One of the fun things about blogging and online business is the pace of change. Every year it seems that new strategies emerge and some old strategies become less effective. In this article I do my best to make a few blogging and online business predictions for 2016. Some of these will turn out to be correct, and I’m sure I will be way off on others!
2016 Blogging Trends and Predictions
The term “blogger” will be used less and less.
Personally, I don’t like the term “blogger.” It used to be an description of people who posted daily or even hourly, life updates. In 2016, successful “bloggers” will consider themselves business owners and they’ll write articles instead of blog posts. The terms “blogging” and “blogger” are starting to feel outdated.
Is there a replacement term? Not really. It's funny, when people ask Abby and I what we do for a living we usually say we are business owners. When they ask what type of business we own, we typically tell them we own a few different websites where we write articles. I think this sounds better than "professional blogger" and less like a celebrity or political gossip column.
Longer, high-quality posts will become more important.
Traffic on a given website will not be evenly distributed between all articles. 90% or more of of most blog traffic will come from less than ten articles. This will favor the bloggers who post less often (still at least 1x/week) but publish longer and more helpful articles. These content pillars will be the number one source of new readers to your site and will updated and improved year after year. These posts are not “set it and forget it” type articles.
One of the best things you can do for your business is create a content plan. List out twenty or more pillar articles. Spend time researching, outlining, and writing these articles. They may not do amazing at first, but over time they will build momentum and give you a steady stream of traffic. These articles should be updated and improved at least once per year.
Click bait articles will become less effective.
Let's be honest, catchy/spammy/click-bait titles drive clicks and traffic. I would argue that the traffic is low quality with very few repeat readers. In 2016, I think this trend will start to reverse itself. We've reached peak "Buzzfeed." Readers are getting smarter and clicking these obvious click bait articles less and less.
When writing article titles or making Pinterest images, being clear rather than clever is the tried and true strategy.
Ad revenue will continue to drop.
“Banner blindness” is a real thing and advertisers will pay less and less for views. To counteract this, ad networks will use more and more obtrusive display strategies with videos, pop-ups, audio, and screen takeover ads. Who loses with these obtrusive ads? In the short term: readers. In the longer term: the blogger. The bloggers that win in 2016 will be the ones that put their readers and their on-site experience ahead of their CPM.
Blog comments will drop, but interaction will continue to be important.
The trend of major blogs turning off blog comments will continue in 2016 and those who leave comments on will see a decrease in the overall number of comments (Abby and I have witnessed this first hand). Instead, the conversation and questions around around articles will happen on Facebook and other social platforms. With this blog, we’ve disabled comments and instead encourage comments and discussion on Twitter.
As a blogger, think about where you would like interaction to occur. Do you want that to happen on your site or would your prefer the interaction to come through social channels? The answer to that question should inform your decision when deciding to turn off blog comments or not.
Mobile will continue to gain momentum.
Most bloggers will see a majority of their traffic come from phones or tablets. I still think for product sales and conversions, desktops and laptops will continue to convert the best. Non-mobile viewers, while less in number, will be your most important viewers.
At the bare minimum, bloggers should ensure they are using a mobile ready theme like one of the many Genesis child themes we recommend. But don't ignore the Mac/PC viewers! We've noticed that most conversions, whether for landing page opt-ins or product sales, happens on dedicated computers. The traffic numbers may be decreasing, but it's still our most important traffic.
Twitter will become all about interaction.
In 2016 Twitter will become less about clicks and more about interaction. Smart bloggers will use it as an opportunity to interact with their audience and other bloggers at the same time scale back the number of link shares.
The beauty of Twitter is the quick and and easy interactions with your audience and other influencers. I've been intentionally unfollowing users who primarily use the platform to share links to their articles. I just don't see Twitter as a good platform for driving clicks. Pinterest is about clicks, Facebook is about clicks and interaction, and Twitter is all about interaction.
An engaged email list will continue to be the top asset for your business.
This isn’t really a bold prediction. Email will continue to perform as the best way to stay in contact with your readers, build engagement and interest, and drive sales for digital products. Social tries hard, but it can’t touch email.
If I had to do a 10 second evaluation of an online business and predict their success, I would ask them one (two part) question: How big is your email list and what is your open rate? It's hard to detach ourselves from the traffic comparison game, but I'm making a conscious effort to focus (even more!) on email in 2016.
Facebook will win the live video streaming war.
Periscope destroyed Meerkat and Facebook Live will destroy Periscope. Abby and I have been experimenting with both live streaming platforms and we’ve found it’s easier to get viewers with Facebook Live than Periscope. Everyone is already on Facebook! By the end of 2016 I don’t even think the Facebook Live vs. Periscope will be a discussion anymore.
I agree that Facebook Live has some serious flaws and the Periscope experience is better, but it's only a matter of time before Facebook improves and takes live video mainstream.
Live video is a great quick and easy way to interact with your audience and build that connection. Don't overthink it! Abby and I have committed to showing up on Facebook Live or Periscope every Monday at 1 PM. Many times we aren't even sure what we're going to talk about until a few minutes before we go live. The time commitment and effort level compared to writing a quality article is minimal.
Blog homepages will look less like blogs (and readers will hate it).
More and more bloggers will follow the trend of “welcome” pages as their homepage without a list of recent articles. Some will execute this well, but most will mess this up and create a confusing experience for their readers with unclear sections and categories and no easy way to see a list of the most recent articles.
I recommend bloggers think first about what their readers would like to see when they arrive on your homepage. To me, one of the top priorities should be a list of your most recent articles.
Personal branding (in all niches) will become increasingly important.
The old school of thought was that you should remove yourself and your personality from your business. This would make it easier to sell and less dependent on you. There is some truth to this but I think business is trending in the opposite direction.
Whether you write about home decor, organization, life insurance, or pet food, personally branding will set business owners apart. People like to follow people, not companies. Readers will not resonate and connect with a cold business brand the same way they will connect with a person. Don't be afraid to show your personality!
Traditional publishers will recognize the power of online audiences.
Traditional publishers will recognize the value of large audiences and their power to sell books. Once ignored in the traditional publishing world, bloggers will increasingly be offered traditional book deals.
Traditionally published books are great for exposure, but bloggers who focus on eBooks and online courses sold directly to their audience will be the most profitable in 2016.
Pinterest will become increasingly “pay to play” with their promoted pin platform.
Like most good things, free traffic from Pinterest in vast quantities will not last forever. As competition and saturation increases, the easy traffic will be harder to come by. Those that work hard at Pinterest and understand the platform will continue to see great traffic numbers.
As Pinterest traffic becomes harder to come by, it will become more important to take advantage of that traffic through email opt-ins and digital products.
In 2016 there will be tremendous opportunity for bloggers who sell digital products to build consistent, paid funnels with promoted pins as the backbone. The "paid traffic" numbers will never make sense for bloggers who don't sell their own digital products.
Where to go from here?
The pace of change in the online business world can be frustrating. Just when a strategy or social platform is working for you, everything changes. Instead of chasing the next hot strategy, focus on the fundamentals all while keeping your eye on overall trends. What are those fundamentals? I'm so glad you asked...
- Create high-quality, helpful, and engaging content on a consistent basis.
- Focus on creating an engaged email list by offering something of value for free in exchange for an email address.
- Create and sell digital products directly to your audience on your site.
Everything else is just details. Social platforms come and go and strategies come and go. It doesn't mean you can ignore other strategies; you just shouldn't stake your entire business on platforms and strategies that are out of your control.