This may be a strange statement coming from a guy that:
- has an app that teaches people blogging and digital marketing
- has a blog on blogging and digital marketing
- has a Youtube channel on blogging and digital marketing
But yet, I think the harsh reality for most people in 2021 is that they should probably not start a blog.
Well, because… the Internet!
Obviously, the real reason is a bit more complicated. Read on.
Focus of users online is shifting to social media
Before social media, the majority of online users spent the majority of their time on either blogs or big media publications.
There was a sort of an implicit, simple, and probably effective divide of responsibilities.
Big media houses and publications, usually big news sites or some large predominantly Internet news outlets, dealt mostly with the news, and the majority of their traffic was focused on delivering the news to their audience online. Even actual paper newspapers were still a thing, and their online presence was often just the same newspaper articles published on their websites.
Smaller bloggers and affiliate marketers, on the other hand, got to divide the product niches among themselves, and each could get a nice piece of the pie with a relatively small investment. It was entirely possible to create a blog with 30 articles around a certain topic, have it rank well within months, and ultimately earn money rather easily. Not to even mention the fact that the competition for most niches was not really that great.
Everyone kinda knew their domain and stayed within it.
That is, until social media came along.
Social media grabbed the attention of a certain type of a person – the person that’s not exactly sure why are they on the Internet. And that type of person typically spent most of their time on the websites of big media publications before social media came along (people my age or slightly older may remember the term “surfing the web”, which is now an obsolete term I believe).
That type of person, the casual web “surfer”, fell in love with social media instantly, and fell hard. Before, these types of users were consuming the typical content mix found on the big media websites, which was some news (most of which were, of course, negative), and some other mildly amusing content, like some silly listicle or the latest celebrity gossip, etc. And now, suddenly, they could instead consume content which was much more personalized to them, because it was content created by their friends and family.
The woes of big online media publications
Naturally, big media started to bleed traffic like crazy (and still does, to this day). I believe that big online media publications were the biggest losers from the social media revolution.
And, of course, they didn’t like this. Or, rather, they didn’t like the fact that by losing traffic, they were essentially losing money from advertisers.
While many of them turned to clickbait and sensationalism to heal their wounds, they probably started to quickly realize what some unfortunate smaller bloggers have also realized before – clickbait isn’t very sustainable. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and I’m never clicking your link again.
Big media needed some other solution.
Luckily for them, they had an ace up their sleeve – they had enormous trust and authority in the eyes of search engines. Their traffic was going down, but they still had this amazingly powerful resource at their disposal, simply because that’s the way search engines work (that’s a whole other topic, but simply put, search engines learn from the behavior of the masses of people, and up to that point, the masses of people trusted big media the most).
And they quickly found one way to make use of this resource and refill their treasure chests.
Affiliate marketers get the short end of the stick
I’m not sure when did big media outlets start to produce a lot of content, and the type of content that was typically only produced by affiliate marketers before (especially product reviews and list articles), but I’m pretty sure that must have been a dark day for affiliate marketing.
I’m sure there was a blogger that had the best niche blog on electric razors for several years, and had bought and tried and tested all the electric razors, and had done thorough research on the topic, and written helpful and in-depth reviews on all of them, and compared them against each other and rank-ordered them, and essentially created the best online resource on electric razors, and his blog had taken 3 years to start ranking but was now ranking number 1 for the most important electric razor terms, and that independent blogger was earning good money from that blog…
Until the New York Times figured out that they can publish a much shorter, much worse review on electric razors and outrank the independent blogger in a week simply because of the sheer power of their domain authority.
Obviously, this is an oversimplification. It doesn’t work exactly like that, although it’s close, and it’s a helpful analogy.
And most importantly, that’s what we can observe happening more and more.
Big media publications don’t get as much traffic on their mediocre run-of-the-mill daily content.
They feel the financial pressure from the loss of traffic, and turn to other types of content. While they don’t necessarily have the best topic expertise or experience, they do have a lot of trust from the search engines, and they can easily outcompete small independent bloggers and affiliate marketers.
Not to mention the other resources at their disposal – armies of trained journalists that know how to create at least a solid argument for a topic even if they’re not necessarily experts on it, plus the entire support infrastructure that machinery like the Wall Street Journal would have behind it, for example.
That leaves many affiliate marketers out in the rain. I don’t wanna make dire predictions like this too often, but I’m pretty sure that a niche blog with 30 articles, maybe even 50 articles, will never see a decent amount of traffic, even if the content is pretty good. I believe that 50 top-notch articles may have some chance, but many of them have to be excellent research that’s often shared by other bloggers or media publications themselves so that blog can earn some authority, but that’s the exception rather than the rule – most affiliate marketers write “9 best this thing for that thing” or “this thingy review” or “this thing vs that thing ultimate showdown” type of content.
So, affiliate marketers ended eating up most of the damage in the end.
But all is not lost
That’s why I recommend that most people shouldn’t start a blog today.
It’s not that you can never win (you can, obviously).
It’s not that you can’t outrank the New York Times (you can, of course).
It’s not that all the ways to win have run out (if you’re reading this instead of some mediocre faceless article from the Entrepreneur, obviously there are still ways to win).
But in many ways, it is harder than ever.
As you can see, I’m not even talking about the competition from other affiliate marketers, which will always be fierce and will get even fiercer every year.
The biggest challenge comes from super-high domain media outlets that are taking over the territory that traditionally belonged to affiliate marketers.
And unless you are prepared to go to war for that territory, you will not win.
And in 2021, war means at least 150 articles, if we want to make sure we have a shot at a niche. I would probably go with 200 even, for most niches. And also, at least one year of patiently waiting for most of your articles to start ranking. And as much cunning link building and clever promotion of your content as you can think of. And a lot of planning, strategizing, research, and blood/sweat/tears.
But if you are prepared for that, then I have some extremely good news for you.
If you are prepared to invest all of that, then you should definitely start a blog, or, even better, join the Digital Marketing Empire so that you don’t even have to write all of the articles yourself to gain all of the topic authority.