A year ago, we had questions about the business of blogging, so we asked 1000 bloggers to provide some answers. The outcome was the original survey of 1000 bloggers.
A lot has changed in the last year, so we had some new questions…
Are people spending more time blogging than before? Are people writing longer or shorter posts lately? Has publishing frequency changed for the typical blogger?
We asked 1074 bloggers the same 11 questions. We learned that the business of blogging is changing. Some things are consistent, but a trend has emerged.
What follows is the data and analysis for the updated 2015 blogger survey, as well as insights from some true blogging experts. And at the bottom of this post, you’ll find our conclusions about the biggest trend in blogging.
First, the questions, data, analysis and expert insights…
UPDATE: This research project has been updated for 2016, with new data and analysis. View the 2016 Blogger Research Survey >
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.
Note: The methodology for calculating average time per post is the same as the 2014 blogger survey, using averages from each time interval.
Bloggers are investing more time in their work. The percentage of bloggers churning out posts quickly is declining and more bloggers are spending hours on every post.
In the context of the other findings below, we’ll soon see that this is evidence of a larger trend.
There is a small minority of bloggers investing much more time in their content. This hasn’t changed since last year. The top 6% of bloggers invest twice as much time as the bottom 70%.
Here’s the input of an expert who puts in the extra time…
Expert Insight: Jay Baer, Convince and Convert
“Competition is fierce and readers are fickle. There is no such thing as a “successful blog” now. There are only “successful blog posts.” We are no longer in the albums era, where people will read everything you post, fed to them through RSS and email.
Instead, we are in the singles era, where the key is to create the definitive post on a particular topic, enabling it to break out from your historical traffic and sharing norms.
We have tested this extensively on my blog, and found that a very small percentage of posts are responsible for an overwhelming portion of total traffic. Bloggers – perhaps intuitively, perhaps through testing – are beginning to understand this. The consequence is that each post needs to be bigger, better, more comprehensive to give it a chance to become a “hit.” That takes time.”
Bloggers still write all the time. But increasingly, we are putting down our laptops after hours.
This looks like work/life rebalancing, but when combined with the other trends discovered here (i.e., time spent blogging, use of editors) it’s more likely that this is more evidence of something else: blogging is less a hobby and more an occupation.
Expert Insight: Jeff Bullas, JeffBullas.com
“Before I started my blog I was always a night owl.
The evenings were the time I read, maybe watched television and socialized. Reading a book sometimes took me into the small hours.
Then the blog was created. I hit the publish button for the first time.
Creating posts were still part of my late night habit. After a good night out and sharing a wine or two with some friends over a kangaroo steak, there were still some tasks to do. The blog post still had to be written, polished and shared.
That was a struggle. Distraction, diversion and tiredness were a constant battle in my new writing pursuit.
Then there was a random event.
One very early morning I needed to drop my son off to catch a train. I had some time on my hands, I was awake and the rest of the world slept. So I sat down and wrote. The quietness was welcome, the coffee tasted good and the phones weren’t ringing.
Mornings I discovered were distraction-free and precious. Getting up at 4.30am for 5 days a week was hard, but it was my time and there was no one to intrude. I had discovered that old habits can be changed and that new discoveries were possible.
My production and creativity soared. Investing in myself was rewarding. The night owl had become the early bird.”
The vast majority of bloggers are writing from home at least some of the time. But people create content everywhere. Those who answered “other” told us a bit about where specifically…
Several respondents indicated that they use dictation to create content in their cars or while walking their dogs.
One blogger simply responded “everywhere.”
Blogging knows no bounds. This hasn’t changed. Many bloggers are early adopters of technology and early members of the mobile workforce. The creative nature of writing means inspiration can strike anywhere, so blogging happens everywhere.
Expert Insight: Gini Dietrich, Spin Sucks
“Inspiration for blog posts can be found anywhere: In pop culture, in international news, through Monday morning quarterbacking, harnessing trends, or even out to dinner with friends. Because inspiration comes from a variety of sources, it’s interesting to see many of us are producing content in places other than in front of our computers in the office.
The good news is you don’t have to be handcuffed to a desktop to produce content. If you’re not a “create at the same time every day” kind of person, use technology to—at a minimum—create content where you are…in the shower, while exercising, during your commute, participating in activities or hobbies, during church, or, yes, even out to dinner with friends.“
Remember the 6% of bloggers who spend much more time per post? Here, there are 6% of bloggers publishing much more frequently. Again, a small minority of bloggers is doing a lot more work. For obvious reasons, there isn’t much overlap. Not a single respondent who publishes daily spends 6+ hours per post.
A significant and growing percentage of bloggers seem to struggle to get the work done. 1 in 6 bloggers publish less than monthly or irregularly. That number is up from 1 in 5 last year. Hang in there, people! Focus!
Expert Insight: Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute
“Simply put, our goal is to create the maximum amount of impact with the least amount of content. The goal is never “more content”, it’s always, “how much content do we need for a behavior change?”
Depending on the topic or platform, this sometimes means multiple times a day or week, fitting for news platforms. Some organizations publish less if that post is extremely valuable and compelling as well as consistently delivered.”
Blogs are still a format with a relatively low standards for quality. Blog readers typically do not have high expectations for fact checking and proofreading. Posts get written. Posts go live.
But many bloggers are getting serious. The increase in the use of editors is more evidence that blogging is becoming a more formal profession with more rigorous processes.
Expert Insight: Michael Stelzner, Social Media Examiner
“I think bloggers that are truly focused on business growth could benefit from using editors. However, I will admit that when I first started I did not use editors for my posts. I saw those posts as my raw thoughts and if I had mistakes, it was okay, that was me. But now that I look back, my blog was my examples of my work and I really SHOULD HAVE used an editor. Especially since my first blog was about writing!
Today at Social Media Examiner we have at least 5 editors on every post. And our readers come to expect that our content has gone through a stringent editorial process. Why? Well, it’s not just about typos. It’s about developing a solid thread through an article, fact checking, checking links, adding visuals and so on.
So, if you really want a blog that stands out in your industry and helps you grow your business, start with an editor.”
This question speaks more to the population of respondents. The bloggers reached through this survey are a diverse bunch, including in-house marketers, freelancers and agency professionals.
But the data seems to indicate that personal blogging is on the decline. This year we see a greater percentage of bloggers who blog mostly for their clients. Perhaps these marketers are writing only to pay the bills, and wouldn’t blog at all otherwise!
Expert Insights: Heidi Cohen, Actionable Marketing Guide
“Develop in-house blogging expertise. If you have the resources, create a dedicated blogging team since they’ll become more efficient and effective over time since they know your goals, audience, subject matter, search optimization and brand better than outsiders.
Hire a professional blogger to create blog content if you don’t have the internal resources. Professional bloggers have the skills to create quality content. BUT you must give them the information and resources they need to understand your business and brand. Don’t assume they’ll be a cheaper alternative!”
Although guest blogging famously fell from grace in early 2014, it actually hasn’t declined as a tactic. Guest posting is more popular than ever. And for good reason.
Smart bloggers are collaborators. They contribute to each others’ content and each others’ blogs. They share content and share audiences.
Again, a small percentage of bloggers are doing things very differently. 6% of bloggers are publishing most of their content on other websites. This is actually an excellent strategy for marketers who are just starting to build a brand.
Expert Insight: Kristi Hines, Kristihines.com
“Guest blogging is still a strong tactic for getting exposure with new audiences and building yourself as an authority in your industry. The key is to look for blogs where your target audience reads and engages with the content. If you are submitting guest posts to blogs with a lot of engagement (quality comments and social shares), you’re guaranteed to see positive results for yourself and your business.”
“Other” answers included the following additional promotion techniques: partner websites, communities, forums, newswire/syndication services and individual outreach emails to specific people.
Basic social media is “easy” since it takes little time and effort to share a blog post on Facebook or Twitter. It’s surprising that only 93% of bloggers do this. Why wouldn’t 100% of bloggers share their content?
Many of the surveyed channels were up by varying amounts. In 2015, bloggers increased their use of each tactic by the following amounts:
More bloggers are using more ways to get the word out. That’s good. Smart bloggers don’t create content without a plan to promote. The data shows a trend toward a more strategic, more sophisticated approach to blogging.
Notice the sharp increase in buying traffic! This is related to several trends, including the rise of social advertising. The reduced organic reach of Facebook posts means more marketers “boosting” posts. Also, native advertising and pay-per-click revenues are both up.
The companies that act as intermediaries between bloggers and their audiences are getting smarter …and more profitable. It’s good to see the increase in email marketing, which is a channel that connects bloggers directly to readers, without a company in the middle.
Expert Insight: Barry Feldman, Feldman Creative
When TV promoters want to capture a larger audience they use radio, print and outdoor advertising. When you realize your blog is a channel (or program), you do the same: you build interest and intrigue across a wide media spectrum.
It’s encouraging to see the use of these channels going up. I suspect the bloggers unable to check these boxes will soon be ex-bloggers and those that could select an ‘All of the Above’ option are the ones getting closer to, or achieving, their goals. Heads-up to all my blogging buddies: it’s called the Internet because these nets are interconnected.
Almost all of us have it, but we don’t all use it. Analytics are critical to ongoing improvement process of any content marketing program. It’s how topics, channels and formats are optimized. Still, 45% of bloggers use it only casually.
The good news is that more bloggers are checking Analytics more often. This is more evidence that bloggers are becoming more rigorous in their work. The majority of us usually check it. 4 in 5 bloggers check Analytics “always,” measuring the performance of every piece of content.
The very active bloggers who publish weekly or more check Analytics the most. 54% of these frequent publishers check Analytics usually or always.
Expert Insight: Mike Allton, The Social Media Hat
Bloggers check their analytics like a quarterback eyeing the play clock. They’re constantly wondering how well (or poorly) their latest post has performed, as well as looking for trends in how their audience may be growing.
I check my overall blog traffic 2 – 3 times per day so that, on a particularly poor day, I can have the opportunity to do something to impact that. That might just be an extra share of an article to social media, or perhaps the creation of a new image for an old article. Or even writing and publishing a new blog post if I’m so inclined.
On a weekly and monthly basis, I look at referral traffic and pages visited. Then I look for trends and opportunities for optimization (or issues to correct).”
Note: The methodology for calculating average length per post is the same as the 2014 blogger survey, using averages from each length range.
Posts are getting longer. More bloggers are going really big with epic length content. About twice as many respondents are writing 2000+ word posts.
We see that almost 1 in 10 bloggers are writing 1500+ words per post on average. These are the bloggers who put in the time. 54% of them spend more than four hours per post.
As with frequency and time spent per post, a small but growing minority are doing much more. Why are fewer bloggers writing short posts? Why are some of us going big on each piece? We asked Ann Handley for her input.
Expert Insight: Ann Handley
“Listicle and click-bait articles are so 2014. What that means is that we’ll see more valuable, relevant, higher-quality, substantive material.
To thrive in an over-saturated content world, you’ll need to constantly write or produce (and syndicate) content with depth. Longer posts, more substantive content that people find useful and inspired.
In other words, click-bait articles are dead. And what you see next might surprise you.“
“Other” answers included calls to action, links, quotes, infographics, charts, content upgrades, embedded social media, SlideShare decks, quite a few recipes …and one poem.
Blogging is visual. More bloggers are using more images. The multiple-image format is gaining popularity as bloggers try to avoid sending readers down into a desert of text. More images keep those scan readers engaged.
Video is visual, but it’s the most difficult format to create. It’s on the decline in blog posts. But audio is easier, and it’s becoming more common in posts, rising along with the trend in podcasting.
Again, a small group of bloggers put in much more work. One-third of bloggers who add audio and video content are publishing more than once a week. These bloggers are creating high-end content on a regular basis.
Lists are still a popular format, likely because the use of numbers in headlines is so common. So easy to digest for readers, so hard to resist for bloggers.
Expert Insight: Andrea Vahl
“I do a lot of “how to” posts and so it’s great when I can include images and video. I find that some people are skimmers and like the images that they can scan through and other people like to see every movement in the video screenshare. I like to write posts that will appeal to different ways people want to learn. And I love watching the analytics to see what continues to get visibility in the longer run.
There are many interesting nuggets in this data. But two main findings stand out.
The first is a common thread between the 2014 and 2015 data: The data shows that a small percentage of bloggers do things very differently. Although not every blogger may be doing each of these, we can see that a small minority does these generally.
These are dedicated, professional content creators. Last year, 5% of bloggers fit into these categories. This year it’s around 6%.
The second insight is the trend. In 2015, we see more bloggers taking a more professional approach. Evidence for this appeared many times in the survey data.
This indicates a “professionalization” in blogging. It’s becoming a more serious, formal discipline. Data is playing a bigger part. Best practices are emerging.
Year by year, post by post, blogging is becoming less of a hobby and more of a respected profession.
In other words, blogging is growing up.