For the last few years, blogging has been a necessary tool for every website looking to generate traffic. A consumer asks a question on Google, clicks on the first link they see, and starts reading. In turn, the website creates a new lead and a possible customer. In a way, blogging is another “gateway” to the end sale.
However, in the roughly 20 years that blogging has been around, it has not always worked this way. Prior to blogs being seen on every website, dedicated blog websites existed for teenagers to express their “day’s drama” to their “followers”.
This “antiquated”, somewhat negative view from a business standpoint, is the reason why some businesses today still question whether they should have a blog for their business. They do not understand that blogging has shifted from writing about the “I walked by my crush this morning” to becoming a lead generating tool.
Today, we are going to look at the history of blogging and how it has evolved throughout the years to become a powerful conversion tool.
When the Internet was first introduced, it was an exciting time. People could simply look things up or share ideas with convenience. The browsers, however, were a mess and required phone lines to communicate. That did not seem to discourage users from trekking on.
Justin Hall created the very first blog and uploaded it in 1994. Through his blogging website, Links.net, unbeknownst to him, he started a revolution that would have mass impact for years to come.
The earliest version of his website was very, very simple. Check it out here!
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Blogging slowly grew and by 1997, people began using websites as a “portal” to convey their ideas to the world. These ideas were termed “weblog.” Later, it was shortened to blog, which is what we refer them to nowadays. Since then, many new terms were developed in the online marketing world and “blogosphere.”
Blogs were a tool used as an outlet for people to express how their day went and how they were feeling. During this time, blogging was still personal and directed at a few close friends. It wasn’t as widely shared and was more privatized.
As blogging grew, designated blogging websites, such as Open Diary and Xanga, sprang into action. Hundreds of thousands of people signed up for these services. As time passed, more and more people began using these websites. In doing so, people began moving away from simply writing about their own personal life.
Professional blogs began to be created. In turn, other users would seek out these blogs to learn more about the particular content they were interested in. Businesses had discovered a powerful new tool, to reach their consumer and slowly began to use blogging as a mean of communicating with consumers.
A Shift in Culture
In August of 1998, during Hurricane Bonnie, the Charlotte Observer sent a group of photographers and reporters to cover all aspects of the hurricane. Lag time could allow competitors to “catch” the story sooner so they decided to set up a blog, which would update every half an hour. This included links and photos. As a result, they broke previous references for page views.
Blogging not only created a new outlet for the news to be delivered and shown, it also created a shift in how people viewed blogs. Not only could people write about their feelings, experiences, and thoughts, but now they could also provide new information in print faster than ever before. Blogging hit the media by storm and, once again, the blogosphere began to change.
Blogging: A Business Appeal
It was quickly recognized that it was not just news outlets that could benefit from having a blog; all businesses could benefit from it. Websites were waiting for an up-to-date blogging platform that could be used and in 2001, the company Six Apart released the weblog publishing system, Movable Type. Finally businesses were given the opportunity to connect and communicate with their viewers on a vibrant social platform.
WordPress joined the ‘weblog’ ranks in 2003. These two companies were able to open up all sorts of new capabilities for websites to publish and update their content.
Blogging was now mainstream. Google, always on top of new trends, wanted to get involved and they launched a company called AdSense. Monetary compensation was initiated for people taking the time to blog.
Blogging…A Success Story
It was 2008 and the recession was hitting the world hard. A businessman, Marcus Sheridan, along with his partner, owned a pool company called River Pools. Business was slow and the phone calls stopped coming in. People were not spending money on anything that was not necessary. They owners knew that they were going to need to find a way to salvage business and that the measures they took would have to happen quickly.
With time on his hands, Sheridan decided to create a blog that would answer questions that he had been asked throughout the years about pools. Seven years later and his website gets more traffic than any other pool company, worldwide. Blogging, literally, saved the business. It goes to show that blogging isn’t only for personal use, but a great way for businesses to connect with consumers and act as a resource online. An interview about this story can found here.
Today and the Future
Today, it is almost impossible to get through a Facebook or Twitter news feed without seeing multiple blogs that have been shared multiple times. According to Marketing Prof Statistics, there are 2 million blogs being written each day! This is a trend that is not going away anytime soon and it is very possible that blogging will continue to increase in importance over time.
There is a shift under way in business, which puts blogging much closer to the center of a company. Connecting with and sharing relevant information in “real time” will remain critical in the increasing complexity of modern technology and modern business.
The future of blogging is seen as one whereby peoples’ interactions with technologies are intuitive, simple and pleasurable. Empathy will remain the best tool for developing a responsive culture from future clients. Search engines will continue to value content from blogs. The focus will remain on great consumer experiences, as blogs creatively express benefits of products and services.
The end result: a culture of confidence, great business relationships, and increased sales.
Although it is hard to say when blogs will reach their peak, it is fairly obvious that businesses who are still questioning whether they should build a blog for their website should reconsider this. With the right tools and strategy, there may be another Marcus Sheridan success story.
The first known blog, called “Links.net,” was created by Justin Hall in 1994. At that time, blogging was a way to share personal thoughts and experiences with friends and family. Now blogging is an important part of digital marketing.