An Uncomplicated Life Blog: The State Of Blogging

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The State Of Blogging

Why have bloggers become extensions of brands, spitting out nonstop marketing content and affiliate links?



I had reserved myself to no longer blog about blogging, because I was informed that no "big time, career blogger" talks about "how to blog." I was told not to blog for other bloggers, but instead to try to reach the general public. Article after article and professional resource after professional resource will tell you this, and it makes sense. Bloggers make up a small portion of the population, and if you really want to "reach" people and make a career of blogging, you have to think bigger. "Niche down!" They say. "Only talk about your niche so people know what to expect and you become the expert in that area!" Well, I'm here to call bu**sh*t on that. All of that hoopla is ruining the state of blogging, if you ask me.

I don't mean to say that those recommendations aren't the recipe for success. Maybe they are. But it also ruins your blog. Why? Because it makes you BORING.

Blogging with affiliate links, niching down, and what else NOT to do with your blog


One of my former favorite bloggers and the true inspiration I had for creating my own blog easily makes six figures a year blogging now. At first, I liked her because she was funny and genuine and was passionate about what she was writing about - hair. Yes, even me - the anti-beauty blog - got into blogging by reading a beauty blog, she was that good! I looked forward to pulling her site up everyday on my lunch break to see her personality come through in her video tutorials or a life update post. She talked about date nights with her husband, the struggle she had trying to conceive her first son and the shock she had at her surprise second pregnancy a few short months after the birth of her first baby. Of course, there would be hair and style posts scattered in there too, and I bought clothes off her links more than a few times.

I felt like she and I would be best friends, if we only lived in the same city! And ummm, you know, if she knew I even existed.

Today, I no longer read her blog. I check in every now and again, but it just makes me sad. She has entire posts created for the sole purpose of pushing her affiliate links on her readers. "Gift guides" and "makeup must haves" posts have replaced her likable, relateable posts on her life and family. She landed some huuuuuuuge contracts with Ponds and an eye wear company and had a post a week on how great those products were. It was forced content and painful to read. It was the same post, chewed up and regurgitated week after week with a "different angle." I officially stopped reading her when her videos began lacking her fun and playful personality and started to be more about the products and tools she was schlepping.

It's a bizarre thing to admit, but it was like the loss of a good friend! A friend who wouldn't know my name if she saw me on the street, but a friend nonetheless.

And here's another thing painful to admit: More and more of my blogging friends are dropping like flies, abandoning their fun personalities and lovable quirks to push affiliate links and sponsored content, talking about one subject ad nauseam. Now let me be clear - I have sponsored content here. I also have affiliate links. But I don't create posts for the sole purpose of including those links, like a makeup gift guide or promoting the Nordstrom sale. That doesn't make me better than anyone (hell, I'm not making a few grand off the NSale like some of my friends - I'm lucky if I can pay my phone bill with my Amazon link income!) But ladies... I wish I had my friends back. I wish I still enjoyed reading your blog for your personality, life updates, funny stories involving your husband or dogs or your kids. But all that has been replaced by "niching down!" and "becoming the expert!" and making money off promoting sales and products.

I went to check out a few new blogs from a blog support group on Facebook. Many of the bloggers are young and fairly new to blogging, so I thought it would be refreshing to read some posts from people who are just getting their feet wet and still blogging about what they're passionate about. My expectations were sadly mistaken. Even from bloggers who have been at it for 6 months or less, the posts were developed solely to push the affiliate links from the programs they've signed up for. One post had a great title on something I was interested in, but the post was completely the opposite! It was supposed to be low key beauty but the blogger listed (and linked) about 30 products she uses for her "low key" look. Ugh! Why?!

Besides nonstop affiliate links and out of character sponsored content, the other thing killing blogging is this drive to ALWAYS be engaged. "Reply to every comment on Instagram!" "Build a community!" "Always offer your reader value!" "VALUE ADD VALUE ADD VALUE ADD!" "Engagement is king, nobody cares about your follower count anymore! Engage engage engage!" Y'all, the social media component alone is enough to drain a blogger! I could easily spend four hours a day on Instagram, "engaging." It's insane. And right as you think you've built an engaged community, Instagram changes it's algorithm and your statistics drop. There's nothing quite like counting your worth (as a blogger, mom, woman, etc) in terms of the number of likes a photo gets, eh? *insert major eye roll*

Valid question bloggers should ask themselves


I've taken a huge step back from sponsored content this month. I wanted to take some time and really focus on why I was so bummed out with the state of blogging, and what I planned on doing about it. I needed to figure out if I was going to continue participating in some of my blog groups, or if it was time to let them go. I had already let my first 'blog crush' and inspiration go, because she was no longer inspirational. I need to be excited about using social media again, because right now it feels like a big, dumb chore.

Niching down can go straight to hell. I get that my classification is "mommy blogger" and that's cool - I work from home and hang out with my kids all day. It would be weird for me not to talk about them! But I love DIY beauty and I love decorating for the holidays and I love to cook. So I'm going to write about that, too. And no, they're not kid friendly recipes, have you seen my toddler?! That kid will eat cheese, crackers, fruit/veggie pouches and the occasional fish stick. If I only cooked "toddler friendly" recipes, we'd be malnourished over here.

This post isn't intended as a rant against bloggers who've decided to monetize. Hell, this blog did it too. I think I've just reached my threshold with the state of blogging. It's become one massive blogging blob of consumerism. Bloggers use and reuse the word "obsessed" and "crushing on" and "this needs to be on your radar" because they have no other way to describe the links they're trying to get you to click and the crap they want you to buy. And in terms of social media, if you leave me a meaningful comment, I'll certainly try to get back to you! I love getting them. But I can't be on my phone all day anymore. It's bumming me (and my kids!) out.

I say, write about what you're passionate about, let your personality shine through, and stop hustling your affiliate links and brand partnerships so hard. If you only talk about beauty, or only talk about fashion, or only talk about motherhood, you're limiting your audience... And quite frankly, you're most likely pretty boring. Posts purely for links are the WORST. It's not genuine. It's painful to read. I'll readily admit that this blog perhaps became painful to read at times. But I intend to fix that. I'm bummed about the state of blogging but that doesn't mean I need to be bummed about my own blog. I'm going to let profit margins take a backseat and focus on the things that I love an enjoy. Hopefully that love shines through in my posts and hopefully, more bloggers follow suit. We as bloggers can change the state of blogging, even if brands and marketers are trying to ruin it.


31 comments:

  1. I totally agree with you. I've used affiliate links for things and done sponsored things (it's great to be able to make money when you can), but so many blogs post ONLY those things now and it really turns me away from wanting to come back. I miss the old days of blogging!

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  2. I have unfollowed so many blogs because now all they talk about is blogging or increasing your followers. I originally followed them because their personal stories were interesting, but those have decreased. That's one reason I enjoy reading small blogs and am not too worried about trying to make my blog huge. I definitely stop following when someone is trying to sell me something all the time.

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  3. I absolutely agree with you. I only want content that I truly believe in and support. I don't want to just be a non-atop ad. If I make a few bucks from a sponsored post that really fits my blog/life/style etc., so be it. While I am interested in blogs about blogging occassionally, I do think there is way too much of it.

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  4. I feel like I'm taking a step back for that reason too. I might do the occasional sponsored post to cover the cost of blogging, but the push to monetize everything and makes courses and build your email list and blah blah blah has overwhelmed me a bit! I just want to be authentic and share life on my blog/social media instead of trying to have the perfect aesthetic or niche and I figure the readers who enjoy that will stick around! If not...they can just go on their merry way and that's fine by me!

    Love your honesty, Paige. I'm right there with you!

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  5. I am so happy to be reading this (and recently read a post by another blogger on a similar topic that had me equally overjoyed). I love the bloggers who give you a peek into their lives-the messy, the beautiful-all of it. I tend to skip right over posts promoting a product or brand simply because they are boring and artificial. When I first started blogging I remember reading many articles pushing writers to sponsor, sponsor, sponsor and feeling totally mediocre for not doing so, but posts like yours remind me that there are readers out there who actually like reading about real life. Thanks for the reminder and letting me know that I'm not the only one who feels this way!

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  6. This is so refreshing! I keep having to take a hard look at my blog every six month or so to say, what's working, what's not? Not for my readers, but for me! If I'm doing something I don't enjoy, even if it get decent hits, it's not worth it and that will quickly show through because good writing and good blogging comes from a place of joy. When it doesn't readers can tell. So I applaud you for your step back to reassess :)

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  7. yes yes yes! I only started my blog about 6 months ago and already became so overwhelmed by what others were saying it should be. I still struggle a lot with what to post and what not to post. but i noticed that i struggle with writers block when i am not passionate about the topic anymore, which as you said ends up reading totally boring! Great reminder, and I agree, we don't need to niche now, we need to keep it interesting!

    Rachel | www.theconfusedmillennial.com

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  8. Great post! I'm fairly new to blogging and I already don't like reading posts where I can tell someone is pushing a product. I have adsense and amazon but that's it. Not to say I wouldn't do a sponsored post every now and then but I don't want to make that my main topic. I love to help people find the cutest fashionable clothes to fit their budget...I also include little snippets about my life to be personable. When did blogging become all about the money? It's sad really. I'm glad someone finally said what I've been thinking :)

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  9. This was where I was at in the beginning of the year. I felt the pressure that the only way I was going to succeed was to blog about blogging and to come out with an eCourse and do all this other monetizing sales stuff. I think that's why I had such a hard time with my blog this summer; I went WEEKS without posting because I was just at a complete loss at what to write and it was to the point that my blog was becoming a major source of anxiety. I would loose sleep over if a post I had written would get enough page views of if my Pinterest graphic was good enough. I finally had enough. I lost my blogging joy and sat down and wrote a post kind of similar to this one. I decided I was just going to write about what I liked, still try to be helpful in the beauty/fashion areas to others when I could, but to not loose sleep over writing a personal post. I still will do sponsored posts now and then on products I already use to cover my makeup spending habits, but that's it. I even stopped pushing my new blog posts in 25 million blogging groups; only 2-3 and it's been a huge relief. It's still not perfect and I'm still trying to find the balance between being personal and still being helpful, but I'm happy again with my blog and that is all that matters! NICHES CAN GO SUCK IT!

    Xo, Chelsie @ Hey There, Chelsie

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  10. Yes! When I first started, I really thought I wanted to monetize. But, actually doing it, made me uncomfortable most of the time. Now, I only do it on occasion, and if it's something that I really use. Otherwise, it's just not worth it to me. I like to share things about my life and help people, not force them to read about products.

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  11. Paige, this could not be more true. I look back to the reason I loved following my favorite bloggers in the early days and it was because I felt like I was part of their family. We got updates and they seemed real. It is hard as a blogger to know what is right for you--Pinterest worthy images or Five for Friday updates. Yay for taking a step back and focusing on what you are passionate about--it comes through and makes your blog and you a fuller person! Now I need to get Jack off the piano...

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  12. YES YES YES!! I actually feel like this post is a bit of a wake-up call for me as well! It definitely makes me sad that so much of the personality is gone from so many blogs. Throughout this year I've been feeling the pressure to niche down to become more successful, and often I'll pass on writing something I really want to write because it doesn't fit my blog's "niche", and I'm mad at myself for doing that! Thank you so much for sharing this :)

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  13. I understand and agree much with you, Paige.
    Since child boarded the world of the blogosphere. But it was two years ago that I decided to take it seriously and as a business. Even my course completion work at the university was about Blogs As a Business. One of the things I point out in the course conclusion work is just about the niche and affiliate links. Niche is important to guide your content, but if too narrow niche it gets boring. And the affiliate links? Blogger becomes slave of these links and end up losing the creative gift that our profession requires. I cut off the links and affiliate banners on my blog. My readers do not like, do not click and I do not want to lose them, right? There are so many creative ways to do sponsored posts, but many bloggers have become lazy waiting for fame and forget the essence that is blogging.

    I applaud standing this text!
    And if you allow em toy translate into Portuguese to send to my readers, I'll be very grateful. :)

    XoXo
    Bruna Marconi
    www.brunamarconi.com

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  14. I will say, as a former business owner turned blogger it is amazing to me to see the lengths a blogger is wiling to go to for a few dollars here and there. All the affiliates and adds rarely add up to the negative impact those have for your brand. Just my opinion. I just think there are better ways to monetize. I am certainly not an expert yet but the ROI just doesn't pencil out. xo

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  15. You took the words right out of my mouth girl! This is why I haven't cared lately about growing my blog as much, as well as narrowing my niche. I keep hearing "narrow down, narrow down," but to me a blog that focuses on one topic is BORING! I like to hear about your life, your family, other things that interest you....not what outfit you're wearing M-F. And I'm so much more happy now that I've decided to not focus so much on the numbers. It was starting to stress me out and bring me down. I'm happy with my little blog and don't care if I ever reach 100k pageviews a month. You won't find me selling my soul for a few extra bucks. I went through last night and unfollowed a few bloggers I was just bored with. If you are no longer of interest I just don't have the time.
    Great post!

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  16. I agree with you! I will say, I don't mind the occasional "gift guide" full of affiliate links. I can usually tell the difference between someone just slapping some stuff together and someone who actually puts a thoughtful gift guide together full of things that are on their wishlist, that you can tell reflect their style. But I do feel so much like you, like that's ALL some people are posting, and like we've lost them. I can't niche down, believe me, I've tried! Haha, I am just too scatterbrained and I'm going to write about whatever I want! But that may be why I can't quit my job anytime soon to blog. ;)

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  17. Thank you so much for sharing! I agree that engaging all the time with your audience is a full time job by itself!

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  18. I'm very new to blogging in this new modern era. I had a coupon blog for a few years, but it really was just about that and I never looked into anything "blogging" related in depth. Now that I'm trying to be successful and reading more about what that takes, it's all screaming NICHE at me. I'm just not that kind of person. I have way to many interests and I'm passionate about so many things that I just can't do it.

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  19. There are lots of valid points here! I don't mind bloggers doing sponsored posts when I can tell it's a product they appreciate and believe in, and I don't mind affiliate links for the same reason. (Bloggers have to make a living, after all!) I think it shows when a blogger shills something just for the $$ and I find that pretty annoying. I've unfollowed a few of the bigger bloggers who seem to have lost their soul. ;)
    xoxo, erin | sandsunandmessybuns.com

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  20. I definitely agree! Whenever I hear "figure out your niche" I want to cry because my "niche" is very broad. I like to write about a lot of things. I have been writing on my current blog since 2010, which is an extension of my previous blog started in 2007...what the heck would I write about if I only wrote about a very specific thing. I would have stopped writing 5 years ago...Now, whether anyone cares or not about what I am writing about, who knows :-)

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  21. Instagram alone takes soooo much time! I think most of us would like to monetize, but I think it's important to stay true to yourself!

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  22. This is the best thing I have read in a long time.
    I write in a sort of parenting/mental health niche, and I have found very few ways to monetize. For a while I beat myself up about it. I was rejected by one of the major sponsored content organizations, despite getting roughly 15k page views per month.
    Lately I have been more casual and less researched. Still don't make any money, if anything I spend money.
    But I am not going to quit. That's for sure.

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  23. I love this and totally agree. I have many friends who have dropped blogging completely because it used to be their escape, their way to share their lives, but now, "no one cares about those kinds of posts" because of all the marketing pushes. But, that's what I loved about blogging and loved about reading blogs--getting to know people and their stories!

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  24. Oh, I'm completely agree! Before I rebranded my blog, my niche was all over the place. Then I renamed/rebranded it to cover the things I really want to talk about (my dogs and kids!) and my audience seems to be more appreciative and engage more.

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  25. I took a pretty long hiatus from blogging this year (I published like 4 posts in 8 months) because I was feeling so burned out. But after time off I realized I really missed the creative outlet so I'm back and feeling better!

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  26. Here to the effin YE!
    Tired of reading those kinds of blogs and I just don't have it in me any longer.
    I like getting to know the person behind the blog, not just this face of your marketing campaign. Sure I might find blog posts fun or helpful from time to time, but damn doesn't it kill you just a little bit what you're doing? Being phony and the total opposite of yourself and what you ultimately believe in, all for a buck?? It isn't authentic.

    Blogging seems to be all too consuming for some. Sometimes I think I'm going overboard. It then I see other bloggers on their honeymoons, snapchatting. Shouldn't you be enjoying your new spouse? The special time in your life? Is nothing at all sacred any more??


    xox

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  27. I totally get this. It's true. I do love collaborating with companies, it's such a blast, but if I company isn't 100% someone or their product isn't something I genuinely love then I refuse to work with them. I say no a lot and I think other bloggers should too. But if every blogger was genuine then I'm sure it'd be way more fun to read their blogs. Great post
    Danielle

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  28. love this and totally agree. i have unfollowed a lot of blogs i used to read because they are just boring and trying to sell stuff. which is fine, i will read a sponsored post from one of my 'friends' but when i lose sight of the friend and only see the $$, i stop reading. people can post what they want to post, and i can read what i want to read! your last line is spot on.

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  29. Oh man, I can totally relate and sympathize. I'm having a hard time finding my voice a little bit amidst the articles I've moved into writing. It's like I'm struggling to find the balance. I want to make money from my blog-that's the dream right? To get paid to do what you love... But if you're no longer sharing a little piece of yourself do you stop loving it? Does it just become another job? I don't know...

    I need to work harder on finding the balance.

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  30. Thank you I needed to read this. I am a super newbie and have only been blogging for a month. I started it as an outlet for me and I want to keep it that way. I have chosen to not monetize at this time so I can enjoy blogging. I have already gotten tired of all the sponsored posts that some are shoving at me.

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  31. I love this! As a newbie, I don't have much comparison of what blogging used to be versus what it has become. What I do know is my authenticity won't allow me to be crammed in a box! When I get to the point of advertising it will be something I believe in and use myself. Nothing and no one in life is one dimensional, and neither should a blog be. No, I'm sorry, I won't be pushed in a corner and made only to write about one topic. Who makes up these rules?! Ugh

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