There’s been a lot of play in the blogosphere lately about how often you should post and how long your posts should be. And, even among top bloggers, there seems to be a considerable difference in opinion.
But, there are still some major lessons to be learned by comparing the posting-patterns of top niche-bloggers, during their initial launch phase, rapid growth phase and their later “mature” phase.
In fact, interestingly enough, a number of top-bloggers’ posting patterns seem to contradict their own advice on the best path to success. So, let’s see what those patterns are and then explore whether we can harmonize all the seemingly differing approaches to come up with a single most-effective posting plan.
Stage 1: Launch and early-growth.
Stage one takes your blog from launch through the first few months or even years that normally precede Stage 2, a more accelerated period of growth which then leads to Stage 3, a more stable mature growth.
Nearly every highly-successful niche-blogger has fueled growth through this stage by a pattern of at-least daily updating. Often a mix of pillar posts, linkbait and quick hits rounded the schedule, with a huge amount of variability in post length, not only between blogs, but within each blog. Examples to look at include:
Blog critical mass & tipping points.
Why has daily posting been so favored during the launch phase? Because it creates energy, interaction and buzz. It tells people that the blogger is seriously invested in growing her or his community. And, this energy then not only infuses the blog, but infects its audience and encourages participation. And, with participation, most often in the form of comments, comes more participation. Which, in turn, motivates the blogger to continue to invest in the community.
This communal energy then, over time, appears to reach that all-important magical critical buzz-mass and, when it does, the community begins to feed on itself and the buzz became self-propagating. Blogs, just like other social phenomena, have tipping points. And, those with the commitment to persevere long-enough to reach that powerful point experience a phenomenal acceleration in growth.
Daily posting and SEO.
Plus, depending on who you ask, there may also be an SEO advantage to posting daily and choosing the right keywords.
In fact, Yaro Starak has an interesting post up now of a conversation he had with Jeff Walker about launching and rapidly building a blog audience in anticpation of a product launch. According to Yaro (who is quoting Jeff), if you post short daily posts that integrate high-volume keywords into the headlines, within a month or two, your organic search traffic should start to contribute significantly to your total daily traffic.
Go against the grain and pay the price.
Lending credibility to this conclusion is an outsider’s look at Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist blog. Penelope had been blogging for a number of years and writing some pretty powerful content, but, looking at her Alexa and Compete rating and comment volume, it’s pretty clear the blog was having trouble gathing the traction and critical mass needed to launch it into the fast-growth of Stage Two.
During that same period, Penelope’s posting schedule was also very casual, often only posting a handful of times a month. Then, in mid/late 2006, she began to ramp up her schedule and publish the same powerful, provocative content, but now on a daily schedule. And, bam! She hit critical mass and launched headlong into Stage 2 rapid growth. Were there other factors that contributed? Sure, and her May 2007 book release didn’t hurt, but the acceleration took hold long before the book hit.
The idea, here, is to understand that this stage is not only about defining who you are and what your voice will be, but gaining enough traction to reach that magical place where enough people are talking about and reading every day. That begins to fuel your growth from drips to exponential gains.
Other ways to hit critical mass.
Incidentally, there are other ways to create this same critical mass, but they’re not easy. Tim Ferriss, author of the bestselling The Four Hour Workweek, started with a less aggressive schedule from the get-go, posting only 1 to 3 times a week. And, he strongly advocates posting 2 to 4 times a week max in his blog.
But, here’s the thing, Tim vaulted past Stage 1 by piggybacking on the back of his remarkable book sales. An, his book brilliantly referred readers to his website and blog every chance he could. So, Tim swapped the buzz created by the simultaneous publication of his massively successful book for the buzz created by a high-volume of high-impact content that normally accompanies that first stage of growth.
Stage 2/3: Rapid Growth – The stream-train effect.
Looking at the experiences of a collection of top niche-blogs, it seems clear that, once your blog tips, traffic explodes…provided you continue to provide high-quality content. The question then becomes, “what’s the best way to keep the momentum going?”
The keep-on-trucking approach.
Hesitant to change formats midway, many bloggers, decide to stick with a daily or more posting schedule. And, indeed, a look at Alexa and Compete rankings show that those who stick to a daily schedule seem to fair a bit better in the quest to maintain the most aggressive growth possible.
Interestingly, after a remarkable acceleration in growth, ZenHabits.net‘s Leo Babauta recently polled his readers to see whether they would prefer him to pull back to a less-aggressive posting schedule, but his readers asked him to stay on the 5-day-a-week schedule. Incidentally, this was down from 3-5 times a day. But, there can be a dark-side to maintaining a daily posting schedule.
Depending upon your niche and the general format, it can become increasingly-difficult to keep on producing high-quality content every single day and maintain some semblance of life-balance as a solo niche-blogger. This can lead to either your blog consuming your life or you burning out on the pressure to post. Either way, there’s a good chance the stress will begin to trickle into the quality of your writing and, eventually, your readers will feel that and begin to head elsewhere.
Which leaves many bloggers with a decision to make, as they strive to keep the growth going. Keep on keeping on, slow the posting schedule or take on other writers.
Post less frequently.
Over the last year or so, a selection of the bloggers noted above have written about their very intentional shift away from daily posting to more authoritative, longer articles. DoshDosh.com’s Maki recently shared:
And so I decided to only write when I feel like I have something substantial to say or when I can examine a topic in great detail. I stopped blogging daily. Interestingly, my subscriber rate continued to increase steadily and traffic didn’t drop because these detailed articles attracted more social media visitors from places like StumbleUpon.
I suppose I could write daily if I really wanted to but I probably won’t be able to grab as much attention or interest. Too many people blog daily and just end up repeating themselves or points made by others. Blogging everyday isn’t necessary. Much better to put out exceptional content every few days for links, attention and buzz.
And, while uber-blogger, Steve Pavlina, revealed in his tremendously informative May 2007 article, Confessions of an A-list blogger:
For me the pressure to post is no big deal. I never have to force myself to sit down and write. I’m fortunate to find myself in a situation where my desire to write is greater than what is required to keep my blog thriving.
A look at his archives reveals a fairly striking drop in posting frequency between his first year and the last 6-months.
With a reduction in post-frequency seeming to be a relative novelty among many already established niche-bloggers, the jury is still out on its long-term impact on traffic sustainability and growth, but, if effective, it certainly is a win-win transitional posting strategy. Which leaves us with…
Contributors and guest bloggers.
What if you want to keep with a daily-plus posting schedule, you believe it’s the best thing for your blog, but just don’t have the motivation, time or energy to keep doing it all yourself? Enter guest posters and contributors.
Taking a nod from the bigger magazine-blogs and print media, more and more top niche bloggers have begun to add guest writers and even regular contributors to their virtual mastheads. Some pay for contributions, while others simply rotate in submissions, knowing that the contributor is getting a big benefit in terms of exposure. In fact, it’s not unusual for bloggers to even tap top commenters as future contributors.
So, as long as you’ve got enough quality in your contributor pool and are willing to compensate and/or share credit for your content with your contributors, this may be another great win-win solution. This very approach has been used extensively by mega-blogger Jay White in his Dumb Little Man blog, Lifehacker.org and, more recently, Anita Campbell’s Small Business Trends. And, yes, Even Zen Habit’s Leo Babauta has recently taken on contributors.
So, where does this all leave us?
It seems pretty clear the biggest bang for your blog-launch buck and quest to hit your tipping point is daily posting. And, once you’ve hit that magical critical mass that fuels highly-accelerated growth, a variety of options are available, with the unifying quest being the need to maintain quality.
This was a big eye-opener for me, since my initial plan was to follow a more laid-back posting plan from the very beginning. I will certainly be rethinking my own blog schedule. At least as it applies to Stage 1 (which I am still gloriously awash in!).
But still, there is this lingering question. Is it possible launch a niche-blog from zero to it’s tipping point with a less agressive publication schedule, say 2 or 3 posts a week, as quickly as you could launch that same blog posting at least daily?
Please share your thoughts, insights and questions below.
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