From 2006-2011, I did a weekly ‘Top 25’ list of the best marketing blogs on my first blog The Viral Garden. Yesterday, I was doing some maintenance on The Viral Garden, and I found a Top 25 list I did back in December of 2007.
Ten years ago! When I saw the list, I was immediately curious to see how many of the blogs were still around and active, ten years later. Most of them had either ‘died’ years ago, or had moved to a new URL, a couple had apparently let the hosting for the domain lapse and someone else had taken it over. BTW, props to Valeria, her blog Conversation Agent is still going strong, looks to be even more prolific today than it was 10 years ago!
I spent probably two hours clicking the links and reading the blogs, several of which I hadn’t visited in years. It was a very interesting digital trip down memory lane. Putting my Content Strategist hat on, I immediately noticed several differences in the content being created on these blogs 10 years ago versus today:
- Shorter posts. There weren’t a lot of 1,500-word posts floating around in 2007. In fact most where a few hundred words, if that. Short, and to the point.
- There were few ‘How-To’ posts. There was little, if any teaching and instructive content. I have a theory on why this is the case, and I’ll get to it in a minute.
- No ‘Listicle’ posts. You know, “Ten Steps to Building a Better Blog” or “Five Ways to Improve Your Digital Presence Today!”
But what really struck me about the content being created on these blogs 10 years ago was the tone. Most of these blogs were written as if the blogger was talking to no more than 30 people. Because they probably weren’t! I think back to my own experiences blogging around this time, and there were many days when I wouldn’t crack 100 visitors. But the flipside was, I knew most of the people who visited my blog, because they were commenting on my blog!
And when you are writing for people that you know, and people who know you, you write differently. Remember I said that most bloggers in 2007 didn’t write ‘How-To’ or ‘Listicle’ type posts. Instead, they mostly wrote ‘Here’s what happened to me today’ type posts, with a business slant or moral behind the post. But when you write in that way, it’s much more ‘folksy’, and it makes you much more relateable.
One of the constant complaints I hear from bloggers in #Blogchat, from clients who blog, is “No one ever comments on my blog anymore!” We know why some of this happens; Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social sites are fragmenting conversations. Most bloggers and their readers weren’t using these sites in 2007, so as a result, social conversations were still mostly happening on blogs. Over the years, as these sites grew, we started to spend more time off our blogs, which meant our social interactions followed us.
Sidenote: Back in those days I had a ‘trick’ I would use to get more blogging readers. A decade ago, Technorati would list all the blogs (or it tried to) by their number of links. And you could sort them so that the list would be ascending or descending. I would sort the list of blogs so that it was ascending, meaning that it showed me the blogs that had few or no links, first. My thinking was that the blogs with few or no links were probably brand new bloggers, so I wanted to check them out and comment as often as I could, to help them get going and also to get on their radars so they would start reading and commenting on my blog! One day, I found a particular business blog with few or no links, and I clicked over and started reading the blog. It had about 5 or 6 posts, the first five were strictly business focused, on a particular topic, all written in a very textbooky tone. None of them them got any comments. Then the ‘newest’ post was simply the blogger asking “Why in the world isn’t anyone commenting?!? I keep writing posts, putting a lot of effort into them and no one comments!” That was the last post on that blog, the post was about 3-4 months old by the time I saw it, and I remember thinking “I just saw this blog die”. That’s always stuck with me, for whatever reason.
But looking back at these ‘old’ blogs from 2007 and such, I’m reminded of the role that the tone of our blog posts plays in driving engagement. Or, how the tone used can stifle engagement. Remember I said that I saw few ‘How-To’ or ‘Listicle’ posts on these blogs from 2007 years ago. Now, these are all the rage on blogs, but think about why that is. These types of posts are written to EXPAND your audience. They are written to help more people, many of which you don’t know. So you write in a tone that’s more formulaic and impersonal. This makes your message more accessible to a larger audience, but it also makes your message less engaging, in a way.
I want to illustrate how this applies to one of my favorite blogs from 10 years ago, Kathy Sierra’s Creating Passionate Users. Kathy’s blog was always brain candy to me, but even though she had a massive audience, her blog always felt welcoming and engaging in a way that I never really understood. As I was reading these old blog posts from 2007, I noticed that one of the blogs had Creating Passionate Users on their blogroll (remember those?), so I clicked over and started reading Kathy’s blog. I was immediately struck by the tone! She wrote in a way that made it seem like she knew all her readers and was just chatting with us at a bookstore and having a casual conversation just with us. It made her content much more interesting, and engaging, even if I didn’t realize why at the time.
So if you want to write to expand your audience and to establish your expertise, the ‘How-To’ posts and really any content that teaches a skill is a good idea.
But if you want to increase engagement, if you want to get more comments and interaction, do like we used to do in the ‘old days’ of blogging; Write like you only have 30 readers, and you know who each of them are.
Try it! It really does change the way you write, doesn’t it?