of one comment so I’m not claiming outright victory based on that… but to take things a little further what I actually really I think these people mean is …
“Darren, I personally don’t follow blogs” (in the 1990’s kind of way). So let’s roll with this.
Self Reporting vs Observation
Say you are one of those 40% of respondents in my poll that claims not to read blogs – (those potential clients who are adamant that blogging is a waste of resources because “nobody reads blogs” are likely to be in this cohort).
For the next week, I would like you to carry out a little experiment on my behalf – every time you make a search on Google or some other search engine, document the amount of times you end up on a blog post or an article.
I would assume that the ratio of blog/article content to non blog/article content is actually quite high. Just because you don’t consider yourself a “blog reader” does not mean that you don’t read blog content.
For lots of queries, particularly longer tail queries, blog and article content will be up there near the top of the Search Engines Results Page (SERP). We’ll come back to longer tail queries later.
A Note on Information Architecture
Information Architecture (IA) is the process of creating a logical structure for a website. Without a logical IA, users get lost when navigating your site, get frustrated and give up. At it’s core, IA planning is about organising core site content into hierarchies to make using the website more effective.
User Experience (UX) designers then build the site’s navigation system based on this IA. So UX designers rely on Information Architecture to improve the user experience and make sure the site is navigable.
Organising Your Core Site Content
Your core site content should fit into a logically structured Information Architecture consisting of “clusters” of related content – this is optimal for UX and also for SEO. From a UX perspective, users expect related content to be available as quickly and easily as possible. From an SEO perspective, the closer one page is to another in terms of depth of links, the more SEO value it shares and the easier it is for Search Engines to understand the context of each piece of content (through association).
When I refer to “Core Site Content”, I’m referring to content directly related to your business and your products / services / offering. So this includes home page, about page, contact page, product/service category pages, product/service pages, etc.
Golden Rule – One Page Per Topic
Another SEO rule to keep in mind when mapping out the Information Architecture of your site is that each page on your site should be dedicated to one single topic for which you want to rank.
Core Content, Information Architecture and SEO
So when it comes to SEO, your core content should fit logically into an Information Architecture that utilizes content clusters to group related content together. When it comes to SEO, this core content provide you with unique pages to rank for a range of query types on Google or other search engines
- Branded searches – your home page will generally be optimised towards branded searches for your companies brand name
- One (or sometimes 2) big picture topic related to your key business offering – e.g. in my case “Google Analytics Consultant” – your About page (and sometimes also Home) will be optimised towards searches for your key business offering
- Generic searches for categories of products / services that you offer – through your product / service category pages (e.g. SEO Services, Google Analytics Services in my case)
- Specific searches for particular products that you offer – through your product / services pages (e.g. SEO Audits, Google Analytics Implementation in my case)
The (SEO) Problem With Core Content
So that’s great, right? Those 4 categories of content listed above cover pretty much anything anyone will ever be searching for in relation that you can provide as a business? Well, there are a few problems with thinking like this…
- Brand searches, unless you are a massive, well established brand will more than likely be really low volume
- If you are in a competitive market with a lot of established competitors it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to rank for big picture topical terms like either your core service offering or even product / service category searches (think “Buy mens football boots” for example). Even if your content is perfectly optimised, it’s likely that your bigger, more established competitors will have a much better inbound link profile, and therefore much higher authority from Google’s perspective – and so they will rank above you.
- The same applies to product / services searches in a competitive market (think “buy mens adidas predators”). Again in a competitive market with well established players it will be extremely difficult to rank.
So you’ve built your website, it looks the part, you’ve got really professional, really comprehensive content on all your key services and maybe it’s even been “optimised” by an on-page SEO expert (maybe even a Guru or a Ninja perhaps?) so now you sit, back and wait for the traffic to roll in….
The problem is, more often than not, all your competitors have probably got pretty much that exact same IA and content combination. The only difference is that they are more established than you and have built up Google’s trust over the years, not to mention the brand recognition they have built up too.
So How Do You Compete?
So what do you do? Well if you have deep pockets, you could just abandon SEO altogether and pay for your traffic through Facebook ads, Instagram ads, Paid partnerships, Google Paid Search ads, offline tactics, etc. However, particularly if you are a startup or SME, not only is that implausible due to your budget constraints, it’s also very one dimensional in that it has little to no direct long term affect on future traffic. Once you stop spending, the traffic disappears.
Long Tail Content
A more long term focused approach would be to create more “longer tail” content.
In SEO, we distinguish between head keywords and long-tail keywords. A long-tail keyword is more specific than a head keyword, and most of the time – but not necessarily – it consists of more words. The head keyword is a general term lots of people write about. A long-tail keyword is a more specific topic or a subtopic of the head term. Usually, fewer people create content about this topic.YOAST
Long tail queries have a number of characteristics in common including:
- They generally cannot be answered by a standard product / service page or product / service category page
- In order to rank for them, you require dedicated content specific to the query
- They tend to be much lower volume than short tail queries like product / services.
But just because they are low volume, does not mean the user who is carrying out the search is not relevant to you – in fact usually it is quite the opposite case. If a user is searching for a really specific query related to your offering, chances are they are likely to require your product or service in the near future.
So your core content provides information on your core products / services and other content that, generally speaking, all your competitors have as well.
Particularly if you are managing a small business website, you will need to try to attract traffic with longer tail content that your competitors may not be focusing on. As for what terms to focus on, that’s worthy of it’s own blog post, but fundamentally it comes down to keyword research. Ahrefs have a great article on Long Tail keyword research and MOZ have recently come out with an updated guide on keyword research more generally. You should read those as I haven’t got around to writing about my process yet.
Isn’t This Post Supposed to be About Blogs?
Correct – bear with me, I’m (finally) getting to my point…
So you’ve covered your long tail keyword research and have got loads of great new content ideas ready to go. You log into your website CMS to start writing it, but where does it go?
SEO is always a balancing act – you need to balance your requirement for lots of great content with your website’s UX. You don’t want to have loads of long tail content pages stuffed into your product category sections and it certainly doesn’t fit in your About or Contact sections. It’s terrible practice to have loads of pages at root level that are “orphaned” from the site navigation, but at the same time you don’t want your main navigation (e.g. your top level menu) to be packed with unorganized content.
So… you create a blog!
This, from an SEO perspective, is what a blog is for! It is one of a number of ways (usually the best one in my opinion) to provide a home for long tail content that is critical to attracting relevant traffic and links without disrupting your core IA and UX. A blog section can be further broken down into categories resulting in a kind of IA within an IA but remaining user friendly and intuitive along with allowing you to maintain content clusters which help search engines to contextualize related content.
Blog “Followers” Are Not My Priority
So ultimately, as an SEO, I don’t really care if you bookmark my clients blog and come back to it of your own volition every day because you simply can’t go without their amazing content on a daily basis. I mean, that would be brilliant and brings it’s own benefits which will no doubt improve our SEO efforts indirectly. But from an SEO perspective it is not the reason that I recommended a blog to you in the first place.
You should have a blog in order to provide a logical home for your long tail content, which is key to attracting relevant traffic, particularly if you are a smaller player in a competitive market full of established competitors.
That is why blogs ARE important for SEO.
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