Back in 2009, on the Blog Herald I wrote a post entitled “Should Your Blog Be on Tumblr?” taking a look at whether using Tumblr was right for your site or not.
While there was no simple answer at that time, it seems a lot of people chose Tumblr in the past 2-3 years. Lately, the Web has been talking about how, if the current trends continue, it’s likely that searches for the word “Tumblr” could outpace searches for the word “blog” by mid-October this year, a day I’ve taken to calling T-Day.
Simply put, Tumblr has had a meteoric rise since late 2010 and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to slow down. It has long since passed “WordPress” as a search term and, given the recent attention to Tumblr, T-Day could be even sooner than the comic predicted.
But would it have any significance? Does it matter if it comes before or after it’s predicted? The answer is simple: Probably not.
Because as interesting as Google search trends are, they aren’t the only source of data and they are easily skewed. However, it is still impressive what Tumblr has managed and, as such, it’s probably worth a second look as a blogging platform.
The Problem With Search Trends
Search trends are often important for SEO but they aren’t very useful as a barometer of overall popularity. The reason is that people search for (and don’t search for) things for odd reasons at times. This is why SEO experts look at trends, not just to understand what is popular, but how exactly people are trying to find it and how those trends are changing.
Tumblr, for example, is not just a blog network, but it’s a social network, a company, a service and much more. Blog, on the other hand, is a fairly generic term for a broad type of site (or sections thereof). The term, thanks to the growth of blogging and the wide variety of blog types, has become almost meaningless, giving users little reason to search for it even as blogging has continued to grow.
This problem is exasperated by how mainstream blogging has become. Nearly every new and popular site either is a blog or has one as a part of it. These days, it’s more peculiar to see a site without a blog than with and that makes search for “blog” akin to search for “website”. Which, for the record, has a lower search volume than both “blog” and “tumblr”.
Another issue is that Google Trends is more a tool for tracking buzz than practical popularity. For example. If you compare Tumblr to Pinterest, it seems that Pinterest has about half of the popularity as Tumblr but, when you look at the statistics, Tumblr has many times more users and visitors. Likewise, it appears that Tumblr is many times more popular than WordPress but, in truth, WordPress powers approximately 40% more blogs when you compare their numbers to Tumblr’s.
The reason is that being an established player in the field counts, even if it doesn’t make you new, exciting or buzz-worthy. While everyone online seems to be obsessed with what’s new and trendy, the truth is that, even online, there’s far more prominence to be had in longevity, which is what the broader blogging community, what Tumblr is a part of, has in spades.
However, this isn’t meant to slight Tumblr’s surge. As a blogger, you can’t simply ignore the rise in popularity of the service and the benefits it brings.
Looking back at my 2009 article, it’s clear that Tumblr has grown by leaps and bounds and it has something new to offer bloggers considering it: A huge built-in audience and community.
Having gone from 12 to 41 million blogs in 2011 alone and is currently, according to some sources, serving at least 16 billion page views a month. That is not traffic to take lightly.
As such, Tumblr sites tend to fit a fairly specific format. Even if you can break the mold, since it’s the format that does well on the site and it’s what people expect, there’s little benefit to doing it.
In the end, the advice I gave in 2009 remains more or less valid: If Tumblr is the right platform for your site, then you should definitely consider it – Now more than ever. But if it isn’t, it may not be a good choice for your main blogging platform.
The one thing that has changed is that, even if Tumblr isn’t right for your site, you may still benefit from having a presence there. While it’s not as large from a user standpoint as Facebook or Twitter, it’s a community that consumes a great deal of content, of all types.
It might not have the largest audience, but it is still a great place to get read or viewed.
In the end, the world isn’t going to change much on T-Day. Blogs aren’t going to suddenly become irrelevant and Tumblr won’t suddenly become the only platform that matters.
But that isn’t to discount Tumblr either. The service has had explosive growth and it is a platform well worth serious consideration from bloggers, whether as a platform for their main blog or merely as a place to keep a presence.
In short, Tumblr is definitely worth a second look for bloggers and even I am rethinking my Tumblr strategy for a few projects, but it doesn’t mean that you should jump ship completely from whatever platform you are on now.
Blogging will remain relevant and people will still be visiting sites that use WordPress, Blogspot, Drupal, Joomla and countless other platforms. What you do with your site, not how you build it, will determine how relevant you are moving forward.
So, as impressive as Tumblr’s growth is, it’s not some apocalypse for blogging. It may be an evolution, but it isn’t going to wipe the slate clean.