January is an exciting time for many businesses. With a new year brings new visions, new ideas and new goals. Some business owners feel a renewed sense of purpose, excitement and ambition for the opportunities the upcoming months may bring.
As you begin solidifying plans for your online marketing strategy for the year 2016, you’ll want to use the most up-to-date practices. In this article, we’ll cover modern blogging trends and how they’ve developed the standard that’s expected by online users today.
Do I Even Need to Blog? (This Brief History Will Tell You Why)
If you consider blogging to be a frivolous form of advertising or a not-so-serious literary genre, then you’re not alone. Blogging has an old reputation its spent the last decade trying to shed. This has to do with what early blogs were – online diaries where people expressed their thoughts, feelings, and day-to-day activities.
But blogs have come a long way since the first one was posted in 1994, and since they gained mainstream popularity in the early 2000s. After the September 11th attacks, political candidates began using them to express their opinions on important issues. Journalists began using them to report on events. After the housing market crash in 2007 that led to what’s now considered the Great Recession, companies that were experiencing hardship began to see the blog’s usefulness in gaining more website viewers.
Today blogging plays an important role in online marketing for businesses of all sizes and across all industries. Millions of blog posts are being published everyday. This is a trend that continues to grow with every year and isn’t expected to go away any time soon.
Welcome, Small Businesses
Up until fairly recently, most companies that had blogs were major corporations that had the budget to spend on hiring a blogger, or a team of bloggers, who could pen their posts. Many small to medium-sized businesses either didn’t understand the importance of blogging, didn’t think their blogs could make a difference, or didn’t have the time or resources to regularly devote to such a project.
This is no longer the case. As more tools have become available to simplify the blogging process, and as blogs have become less of a choice and more of a necessity for business growth, more small businesses are getting on board, even if it’s just to keep up with their competition. Today more small businesses have blogs than ever before. These numbers are expected to increase throughout the year.
Content Isn’t King (Quality Content is King)
When businesses began to realize that blog articles could increase their website’s page views, they started pumping out content. Lots of content. Content that wasn’t very good. Posts were just a few hundred words long, hastily thrown together with the goal of hitting the right number of keywords as opposed to actually informing, educating or entertaining their readers or website viewers. This worked for a while, but then search engines began to get smarter, learning how to weed out weak content. Consumers began to get smarter too, demanding a higher standard for content. As more businesses began to produce articles, people were given the choice of where they got their information, and the companies with actual information to give, won the battle.
This forced companies to slow down. Instead of producing dozens of meh articles each week, they started producing a couple of really good articles each week. These articles had value. They had usefulness. They gave consumers the information they needed and the company the reputation they earned. They did more than acquire page views. The turned viewers into customers. These types of blog articles worked, and they continue to work today.
Blog articles are more important to our culture now more than ever before. Consider the following situations:
We research the answers to our questions all the time, often finding what we’re looking for in blog articles. It’s not uncommon these days for professional bloggers to spend three, four, five or more hours creating a single post that thoroughly explores one single idea.
Word Count Matters
Because companies are spending more time developing well-written, well-researched articles, it’s no surprise that blog posts are becoming longer. Gone are the 200 and 300 word articles that were popular in 2010, 2011 and 2012. These mini blogs weren’t long enough to do any topic justice. Replacing them are detailed reviews, debates and theses. The average blog article today is 900 words, up 100 words from last year. Today it’s not uncommon to find blog posts that are 2,000 words or more, and these blog posts are being read top to bottom.
Sticking to the Schedule
In addition to higher quality and lengthier content, businesses in general have gotten a little better at posting consistently. There are millions of abandoned blogs clogging up the internet, but in the past few years, this is occurring less frequently, at least on behalf of small businesses. Companies are recognizing that not blogging is not an option. They’re making more of an effort to set up a realistic blogging schedule and then using tools to publish their posts on time.
It’s no longer important for articles to keep coming out at the exact same day at the exact same time. The fact is people aren’t going to make room in their schedule to sit down and read the latest blog post the same way they’d sit down to watch their favorite television show – the article will still be there in the morning. What’s more important is that you’re releasing articles on a regular basis without big gaps in between posts.
Images, Videos, Graphs & More
Images with articles is a rule that professional bloggers and marketing members know by heart. Studies have shown over and over again that adding an illustration, photo or other graphic to an article is more likely to increase its user engagement. But today’s most popular posts have more than a single image.
As digital screens are being made with higher resolutions and as implementing images into articles is becoming easier with smartphone applications, blog posts are including more than just a stock photo. Now they have lots of different images, screen shots, audio clips, videos, demos, charts, graphs and textboxes to make each post something more like a multi-media presentation that increases understanding and appeals to different types of learners. This trend is expected to continue throughout 2016.
Conversations Are Happening (But Not Here)
There was a point in time where the comments section of a blog was just as important, if not more so, than the article itself. This is where an audience of readers were free to agree, disagree, or add to the material that was presented. It’s where other businesses in the industry chimed in a thought or two in the hopes of someone in the online community noticing their website so they could gain new audience members of their own. It’s where the original poster could personally connect with readers and take the time to address more specific questions or concerns. While these types of conversations, discussions and debates are still happening between bloggers and their audiences, the comments section is no longer the favorite venue.
Because blogs and social media work so well hand-in-hand, readers are taking their thoughts and opinions on articles to these platforms instead. When small businesses share their articles on Facebook and Twitter, people aren’t responding in the comments section – they’re responding on Facebook and Twitter. If you decided to disable the comments option on your blog in 2016, you could probably do so with little consequence, and you wouldn’t be alone.
Go Mobile or Go Home
Making your blog mobile-friendly isn’t anything new. For years, internet users have been drifting away from computers and onto tablets and phones. In 2015, the split was nearly 50/50 with mobile users slightly leading the way at around 52%. This year, the gap between the two is expected to widen – so much that Google ranks mobile-friendly sites above its non-mobile-friendly counterparts. A mobile-friendly blog isn’t just convenient for users, it’s a necessity if small businesses want to compete in 2016.