eMarketer have an interesting survey "Blog Reading is a Free Floating Affair" studying how people discover blogs. The study (survey of about 200 respondents) showed that 67% followed links from other blogs. Recommendations came second at 23%, then search engines 20% then blog search engines at 5% (multiple responses were allowed).
One hypothesis from this might be that blogs are read by blog people who search them out in blog-ish fashion. This is also a possible conclusion from the data about the popularity of the Dilbert blog and newsletter that I reported a while ago. If so this would be something you'd want to consider before making a business blog - do you /do you not want to appeal to blog readers?
But I'm not convinced that the data justify eMarketer's subheading "Thinking of promoting a blog through search? Don't bother. ". Most of the respondents in the survey were finding blogs for entertainment (66%) and for personal interests (43%); with only 33% finding blogs for education/information and 12% for work or business (multiple responses were allowed to this question). It may be that they were looking at a lot of blogs that were run by individuals. And getting links from other blogs is probably the easiest way for individuals to spread the word about their blogs. There are several factors to this:
- Comment and trackback features allow a blog owner to make their own inbound links from other blogs (to an extent, at least)
- There is often an easy-to-find person behind the blog - in my experience at least, emailing that person (I liked your blog and have written about it/linked to it) is quite likely to get an interested response, and perhaps a link (like this link to me, one of my first, I think). Getting a link from other kinds of websites can be much more of an effort ("when the webmaster gets around to it")
- Blogging seems easily to lead to posts along the lines that "I read this on the web and I think it is very true/complete tosh because..."
By contrast, you have to bother to register for search engines, or be kindly linked to from a page that already gets visits from robots. I wonder how many individual bloggers would find it useful to run paid ads on the engines?
So the survey data may reflect the ways in which many blogs find it easy or convenient to form links (or what happens when someone concentrates on writing their blog and doesn't make any real effort to market it). I'm not at all sure it shows that search doesn't work. My own blog typically gets more referrals from organic Google listings than from any single other source (that is Google is less that 50% of referrals, but is the biggest single slice of the pie. I should say that I do not expend much effort and no money at all in marketing my blog, it being mostly for my own professional development.