Remember when blogging was just something teenagers did? When the same internet early-adopters who brought us forums and personal profile pages started sharing long-form musings, reviews, opinions, stories, and all sorts of other essays as early as 1994, there was no way to tell how integral the practice of weblogging (shortened pretty quickly to “blogging”) would become.
Services like LiveJournal and Blogger made it so you didn’t have to be a web designer to have your own blog, and were soon pushed out by newer platforms like WordPress, Tumblr, and Medium. Meanwhile, news blogs became known for their ability to break stories faster than older forms of media and grew into massively complex operations like The Huffington Post. While newspapers that started in print were bemused at first, many of them soon established blogs of their own.
We’re long past the days when bloggers were a weird subculture. Nowadays, we live in a universe of potential bloggers, and every business is eyeing blogging as a way to build buzz. Sometimes, the blog itself is the business.
But you’d be right to wonder: on an internet so saturated with blogs, is it really worth it to start another one?
Today, we’d like to explore that question. Whether you’re thinking of starting a blog for your business or just planning to jot some personal thoughts, this article is for you.
Why Even Start a Blog?
Before we get into the pros and cons of blogging, let’s examine some of the reasons people are still bringing blogs into a world that seems to have more than enough.
- To share things with the public. This was the original impetus behind blogging: people had things they wanted to say beyond their IRL circle of friends and family. Decades later, this is still an excellent reason to start up a personal blog. Sure, you could say things on a social media page, but Facebook posts only reach your friends, Twitter doesn’t give you nearly enough space, and Reddit has a haphazard archive that can make old posts impossible to find. A personal blog remains the best way to spin thoughts about your life, your favorite books, or your fantasy football disasters, to whoever might be listening.
- To promote something. Blogging is now so important to business that many customer relationship management platforms include built-in blog themes. Regular updates about products, services, deals, and company philosophies can make a business much more relatable and interesting, especially if they’re visually appealing.
- To help people. Many blogs provide services that are highly in demand, from movie reviews to product watchdogs who save you from buying fakes, to mental health blogs that get you through a bad day. Blogs are a great way to democratize information and get it to people right when they need it.
- To break the news. News blogs run the gamut from left to right and from shallow to in-depth. Whether the huge availability of online news is a good thing is still up for debate, but nobody can deny it’s now much easier to be informed. While it might seem difficult to start up a new blog that can compete with the likes of Vox, don’t despair–there’s always an angle somebody isn’t yet covering.
- As the product. Also common is a blog that is popular enough with its target audience that it can fund itself without being attached to a business–either through merchandise sales, paid extra content, or Patreon.
Hopefully, if you’re planning on starting a blog, you have a strong idea which of these categories you fall into — and remember, it can always be more than one!
The Pros of Blogging
What are the best things about starting a blog in 2020?
1. Easier Than Ever
When blogs first appeared, you had three choices — start an ugly blog on LiveJournal, start an ugly blog on Blogger, or learn enough code to build your own website. Those days are thankfully long gone.
Services like WordPress.org and Medium allow every one of your posts to come out looking crisp, professional, and on-theme, while web page builders like Wix and Weebly make it unbelievably simple to build a great-looking blog on your own domain. Blogs can now be build from scratch with just a few clicks, allowing you to spend more time crafting great content.
2. Low Startup Costs
Lots of people think that to start a great blog, you have to drop a huge sum of money. Not true. Yes, there are plenty of chances to spend money on your blog as it grows: social media ads, marketing automation tools, and other investments can help establish you and boost traffic.
But to make your first few posts, all you need is a platform, a keyboard, and something to say. Starting is free, and spending money upfront isn’t necessarily a good idea. After all, you can’t buy a loyal following. Only good content can do that.
3. Drives Traffic To Your Website
Web surfers might not necessarily want to visit your website on its own merits, awesome as it might be. If you’re advertising plumbing services, for example, there’s not much to set you apart from all the other plumbers in your area.
But if you write a funny weekly blog about disgusting things you’ve found in people’s bathrooms, for example, you’ve not only given people a reason to visit your site before they need a pipe unclogged, but also skyrocketed the likelihood that you’ll show up earlier in searches.
Blogs can be both the SEO that gets people in the door, and the sales touch that gets them to stay. On top of that, if you build a sales funnel, you can push potential customers through a series of steps that is more likely to result in a sale or sign-up. You can do this with tools such as ClickFunnels.
4. Builds a Community
One of the most exciting aspects of blogging is attracting loyal followers. Getting a real conversation going is more interesting than just one person talking, and there’s no thrill like discovering your work has truly spoken to someone.
Not only are these the people you’re doing all the work for, but they’re also the best marketing you’ll never be able to buy — positive word of mouth is priceless.
5. Showcases Your Work
Hoping to build a career writing on the internet, but haven’t yet gotten any bylines? Blogging could be the answer to your prayers. A well-edited, well-formatted post, even if it’s not on your own domain, can show potential employers and clients that you know how to write.
One caveat: if you’re going to use your blog as your portfolio, you have to pay twice as much attention to format, punctuation, grammar, and syntax. Imagine each post is a cover letter, but don’t forget to have fun!
6. Easy to Monetize
There are a whole plethora of ways to make money from a blog once you’ve gotten one established. As we mentioned above, blogs can make money via subscriptions or Patreon donations, but can also be great tools for driving traffic to your online store — or your brick-and-mortar business.
But the buck doesn’t stop there. Selling ad space, promoting sponsored content, and earning commissions through affiliate links are all excellent ways you can turn your blog into a money-maker.
7. It’s Fun
As much work as blogging takes to make everything go right, getting your content on the page can be a great time in its own right. Imagine coming back from your dream vacation and crafting the perfect post, complete with photos and videos, that makes all your friends and followers feel like they were there too.
Or rhapsodizing about your favorite indie video game that nobody’s ever heard of, and seeing your followers rush to buy it on Steam. A blog doesn’t have to be just a tool — it can be a hobby as well!
The Cons of Blogging
What are the challenges that come with starting a blog?
1. A Crowded Market
According to GrowthBadger.com, there are over 600 million blogs currently online, or just under one for every ten humans on the planet. That’s the very definition of market saturation, and it’s only going to get worse.
It’s a sad truth that the best time to start a blog was yesterday, and everybody who writes one has to compete with the same overcrowded field. The good news is that it’s still absolutely possible for a well-written blog to find an audience — but you can’t rely on content alone.
2. Demands Consistency
Experts tend to agree: the only way to build an audience is to update consistently. Imagine two blogs on the same subject, written by equally qualified experts — but one updates like clockwork every Monday and Thursday, while the other puts out posts whenever the author feels like it.
Which one will you make a part of your routine, and which will you forget about? Building a community of readers requires you to take the task of blogging very seriously. It’s cheap, but it’s not easy.
3. Do Everything Yourself
It’s not just keeping to a schedule. When you’re starting out as a blogger, being the only one in charge of a web project can be exciting and freeing — but unless your blog is solely a personal hobby site, it also requires you to think like an entrepreneur.
It would be great if we lived in a world where stellar content would magically find an audience, but the truth is, that takes work: building marketing strategies, networking, generating buzz, and plugging away at posts while keeping the faith that it’ll pay off. If you want to monetize your blog, or even build a large community, you’ll need to think like a businessman.
4. Good Content Isn’t Easy
Of course, you also have to think like a creator and have a strategy for content as well as marketing. Ask yourself how long you think you could continue generating posts on the topic you’ve chosen. If it’s less than six months, you might need to shift or broaden your focus.
You also need to decide if SEO is important to you, which will dramatically affect the way that you write, and take responsibility for added content like pictures, videos, and sound clips. Ultimately, it’s just another reminder that succeeding as a blogger requires heavy lifting.
5. Potential Technical Issues
Depending on what platform you use to post your blog, you may be more or less likely to encounter technical problems. The general rule, though, is that the more you want to control how your blog looks and feels, the more likely you are to run into technical problems such as a slow loading website, blank screens, and plugin/theme compatibility issues.
Squarespace, for example, offers great premade themes and an intuitive editor, but takes away a lot of your control; a WordPress-powered blog puts you back in the driver’s seat, but be prepared to spend a lot more energy making things work.
Should You Start a blog?
Given all the work it takes and the huge amount of blogs already out there, do we recommend starting another one? Absolutely — so long as you can put in the work.
The truth is that blogs caught on 20 years ago, and have saturated the market since then, for a reason: they’ve never stopped being one of the most effective, efficient, and fun ways to get the word out about your brand.
No matter what its purpose, a good blog wins dedicated followers, people who incorporate it into their days in a way that never happens with even the best-targeted marketing campaigns.
Blogs add value to people’s lives that doesn’t cost them a cent (unless you count the internet connection), and sometimes, that’s all they need to do — but if your blog is good at that, people will be willing to follow you further, and turn from readers to customers.
If you’re planning to start a blog, pick your subject first, then decide how much control you want over design. Pick your platform based on that, then set about making regular posts and interacting with other blogs to build a following. Don’t start out focusing on monetization, but have a plan to evolve toward it if that’s your goal.
And, of course, good luck — we’re excited to see what you’ve got to offer the world!