How is blogging in 2023 different from being a blogger five years ago, ten years ago, or more?
Is it still even worth starting a blog in 2023?
It blows my mind that as I write this the ProBlogger book is 15 years old. To say a lot has changed would be an understatement of the highest order!
Even back when Darren and I started discussing a potential book, blogging wasn’t new, and we had already seen the community undergo several changes. Each subsequent edition considered the evolution of blogging at the time they were published.
As you can probably imagine, I have a lot to cover and what was to be one article quickly became over-sized, so instead I have broken it into a series.
In this series, I would like to answer the following questions (plus anything else you would like me to cover):
- Can we learn from how blogging has changed from when we started writing the book in 2007 to now?
- What advice would we give to someone starting today?
- How have some successful bloggers remained successful while others have faded away?
First, a question I am asked all the time …
Is it Worth Starting a Blog in 2023?
Is it still worth starting a blog today? Yes!
You might think the blogging ship has sailed but you would be wrong. People start new websites every day and make a success of them.
Part of the reason is that people also give up blogging every day. It’s sad but true. Life gets in the way, their passion fades, they are not successful enough fast enough, their interests change, or something happens to the site that they can’t recover from.
Another reason you could start blogging today and be successful is there are always new people entering every niche. People who have been writing about a topic for a long time move on to more advanced elements and forget about the beginners in their blog content.
There are also new blogging topics popping up all the time. Even a couple of years ago we could not have predicted that there would be consumer-level AI tools available that people wanted (needed?) to learn how to use!
Finally, search engines are a moving target. Ranking at the top of the search engine results today does not guarantee that you will get a ton of traffic tomorrow. This gives new players an opportunity to grow and take a share of the pie.
Definition of Blogging: What is a Blog Versus a Niche Website?
Back when the ProBlogger book came out I would be asked “What is the difference between a wiki and a blog?”, but now people ask “What is the difference between blogs and websites/niche sites?”
A blog is a continually updated website made up mostly of articles (blog posts) around a single subject, usually by a single author or a defined set of main writers.
Darren wrote this in 2005:
A blog is a type of website that is usually arranged in chronological order from the most recent ‘post’ (or entry) at the top of the main page to the older entries towards the bottom.
I would say, while there are lots of exceptions, this is still true. This makes the distinction between a blog and a wiki easy to detect, it makes it harder to tell the difference between a blog and a niche website.
To make things more complicated, many websites include a blog where they add new posts as a matter of course, as a way of adding fresh content for their audiences (and search engines).
The Difference between Niche Sites and Blogs
For me, the main difference between a blog and a niche website is the intent to continually put out more and more, fresh articles, and to keep happy a community of readers.
Darren defined 4 pillars of pro blogging, and niche sites check off only 3 of the four:
- Content ✔︎
- Readers/traffic ✔︎
- Community ✘
- Monetization ✔︎
Niche websites tend to be aimed at monetizing search engine referral traffic, and are less likely to develop a community of readers. A great many are built as a one-off project and are then only lightly maintained, sometimes through “programmatic SEO” or other website automation techniques.
Of course, there are hybrids, and niche sites that start out only for search traffic and then they find they attract a community or grow email newsletters after the fact.
The Evolution of Journals and Weblogs to Blogs
Blogs also tend to have an informal, conversational writing style. This goes back to blogging’s roots as an early form of social media.
Being a blogger in 2023 is very different from when I started blogging back in the 1990s, but the core desire to reach people with our writing is still the same, even if we don’t need to hand-code HTML to do it.
The first blogs were called “personal homepages”, mostly an “about me” plus a list of links for personal use. Most internet service providers offered a small amount of web space for personal use, and search engines were not really a thing back then. If you wanted to go back to a website that you enjoyed you needed to make a note of it somewhere.
Digital Marketing at the time didn’t consist as much more than this either. Companies would sign up with a hosting company, use one of the new HTML editor apps, and put up a static brochure website.
Only the most advanced would publish much more than press releases, and most of those would use an email list. Many business owners were still to be convinced that the World Wide Web was not a passing fad.
This was a time before Google Analytics so reporting up to the C-suite of site success required analyzing web server log files. Updating the site, doing backups, analyzing logs, and the like fell to the new job role of “webmaster”. If the webmaster was also the self-hosted website server administrator this was especially hard work because most of the modern conveniences afforded by hosting control panels and pre-configured Apache/Nginx were science fiction at the time.
After the initial bookmarks phase, personal websites became more online journals or diaries, a mixture of “I found this cool thing”, “what I think about that thing that happened” and “here is what I have been up to”. This is when we started calling these sites a weblog. Even with this evolution, the main call to action might still be “post a message to my guestbook” rather than “buy my thing”.
A weblog owner was the original “influencer”, this was social media before all the video streaming platforms created millionaire personalities. We would link to each other, remark on trends from popular forums, and comment on each other’s posts.
Getting started in the late 1990s and early 2000s consisted of signing up for a blogging service with a username and password. Going viral was when many people linked to the same thing at the same time. Brainstorming blog post ideas most days consisted of reading the news and your favorite blogging niche writers via an RSS feed reader.
Getting Started Blogging in 2023
Back in the day, it was the norm for a new blogger to sign up for a free blog on a free domain, something like myblog.blogger.com and there was no shame in that. Even back when the book was published, many influential bloggers used services such as Blogspot or Tumblr or started out on free services and then upgraded for more features on services such as Typepad.
Today it is more expected that you would have your own domain name, even when using a free blogging service such as WordPress.com, or a website builder such as Wix, Squarespace, and the like.
Many bloggers skip the free WordPress blog phase and go directly to signing up for a WordPress web host. Discount web hosts like Dreamhost, Siteground, Hostgator, etc allow you to get a domain, set up the self-hosted version of WordPress (WordPress.org), add an SEO-friendly WordPress theme design template, and often come with a bunch of plugins and other add-ons.
Make sure whichever host you choose is actually good and not currently the one paying out the highest commissions to reviewers!
Owning your own blog and your own blog content is vital today. So many people start a new blog or social profile, build up an audience and then have it taken away from them because they triggered some false positive tripwire in their blogging platform or social media service.
Blogging platforms are for most people the first content management system they use on a regular basis, and you only need to browse LinkedIn to see that this familiar functionality has made its way into most businesses, if not the largest enterprises who prefer to pay huge licensing fees.
In my opinion, and I am sure Darren agrees, while you COULD go and set up your blog right this minute and start writing, it is worth doing a bit of research and preparation first if you really want to make a success of it. Even back in the day, those of us who just started writing were lucky if we gained traction, blogging in 2023 means being a great deal more intentional about what you want to achieve.
What Types of Blog Are There?
For every type of content, there are as many types of blogs. There are bloggers and communities out there for all the blog topics you can imagine, and many target audiences that exist but you could not dream of in a million years.
- Food blog – What to eat, what not to eat, recipes, where to eat. Recipes are huge on the internet, not just in written form but in short-form video too.
- Hobby blog – I am big into roleplaying games and Warhammer. Yes, I play with plastic toy soldiers, sue me! I also collect retro computers from the 1970s through to the late 1980s. Every hobby will have blogs and communities that are absolutely obsessed. Darren builds and collects mechanical keyboards, and my wife has a big Instagram following around knitting. Whatever the interest, people will want to discuss it and learn.
- Personal blog / online journal / online diaries – The traditional journal, though if you just write me-me-me content you will not gain a huge following. Personal blogs need to have wit, adventure, an aspirational story, drama, or some other hook to keep anyone beyond friends and family entertained.
- Parenting blog – A lot of parenting blogs start out as diaries but morph into communities, niche down, or offer advice to other parents.
- Content marketing for business – One of the main types of blogging today, especially for freelancers, is promoting products, services, and business news for a company you work for or own.
- Podcasts and Vodcasts – Yes, podcasts are a type of blog, but in audio form! Here you can also consider YouTube channels, TikTok, and so on.
- Travel blogs – People love to go on exotic vacations vicariously through other travelers, but also learn about the places, travel tips, and what to see and do. Darren Cronian has turned his travels into a whole business around remote working.
- Technical step-by-step guide tutorials / How-to – This is my go-to. I admit it, I am a nerd and a mansplainer at heart. One of the core reasons people search is for instructions on how to do something, how to fix something, what does this warning light mean …?
- E-commerce / Product News and Reviews / Affiliate marketing – If you have ever made an expensive or complex purchase I am sure you have done some internet research for trustworthy reviews and buying guides. Heck, people watch “unboxings” just purely for entertainment. Both Darren and I heavily got into photography and nerding out about cameras which lead us to start photography and camera blogs. Darren’s was successful.
- Inspirational blogs – Darren started a new blog called Find Your Spark – a place where I’m going to share weekly prompts to get unstuck. He wrote about the process of starting it here.
Do any of those options spark your interest or inspire other ideas?
Do you have knowledge or a passion that might attract other people with similar interests?
Are there already people being successful in those niches?
Could you find a way to be different and offer a unique angle on the subject matter?
Start thinking about these questions now and we will circle back to how to analyze and choose your niche, plus how bloggers can get paid for their writing today.
Blogging in 2023 Part 1 Conclusion
There is still an opportunity to be a successful blogger in 2023 if you start right now. Blogging in 2023 is very different from when Darren and I first hunched over our keyboards wondering if anyone would ever read what we wrote, but there are also many new opportunities and exciting options for those willing to go get them!
I am not for a moment suggesting that it will be quick or easy, but if you can enjoy the process of blogging then I believe you can find it rewarding in many direct and indirect ways.
In the next parts of this series, we will go into how to get started and how bloggers make money.
If you want to launch your blog properly and really make a go of it, stick around and I will guide you through setting up your blog, gathering an audience, and getting paid.