Do plugins and automation devalue a blog for the reader?
Before I got involved in the blogosphere, I did not have an opinion either way on whether employing plugins to ‘boost’ rankings for or traffic to a blog was good or bad practice. Until recently, a blog to me was just a means to publish online what I would normally drone onto friends and family about or at the greatest extreme, subject matter I’d normally restrict to a personal journal. What did I care if anyone beyond a handful of curious folk read my ramblings? In addition, my background in online marketing, in particular, search, meant that the idea of employing tools to help get a job done or to get more exposure for whichever corporate I was employed by was very familiar and very acceptable. Why not use tools and automation – it allows me to get more done and to reach more people? I had no idea this was a controversial concept in the world of blogging.
In my work for BlogPiG, I’ve had cause to look at blogs in depth and with a completely new perspective. I’ve discovered (and forgive me, dear reader, because you’ll be way ahead of me on this) that blogging isn’t just the next fad on the web or the next internet marketer’s direct route to fortune; blogging is an entire culture with etiquette and, well, emotion. It seems that, rather like the black hat/white hat divide within search marketing, there is a clear line drawn in the sand between good blogging practice and bad blogging practice. That line conjures up some pretty feisty debate.
In researching where people were talking about automation tools and what they were saying, I found an inflexible boundary between pro-automation and anti-automation camps of opinion. If you held up your hand and declared yourself to be pro-automation, you were branded, directly or indirectly, a cheat and a thief. The purists would have you tarred and feathered for blighting the blogging landscape with disingenuous, even stolen content or time-wasting clap-trap all in the pursuit of ill-gotten dollars. Those who were pro auto-blogging would often present the image of large-scale money-earners where sales and commission were the end game rather than providing good content to those interested in their blogs’ topics.
What I did not come across much of was a happy medium and I’d propose that it doesn’t have to be black and white – full automation or no automation. I agree that quality matters and unique, hand crafted, genuine content is important (and is in many cases vital) but it takes a lot of time and isn’t always scalable – and scalability is what some bloggers need in order to make a living and carry on what they are doing. Full automation meets the needs of some bloggers, 100% hands on work suits others, but a magic blend of automation and personal input can also work wonders.
Imagine automating all the time-consuming tasks like managing datafeeds or tagging your blogs so that your personal input goes into the more valuable tasks of crafting your thoughts, opinions and reviews or responding personally to those people generous enough to comment on your blog. Imagine getting enough comments on your blog to negate the ‘I don’t want to be first to comment’ syndrome or getting good enough rankings that people can find your blog in the first place! You could have the most valuable blog out there which holds the fruit of someone’s desperate search but if they can’t find your blog which contains all this wonderful information….what service are you really providing?
I guess I’m saying that perhaps people should review their perspective on employing automation tools on blogs. You don’t have to abandon your principles or your quality content, you can in fact bolster them by allowing yourself enough time to focus on what’s important – the information, thoughts and opinions you are publishing and the people who are engaging with them. Let a clever plugin ‘keep shop’ for you and get your blog exposed while you concentrate on your content and your readers.
Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking you have to be ‘all’ automation or ‘no’ automation. Consider a happy blend.