Successful bloggers invest more time in writing, write longer posts (1,000+ words), publish new blog posts more frequently, cite third parties, and use images and visuals
“When I pulled up our data, I had one big takeaway: we put too much energy into Twitter and LinkedIn, and not enough into Blogs and building our core list and email.” So wrote Jason Lemkin on LinkedIn and, true to his statement, in a blog post on SaaStr.
I couldn’t agree more – the priority of work in B2B marketing ought to be owned, shared, earned, paid – in that order. In other words, focus on owned media, like blogs, because it’s an asset that fuels everything else in marketing.
This is where the annual survey of bloggers by Orbit Media is useful. The web design agency polls roughly 1,000 bloggers every year and obtains useful benchmarks about blogging.
Then they go a step further and segment answers by respondents who report “strong results” from blogging. This allows them to illustrate what the most successful bloggers do differently from everyone else. Below are five activities that stood out to me.
1. Successful bloggers invest more time in writing.
On average, bloggers spend a little more than 4 hours writing a post. This average time has increased by nearly 75% over the last decade or so. It’s natural to spend more time on important tasks – and the most successful bloggers spend 6 hours or more on every post.
It doesn’t always work out this way. There are posts I’ve written that I’ve labored to write over several days and those didn’t go anywhere. Then there are posts I’ve cranked out in an hour, and they earn lots of reads and shares.
2. Successful bloggers tend to write longer posts.
The average blog post in 2022 runs 1,376 words in length – down from 1,416. That’s a long climb up from 2014, when Orbit first started this survey, when the average post was 800 words long.
In my view, an 800-word blog post is still pretty meaty. However, there’s an interesting correlation here: bloggers who write longer posts are more likely to report “strong results.”
This finding tends to stir up some debate every year. Some rightfully say, look, a post shouldn’t be longer than what it takes to make a point. And 3,000 words of corporate drivel won’t perform better than 200 words of corporate drivel.
Of course, I agree with all of that, and yet this finding isn’t an anomaly; this correlation is present year after year. Why? Because bloggers that spend 6 or more hours writing posts with 2,000 or more words are probably producing high-quality posts worth reading.
“Sharing thoughtfully written, engaging, and strategically focused stories is a proven way to distinguish your brand – and capture audience attention. It’s time to dispel the myth that this kind of content can be created quickly or with little effort invested.”
3. Successful bloggers publish new posts more frequently.
The majority of bloggers publish new posts weekly or monthly. The most successful bloggers publish blog posts 2-6 times per week.
If it seems like a lot, it is – but it’s also entirely achievable. I once managed a corporate blog that was published five times a week – and managed the social media channels, media relations, analyst relations and internal communications for a B2B tech business. To be sure, I was busy – but we started smaller and grew into it. And I had two outside PR consultants to help with the writing (and PR).
The key is to remember that everything doesn’t need to start from scratch. You’ve got lots of things that can be repurposed already: webinars, white papers, and contributed articles. In addition, not every post needs to be 1,000+ words either – this survey reports averages. Sure, you should have some longer posts, and I’m a data-driven advocate of long-form, but you can also write interesting short pieces too.
For example, we used to run a post on Fridays that was themed the “Friday Share.” We’d make a short post that featured an asset – a video, graphic or presentation – another person or organization created. This proved to be a good way to “make friends” too – a hallmark of the “PR approach” to content marketing.
One final point here is that consistency matters more than frequency. Chose a publication deadline and stick to it. This will get your team conditioned to produce on deadline – and condition your audience as to when they can expect new content from you. Create a plan to amplify the blog posts you are already producing. Consistency is a staple of a lot of things in life: relationships, parenting, fitness and the like, so naturally, it’s an important part of blogging.
Remember that quote from Jason Lemkin above? Some of that social traffic is almost certainly from blog posts being shared on social media.
4. Successful bloggers quote and cite third parties.
We live in an age where every company has the potential to be a media company. This means you run your blog, newsletter or website just like a media publication.
Typically, this entails writing with an editorial tone, publishing consistently, and the latest Orbit study points out – citing third parties:
“Journalists don’t write articles without sources; why do bloggers write articles without contributor quotes?”
As you can see from the graphic below: Of the bloggers that “always” cite third parties on posts, 67% report “strong results.” And there’s a strong correlation among the other segments: the most successful bloggers quote and cite third parties.
The report cites “influencers” but in my experience, who you quote doesn’t have to be an “influencer” per se. You can have success citing “regular” people who are experts in the topic about which you are writing. I often find this preferable because you find real insight from people in the trenches, where influencers can become a bit of an echo chamber. The “Friday Share” theme is a good example of an easy way to incorporate this technique.
In addition, I’d recommend B2B marketing get comfortable sharing good reports and studies from non-competitive vendors in the same vertical market. If you produce original research, there’s an opportunity for co-producing that research – aka “co-marketing” too.
5. Successful bloggers use visuals
To build on an old saying, a picture complements 1,000 words. The most successful bloggers use visuals.
According to the survey report, blog posts that include video enjoy a “4x lift” for “many of the engagement metrics.” And further:
“The more bloggers add images and videos, the more likely they are to report success. Bloggers who use 7+ images per post are 2.3x more likely to report strong results.”
This has been true for as long as I can remember – and in other formats too. Years ago, I worked for a PR tech vendor that owned a popular press release distribution site. The product manager analyzed product data and found press releases that included images, on average, improved time on page by 30 seconds. That’s a lifetime in digital marketing.
There are caveats though of course: you need to optimize images so they don’t take forever to load, use descriptive words in image file names and include alternative text for both accessibility purposes where appropriate (don’t do this for stock photos). ALT text is still how search engines know what the image is about. Multimedia is another asset that can be crawled, indexed and returned in response to relevant search queries.
Build a subscribed audience for your blog
If there’s one final piece of advice I’d offer – one that wasn’t part of the survey – but the successful bloggers most assuredly do is this: focus on building a subscribed audience.
Google can change its algorithms and you can see your traffic plummet. Social media sites can shudder (Google+) or remove your account without reason. Cool sites today fall out of favor (MySpace). The lesson is this: don’t make home improvements to rental property.
Building a subscribed audience, preferably by email, is an important aspect of finding success in blogging – whether for personal or professional reasons.
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The full report this year is based on a poll of 1,016 bloggers. Respondents skew toward B2B marketers in the US. The report notes “responses were gathered in August and September of 2022” and “this is a survey of bloggers (individuals), not companies or brands (groups).” The full report has many more statistics worth pursuing and it’s available here without registration. I’ve also written about prior years’ surveys here, here, here, here and here.
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Image credit: Unsplash