If you’ve spent any time with me on this blog, you know I love content. My dad often says how amazed he is that I took my passion and built an entire business on it. And here they thought my English major wouldn’t amount to anything!
I love all sorts of content. I love videos and podcasts. I love stories told through images. I love books and articles and short stories and poems.
But mostly? Mostly I love blogs.
I love that any one of us has the opportunity to become storytellers in ways that are meaningful to each of us—and to build an audience of people who care about the same things we do.
It’s not easy, of course. That’s why not everyone does it. It’s also why many people (and companies, too) start it and abandon it. But it’s worth every last drop of blood, sweat, and tears you put into it.
The 8th Annual Blogger Survey
Every year, Andy Crestodina and his team at Orbit Media do a blogger survey. I’m pretty sure this is the eighth year they’ve done it and it’s been fun to watch it grow from a handful of us participating into something that is taken seriously by the industry.
This year they had 1,067 survey responses—and they created 35 insights based on those responses, along with hundreds of blogging statistics. They say that the insights reveal some fascinating insights into an industry in flux, now more than ever.
Say it isn’t so! My favorite genre in flux? Let’s see if we can break it down and make it not so.
Does Blogging Create Strong Results?
First off, there are plenty of surveys that try to understand why people blog (because we looooove it!). The reasons are vast, as you can imagine, but the purpose of the Orbit blogger survey is to show you what’s working now, regardless of your goals so you can take that information and improve your efforts.
I’ve been blogging for, shoot let me think about it for a minute, for 15 years—and SO MUCH has changed during that time. In fact, if I were to start anew, I’m not sure I’d start a blog. It used to be that people would leave comments and you could build community via your blog. Then it moved into a massive revenue generator. Today, blogging still works, but driving big results is a challenge.
The survey asked each blogger if they are achieving strong results, some results, or disappointing results. The answer “strong results” is subjective and relative to the goals of each blogger. Most people would look at Spin Sucks and think, “What do you have to complain about?” And the answer is “nothing!”, but if I compare results to just five years ago, I would answer that question by checking the “we are achieving some results” box.
So totally subjective. But according to the survey, 77% of bloggers report that blogging drives results, and 20% say they are strong results.
Longer Content Is King
But what’s even more interesting is that the bloggers who invest more time get better results. In 2014, nearly everyone spent less than an hour creating a blog post. Those were the days of the snappy 500-word articles that you could almost write in your sleep. Today, though, the average blogger—who sees results from their efforts—spends more than six hours on one blog post.
No wonder it’s getting more challenging not just to get results, but to produce content, in general. I’m in that six hours range, too, which is why we moved from five blog posts a week to only three (and one of those is a guest author). I spend as much time as I used to but with far less quantity. I tell myself it’s better quality, though. RIGHT??
To boot, bloggers who write 1,500-3,000 words per article see better results.
The theme here seems to be longer content that takes longer to create, but it’s worth it for the results.
Blogging Has to Be a Priority
Just like everything else we do in our lives, we have to prioritize. If you see results—and you’re able to point back to revenue-generating opportunities from your blogging efforts, you’ll make the time. But to do that, you have to actually try and you have to measure your effectiveness. It won’t magically start printing money, but if you’re smart and strategic about it—and the powers that be give you time to test it out—eventually you’ll have a money tree planted in the backyard.
The survey looked at what types of formats are the most popular and 76% said they are still creating how-to articles. That surprises me. We’ve gotten away from how-to articles for Spin Sucks, but have restarted them for a couple of clients. Maybe I should consider going back to some how-tos. Let me know what you think about that!
Some additional observations:
- Lists remain very popular. Most bloggers use them.
- Interviews and roundups, the collaborative formats central to organic influencer marketing, are not very popular.
- Opinion-based content is down over the last several years, despite the fact that it is key to building thought leadership.
- Webinars have declined in popularity, from 29% in 2020 to 24% in 2021. That seems strange because everyone went online last year. I wonder why they would decline?
- Gated content has declined for the last three years in a row.
- News and trends have declined in popularity. Unless it’s about Facebook. In which case, people still want to harp on them.
Quality = Results. Period.
But here’s what is even more interesting. When the results are laid on top of the most popular types of blogging, how-to articles are the least likely to correlate with success, and round-ups are the most likely to correlate with success.
For the most part, this survey shows that the least popular formats are the most effective formats. If you’re building your content marketing plan now, think about how this information may give you a competitive advantage.
I certainly just added “influencer round-ups” to my list, but I will caution you again that the results are subjective. If you’re looking to grow your audience, that is a great way to do it. If you’re looking to build your thought leadership (or that of your executives), that’s not the right tactic.
You Must Measure Results
And speaking of results, you have to actually check your data and measure your effectiveness when it comes to your blogging efforts. I’ve been known to consistently hit refresh on analytics, just to see how things are doing in real-time. It’s a bit obsessive, but I very much enjoy watching the numbers go up and up and up.
According to the survey, most bloggers check Analytics sometimes and 29% check the performance of every post…sometimes obsessively. This is another direct correlation. The more consistently you measure success, the more likely you are to succeed. Check those results! Create a benchmark. Measure against the benchmark. And then let it grow!
It Takes Time. Lots of Time.
The last survey result I want to touch on is time. Everyone we talk to about blogging says, “I just don’t have the time!” It doesn’t matter if it’s a content marketer or a business leader, they all say the same thing. And I agree, it’s a big time commitment. But the survey data shows that the bloggers who put in ten times the effort are winning. I also recognize that putting in ten times the effort is a real challenge.
In fact, the survey data shows that time is the biggest challenge for most bloggers. They know what to do, but struggle to find time for content creation and promotion.
I will tell you what has worked for me—now and in the past—and see if there is anything in here that strikes your fancy:
- When I was personally publishing five times a week, I got up at 5 a.m. and spent the first hour of my day writing. I no longer do that (the pandemic slowly whittled away that habit), but it was one of the most effective uses of my time. You can accomplish about three times more during that hour than any other time throughout the day.
- If you’re working with leadership, I have found that interviewing them or asking them to send voice notes after they see or hear a piece of content is extraordinarily effective.
- Create a freelancer network to help you, if you have the budget. I very much like to have my own voice in the content that has my name on it, but it’s lots, lots easier to have someone pen the first draft and react to that than staring at a blank sheet of paper.
- I now have a 30-minute block on my calendar every day to write. On Mondays, I choose the topic and do some research, Tuesday through Thursday, I write between 500 and 1,000 words, and on Friday, I edit and get the piece ready for publication the following week. I never, ever go to bed if my 30 minutes for the day hasn’t been completed. It’s the one thing that HAS to get done, no matter what.
Grow Your Blogging Money Tree
It truly takes a commitment and that’s not something everyone is willing to do. But I look at blogging like I do exercise and brushing my teeth: it has to be done every day, period. I also don’t watch Netflix and have no idea what Squid Games is about so it’s a sacrifice in some cases. It’s worth it, though. Squid Games won’t help me water my money tree. And I very much like my money tree.