This guest post is by Sunil of the Extra Money Blog.
Saturation, Panda, Penguin, Zebra and Donkey have changed the blogosphere completely from what it was. With a new blog going up every 90 seconds, what will it take to succeed as a blogger in the future?
Blogs started as personal web logs or diaries, and readers flocked to specific blogs to follow their favorite writers and topics. But with the increasing number of blogs on the same subject matter, what will differentiate your blog from another?
A blog is now very seldom used as a personal web log. Facebook and other social hubs provide an outlet for people interested in personal raving and ranting. Blogs, at least the more popular ones with mass followership, are now platforms where readers go to obtain thought leadership on a specific subject matter expertise. At least that’s how I see it from my perspective influenced by my observations online.
With all of us lacking the common element of time, readers need a compelling reason to follow you as a blogger. You need to carefully think about your value proposition if you want to grow in this space beyond just having a few hundred friends and family riding on your bandwagon.
Ask any successful blogger today whether they can succeed the same amount in the same time frame as they did earlier. In most cases the answer will be no. There is no doubt a blog like Problogger.net can be successful if started today, but it will certainly take a lot more work and a lot more time to reach the same level of success. With more saturation comes an exponentially more difficult success curve. I am sure Darren will tell you the same.
The pretenders are people I classify as those who are not necessarily subject matter experts in the topics they blog about, but are at least somewhat interested in those topics, either because of potential profits involved or as hobbyists or aspiring students of the subject.
And while many pretenders can be dedicated students of the topics they blog about, often they lack personal, practical, first-hand experience.
Until recently, many pretenders did just fine, leveraging search engine optimization and other internet marketing strategies like aggressive link building and social media initiatives. However, recent changes in search engine algorithms such as the Google Panda and Penguin (see below) updates have changed the game significantly to favor true subject matter experts.
With the recent changes taking place, several non-SEO attributes, such as the time spent by a reader on a website, carry a lot more weight than before. Your content cohesiveness and relevancy matters more than ever before. Google has also gotten much better at identifying unnatural link building initiatives, which are more often engaged in by the pretenders (experts automatically attract links).
Several pretenders have been hurt as a result of this evolution. For example, Shamelle from Better Blogging Ways had her site completely wiped out due to “over optimization”, which is a key component of the Google Penguin update. In a much broader study of over 1,000 respondents to a poll, 65% of SEOs where hurt by the Google Penguin update.
Where in the past, internet marketers were able to manage a portfolio of niche web properties that were “thin” in nature with “quality” and useful—but not expert—content, we’ve seen a big shift in the direction in which search engines are headed, whether deliberately or not. Search engines favor the true experts.
True expertise stands out loud and clear, because not only does it carry with it deep, engaging, and high-quality content, but also volume, value, and real social proof. Blog readers are a lot more sophisticated today, and are easily able to sift through the minutiae and find the blogs authored by true experts. Your readers can definitely see through the tone and voice of your writing.
It is no surprise that search engines are favoring bigger sites with thicker content when they display a search engine results page (SERP). These sites are often ones that are authored by people that have first-hand, expert experience in the subject matter; for example, the author’s profession, skill, expertise, often accompanied by factual data, numbers, graphs, and charts of sorts. Now that is sexy—it’s exactly what readers want.
Take it from someone who both has a portfolio of several thin niche sites, and more recently a handful of expert authority sites: I have seen online ranking and revenues decrease for some of my thinner niche sites, while I have seen revenues from my bigger, deeper, expert-authority niche sites climb. Not long ago, I wrote about my biggest Google Adsense earnings check, worth $5,963.41. These earnings were generated by significantly larger, authority niche sites.
In another case study, I have seen my expert authority site on requirements to become a CPA pick up organic traffic a lot faster and more naturally than any other site I have established in the past.
Why? Because I am a CPA (Certified Public Accountant. I know the accounting industry inside-out, and can write straight from my knowledge base, first-hand experience, and years of expertise. The content is genuine, solid and I know that I can produce the best content on this particular topic.
Having said that, establishing such web properties takes exponentially more time and effort relative to, say, a niche site that was built and let alone for the sole purpose of generating ad revenue from Adsense.
But this is exactly what Google seems to want. It is well apparent that Google is pushing authors in the direction of establishing expert authority websites, and naturally—because of what it takes to do so—one can now effectively only manage a smaller number of web properties (as opposed to a large portfolio of thinner sites they could run in the past).
The future of professional blogging
There are still thin, niche websites that do well, but that will last only while there is little to no competition. It is my contention that a new site with even the most mediocre content on the same subject can likely knock a thin site out of the ranks if it carries more content or has a slightly better command over the subject matter.
So while there are those remote possibilities, the message is loud and clear.
If you want to be a successful blogger going forward, read the writing on the wall and focus on topics that you are a true expert in. This is clearly the direction Google is trying to push us into, and it’s obviously what today’s sophisticated readers want.
With each search engine update comes an additional push in a forced direction, compelling internet marketers to adapt, which in the grand scheme of things enhances the web with bigger and better sites of higher quality, truly expert content.
And with that comes a very interesting question: can one website, blog or online business actually become the most comprehensive resource of its kind on its subject? If another player was to challenge Google with a different approach that also supported quality, but in a different way, what could that mean for the web?
Are we going to experience free market capitalism on the democratic web space soon? Let freedom ring—and let the white dove sing. Share your thoughts and opinions with me in the comments.
Sunil is the author of the Extra Money Blog, a platform that discusses expedited wealth building through multiple streams of active and passive income where you can download his free report on How to Establish a $1,000 a Month Passive Income Stream in Your Spare Time in Less Than 180 Days. He was a CPA in his previous life and has also authored the CPA Requirements portal which guides CPA candidates in passing the CPA exam and expediting their career success.