What is a Blog?

I've been thinking a lot lately about the name of this site (How To Start a Blog), and wondering if the term “Blog” is still relevant. I wonder if might want to change the name to something more generic.

What is a blog?Back in the mid 2000's, WordPress was really starting to gain popularity, and “Blogging” was all the rage. Any time people ever talked about blogging, they described it like some sort of secret weapon or magic bullet for online marketing. If you wanted to do well in Google, you only needed to add a blog to your website.

After continuously hearing about this miracle of modern marketing that was blogging, I finally started my first blog in 2005. I used the WordPress platform to add a blog to my site, SEOLogs.com.

At the time, I was creating lots of websites, and had gotten really interested in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEOLogs started out as a collection of SEO tools, and the new blog was a place where I could post things I learned along the way.

Unlike modern day blogging / content marketing, where 500 words just isn't cutting it anymore, blogging was something that came effortlessly. There was no pressure.

I started just posting tips, news, or really whatever. It didn't matter how big or small the topic was. I never even considered word counts, and I'm sure some of my posts were just a few sentences long. Yet, most posts did really well in Google and the blog grew a healthy following.

This was a time when people were “Blogging” in the way blogs were initially meant to be used. Comment spam wasn't really on anyone's radar, and the vast majority of trackbacks were actually legitimate comments notifying you of someone linking to your blog post. Comment moderation wasn't really necessary, and most posts had a really healthy conversation in the comment section.

Blogs weren't just a place to broadcast content. They did serve that function, but the really special thing about them was that as a whole, they were like a huge distributed social network.

Bloggers typically had a pretty close group of other bloggers that they networked with. You could usually find a blogger's closest friends listed in their Blogroll. For those who have never heard of a blogroll, it was a list of links to other blogs.

Ahhh. Blogrolls, trackbacks, no comment spam … Those were the good old days.

So Is Blogging Dead?
I asked this question of several great folks overon Anchor.fm, and the responses were all really interesting.

There were about 30 comments in this Anchor thread. Here were some of the takeaways:

  • Blogging definitely isn't dead, but it has changed.

    If there was one thing that I could point to that initiated a change to what blogging is today, it would be Google. Specifically their being so public about the fact that their algorithm was primarily based on links and Pagerank. ( More links to a site => Higher ranking )

    Once spammers and black hats learned that all they needed to do to get their spam to show up high in Google's results, was to point more links to them, they immediately started looking for the low hanging fruit. Places where they could easily drop their spam links. Unfortunately, the low hanging fruit ended up being places like forums and blogs. The same features that made allowed blogs to be thriving communities, made them easy targets for spammers.

    Comment sections after each post on a blog were seen as a place to get easy links (or backlinks) to to other sites. It started with people just commenting so that they could leave a link back to their own website, but eventually, lots of tools for automating the process of posting fake comments and links became available. It didn't take long for things to go from bad to horrible.

    Many people (including myself) just ended up blocking all comments and trackbacks. Eventually you either ended up with a huge backlog of spam comments to moderate/ delete, or you just had to turn off commenting altogether.

    Fortunately, WordPress made the decision early on to allow plugin development, and I'd argue that this is the reason why the platform is still thriving today. Plugins allowed users to solve many problems, including comment spam and attacks from hackers.

    So today, thanks to plugins, you can again have a comment section that is relatively spam free. Unfortunately, I don't think blog comment sections will ever see the level of participation that there was in the mid 2000's again.

    Most of the interaction and networking aspects of blogging has moved to the big social media networks like Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just different.

  • “Blogging” might not be the best term for it anymore.

    This was the main question I had when I asked “Is Blogging Dead?”. A few of the folks in the anchor thread above felt strongly that the term “Blogging” isn't going anywhere. It's something that is ingrained in our culture.

    We still call WordPress “Blogging” software, even though it is so much more than that. Thanks to the thriving Plugin ecosystem, WordPress has the ability to do just about anything. Plugins are relatively easy to develop, and can transform a simple blog into something as complex as a Craigslist clone or a full blown eCommerce store.

  • Blogging isn't just WordPress anymore

    Back in 2005, there were just a handful of blogging platforms. Google's Blogger.com and WordPress were the 2 main choices.

    One of the newer platforms that was discussed in the Anchor thread above is Atavist. Atavist is a relatively new blogging platform. I created a page myself to try it out, and it was very impressive. The focus seems to be on making it easy to create pages that are really rich in multimedia. Everything is drag and drop, and it was really fun to use.

    Trying Atavist made me realize that even though WordPress is really easy to use, it isn't the most user-friendly platform around.

    Still, I don't think WordPress is going anywhere anytime soon, but platforms like Atavist, Wix, and SquareSpace can be better options for those who don't need (and/or don't want to learn) all of the features that WordPress has to offer.

So it seems that we are stuck with blogs (including the name “blog”) for the foreseeable future and I suppose HowToStartaBlog.org will keep it's name ;)

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. As you can see comments aren't open on this post, but if you want to share your thoughts or opinions, Click Here to Join in the Conversation on Anchor.fm. I'd really love to connect and hear from you!

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