Is There A Lack Of Quality In Marketing Blogs?

Greg Howlett started an interesting discussion on Friday with a post Is this the best we can do? in which he wonders if the overall quality of posts on internet marketing blogs is not what it could or should be. Greg’s issue is with the same news stories being rehashed time and time again and with posts that have little relevance to internet marketing. I understand Greg’s frustration and he makes some valid points, but overall I disagree with him that there’s a general quality issue on internet marketing blogs.

Is There Too Much Rehashed News?

I read the following blogs (and many more) daily and each will cover much of the same news items the others also cover.

Do I need to read the same story five times? Most of the time no. And most of the time I may read a particularly story on whichever blog I happened across first that day and either ignore the same story on the others or scan them quickly to see if they offer anything more. Sometimes a story interests me enough that I do want to read several different perspectives of it. And if you look over the recent history of posts for the above blogs you’ll notice that while they do provide nearly the same coverage on some stories they each offer many original posts as well.

Sure they overlap in coverage and they should. Each covers search engine marketing news. If Google decides to make their algorithm public tomorrow you can bet that every one of these five blogs will have a post about it. And if they didn’t they would be doing a disservice to their respective audiences and to themselves.

Buy two newspapers and compare the stories each covers. How many would you expect are going to be the same? You’ll likely find a lot of overlap and in some cases even the exact same article that was taken directly from one of the wire services.

A month or two ago I was looking at the selection of design magazines at the newsstand. I noticed that all were featuring stories on typography for that month. Maybe someone did a survey showing that readers wanted more typography coverage. I don’t know, but there they all were covering the same design subtopic. I glanced at the table of contents of each and picked up the few that I thought would be most interesting.

It’s perfectly normal to see the same coverage in competing media. Newspapers, magazines, and blogs compete for your attention. And if you indicate you’re interested in something they will all cover that something. It’s marketing 101. Give the people what they want.

There are also only so many topics and ideas. Every internet marketing topic has been covered somewhere. The next seo post you read probably won’t be a post on an original topic. It will hopefully be an original post on that topic, but don’t expect it will be the first time that topic has ever been written about.

Are Too Many Marketing Posts Irrelevant To Marketers?

Greg started thinking about what he views as an apparent lack of quality after coming across this post from Shoemoney about airport bathrooms. I agree that post has little relevance to marketers. If you read Jeremy’s blog you’ll know posts like that are part of what you’ll get. Shoemoney does have many posts relevant to affiliate marketing and internet marketing in general, which is why I subscribe, but when I came across this post I skipped it.

Guess what? I also skip many posts that are on relevant topics on many blogs each day. There’s only so much time in the day after all.

Greg assumes Jeremy’s bathroom post was written as linkbait and perhaps that was Jeremy’s sole purpose in writing it. The 500+ diggs the post received would lead one to believe it was written as linkbait. There’s a simple solution if you don’t want to see posts comparing airport bathrooms. Don’t link to them and don’t digg them. That so many people do both shows that there is market for these posts. Jeremy knows his audience better than you or I do.

Like beauty relevance is in the eye of the beholder. Pay per click advertising is clearly a topic relevant to internet marketing, but if you aren’t currently buying search ads the topic may not be relevant to you at the moment.

Again there are only so many topics that can be written about and if we’re trying not to duplicate what our fellow bloggers have written sometimes that will mean an off topic post. I don’t expect that every post on every blog I subscribe too will be relevant to me on every given day. I’ll read the ones I want and skip the rest. If I find a blog consistently straying too far from my interests I’ll unsubscribe.

Most of the blogs I read daily offer me enough of interest and quality to keep me coming back each day.

What’s A Blogger To Do?

If you blog it’s inevitable that you will write something that’s already been written about. It’s inevitable that you will stray from your topic on occasion. And it’s inevitable that not every post you write will be your best or up to your usual standard for quality. None of those mean your blog is derivative, irrelevant, or lacking in quality. Some posts will be any or all of the above, but a blog is not characterized by a single post.

In choosing what I blog about I choose topics that interest me and that I hope and think will interest you. I’m sure I miss the mark often enough. Most blogs have individual posts miss their mark, but that doesn’t mean the blog itself has a quality problem.

Write posts that first and foremost interest you. Before you can write something that someone else finds interesting it has to interest you. Learn what your audience wants and do your best to give it to them. No one is going to like every post you write. Most won’t expect to. If you can make them happy most of the time they’ll come back.

Don’t worry if you write about something that’s been covered before. You can’t assume your audience will have read the other coverage, though you should accept that they might have. Write from your own unique perspective and cover the story in a way that’s different. The originality will come from your voice and not necessarily the topic itself.

Don’t be afraid to write about something off topic. Yes, do attempt to keep things on topic as much as you can, but there’s no reason why you can’t write about something you normally don’t. It’s actually a good way to stretch yourself as a blogger. If you can, tie your off topic post to your topic. Jeremy’s bathroom post could easily have been marketing related if he related the quality of airport bathrooms to the quality of copy on ads.

Summary

Understand that the quality of posts you read has as much to do with you as it does with the bloggers writing those posts. You choose what you read and if you find the posts you come across are lacking you have the ability to read different blogs. You can unsubscribe from a blog at any time (except, of course, for this one) and you can find new blogs that will offer what you want.

I do understand where Greg is coming from and there are times when it does seem like every blog in my reader is posting the same tired information that I read yesterday or last week. But when I look at the overall quality of posts that come in front of me each day I don’t see a quality problem. And if I ever do it’s easy enough to change the posts that are in front of me. There are a lot of interesting and insightful blogs. Some you’ve already found and some you haven’t.

What do you think? Are internet marketing blogs lacking in quality? Have they become derivatives of each other and themselves? If so what can be done to improve the situation? Are there specific topics you’d like to see me cover that I haven’t?

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8 comments

  1. Sorry, but this one gets a really simple answer: YES. Why do you think I come back to this one regularly?

    You should read “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell … it’s as unique, insightful, and brilliant an approach to marketing as yours.

  2. Thanks for the love Forrest. Though I’m thinking you meant No in your answer and that this blog isn’t lacking in quality.

    I have read “The Tipping Point” and highly recommend it to everyone whether you’re a marketer or not. It’s a great book. I haven’t read any of Gladwell’s other books, but I think he has more that are worthy of reading.

  3. Steven,
    Excellent points. But here is the problem: I just finished a post about the same topic and pretty much covered the same points you had. I guess if I publish that post, I will be rehashing the same news again. So, I am holding off on that piece for a little while. I think it is usual for the blogs to cover the same stories. Like you mentioned, this has always been the case with newspapers. I think my biggest issue with many of the blogs is the variety of topics they actually cover. I think I read enough blogs telling how to write killer headlines, link baiting, page rank, social media, digg bait, etc. What do you think?

  4. Steve,

    - Greg has clearly forgotten about the long tail and the Theodore Sturgeon’s maxim that “80% of everything is crap”
    - if bloggers don’t write about everyday news, people wouldn’t read them to learn about the news, so some have to cover them
    - like we have just noticed, if a couple of bloggers decide to cover a previously uncovered topic, a bunch of posts appear

    A good example of this would be me writing a post about this subject, which I ususally do, when my response is long enough.

    But here’s the thing. Lots of people tell you to pick a unique niche and write in it. So I did. I haven’t written many response or news cover posts and guess what, my blog server isn’t squeaking under insurge of visitors.

    So I guess a bit moderation is in order: cover a couple of news, write average posts and a couple of expert posts you’ve spent an entire week on. Either way, you’ll get your audience, but it’ll be a difference audience, as you have clearly explained why and how it happens.

  5. No, I meant a definitive YES; there is absolutely a lack of quality in marketing blogs. Yours is an oasis in a lifeless desert, a high quality site in a nice or genre that’s covered by people who either are stupid or don’t have your best interests at heart in the advice they give … often both. Yours is the only marketing blog I read … and it’s not because I don’t enjoy reading.

    I’m about 1/3 of the way through The Tipping Point, and reading it more as a description of the rules the world operates under than a marketing textbook … but a lot of what I’ve learned from Malcolm echoes in what I’ve learned from you. And yet the parts I’ve read so far are about Paul Revere and Hush Puppies shoes … pre-internet topics.

    There doesn’t seem to be much of your competition that’s so good at sifting out the wisest ideas and applying them to new problems.

  6. Sorry for publishing first Khalid. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with going with your post, but holding off till the time is right again works too. And it will be one day you don’t have to spend the time writing. I know what you mean about bloggers often writing on the same topics, but I think it’s done because that’s what people want to read. They’ll stop when we stop reading and linking.

    I agree Yuri. The 20% only stand out because of the 80% And you do ultimately need to write what people want to read. If everyone wants to read about the same topics then that’s what people will write about. It would be silly to avoid a topic just because it’s been covered before.

    I caught your comment on Marketing Pilgrim too and I agree Shoemoney’s post was just the kind of thing he often writes about. Was it meant as linkbait? Who knows, but I doubt that was the only reason for the post. As soon as any post gathers a lot of links people are going to accuse it of being written for linkbait.

    I understand Forrest. I was thinking the yes was in relation to this blog, which didn’t make sense given the rest of your comment. Wow! Thanks for the compliment. The Tipping Point is a great book and doesn’t have to be seen as being about marketing at all. I think it was written as something more than a marketing book.

    I liked the Paul Revere part too and never knew there was another rider. I always come back to thinking about his ideas for stopping epidemics and getting people to quit smoking. Very interesting ideas. I suppose some of those ideas come through in my writing, because the book made a definite impact on me. It might be time for a reread, though I just started another book on PHP. I also like the marketing books and ideas of Seth Godin. He’s another person who’s helped shaped much of my thought.

    I do think there are a lot of good blogs about seo and marketing. I know I continue to read many daily and will continue to read them. They all have their ebbs and flows and as someone who writes all week I can understand. Not every post is going to be the best. I try to look at the consistency of a blog when reading. Those that are generally good I’ll keep reading.

  7. Repeated and similar posts are going to happen. In fact, the nature of blogs (linking to similar posts) kind of drives it. Differentiation comes from the way the topics are covered or from the writers’ voices.

    I think there is a major factor that creates degradation in the quality of posts – the pressure for bloggers to “post every day.” Daily posting of quality material requires a pretty prolific mind. I don’t even try because, frankly, I don’t have that much time and I am not willing to lose that much quality in my writing (I hope it works). I commend those that can post daily and maintain their quality, though.

    I agree completely that off-topic posts are ok once in a while as they help readers get acquainted with you/the writer.

  8. Chris I agree about the repeated posts. The conversational nature of blogs means that many topics will move from blog to blog in a short amount of time.

    I agree too about where the perceived lack of quality comes from. I do think a part is the pressure to post daily or even to post several times daily. It can be hard to sustain that kind of posting schedule. When I first started blogging I posted three times a week since that’s what I felt I could handle. I’ve since gone to five a week, with the occassional four or six post weeks.

    Sometimes it does feel to me as though a post here or there isn’t as good as I’d like it to be and that I force myself to publish just to keep the schedule. I do try to give myself permission to skip a day if I don’t feel the writing is up to par, though I know some less than stellar posts make their way through.

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