Monday, 29 January 2018

#18 Is blogging still relevant?

Spare a quick moment to think about every word that has ever been written on the internet. The internet has been going for how long now? Just twenty-six years. It's really not that long in the grand history of human civilisation. Yet ever since Tim Berners-Lee created the world's first shared hypertext database on the 6th August 1991, people have been adding and sharing words and links on the World Wide Web ever since. So for a writer who is responsible for two blogs on the internet, where do all the words and pictures go once the hits subside and people stop reading your blog post from 2011?

The answer is; they don't really go anywhere. Articles no longer accessed on a frequent level are simply compressed to take up less room on the giant servers that host them. Blogger users especially, are at the mercy of Google, whose giant search engines compress and then re-compress old files in much the same way as Aunty May shoves all the stuff she doesn't need to the back of her closet. Google keeps itself relevant to internet users by showing the most recent results for news, sports and weather. Google the weather and you'll get today's top temperature and tomorrow's expected forecast, not a random Thursday report from 2008. Its a prime example of why the blog post you wrote about the Sydney Olympics back in 2000 isn't receiving all that many hits this week.

Recently however, Google changed their search algorithms for the second time in 12 months. And like me, you may have experienced a noticeable drop-off in the number of visitors to your blog or website. In many instances, the top search results now being returned feature paid advertisements. There's nothing much the average blogger can do about this. After all, Google does provide us with a free platform to blog about our interests. However, after limiting the number of keywords that Bloggers can use to make their posts searchable, it seems less and less blogs are turning up on the first page of Google's search results, no matter how recently they were written. It's led me to ask the question is blogging still relevant?

I really don't have the answer to that question yet. From my perspective, since June 2017 I've watched the number of visitors to my model train blog at crash from a regular 500 to 600 visitors per day, to just 30 to 50 visitors a day. This blog has fared even worse, falling from 50 to 80 visitors per day to sometimes just 15.

"As a writer, those are alarming figures when you consider that is a huge drop in the number of potential customers that are able to view my books."

To be perfectly honest, we all should have seen this coming. Nothing on the internet is permanent, not even Tim Brenners-Lee's original alt.hypertextnewsgroup that was the world's very first version of the internet. Type it in and you'll only find an Internal Server 500 Error page. If that's what the wide wide world of web thought of such a historical document, then this post will not fare any better in about a month's time.

"Blogging, just like the internet, is fluid media, meaning its like trying to hold water in your hands."

Fast forward to 2018, and we have Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, GooglePlus, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit and a host of other media platforms that have all jumped miles ahead of blogging. Blogging means reading, and reading takes time. More and more, consumers just want to get the general gist of what's going on in the world or with their friends, and to get that you just download an app. What you blog about today is soon forgotten, and what you've blogged about in the past is becoming increasingly harder to find.

"Blogging in the future will attract less views than in the past, simply because as a media sharing platform it continues to be diluted by so many other apps."

Looking forward, perhaps a blog's audience in the future will be better measured by having a more loyal and close-knit following compared to a simple spike in viewer numbers after each new posting. So what does that mean for lone bloggers such as I? Well, it is possible to better prepare your blog to still remain relevant to search engines such as I outlined in my Big Blog Refresh post over on Philden Model Railway, but to be honest...

"I baulked at paying for an expert SEO report that guaranteed a top 10 search engine result because... well, at the end of the day it's just a blog."

At the end of the day, no matter how obscure the content of your blog is, there is bound to be someone looking for that particular information. Keeping you blog current by removing any outdated, or no longer relevant information makes it easier for readers to circumnavigate your page. Dead-links and missing pictures or graphics spoil a visitors experience and will do nothing to entice them back. If you have a presence of Facebook or Twitter, share the links or badges on your blog. The worst it will do is attract more viewers to your Facebook page.

Most of all, consider what it is you are trying to achieve with your blog. Is it your blog that is no longer relevant? Or is it your message? I've come across plenty of blog sites for model railway shows, clubs or even other authors where the information on their blog is years out-of-date and the emails only bounce back from the server as undelivered. It would've been better if their blog site was simply deleted instead of wasting my time. In that sense, it seems the only way to keep blogging relevant, is for bloggers to keep their blogs relevant. Otherwise our blogs will all be compressed and compressed again, to the point where one day there'll be no proof that it even existed on the internet.

1 comment:

Rob Nesbitt said...

I know how you feel at the moment Phil. After finishing my Tumbarumba turntable, with unique features such as a hard drive bearing, and magnetic alignment (these are world firsts - never been done, or even described before), all I got was 31 visitors in 2 weeks, and no-one even left a message. And as for the internet being 26 or 27 years old, I was telneting to USA computer campuses via satellite in 1979 - may have only been text based, but we have come a long way in a short time.