There are lots of great reasons for brands to write a blog. Its reported that companies that prioritise blogging see 97% more links to their website and are 13x more likely to achieve a positive ROI on marketing efforts. Consumers also want great blog content – 47% of buyers view three to five pieces of content before engaging a sales rep. Personally, I read blogs to learn about everything from marketing tips to travel destinations, research new products and get the ‘inside scoop’ on whatever topic I’m fixated on.
So, perhaps you’ve already been thinking about starting to write a blog. You might, however, have a few questions about how it all works. That’s why I wanted to share a great survey by Orbit Media who reached out to more than 1,300 bloggers to take a peek inside the blogosphere. It revealed some interesting findings about ‘best practice’ blogging.
Here are 8 questions you have about blogging that you’ve never asked!
1. How long should it take to write a blog post?
The answer depends on your individual writing process and subject-matter expertise but the survey suggests that overall, we’re spending MORE time per post than ever before. In 2014, the average blog post took 2.5 hours to create but it’s been increasing ever since. Now, posts take an average of 3 hours 20 minutes. Similarly, the number of bloggers tackling posts in under an hour is on the decline.
Three years ago, 1 in 20 bloggers spent more than six hours on a typical blog post. Today that number is 1 in 8. And about half of those who do report ‘strong results’ from blogging. While there is always a diminishing return on your effort, the bottom line is that quality matters and investing more a bit more time will likely lead to stronger content.
2. How often should I post?
The frequency of posts varies but most bloggers are in the several-per-week to several-per-month range. The survey found that 18% of bloggers publish two to six times per week, while 20% publish weekly and 22% publish a few times per month. Frequency and consistency are important factors in blogging success, although post frequency is decreasing overall as the time spent on post increases.
So, it more always better? Not necessarily. Bloggers who publish more frequently are far more likely to report strong results, but it doesn’t mean it should be your core focus. Quality should come before quantity.
3. How long should my posts be?
Despite the collective decline in our attention spans, the survey revealed a trend toward longer form blog content. This likely correlates with the extra time bloggers are spending in producing high-quality content. Around 46% of blog posts contain 500 and 1000 words but the average length of posts is up 41% percent in three years. Posts now average 1142 words compared to just 808 words in 2014.
While blog posts should be at least 300 words for SEO purposes, it doesn’t really matter how long a post is, as long as it adequately covers your topic or answers what you target audiences needs to know!
4. What else needs to be included in a blog post?
I’m thinking about the only Extreme song I know when I say that your blog needs ‘more than words.’ As with every other part of marketing, blogging is now a very visual medium. Around 58% of bloggers include more than one image and 47% include a list format in their posts.
The survey found that content with more images and video gets better results, as reported by the bloggers who use them. Multiple images are better than a single image and videos are better than pictures. The percentage of bloggers using video (15.9%), however, has not changed as much over time as our social media feeds might suggest. Interestingly, bloggers who use audio in their blog content (presumably podcasts) are the most likely to report strong results.
5. Should I be updating my old blog posts?
The short answer is yes! Around 57% of B2B marketers have said producing content consistently is their biggest struggle. That’s why repurposing or updating old posts is a great tactic. Most bloggers go back and freshen up old posts and those who do are 74% more likely to report strong results. As your body of blog content grows, you’ll spot opportunities to go back, rewrite and republish your older content for fresh audiences.
Timely articles often generate strong traffic but you could see an increase in your bounce rates as time goes on. Readers want to know they’re getting the most up-to-date information, so it’s worth going back and reworking the post where needed. Include a new date stamp to show it’s been updated but be sure not to make changes to the URL or you’ll hurt your SEO efforts.
6. Do I need someone to edit my posts before publishing?
Even in a busy working environment, there’s always time for someone to read over your posts before you send them out into the world. From a business standpoint, it’s much better to spend a bit more time editing than to publish a post that doesn’t hit the mark or worse, contains false information or errors. While about 48% of bloggers edit on their own posts, twice as many bloggers work with editors compared to 2014 (now at 18.7%). Another 29% show posts to at least one or two people.
Bloggers who have a formal process for edits are 43% more likely to report strong results. It’s always best to have an extra set of eyes and gaining outside perspective might trigger ideas that you missed or haven’t fully addressed.
7. How should I promote my blog?
There’s well-known question, “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” A slightly different version comes to mind when I think about blog promotion – ‘If I post an article that no one reads, did I even post it?’ There are lots of different ways to promote a blog. You’ll need to test to find out what will work for your brand but the survey suggests a few trends.
One in four bloggers are now collaborating with influencers, with almost half of those who do reporting strong results. That’s because it’s much easier to tap into an audience that’s already engaging with content that’s similar to yours than to build your own. Almost two-thirds of bloggers focus in improving SEO. The survey also found an almost 5x increase in paid content promotion since 2014, with only 3% of bloggers who use paid promotion reporting disappointing results. Somewhat surprisingly, 42% of bloggers are still not using email marketing.
8. How often should I be checking my analytics data?
The answer may depend on what data you’re tracking and how you’re putting it to use. Many bloggers check their analytics daily. For me, I have a quick look every day or so and systematically track progress weekly to look for trends. The more data you have, the more valuable it can be to track and test often.
What surprised me was that the survey showed 42% of bloggers don’t use analytics or use it only occasionally and 1 in 20 bloggers doesn’t even have access to analytics. This is a BIG missed opportunity because you can’t improve what you can’t measure. There are lots of free or cheap tools available to help you master the basics. Google even offers free online workshops for Google Analytics. Once you start diving into data, you’ll unlock new insight that will help drive your business forward, make your content more effective and deliver better value for your customers.