The Advantages of Convenience Blogging

Tumblr Convenience Blogging
Tumblr. So easy to use – it’s literally idiot-proof. But is it so easy to maintain traffic?

There are certainly major advantages to click-button, convenience blogging from the viewpoint of hosts like Tumblr and WordPress. Vast numbers of people want to express themselves on the Internet, but comparatively few have the time or inclination to put in the real hard work necessary to produce what the likes of Google would regard as ‘substantial content’. Indeed, some people are simply not creative, so even if they are prepared to invest the time and effort, they know they’re not going to rival the work of top bloggers. Dead easy (and sometimes even one-click) convenience blogging fixes those problems for the casual majority. It’s expression without the effort.

BACKGROUND

Traditional blog hosts may once have believed that in the sphere of online self-expression, desire roughly matched ability. In other words, those who wanted to express themselves, were doing so, and those who weren’t doing so, didn’t want to. But through the second half of the noughties, social media sites showed that this was far from the case, and that actually, the desire to commandeer a personal space on the Internet and use it to entertain an audience, was almost universal. The only reason everyone was not doing it, was that it wasn’t sufficiently convenient.

So social media stripped out the requirement for people to expend effort and time when populating their personal space with content. The sites progressively encouraged a much shorter form of post, which pandered not only to those who didn’t have time (or couldn’t be bothered) to write anything more substantial, but also to declining attention spans among Web audiences. Comparatively few people could be bothered to write longer posts, but equally, comparatively few people could be bothered to read them. Encouraging short-form content was seen as the route to big uptake, and it worked.

Twitter was a terrible site. The design and engineering was very poor compared with a sophisticated tool like WordPress, and as you’ll remember if you were using Twitter a few years back, it very frequently didn’t work at all. BUT, Twitter was simple. An idiot could use it, and and idiot could read it. Twitter enforced micro-posting, and creatives soon realised that even though the site massively restricted their expression, the audience was potentially so huge that it could no longer be dismissed. That a site as poorly engineered and equipped as Twitter originally was, became one of the world’s leading social media platforms, is a testament to how much simplicity, and bite-sized consumption, really mattered.

REBLOGGING

And there was even a solution for those who didn’t have anything to say at all. They could simply import other people’s content into their personal Web space, and offer it secondhand to their own audience. This concept of cherry-picking and re-posting the work of others was originally known as reblogging, and it still is in some quarters.

Reblogging originated before most of the Social Web as we know it today was even born. It predated both Tumblr and Twitter, although Tumblr was the first of today’s well known UGC platforms to adopt it, and Twitter morphed the semantics a little to form the term ‘retweet’. But it’s all basically the same thing. The leaders can create, and the followers can repeat. That’s how it’s worked offline since time immemorial, and courtesy of social blogging platforms, that’s how it works online now too.

This principle of short-form posting, with the fallback option to aggregate existing content, has been so successful in captivating the mass market, that the traditional blogging platform WordPress.com has made a monumental effort to head into similar territory, or at the very least, facilitate that type of ‘blogging’ approach and consumption. WP has made a major attempt to simplify its posting interface too, clearly indicating that beginners and casual posters now lie at the heart of its target market. Unreservedly, the resultant convenience blogging, pandering as it does to low attention spans at both ends of the chain, is a route to huge uptake, and that means profit.

BUT IS CONVENIENCE BLOGGING AS GOOD FOR THE BLOGGER?

Absolutely the number one problem for the convenience blogger is that it can only ever be an attention-treadmill. If you’re posting material which is either secondhand, useless, or lacking in substance, then the search engines, which are the Internet’s only true route to longevity, will not want to know. Search engines care only about original work which is of use to Web surfers. People using Google Search do not want to see the same result listed 9,000 times. They want to see a selection of different results, prioritised in order of genuine relevance and quality.

Thus, Google seeks out original posts, and based on a range of qualitative indicators, aims to put the best at the top. And if, in five years’ time, no one has, without copying, written a better or more relevant post on a particular subject, then the same result(s) will remain in pole position.

So the convenience blogger is never going to be able to sit back and let Google, Bing, Startpage, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo and the rest of the search market send traffic to his or her pages on an ongoing basis. Web search hates convenience blogging. It’s just pointless clutter. Why would Google want the work of people who constantly take shortcuts, when it has more than enough work from people who don’t?… The answer is that it wouldn’t, and accordingly, if convenience blogs are indexed at all (and many aren’t), they’ll very rarely appear in visible areas of the search results.

The convenience blogger, then, has to depend almost totally on the blog host’s internal search and self-promo systems for traffic. And because those internal search and promo systems are always prioritised reverse-chronologically rather than on quality, the only way to stay visible, is to KEEP POSTING. With a convenience blog, if you cease to post, you cease to exist.

FALSE ECONOMY

It could, then, be said that convenience blogging is a false economy. It’s easy to make a post, but the shelf life of that post will be virtually non-existent. Whereas an original, substantial and useful post may settle into a perpetual cycle of being fed 100 visitors or more per day from the search engines, a convenience post, prioritised as it is on recency, will be out of general sight by the end of the week, and probably ejected from the site search database entirely within six months.

Therefore, what the convenience blogger saves in time when posting, he or she loses in time maintaining a visible profile.

A few years ago, people were laughing at me because I was spending so long writing articles for a website, whilst they simply swiped pictures from Google Images and used them to build big ‘followings’ on Twitter. But today, I no longer need to touch that site. Google supplies the traffic, and then pays me the ad revenue while I get on with other things. But those ‘convenience bloggers’ are still there, on Twitter, posting the same tired stuff over and over again, to the same ‘audience’. Over the course of time they’ve probably done just as much work as I have, if not more, but if they quit posting today, they’ll no longer exist tomorrow. That’s the difference.

SO DOES CONVENIENCE BLOGGING HAVE ANY ADVANTAGES AT ALL FOR THE POSTER?

The convenience blogger may have some advantages, but it’s highly debatable. Obviously, if you’re someone who just likes to be social, you may not consider convenience blogging a treadmill at all. Convenience blogging does usually elicit more audience reaction than traditional blogging, although that reaction can so often be motivated by a desire for reciprocation rather than a genuine interest in the content. But perception is all. If the blogger thinks all the little bursts of virtual applause are real, and likes getting them, that’s fine, and it can be considered an advantage of convenience blogging.

Another use for convenience blogging is as a backlinking resource. For example, let’s say you have an all original, high quality site, which doesn’t have much in the way of backlinks. Then you set up a convenience blog to post in short-form and high-volume. Link to your ‘good blog’ from a sidebar on your ‘convenience blog’, and you have a rapidly rising total of backlinks from an unrelated site. That’s the theory.

In practice, however, whilst this might have been a good bet for success back in the noughties, today it’s much less likely to help – and if your convenience blog is too spammy the practice may even hinder the progress of your good blog.

More than ever, Google is set up to recognise quality, and penalise deliberate attempts to game the system. So if you’re making totally valueless posts just to get links for another site, Google may ignore it altogether, and your good site could even be penalised. It’s also worth noting that here on WordPress, you’d be breaching the ToS, so you’d run a fair risk of your convenience blog being suspended. It would depend on what WordPress deem the purpose of your convenience blog to be, but if they believe it to be purely there to direct traffic to another project, and feel it has no other merit, they can zap that blog straight off the Web.

CONCLUSION

Ultimately, there are no lasting shortcuts to anything really good in life. And the more established the Internet becomes, the more sophisticated superpowers like Google get in weeding out derivative dross. Even the most devious SEO tricksters are today having to face the fact that the only way to guarantee real, ongoing prospects on the search engines is to produce great content, and produce it first. So you have to decide… Do you want to post in seconds, but spend years maintaining a visible profile? Or do you want to put some real effort into creating useful, original posts and providing genuine new information, and then let the search engines maintain your profile for you?…

The only people who really gain a long term advantage from convenience blogging, are the blog hosts.

  Author: Bob Leggitt

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