In a post- “capital-C Content” world, everyone blogs. Or, more accurately, everyone feels the vague paranoia that they should be blogging more than they are. But it’s tough to know when and how and what to do. Agencies love offering advice (on their own optimized blogs, of course), but the search for a simple answer has ended up with true, legitimate data that ends up being generic to the point of uselessness. Any of these things are useful in the abstract, but no help whatsoever once it filters down to your actions.
Let’s talk through some of those myths and turn them into better advice.
Putting out anything is better than not blogging.
When you visit a new blog, how deeply do you read? If you’re like most of us, you’ll skim the first two or three posts. If you’re not intrigued by then, you bolt. The internet is awash in information; why should you waste your time on things you don’t find value in?
This is the problem with blogging only to fulfill a schedule. You have a very small window to prove your value and capture new readers (which is key to growing your audience). If your most recent blog posts are promoting your own products or sharing company news (which doesn’t help the reader in the slightest), they will never even see your highly researched, slam-dunk post from two weeks ago.
Putting out low-value work will only crowd out your high-value work.
Keep your “fluff” posts (product promos, events, announcements, staff promotions, etc.) to less than 20% of your blog. Posting fluff will drive away the readers, not bring them in.
I need to blog more!
When people first hear about content or inbound marketing, this is the first thing that jumps into their heads. Since blogging is so important, more must be better, right?
Well, yes, but only to a point.
Blogging more is only valuable if you can also keep up two other metrics: value and consistency. Myth #1 lays out the importance of value, but consistency is also critical. If readers come to your blog only to be disappointed with nothing new, they will be less likely to return. If you establish a schedule they can anticipate, they will come according to your schedule, not the other way around. More is better, but only if you can commit to that frequency over the long haul.
Frequency + Value + Consistency = Ideal blog calendar
Create your blog schedule based on your resources. Do you have a lot of possible contributors? Or is it just you, yourself and you? Be realistic about how much each contributor can add that is of real value, and work backwards from there.
I should post my blogs at ___ time.
There are plenty of studies that all claim to hold the key to the “perfect time to post your blog.” These posts are all interesting (especially to a data nerd like me), but not effective. Are these B2B or B2C readers? Is it from a strict working-hours industry (such as banking), or a roll-out-of-bed group (like tech)? Broad data sets are wonderful at gaining consensus, however they collapse all that interesting and specific data into one generalization. Which means that all that beautifully displayed data does your specific posting schedule almost no good.
Scores of data for other audiences doesn’t help you understand yours. You have to do that legwork for yourself.
When you’re setting your own schedule, certainly make sure to test the data-recommended times. But you need to test all of your options. I’ve seen blogs that are full of ambitious early risers, with peak performance at 7:30 a.m. Others have a strong readership on Fridays at 9:30 p.m., as people are relaxing into their weekend.
Track a few months of blogs while varying your posting times. When you compare posting times, what do you find? Does that change if you include the topics as another dimension? Run a few tests a year to key into your ideal schedule and adapt if or when you see your audience changing.
Don’t have an established readership yet? Scout your closest competitors. You may or may not have view counts, but you can almost always see how many comments or social shares it gained.
300/500/800/2400 words is too short/too long/just right
The gold standard of esoteric measurement for blogs is the word count. What is the magic number? We want to know what will guarantee success, and then make sure we clear that bar, no matter the circumstance.
Of course, there is no such number, and no such legalistic bar-clearing will guarantee success.
Seth Godin can change his readers’ outlooks in 50 words or less. Michael Andrews of Story Needle would put Tolkien to shame with his 4,000-plus-word content strategy analyses. The key is that each word increases their reader’s understanding. Attention spans are short, but readers have proven that they will read 3,000 words if they find value. They won’t waste 50 words on junk.
Word counts don’t matter. Word value does. You can write long, short or both, but it has to be making your readers’ lives better.
When you’re planning out your post, set it up as a journey. Determine where your readers are at the beginning of your post, and bring them to greater understanding or information at the end. Once you’ve written it out, remove anything that doesn’t help them get from point A to point B. That is your magic number.
Like any good work, good content defies easy truths. When you see a claim for the “perfect time” for this or the “ideal length” for that, thank them for their snake oil and be on your way. You’ve got useful content to produce.