After seven years of working hard at content, we had a few questions about the process of blogging.
How much time does it take to write a typical blog post? Do most bloggers use an editor? How do bloggers find time to write? How do bloggers promote their work?
So we decided to look for some answers. Right away, we knew that the only way to find out was to ask people. A lot of people. Soon the Department of Blogger Labor Survey was born.
UPDATE: This research project has been updated for 2016, with new data and analysis. View the 2016 Blogger Research Survey >
What did we ask?
Our goal was to learn about the effort and approach to blogging. So we asked 11 simple questions about the time, place, and process.
1033 bloggers completed the survey, from all 50 US states and 37 countries. Assuming a total population of 1 million bloggers, this gives us a 3% margin of error.
Here is the full report. Some of the answers are surprising. Others, less so. We’ve also added the perspective of an expert blogger for each question.
Most bloggers (54%) spend 2 hours or less on a blog post.
About 5% of bloggers spend a lot more time on each post (6+ hours).
The typical blog post takes about 2.5 hours to create.
Note: To discover the length of time spent on a typical blog post, we assumed those who spend less than an hour spend 30 minutes, those who spend one to two hours spend 90 minutes, continuing the assumed averages up to the last group of bloggers who spend 6+ hours. Let’s say they spend 8 hours per post on average. Thus, the average post takes 144 minutes to create, or 2 hours 24 minutes.
The time invested by bloggers can be represented on a bell curve, peaking in the 1 to 2 hour range, and then trailing off to the small percentage of bloggers investing an increasing amount of time.
The bloggers who are putting in much more time skew the average amount of time spent on a typical post. These appear to be the bloggers who prefer quality to quantity, publishing less frequently. More about publishing frequency below.
Here’s the input of an expert who puts in the extra time…
Expert Insight: Barry Feldman, Feldman Creative
Bloggers write at many different times of day, and on weekends.
4 out of 5 of bloggers write outside of work hours.
8% of bloggers write all the time! They selected every option: before, during, and after work, as well as on nights and weekends.
Blogging invades the brain. There is no off switch. Of all the respondents, only 22% answered “during business hours” and gave no other answer. That means 78% of bloggers are writing outside of work. 47% of respondents gave more than one answer.
Notice that there is a relatively equal distribution among the answers. The lowest answer (31% blog in the early mornings) varied only 29% from the highest answer (50% during business hours). As an activity, blogging knows no time boundaries.
Expert Insight: Gini Dietrich, Spin Sucks
“When you blog fairly consistently, you find there are blog post topics in your every day life. Watching the news, while exercising, or even out to dinner with friends conjure up blog post ideas. Many bloggers keep a notebook where they jot down ideas as they’re out and about. Others dictate voice notes and others simply send themselves emails.
It’s no surprise bloggers don’t have an off switch. The next time you’re socializing with a prolific blogger, remember the topic of conversation could become a blog post!”
A huge percentage of bloggers create content from home, 81.4%.
Bloggers create content everywhere.
Beyond the general lack of time boundaries we’ve already seen, here we see a lack of space boundaries. The mobile megatrend is not just about where we consume content. It’s about where we create it too.
The answers provided in “other, please specify” included trains, planes, and libraries, but also some other answers that help tell the story…
…anywhere I have my laptop: in bed, in my mechanic’s lobby, etc.
…friend’s houses, pretty much anywhere I can write – I will write
…I’ll write drafts on my phone while on the bus, then edit on a computer later
…on the [train], in the office, at lunch, in the kitchen, everywhere
…at the bar with a pint
…yesterday? My son’s basketball practice
…igloo in winter
…in the car as an audio recording
Anywhere, everywhere, anytime, all the time. The lack of limits on either space or time suggests that for many bloggers, creating content is more than a job. Blogging is a lifestyle. Andrew Davis is an example of a blogger who is productive in off hours…
Expert Insight: Andrew Davis
“One of the best places to write is on an airplane. Put on some noise canceling headphones. Don’t sign on to the wifi and immerse yourself. You’ll bang out three or four posts in a three hour flight. It’s amazing. (And a good reason to go on a trip).”
Most bloggers (54%) are publishing at least weekly.
Almost 14% of bloggers are not consistent in their publishing frequency.
Quantity is at odds with quality. Only 4.3% of bloggers who publish weekly or more are spending 6+ hours per post.
Here we see another rough bell curve shape, with a peak somewhere between daily and weekly. This shows that the survey respondents were mostly dedicated bloggers.
If you ask a blogger about frequency, many of them are disappointed with their own output, giving answers like “I should write more.” But the survey results indicate real consistency: 83% publish monthly or more often. Maybe we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves.
There is a inverse correlation between time invested per post and publishing frequency. Unsurprisingly, bloggers who spend more time on posts don’t publish as often.
Still, roughly 1 in 6 publish less than monthly or irregularly, reflecting the general challenge associated with producing quality content. There seems to be a trend away from quantity and toward quality. Experts like Brian Dean certainly make a good case…
Expert Insight: Brian Dean, Backlinko
“Most bloggers publish WAY too often. The fact is, no one cares how often or how consistently you publish blog posts. The only consistency that matters is quality: if you bat 1.000 with quality, you don’t need to worry about frequency.”
Brian practices what he preaches. His blog is updated monthly.
The vast majority of bloggers (73%) act as their own editors.
Only a small minority of bloggers (15%) use a formal editorial process.
Most bloggers aren’t perfectionists. 90.6% of survey respondents either edit their own work or use an informal process. It’s safe to say that most blog posts have never been seen by anyone but the author before they go live.
But self-editing doesn’t necessarily mean sloppy. Henneke is her own editor and she polishes her work to perfection…
Expert Insight: Henneke Duistermaat, Enchanting Marketing
“I spend quite a lot of time editing my own posts, in several rounds. First, I check whether I have not missed anything important, whether I can scrap sentences or redundant paragraphs, and whether the flow is logical.
Next, I look for bland sentences and try to make them sparkle. I also look whether the content is engaging. Have I included questions that address the reader directly? Before I publish, I read my text aloud and I add some white space if needed.”
Most of the respondents (53%) are service providers, blogging for others at least some of the time.
Only 14% produce most of their content for other businesses.
Most bloggers are doing at least some writing for client companies. They are service providers in the business of blogging. But bloggers who write for others also write for themselves. Only 14% of respondents do most of their writing for clients.
Knowing that so many bloggers are writing for more than one business, we can better understand the job of blogging and the skills required. Writing for multiple companies requires the ability to do research, client service, and possibly sales.
Expert Insights: Mana Ionescu, Lightspan Digital
Bloggers who write for themselves and for clients over time gain the most skills because they train themselves to constantly change voice, focus, and approach.
Writing from someone else’s perspective is a great way for any content marketer to improve their skills. It’s a great way to come up with new ideas and new angles. You’ll get better at writing content that is smart, customer centric, and compelling.
The majority of bloggers are writing for more than one blog.
Fewer than 5% of bloggers publish most of their content on sites other than their own.
Bloggers know that content isn’t limited to their own website. The majority of bloggers publish on others’ websites at least some of the time. But the survey doesn’t show what kind of websites these are. These may be clients’ sites, press or media outlets, or guest posts for other blogs.
For most bloggers, their posts are predominantly for one site. Only around 1 in 20 bloggers publish on others’ websites most of the time. Still, the majority of bloggers (58%) produce content for more than one site, highlighting the importance of Google Authorship and digital signatures.
Expert Insight: Danny Iny, Mirasee
“I definitely do a lot of guest posting, but not nearly as much as I used to back when I got started. The thing about guest posting is that the return tends to be quite linear, so it’s a lot smaller as a percentage of your total audience growth when your audience is a lot larger. It’s great when you’re just getting started, though, or want some extra traction on something important that you’re working on – but it’s important not to adopt any strategy blindly, no matter how effective it is!”
“Other” answers included personal email outreach, live presentations, press releases, automated co-sharing (Triberr), and links from other pages.
Social media is by far the most common promotion tactic, typically used by 94% of bloggers.
The popularity of promotional tactics are proportional to their difficulty.
Only 1 in 20 bloggers are paying to drive traffic to their posts.
Sharing content through social media is fast and easy and therefore used by almost all bloggers. At times, blogging and posting on social networks is almost indistinguishable. Some marketers consider blogging itself to be a form of social media.
Basic search engine optimization can also be relatively easy, especially through the basic guidance offered by CMS plugins. Best practices for SEO are so well known that most bloggers now produce search optimized content.
Email marketing is more difficult and time consuming, requiring a bit more writing, design, and list management. This may explain why only a third of bloggers are using these tactics.
Although social sharing is used almost universally, influencer outreach tactics, another more difficult form of social media, is less popular. Only 1 in 6 bloggers who use social media are reaching out to influencers.
Only a tiny percentage of bloggers are using paid sources of traffic.
Expert Insight: Ian Cleary, Outreach Plus & Razor Social
“If you produce a great piece of content, you will not get the true value from that content unless you promote it. You start off with the audience you have and then you try to reach new audiences. There is a strong correlation between content promotion and audience growth so promote if you want to grow!”
1 in 5 bloggers rarely or never checks the Analytics of their blog.
Almost half of all bloggers (49%) do not typically check Analytics.
Half of all bloggers are not using Analytics to measure the success of blog posts. Some don’t even have access to Analytics. This may indicate a skill gap in the blogger population and the need for a more strategic approach in the industry.
On the other hand, a solid 27% of bloggers always check Analytics. Writing is creative, but marketing requires analytical skills. A good percentage of bloggers have skill sets diverse enough to include analysis. Great bloggers (or at least one fourth of bloggers) use both halves of their brains.
Expert Insight: Heidi Cohen
“Pay attention to your blog metrics to achieve your goals. When it comes to blogging, analytics is your BFF. It will tell you the things about your blog that no one else will, including your mother.
First, determine your goals. “What do you want to achieve with your blog?” Next, build in the ability to track the performance of each post. That means having a contextually relevant call-to-action (CTA). Finally, monitor your blog results. Check your blog metrics regularly. This doesn’t mean every 5 minutes. The frequency depends on your publishing and distribution schedule.”
80% of bloggers create content that is 1000 words or less on average.
5% of bloggers write 1500+ words per post on average.
On average, bloggers are writing around 800 words per post.
Note: To discover the average length of a bloggers typical post, we assume that those writing less than 500 words write 400 words, those writing 500 to 1000 words write 750 words, continuing the assumed averages up to the last group who write 2000+ words. Let’s say they write 3000 words per post. Thus, the average length for the surveyed bloggers is around 800 words.
Here the bell curve looks more like a spike, with a giant drop off. A solid majority of bloggers (61%) are writing posts of the same length: 500 – 1000 words. The average length among surveyed bloggers was around 800 words. This makes 800 words seem like some unstated, but agreed-upon standard length for blog posts.
Although research shows that the ideal blog post length for SEO is more like 1500 words, only 1 in 20 bloggers produce content that long. A tiny percentage (only 14 respondents) write epic length content as a general rule.
Expert Insight: Ann Handley
“You know, I just had to eyeball this. Most of my stuff on AnnHandley.com is about 1,000 words, give or take. And my monthly Entrepreneur magazine columns are the same.
That’s probably a little long for most bloggers, but it works for me and my readers. I try to make them fun reads: I obsess over the words and their economy. There’s no word obesity in my posts.”
“Other” answers included links, recipes, soundcloud / music, illustrations, and quotes.
3 in 4 bloggers put images in their posts. Close to half of all bloggers are now using more than one image per post.
Lists posts are a typical format for almost a third of bloggers.
A full 25% of bloggers aren’t adding images to their blog posts. They’re just using text. Although research shows that blog posts with images attract more visitors, one in four bloggers isn’t taking the time. Close to half of all bloggers are creating content with multiple images.
List posts are popular. More than 30% of bloggers use lists.
Almost 15% of bloggers are now using video. This doesn’t necessarily indicate that the blogger produced the video themselves (it may be any video embedded from YouTube). This number is surprisingly high. On the other hand, very few bloggers are using audio. This looks like an opportunity.
Expert Insight: Melonie Dodaro, Top Dog Social Media
“Having a mix of multimedia in your blog posts allows for you to appeal to a wider range of readers. Adding visuals including images, infographics, and videos make your post more likely to be shared increasing your audience.”
The typical blogger publishes several posts per week of around 800 words each. They write both in the office and at home after work. They spend a few hours on a typical post, and they are largely independent, publishing without the help of an editor.
Scriptus Typicam is fast, flexible, prolific, and independent.
Two million blog posts are published every day. If you want to stand out from that crowd, this survey holds some enlightening clues. Using any of the following techniques will put you in the top 5% of all bloggers:
Put in the Time
Just 5.5% of bloggers spend 6+ hours on a typical post.
Only 4.9% of bloggers write 1500+ words per post on average.
Flood the Zone
Only 4.7% of bloggers publish daily.
Build a Team and a Process for Perfection
Just 2.8% of bloggers use more than one editor in their process.
Only 2.6% of bloggers are producing audio content.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the survey. If you’re curious, here you can learn more about the methodology and marketing of the survey. If you have your own insights, suggestions or critiques, please let us know with a comment.