So a client asked me to pen a POV about some “rules of thumb for blog posts” in support of their content marketing efforts.  Since I did the hard work of finding all this stuff out for them, I figured I would share it with our Sol blog readers.

Length:

  • Try to keep your posts over 250 words to get better search engine optimization effects
  • Try to reach a target of approximately 500 words for blog posts; a range between 400-600 is commonly used as the length that most readers will stick to from start to finish, and most writers can communicate a focused message with supporting details.
  • Also, you can actually calculate the ideal blog length for your site by looking at Google Analytics and figuring out the average time spent/page for your website; make sure you look at a data range of about 3 months so you capture seasonality and trends.

◦ You’ll get a number like 1 minute and 37 seconds or something.  Take that time and convert it to a number (e.g. 1.62)

◦ Multiply that number times 180 (the average number of words read per minute):  1.62 x 180 = 291.6

◦ This number suggests the length your average blog post should be

  • The average time per page on most websites is around one minute.  If you open Google Analytics for your website (or whatever website your blog will be attached to), you’ll be able to get this number very easily.
  • If you don’t have access to Google Analytics, with a little bit of online research you should be able to come up with a category average for time spent/page.
  • Great blog posts are designed to get a SINGLE KEY MESSAGE across within the span of time that a person can read it.  Too much detail, and readers don’t ever make it all the way through your story and abandon early. Research has shown that this creates guilt in the reader’s mind, further contributing to a negative user experience.
  • Seriously, blogs that are too long are bad for business.

 

As far as blog format goes, the Sol team recently conducted some communication asset testing where we tested things like infographics, “listicles”, long-form articles, videos, case studies, photo essays, etc. against each other using a communications testing platform from our partner Cambia Information Group.

  • We learned that shorter, simpler form factors almost always engender greater goodwill at the earlier, information-gathering phases of the purchase influence lifecycle.
  • Greater detail, usually in the form of longer articles, very detailed blog posts and technical whitepapers, are more useful at the point in the sales funnel where customers are comparing products or companies against each other.
  • The compare stage is usually for when someone is actually getting ready to pull the trigger on a purchase and is weighing: “this product/service or THIS product/service?” and comparing the features/attributes of each.

 

Blog timing should be at regular pulses, but how often is a function of what your goals are.  If you are looking for page views, you would use one approach. If you are looking for engagement or conversion, you might use another.  However, here are some basics.

  • Rule of thumb (and you should experiment with this in terms of what days work best) is blog posts once a week, as long as they are high quality content
  • If you get good inbound traffic from a once-a-week blog, experiment with adding one more blog per week for a few weeks and see if that increases or decreases traffic, and then adjust
  • Once you figure out what day works best, future posts should be at the same time every week
  • Create an editorial calendar that can sustain that level of content
  • Pre-write evergreen blogs that you can insert if you run out of good relevant, timely ideas

 

As an aside:  here are some interesting facts about timing from the people at KissMetrics (Dan Zarella – he’s a big thought leader I follow in the industry)

  • Publish in the morning between 8 and 11am on multiple days, specifically Monday, Friday, and Saturday. Share your posts on Facebook in the morning and on Twitter in the afternoon to stimulate the most social sharing
  • The highest percentage of users read blogs in the morning.
  • A higher percentage of men read blogs in the evening and at night.
  • The average blog gets the most traffic on Monday.
  • The average blog gets the most traffic around 11am Eastern Time.
  • The average blog gets the most comments on Saturday.
  • The average blog gets the most inbound links on Monday and Thursday.
  • The average blog gets the most inbound links at 7am Eastern Time.