The evolution of the blog
Blogs have been around pretty much as long as website have. They’ve been used as a tool for spreading information – whether it’s a personal point of view or where businesses disseminate their expertise and insights.
Yet in recent years, the blog has changed beyond recognition – both for the worse and, more recently, for the better. At its worst, the blog simply became a dumping ground for everything from press releases to event notifications. But, now, Google has started to push content creators away from churning out listicles and make them think more carefully about the type of information they want to share.
This article will look at:
- How blogs have evolved over the years
- The importance of blogs in a professional context and their role in providing informative content on websites
- The significance of blogs in shaping how people view businesses
Understanding blogs: a short history
Where did it all begin? Well, it began back in the 1990s – yes, we had computers back then. In 1994, a student called Justin Hall created a place on the burgeoning internet to store his personal writings.
But it wasn’t until 1997 that these logs of personal thoughts on the web – or weblogs – were named. And shortly after, it was shortened to simply blogs.
Over the years, various blogging platforms came and went. As is the case with many cool things, businesses started to adopt them for their own gains. Gizmondo was one of the first companies to monetize the blog, using adverts as their source of income.
As more companies adopted them, they began to serve as the personal voice of brands, allowing them to connect with audiences and exhibit their unique tone of voice.
Blogs provided a space to share engaging and informative content that did not fit into product descriptions or service pages.
Blogs became hubs for instructional guides, tips, and listicles that captivated readers’ attention and facilitated knowledge sharing.
Over time, the essence of such blogs diminished. Instead of focusing on their key industry topics and addressing crucial questions or audience pain points, many corporate blogs simply became dumping grounds for irrelevant internal announcements, financial updates and product launches.
This diluted approach meant the internet became awash for low-value informational content that didn’t answer questions, didn’t talk directly to consumers, didn’t provide any thought leadership – they were just there, getting an occasional click but adding no value to either the company that ran them or their customers.
Google’s Helpful Content and the E-E-A-T Update
Fortunately, consumers weren’t the only ones realising blogs had little value anymore. Google was also starting to note that companies were creating blogs for search engines, not people.
And so, it started to programme its algorithm to look for original, natural, helpful and relevant content. This materialised itself in three ways:
- BERT – Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers are used to spot natural language usage on the internet. It can use the surrounding copy to consider things like context and tone. The aim is to make web content more natural by surfacing results that are written naturally (and not written solely for SEO)
- E-E-A-T – Experience, Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness are the cornerstones of Google new way to judge websites. And they massively affect informational content. Instead of having writers with no subject specialism creating content solely to rank, Google wants content that is backed by experts or people who have firsthand experience of the topic.
- The Helpful Content Update – This algorithm update aimed to focus on content that was helpful, high quality and highly relevant. They want content ‘written by people, for people.’ It should be unique and provide value.
Today, if you want your blog to be read by your audience, then you need to address the above. The most important take away is that any informational content should have a reason to exist that goes beyond simply ranking.
Where should your informational content sit?
On the blog, right? Well, websites have come a long way from having a single location for informational content. As part of your content marketing strategy and to help improve your website structure for SEO, you need to consider different ways of hosting informational content. This will also boost the user experience, making content appear naturally instead of having to dig it out using on page search functions.
With that in mind, here are some alternative areas on your website that can host informational content:
- Knowledge hubs: If part of your business is to provide industry insights, training or highly technical, it’s worth creating a comprehensive knowledge hubs. Here you can bring together how to guides, expert views and advice on specific topics. These hubs allow for in-depth exploration, leaving the blog area for more general company news and updates.
- On product or category pages: Move relevant instructional guides from your blog to specific product or service pages. This approach aligns with the user journey, providing the necessary information directly to potential customers.
- News pages: Reserve the blog section exclusively for informational content, separating them from financial announcements and company news. This ensures the impact of your blog remains undiluted and maintains a consistent focus on providing valuable insights.
- Niche pages: For subsets of your business that cater to specific audiences or address niche products, consider creating dedicated landing pages. These informational landing pages can function as knowledge hubs, focusing on a single area while providing targeted and specialized content.
- Video and audio channels: Not all informative content needs to be in written form. Utilize video explainers, podcasts, or behind-the-scenes guides by hosting them on onsite or on platforms like YouTube or Spotify.
- Expanded FAQs: Break down your informational content into bite-sized pieces and answer key questions through an expanded FAQ section. Opt for a catch-all FAQ page or develop individual ones for specific products, providing easily accessible information to your audience.
Crafting effective blogs: a checklist for success
To create impactful blogs that align with both Google’s expectations and user needs, we have developed a comprehensive checklist:
- Focus on your audience: Who is your blog aimed at? Current customers, industry peers, new audiences, staff at other offices? Once you know who it’s for, you can then start to identify the questions they want answering and their pain points. It’s also worth considering where your audience is in their user journey and how your blog can guide them towards the next stage.
- Make them engaging: Blogs are to be read – so when writing blogs make them exciting, interesting, engaging to read. Use creativity, bend the tone of voice, add real life anecdotes or relevant examples. Keep them human and encourage interaction and discussion through comments and social media engagement.
- Develop a content strategy: A content marketing strategy is key to planning your blog content. Conduct keyword research to identify topics that resonate with your target audience and speak to your sales team, frontline workers, anyone who can give real life examples of what the audience is asking.
- Get them ready for the web: Blogs are an online tool, yet many people still write them like their working for a glossy magazine or local paper. Optimize blogs for search, structure your blog posts effectively using subheadings and summaries, and add bullet points for enhanced readability.
- Plan and plan some more: Don’t take an ad-hoc approach to blogging. Develop a content plan to target key topics and assign ownership for each piece. This allows you to plan additional assets, such as graphics, imagery or videos, to enrich the overall user experience.
- Be consistent: People should know who’s blog it is – so maintain consistency in formatting, tone of voice, and structure. While individual blogs may have unique structures, ensure the inclusion of essential elements like an introduction, optimized headers, and a summary to provide a cohesive reading experience.
As the world undergoes transformations and individuals rethink their approaches, it is crucial to evaluate website and content strategies to fully utilize the potential of blogs.
By refocusing on the original purpose of blogs and aligning them with user needs, businesses can revive the impact of this valuable platform.
Remember, a well-optimized blog, supported by informative content, can establish your brand as an authoritative source and satisfy users’ search intent. Embrace this opportunity to enhance your website’s value and provide your loyal audience with the content they truly need and deserve.
Speak to our content marketing team to discuss your company blog.
[This blog’s structure was partly created with the help of ChatGPT. It has been highly edited and re-written by our head content strategist Jonathan JE Brown.]