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I’m : a programmer, writer, podcaster, geek, and coffee enthusiast.

Google and blogs: “Shit.”

Have a blog? How has your traffic been for the last year or two — say, since July 1, 2013?

Mine’s been clearly flat and slowly declining — the first time the trend has ever gone down — even in periods where I write a lot. I’ve talked to some friends who have seen similar plateaus and declines over the same period, also for the first time. Inbound links from bigger sites also aren’t worth as much as they used to be, suggesting that even big sites are struggling to maintain and grow their traffic.

Nobody’s really talking about it, but I suspect this is a wider trend: blogs aren’t dying, but they are significantly declining. 2015 might be a rough year.

In Is Google making the web stupid?, Seth Godin suggests that the declining prominence of organic results in Google searches is significantly to blame:

If you want traffic, Google’s arc makes clear to publishers, you’re going to have to pay for it.

Which is their right, of course, but that means that the ad tactics on every other site have to get ever more aggressive, because search traffic is harder to earn with good content. And even more germane to my headline, it means that content publishers are moving toward social and viral traffic, because they can no longer count on search to work for them. It’s this addiction to social that makes the web dumber. If you want tonnage, lower your standards.

(Don’t miss the cited Aaron Wall article as well.)

Shallow social-shareable listicles and clickbait headlines have always been plentiful on the web, but it does seem clear that they’re getting much worse and more dominant recently.

Google is making the problem worse, but they’re not the root problem. In fact, the real problem is a pretty big problem for Google, too:

Everyone’s spending increasingly more consumption time dicking around in apps and snacking on bite-sized social content instead of browsing websites and searching Google.

Publishers are relying more on social traffic not because Google’s squeezing them out, but because that’s where everyone went. The dominance of mobile usage, social networks, and YouTube, plus attention-competition from apps, are the real problems for web publishers and blog writers.

The social and app revolutions haven’t been purely additive — much of the time people spend on those now has come at the expense of search, RSS, and bookmarks.

Every hour we spend on Twitter or Facebook instead of reading and writing elsewhere is just making this worse — and I’m as guilty as anyone.

Social networks have powerful benefits and are here to stay. But like any trend, we’ve swung too far in that direction for our own good, as both producers and consumers. I hope the pendulum starts to swing back soon, because it hasn’t yet. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, if it ever does.

If we want it to get better, we need to start pushing back against the trend, modernizing blogs, and building what we want to come next.

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