Is this the best we can do?



I have a question for internet marketing blog readers. How do you feel about the quality of the posts you read on internet marketing blogs?

Like many of you, I subscribe to many RSS feeds of the top internet marketing blogs, and go through hundreds of posts every day. I am sorry to say that for the most part, I am disappointed in the value of what I read. How many times can the same tired “news items” be rehashed, and how can so many posts about internet marketing offer so little relevant information to internet marketers?

Here is my RSS inbox for the day… A worthless discussion of whether Google should show a white or black screen, an outdated discussion of how Google treats underscores in URLs, and even more posts on the earthshattering news that Google banned one of its own blogs. Luckily, I am spared yet another post about Google implementing universal search.

On the other hand, kudos to Aaron Wall for a post that offers great insight. Also, several posts on other blogs about Google’s recent changes to their Adwords pricing are very relevant as well.

I guess I started thinking about this last night. Just before bed, I waded through about one hundred posts and stumbled upon one from a certain well-known internet marketing guru who enlightened us as to which airport bathrooms are the best place to perform a certain bodily function. Now, I have to admit that I usually read this guy’s posts just as a break from the serious parts of my day, and I also admit that this post was hilarious. However, his euphemisms for bodily waste could just as easily be applied to his post in particular and many posts in general.

Now, I cannot claim that this guy is not a genius. His post apparently made the front page at digg, which is exactly what his goal was. That brings me to my last point. Perhaps we readers deserve the low quality we are getting if we value posts about bodily waste more than posts that will actually help us become more successful in business.

So, am I way off base, or do we have a quality issue on internet marketing blogs? If you believe we do, I would love to get your thoughts on how we can write to better help you.

  • http://braindump.chuckbrown.com Chuck

    I started saying this a few weeks back…and I continue to do so without significant fear of contradiction: When it comes to “blogging about blogging”, I contend that 90% of all blog posts are a waste of space. There are certainly thought leaders and gifted communicators in the internet marketing arena. But, outside those few, most blog posts are not only rehashes, but don’t even ATTEMPT to add additional value…i.e., they meet the technical definition of “worthless”.

    And yet…aren’t we getting exactly what we deserve here? How many years have the internet marketing gurus feasted on the profits of the sheep who they promised to help make millions…and yet, you can only stretch that goatskin just so far before it snaps back and takes off half your face.

    People who are tring to “make money online” by simply pursuing a “make money online” philosophy are wasting their time chasing these folks around. It’s time to get a life, develop some outside interests, and stop talking exclusively about making money online and blogging about blogging. There are plenty of great business ideas out there. Go meet some people and scare up some ideas together. Find ways to apply what you’ve learned by offering ACTUAL VALUE to people in a product or a service (not teaching them how to make money!). Find something that isn’t being done now…or isn’t being done well. Quit chasing “keyword niches” and look instead for a market “itch” you can scratch.

  • http://www.jaankanellis.com Jaan Kanellis

    Yeah I kind of of agree with ya Greg. Some days internet marketing blogs are very enlightening and others it seem they are recycled trash, completely inaccurate statements or personal stuff that we don’t care much for.

    I would like to see more on personal testing that each of us do, what works/what doesn’t and just plain cool stuff that people find on Google/Yahoo/MSN. Dave N posts some neat little things on his blog of late which I find interesting.

    I think another issue is lots of us simply don’t have enough time. Most of the good bloggers out there have to work to and cant find the time to dedicate to the blog like they should.

  • http://andybeard.eu/ Andy Beard

    I try to avoid writing things that other people are talking about unless I can add substantially to the conversation.

    Then again some people might look on my blog as a blog about blogging or make money online, but I feel I am snuggling into my own niche.

    I can’t see the point of a Digg front page that doesn’t gain quality links.

  • http://blogstorm.co.uk Patrick Altoft

    As the owner of a 10 week old blog about internet marketing I would like to offer my thoughts.

    The problem is that as a new blogger it is very hard to gain any traction so you end up writing about things that you think will gain links from other bloggers and social media sites rather than the general topics that interest you. I started to fall into this trap and stopped myself (hopefully) and just wrote about what I wanted to.

    A lot of bloggers want to offer unique posts and avoid rehashing other content which is great. Unfortunately it means they don’t link to other blogs very often leaving people needing to use linkbait to build readership.

    Andy Beard is quite right, Digg bait and linkbait are totally different things.

  • http://www.internetmarketingadvice.net Jackie Dooley

    Greg, I highly suggest reading different types of blogs besides the top ones in the industry (any industry, really). For example, I find that reading the Redneck Mommy blog, Search Engine Land, The Future of Work Weblog, Media Bistro’s feed and any number of media, search marketing, online marketing, e-mail marketing, mommy-related, e-commerce, analytics, self-employed and everything-in-between..blogs…helps me craft posts on MY blog that add value because they provide much needed perspective.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Greg – Thanks for getting us thinking.

    The benefits each blog provides will always be subjective. If a blog truly is crap, it will be reflected by the masses and it won’t attain any level of popularity. I come across new blogs all the time that make me wonder how they ever built up an audience. I’m sure some people visit Marketing Pilgrim and quickly move on – those that stick around value our take on marketing news.

    I don’t think the quality of blogs has gone down, but maybe you’re not being selective enough in your reading list. If you identify the blogs that consistently provide value you to you, I’d go ahead an unsubscribe from the others. As others have said, plenty more blogs in the sea. ;-)

  • Mike

    The precise reason why I spend more time reading Marketing Pilgrim and SeoBook’s Blogs are precisely because of consistent quality. I do read and enjoy some posts from Shoemoney and JohnChow, but their off-topic, rambling inane posts keep my visits short. However, to be fair it should be noted that both those blogs started out as personal blogs that evolved to cover marketing and perhaps this gives both gentlemen some license.

    I expect (and feel I generally get) higher value from this blog. Seobook tends to go off into cynical, bitter almost melancholy rants from time to time. However to be fair to Aaron at SeoBook, I see that cynicism and bitterness is rife throughout the SEO/SEM industry and this shows up in the posts. I understand in part where it comes from, but I feel that diminishes value as well. I expect a frivolous post now and then because blogs are inherently personal and to be blunt, I’m not paying you for the information. It’s the emo teen angst that comes across sometimes that leaves me scratching my head.

    I am grateful for all the marketing blogs out there and just learned which blogs to prioritize.

  • http://SEOAware.com Melissa- SEOAware.com

    I agree. I read all day and many of the larger “Internet marketing” blogs are repeating or discussing the same stuff. I have found more quality articles on Sphinn, because there is a variety of topics to choose from. I am not stuck on the same story over and over.

    Reporting new information is great, but I think you need to expand upon it or help the reader look at it from a different direction if you want it to be interesting.

  • http://www.nineyards.com/ Diane Aull

    I think we need to take into account who the audience is for these blogs.

    If the bloggers in question are writing for their peers, then, yah sure you betcha, if all they do is regurgitate the same topics that have already been covered everywhere else without adding any new spin or insight, they’re wasting my time.

    But some write for people outside the business — prospective customers, maybe. And the needs and interests of that audience will be somewhat different from those of our peers.

    Now I’m pretty active on a couple of SEO/marketing related forums, and I can tell you, no matter how many times some of these topics have been covered already, somebody’s bound to show up tomorrow and ask the exact same question.

    We *could* blow them off or insult them for not knowing this stuff already. Roll our eyes behind their backs and make snide comments among ourselves about “clueless newbies.” And I know in some fora, that’s exactly what would happen. That’s the culture of those communities, which is their right. I choose to not spend much time in places like that, which is *my* right. :)

    In the communities where I spend most of my time, though, we usually try to answer their question (or at least point them directly to a recent thread that discusses the topic) with a measure of respect. We try to keep in mind we all have to start somewhere, and the best way to learn is often by asking questions. Maybe it’s my background in teaching and corporate training, but I’m just not comfortable with the idea of putting down or making fun of people who are trying to learn.

    If a blog’s audience is the less experienced, those who want to learn, prospects and customers, then don’t begrudge the blogger going over frequently discussed topics again. It’s a poor assumption that readers of that blog will have already heard this stuff a thousand times over, because from what I’ve seen in forum questions, they haven’t. No matter how many places it’s already been published.

    Or if they have, it hasn’t sunk in. Which isn’t necessarily surprising, and doesn’t necessarily mean they’re stupid or incapable of learning. Sometimes you can read about a concept a thousand times, and it’s not until that thousand-and-first time that something clicks and it all starts to make sense.

    I admire the patience and good humor of bloggers who are willing to spend time to go over the basics again and again, and rehash all the “latest” news one more time if that is what will best serve their audience. Of course, I’m probably not going to read their blogs myself (because they’re not writing for me), but I can’t fault them for writing to their audience.

  • http://www.tucsonseosolutions.com Geri

    I was with you on this article… Then I followed the RSS contest link… Seems like cheesy “linkbait” to me. Perhaps, the you should look at home and clean out your “linkbait” closet before taking on others… Just my thoughts… Now in print!

  • http://www.vitabase.com Greg Howlett

    Geri, part of me is flattered that you think this post is good enough for linkbait and part of me is wondering what you are talking about. I am not even aware of any RSS contest.:)

  • http://www.seoish.com SEOish

    Hi Greg, my name is Patrick Sexton and most of the folks there at marketingpilgrim know me or of me, but I just want to warn you, I am a smart ass, so please do not take what I am about to write to much to heart.

    Your post is a rehash. This is quite possibly one of the most rehashed subjects out there.

    A great example of a great post about this is from Micheal Gray and his fabulous “SEO Bloggers Step Away From the Keyboard” video…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkXvbjC8DnA

    And what about the class act way that Barry Schwartz responded with a video of his own “Please Blog”…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebV_yVozMLA&watch_response

    So I guess what I am saying is, Greg, can’t YOU do better than this????

    Take care, nice article, and compliments on the dialog you started.

  • http://www.passionateblogger.com/ Wild Bill

    I started a new blog recently (a blog about blogging) and I decided I was going to write posts that were new and different from what I read on other blogs about blogging. Before you know it the emails and the comments start showing up asking questions about how to start a blog and all the basic stuff that has been covered a million times on other blogs. It got me thinking.

    I hope to build a large community at my site and become a one stop blog on blogging. Unfortunately that means I will have to rehash topics that have been discussed a million times. I could just skip those beginning topics and direct readers to sites that have already covered the topics but if I am getting so many emails, comments, and questions about things that I think have been explained to death, then there is obviously a need for the answers to these questions (even if someone has already answered them before.)

    It is great to have a new almost never before thought of niche, but their are so many people out there that are just starting out that don’t now why they should have a hosted WordPress blog instead of a Blogspot blog. There are so many people that just need help starting their first blog or learning how to not make the stupid mistakes we all made when we started.

    It always amazes me how many long time bloggers spend so much time talking over new bloggers heads. I don’t make much money online, but their are tons of new bloggers that want to learn how to make even the small amount that I do make. I understand your feelings about what you think are rehashed topics, just remember most people do not read as many feeds and blogs as we do each day and if you write about the topics that other bloggers cover your readers won’t have to leave your blog to go find the topics they are interested in. I want my readers to find other interesting blogs but I also want to provide them with a one stop blog for all their blogging questions. ;)

  • http://www.catdynamics.com Chris Taylor

    I simply don’t do many blog posts for this very reason unless I have decent input on a subject.

    If it is general information that is out there that my readers want, I write it up in a tutorial format and place it on the learning part of my blog… simple as that.

  • http://www.daverothacker.com dave

    First time reader here Greg. Found you by way of Ad Age Power 150.

    If I feel that you’re trying to write to be popular I will not read your stuff very often. A clue is if your entire blog roll is to A-listers.

    I think the key to quality material is to be authentic. Write from your gut.

    I like Diane’s comment about audience. It all starts from there.

  • http://bushidoblog.com.ar Bushido

    I think that one of the major blogs to slowly die was clickz. It took me a while to get convinced, but I finally erased them from my feeds. MP, on the other hand has won thanks to the friendlier writing style and a few “less serious” (not meaning “less important”) posts.

  • Dan Perry

    I’ve thinned Google Reader from about 90-100 blogs to about 15, and I could probably cut that in half, if I weren’t so lazy. I think when a rehash blog starts to get a little traction, it feeds the fire that they should rehash even more. Build a niche people!

  • http://www.markbarrera.com Mark Barrera

    I must agree with Andy that it may be time for a RSS reader clean up so that you focus on the blogs that do provide great content such as MarketingPilgrim.

  • http://www.startuphustle.com Tyler

    I recently started to write an internet marketing blog with a startup/silicon valley twist. The problem I have is all the marketing blogs repeat stories (without much of their own twist). It is not easy to find material to write about outside of your own daily experiences and issues. Good post Greg.

  • http://braindump.chuckbrown.com Chuck Brown

    It’s interesting how a bunch of people can read the same thing and walk away with completely different messages. I didn’t think this post had much to do with “which blogs to read”. Obviously, there are great blogs out there doing important work…breaking new ground, sharing results of their testing, etc. But I took this post as a challenge to experienced bloggers that we needed to “shore up” the focus of our own blogs to make sure that they were more on point. And I think that’s a legitimate challenge…which is why this is one of a dozen of blogs to which I subscribe.

    It’s also safe and easy to say that “we should be patient with new bloggers”. I’m not suggesting that anyone should be shut down. Rather that we who have been around for awhile need to stop sending out signs (expressed or implied) that people will “get rich on the internet” by throwing up blogs of little-to-no value and just slogging away filling them with whatever.

    What is “problogging”, anyway? If it’s anything at all, it OUGHT to be finding something you love or at least care about…and writing enough good, informed, helpful content of your own that you build an audience of such size that it only makes sense to monetize the blog. What it ought NOT to be is tracking your 50-cents-a-day AdSense income for the world to see, pretending that it’s leading anywhere. “Making money online” is nothing worth falling in love with on its own. It’s a side benefit of providing actual value.

    And, by the way, Wild Bill…I would concur that writing a blog for beginning bloggers can absolutely be of value. We just don’t need 15,000 of them covering the same ground. Yes, the market will solve the glut in time…but why not be kind to people and tell them ahead of time that they need a passion, not just to republish the thoughts of others?

    Bottom line: As bloggers, our message should always include Dan’s exhortation to find and grow a niche. Not just to repeat what Darren or Rand or Andy or someone else is saying ad infinitum/ad nauseum.

  • http://www.thevanblog.com Steven Bradley

    Greg I understand why it can be frustrating to see similar posts on different blogs, but why would you expect otherwise?

    Pick up a newspaper in your city and then pick up a competing paper. Won’t both share many of the same stories? Won’t both even reprint the exact same AP or Reuters newswire items?

    Every month at the newsstand I can look at magazines writing about the same general topic and every month I notice that all seem to feature the exact same topic every month.

    I’m subscribed to a lot of blogs myself and many will post the same news item or posts on rehashed topics, but that doesn’t mean many of them aren’t valuable. If I’m interested in a topic I’ll gladly read many different posts on that same topic. I might only gain one of two new things from each post, but you can’t expect that each post is going to be entirely original.

    The only way not to ever see something rehashed is to limit each topic to one blog. As soon as you have two blogs on the same topic you’re going to get repeated information. And you’re free to choose to read both, neither, or the one you consistently like more.

  • http://www.improvetheweb.com Yuri

    Greg, “80% of everything is crap”. So you gotta stick to it and find the 20%.

    However, I’d even remind you of the long tail and according to this, it’ll be a much smaller percentage of quality bloggers.

    Btw, Shoe’s post wasn’t a link bait, IMHO, he just shared what he thought others would find useful. And I think many will, because the whole endeavour of finding a suitable spot to is important, once you are in the similar predicament.

    To further illustrate this point, please refer to the comment made by Geri, who insists that this post was a link bait. I think it wasn’t. You were just sharing your thoughts you thought others would find useful. See a pattern here?

    It is just we, marketers, are trained to consider every great linkable piece of content not as just ‘awesome content’, but as ‘linkbait’. Sadly, some people ignore this trained reflex.

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