Published December 15th, 2016
by Steven Clark

From what I’ve read, writing words is a popular way to communicate ideas. It usually helps if those words work towards supporting an overall point and that the arguments presented are well articulated in support of that point. This is probably the bare minimum you should expect of any piece of writing – other than spelling, grammar and coherence – so why is it often so difficult to find them in the digital blogosphere? It’s obvious – not everyone can write.

Regular posts can make outlets look like an authority on certain subjects to both their potential client base and search engines. Unfortunately, thanks to keyboards, word processors and spell-check even the biggest mouth-breathing luddite can spunk out a few hundred words on their chosen subject, usually articulating a loose coalition of points accumulated from more intelligible sources into something resembling a point of their own.

Dog Writer
Average blogger

There are a few different types of digital blogger. First you have your regular staff members, coerced into contributing by a marketing team or their directors to produce something related to their field of expertise. It’s not surprising that someone who usually spends 30 hours of their week designing, coding or sitting in meetings may be unable to produce excellent writing so they can be excluded from analysis.

Secondly, you have marketing teams and copywriters – people whose job description includes an obligation to write content for someone, whether it’s directly for their employer or a selection of boring milquetoast clients. Again, it’s understandable that being forced to study and learn about a specific type of industry or product for the purposes of blogging would produce garbage – I’d be more surprised if it produced anything else – so let’s ignore them too.

Instead, let’s focus on the third type of digital blogger: flagrant egotists and attention seekers. These are the kind of bloggers who do everything from convincingly argue that there’s no such thing as a UX designer to ignorantly brag about telling prospective clients to “fuck off”. Business owners and consultants who write to reaffirm their status as experts or “thought leaders” in their pet subject. And before you ask, yes, I’m very much aware of where I sit within this category.

Fuck off
“Fuck off” guy’s business development manager

Blogs by this kind of digital professional often come with a smattering of incredibly unsubtle keywords sprinkled throughout the content in a weak attempt at search engine optimisation, something many of them are experts in – by today’s standards – after changing their default search engine from Yahoo to Google in 2011. In this ill-advised series of blogs by Thrive Digital (nah, me neither), most of the titles and copy contain the words “International Ecommerce” – I assume in an attempt to rank for the term – despite a lack of metadata on the blog itself. Going deeper reveals this gem “What a Porcini Mushroom can teach you about International Ecommerce” which appears to argue – in a ridiculous, posh, food-nerd kind of way – that the main reason people use international ecommerce is to buy things from other countries. This may seem like a throwaway post to pad out the content plan but the author was apparently proud enough of his completely inane and obvious point to post it on his LinkedIn too.

Our old friend John Loudon is an expert at this type of writing, peppering links to his own portfolio from his blog with terms like “professional web designer” and “well-designed professional website”. I asked a digital marketing professional if this had any significant SEO benefit and they laughed in my face – though to be fair, this is the usual reaction women have when they talk to me. There would probably be more SEO value in me linking to his portfolio here with the term “itchy genitals” but that would just be childish.

clap emoji

It’s about more than just poorly conceived SEO attempts and driving organic traffic, it’s also about the discourse. Justifying our existence and staving off an imposter syndrome-driven breakdown for another day is the backbone of digital blogging. If we didn’t post, tweet and talk endlessly about all things digital, what they mean, how they’re done, why they matter and what’s next, we’d fade into complete irrelevance – like watching your sister gradually disappear in a photo at The Enchantment Under the Sea dance.

Back to the whatever
No blog is complete without a weak movie reference

Not only do most “digital professionals” frequently write about the same subjects, many of these posts are badly written, incoherent and lack any point or subtext beyond “This thing exists, cool!” or “Need this service? I’m the best at this service”. In the past we’ve argued that quality is better than quantity but it may be simpler than that. Stop blogging purely for sales, search engines and content plans – this approach just ensures less and less people making genuine and interesting arguments of their own, supported by actual evidence or opinion.

Content marketing is rapidly generating a torrent of spam, written for robots who are happy to reward you with unwarranted exposure for doing nothing more than using a handful of lame researched keywords. Personally, I’m hoping for the day when Googlebot becomes sentient and can mark down your posts and websites for their complete lack of authority, substance or self-awareness. Until then, I’ll just keep scratching my itchy genitals.

Note: This post originally appeared on the Habanero Digital blog meaning certain parts are probably weirdly self referential or talk about ongoing feuds that probably exist almost exclusively in the mind of the author.

Content Digital Marketing

by Steven Clark

Steven is a designer/developer and wannabe intellectual with an obsessive personality and too much spare time. Don’t follow him on Twitter.

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