A Short History of the Strange Love Affair between Blogs and Twitter

I’m not saying every successful blog out there has a Twitter account, supporting their content.  I am saying that community engagement matters.  Twitter is one of the best ways to get that engagement. It’s also a great way to get the kind of personal support, friendly help, and knowledge about blogs.  In this post, I’m going to give you: The history of the virtuous circle in Twitter supporting blogs (and blogs supporting Twitter)

In my next post, I’ll show you how to make the most of Twitter. But for now, some background.

Stories from the Olden Times

The blogging scene in 2008 was lively and important. It was just beginning to have a commercial component.  But when Twitter hit the scene, everything exploded.  Before Twitter, you needed to work on the blog just about every day, certainly several times a week.  If blogs weren’t being updated frequently, then people got bored and wandered off.   There were some interesting blogging “circles”  you could join where you put a link in your blog and after someone read your blog, they would be whisked off to another blog in your genre. (I recall a sci-fi writing blog circle I belonged to, way back in the mid-1990s).  Today many people also have “sister blogs” (blog rolls) that they advertise on their own sites, a remnant of the Olden Days (anything before 2009).

Why do that?   This is a good practice because if many people link to your blog, then your blog looks more important to the algorithms that weigh the importance of your efforts to searchers.

In the beginning, search engines didn’t work the way they do now, and getting your material in front of ANY eyeballs at all was difficult. We would help each other out by creating these blog rolls. Before 1990, you would register your blog on Yahoo or other search engines, but you had little control over how readers found you, or where you would appear in the list of sites. Suppose you had a fashion for dogs blog.  When a searcher put in “fashion”–well, your site would be buried under all the people fashion blogs.   You had to put in “fashion” and “dogs” and hope for the best.

You would put all kinds of search terms into the underlying code of your blog, struggling to get your blog on the first page of the search returns. A super-niche blog, like Bulldog Fashion, would have to really struggle. In desperation, or in misplaced cleverness, people put in all kinds of outrageous terms unrelated to their sites in their meta-data (like “boobs” and “sex”)– to try to get their results seen SOMEWHERE.  (f you’re too new to this and don’t know what meta-data is, it’s data that is hidden in the code of your blogsite that you don’t see. You’ll learn about this when you start looking at SEO or search engine optimization.  We’ll get there.  That’s a big topic for later).

We old-timers discovered that our fellow bloggers are not necessarily our competitors.  Our Bulldog Fashion blog could link to all kinds of other blogs, even Greyhound Fashion, Hats for All Occasion, even Italian Bulldog Fashion, people who had the same or highly similar niches–and become the go-to blog for dog fashion. If Italian Bulldog Fashion linked back to US, then that was even better!  We’d get more search engine hits. Our audiences would cross-flow and that was fine, too.

Google Pagerank shuffled the deck on bloggers.  One of the key weights in their algorithm was (and is) how many people link to your blog, a hangover from the days when that was a key metric.  But really, when Google began to hold sway over all search engines, the bottom kind of fell out on bloggers for a while as our old ways were having to deal with new ways that blogs were being found (and also new ways on how our blogs were being buried).

Today, the two key drivers for blog traffic are probably Twitter and Search Engine Optimization.  We’ll cover SEO or search engine optimization for the perplexed in a future post.   (For now, if you want to read up on SEO, start here at Wikipedia.)

How Twitter Changed Everything

In the Olden Times, we’d work like demons on putting out several blog posts a week. Marketing was a matter of getting your blog site in to as many search engines as you could find, manipulating meta-data, finding friend-blogs and participating in blog circles.   Google was a challenge but also an opportunity. Google acquired Blogger in 2003, and that opened the door to all kinds of non-code-heads to enter the blogging arena.  But with more people involved, our blogs had to compete against all kinds of websites and material for that treasured space on the first page of searches. There was a search engine for blogs (now defunct) at Technorati that was another avenue, but still there weren’t any sure-fire methods.

Twitter gave us a direct connection to our (potential) audiences.  We could now tweet about our blog posts–every day.   We could work on a single, high-quality post, for a whole week! Even a month!  But every day, we could tweet about our OTHER blog posts.  We could tweet about our blog post about our  very bad day using the hashtag #depression.   We could tweet about our yummy corn pudding recipe that our grandma sent us on #grandma #Thanksgiving #recipes #heirloom.    We could try tweeting several times a day.  Tweeting was easy, took no time, and you get immediate feedback.  We could build an audience, ourselves.  And back then, in 2009, Twitter was hungry for content– so our tweets had great capability to reach our desired audiences.

The world of blogs–already big and getting bigger– mushroomed. Technorati just gave up trying to catalogue blogs and provide search engine support for all that content.  We bloggers could go out and directly connect with our crowds and find our audiences directly–and that changed everything.  Commercialization and the world of “new blogging” — with all of its MailChimps and Affiliate Programs and the like–came into the information environment at gale force.

Photo Credit: Best Running


Author: Lola

Recovering academic, real-life, honest to cornflakes anthropologist (Ph.D. and fieldwork and everything), tech-head and social media researcher.

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