In 2014, Google engineer Matt Cutts announced the death of guest blogging as a way to boost SEO.
The proclamation followed more than a decade of blogging fervor, which saw blogs rise from “online personal journal” to a legitimized journalism platform and, for some, a money-making machine.
Blogging itself became part of the daily vernacular, thanks largely to the “mommy blog” – a genre of lifestyle writing by work-from-home moms.
For aspiring profit-minded bloggers, the golden age of blogging offered several opportunities for income:
- Selling products
- Hosting pay-per-click advertisements
- Paid commercial sponsorships (“sponsored posts”)
- Guest-bloggers paying for the privilege of posting their content
It was this last technique that signed the official death knell for the blogosphere as we knew it in the early 2010s.
Thanks to changes in the way Google’s page rank was calculated, the backlinks gained from these blogs no longer were valuable. And once there stopped being any real SEO value in blasting your website’s URL across dozens of small-time blogs, the profitability of blogging took a major hit.
The Rise of the Social Influencer
While Google was busy tinkering with its algorithms, bloggers found more competition than ever in social media.
In 2008, only about 10 percent of adults had a social media account. By 2018, that number skyrocketed to 77 percent. And with more and more people accessing the internet on mobile devices, app-based sites and media aggregators have gained major prominence.
All of this goes a long way to explaining why blogging – once the hottest online fad – seems to have gone quiet.
Many full-time bloggers have shifted to more traditional journalist-type positions at sites like Buzzfeed and Vox. Others have moved into social media-focused venues. Vlogging, or video blogging, is huge now and no wonder: More people visit YouTube each day than any other social media site. Image-based content — like Instagram — also is popular.
Just as the mommy bloggers ushered in a new era of written content on the web, a similar demographic is showing tremendous growth in the social media influencer sphere.
What Are Influencers?
Simply speaking, an influencer is anyone with a sizeable, engaged audience that trusts their opinions or recommendations. Influencers can be found on any platform; the biggest platforms are Instagram, YouTube, and Twitch.
Marketers swiftly learned they could tap into these content creators’ platforms and, well, influence. Instead of celebrity endorsements from sports icons and movie stars, brands are turning to social media influencers to spread awareness of their products to an engaged and trusting audience that may otherwise be inoculated against brand messaging.
Influencer marketing is a multi-billion-dollar industry with a projected worth of $2.3 billion, and 75 percent of marketers are planning to invest in it.
So with high-profile influencers getting television spots – from Instagram’s Christine McConnell to YouTube giant Pewdiepie – and other recognition, it’s safe to say more content creators are going to be eager to jump into social media influencing.
Lessons From the Blog Bubble
The death (or at least mutation) of the blog trend generally can be ascribed to several factors: shady SEO tactics, spammy branded content, and a lack of consumer trust. When something looks like a hip and easy way to make money fast, it tends to draw the wrong kinds of attention.
We’re already seeing this in pockets of the social media influencer sphere. There are people who artificially boost follower counts with bots or bait-and-switch content techniques, people who don’t openly disclose which posts are sponsored, and those who give disingenuous reviews rather than staying true to personal brand values.
If we’ve learned anything from the blog bubble burst, we should know that these short-sighted schemes only hurt the industry.
Luckily for consumers (and honest digital content creators), such schemes are getting harder to pull off. As global media influence becomes more trackable through sentiment-measuring programs, a person’s digital power no longer will be distillable to a single (inflated) follower count or algorithm-focused blackhat strategies.
The most critical take-away from all of this is that while the technology and virtual platforms may change, the basic concepts of content marketing and social influence remain the same: The consumer will always have an appetite for honest information from a trustworthy and relatable source.
The job of content creators and marketers alike is to fulfill this need without breaking consumer trust – and though this may take more work on the front end, the long-tail benefits are well worth the effort.
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Tiana Gibbs is an Associate Customer Content Specialist with PR Newswire moonlighting as a freelance copywriter. When not writing for the web, she can be found trying (and sometimes failing) to build an urban homestead in the Land of Enchantment.