What separates successful bloggers from those that aren’t can be distilled down to three habits:
- They invest time.
- They write quality posts.
- They do this consistently.
That’s according to the results of a survey of 1,377 bloggers conducted by Orbit Media a web design agency. It’s the fourth consecutive year the agency has conducted the survey.
These habits are applicable to corporate blogging where a blog is a central platform in a content marketing strategy. Certainly, there’s an art and science to attracting and building an audience – but there’s also a lot of grit.
The Orbit survey provides useful benchmarks for understanding that grit.
1) How long does it take to write a blog post?
The average time spent composing a blog post this year was three hours and twenty minutes (3:20). That’s up by four minutes (3:16) from the previous year, but the trendline points to greater investments of time.
For example, 39% of bloggers spent more time on a routine post than they did three years ago and some are spending significantly more time:
- 17% of bloggers say they spend 3-4 hours on a blog post
- 15% of bloggers say they spend 4-6 hours on a blog post
- 12% of bloggers say they spend more than 6 hours on a blog post
How much time you spend on a post may vary based on a number of factors including the complexity, familiarity and deadlines. However, there is a relationship between the time invested in blogging and the results earned: “49% of bloggers who spend 6+ hours on each article report “strong results” from blogging.”
That’s why the first habit of successful bloggers is they invest time into the trade.
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2) How long should a blog post be?
The average post today is 1,142 words long but it’s clear that blog posts are getting longer – 41% longer than the typical post three years ago. While the number of bloggers writing shorter posts (between 500-1,000 words) is down, those writing 1,000 or more words per post rose.
The study is careful to point out that the data does not say longer posts are always better. However, there is an unmistakable relationship between the length of blog posts and results: “Bloggers who write big posts are twice as likely to report strong results.”
Does that mean every post should be long-form? Not necessarily. Can you write some short ones? Of course. As I wrote in a post about the same study last year, when clients ask me how long a blog post should be – my answer is as long as required to communicate an idea effectively.
If you are just jamming words on a page to hit a word count number, chances are your blog will fail over time. But if it takes 1,000 or more words to thoroughly examine a topic that is useful and relevant to your target market – and leaves them better off as a result of reading it – then you’re on your way to building a successful blog.
More importantly, that’s why the second habit of successful bloggers is they write quality posts.
3) How often should blogs publish posts?
Most bloggers publish somewhere between several posts a week to several posts a month. When asked how frequently they publish bloggers said:
- 3% publish posts daily
- 18% published 2-6 posts per week
- 22% publish weekly
- 23% publish several posts per month
- 13% publish monthly
- 16% publish irregularly
The data also showed a relationship between the frequency of blog posts and results. As Orbit put it, “Bloggers who publish more often are far more likely to get results.”
This reflects my professional experience creating and maintaining blogs for businesses too: generally, publishing several times a month is good, weekly is better, and daily is best. There are exceptions but the logic holds up; I assess there are several factors at play here:
- Writing blogs is like exercise, you get better and stronger with frequent workouts
- Writing blogs at this volume forces you to develop and improve process
- Writing more blogs means more chances of a post catching on
- Writing blogs consistency shapes audience anticipation and expectations
One of the most successful corporate blogs I’ve managed published five days a week like clockwork. Success means, by the third year, we determined the blog influenced about one-third of enterprise software deals with an ASP north of $1 million. I’m convinced the results were far better (and I had a ton of KPIs and anecdotal indications of such), but that’s what we had the means to measure.
That’s why the third habit of successful bloggers is they publish consistently.
Advanced Habits of Successful Bloggers
Those three habits are the foundations of a successful blog, but the study also surfaced several other more advanced tips. There is a relationship between those bloggers that report success and the use of multimedia, analytics and maintaining older posts.
a) Successful bloggers use multimedia
Using multimedia – images, graphics, and video – is essential. When these items are properly optimized, it’s one more asset that gets indexed and expands your digital footprint.
Images files should be given a name that’s relevant to the content, alternative tags (ALT tags) should be entered, the files need to be sized properly. If your image file is too large, it will take time to load, slow your site speed, and would-be readers get impatient and bounce.
b) Successful bloggers use analytics
More than 80% of bloggers check analytics frequently – and about one-third “always” check analytics (it’s an OCD for blogging insiders). As the study says, “bloggers who measure results get better results.”
If there’s a cautionary tale, it’s that analytics parse what happened, and don’t tell you what’s going to happen. While it’s useful to examine what content performed well, be sure to experiment and put your intuition to the test.
c) Successful bloggers update older blog posts
The study found “bloggers who update older content are 74% more likely to report strong results.” What the study did not find is that updating older content is tedious hard work (but it is).
Take this blog for example – it’s soon to have a 9-year anniversary. That means there is nearly a decade of content on this site that needs maintenance. I can’t update every post, so two intelligent approaches are to use the Search Console (by Google) and analytics.
The Search Console is something you should be checking at least annually. It shows you how the search engine views and indexes your site. I look at crawl errors and content with backlinks as a means to develop a shortlist of posts worth updating. With analytics, I’ll filter results by year and look for those posts that are still pulling traffic.
The real secret though isn’t just updating the content – it’s the re-circulation of those posts that have withstood the test of time.
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The full study is freely available online – as a blog post. It’s not a PDF and it doesn’t require registration. Therein lies another habit to successful blogging.
Note: A question to Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media about this survey remained unanswered at the time of this writing.
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Image credits: The 2017 Survey of 1000+ Bloggers