This is a guest post by Mark Pack.
You have lovingly crafted a blog post, containing pearls of wisdom which you are sure will enthral, entertain and enlighten the world. You have taken on board advice from experts on how to craft a good headline, you’ve found a great graphic to illustrate it, you’ve remembered to polish the text with search-engine optimised language, and so you hit publish, right? Wrong.
Timing is vital. When a post appears has a key influence on how many people read it.
The reason is simple: relatively few people have the time or inclination to systematically and regularly check back through stories they may have missed. If they use a feed reader, there’s often a backlog of stories that either don’t get read or get only the merest skim. If they visit sites, they often will not click through to pages of older posts every time in order to see everything since their last visit. Some people do, but many don’t. If you don’t time your post well, that means you’ll miss out on their readership.
The ability to schedule posts to appear at some point in the future is a standard part of blogging packages, so when you write a post doesn’t have to determine when it appears.
But when is the best time to post? There isn’t an answer that applies for all sites and all topics, but here are some pointers to working out the best times for your site and your content.
Check your web statistics to see when your readership peaks. It’s normally during office hours Monday-Friday, but there are plenty of exceptions, such as for sports blogs where the sport’s main events happen at weekends.
Note from Daniel: I touched on this topic in the past with the article Leveraging Weekly Internet Traffic.
Next, think about whether your readers are all in the same time zone. This isn’t an issue for myself usually as I blog in Britain, which has only one time zone and my posts are primarily aimed at a British audience. But if your audience is spread across time zones, you need to check whether the overall readership figures are hiding some important differences: perhaps you primarily have a Canadian and an Irish audience, and depending on which one a post is primarily aimed at, you have a different pattern of peaks and troughs to bear in mind.
Having worked out when your peak potential audience is likely to be, the big question then is, “Do I post at a popular time when there are lots of readers around, but many other bloggers may also be publishing new content, or do I post at a very quiet time when there are fewer readers around but also less competition from other stories on other sites?”
Your experience may well vary, but my experience is that busy times are best, except for particularly long or thoughtful pieces where quiet times may mean you get that extra bit of attention necessary from readers. To find the answer for your own site, experiment, experiment, experiment.
Whether or not you use audio-visual content may also matter. I know of some Americans, for example, who swear by putting up YouTube films just before lunch time as lunch breaks are a great opportunity for them to capture people at work, online but with some time to watch non-work films. This isn’t a pattern I have been able to replicate with my experiences in Britain. As they say, your mileage may vary.
Now think about when people comment on your site. I have the dilemma with some of my blog posts that there is a group of people who often make thoughtful comments that really add to the post, but they tend to comment in the evening when overall posting a story up in the evening for me gets a smaller audience. You are likely to be luckier than me and to find that the timings of comments pretty much follows overall web traffic, but if it doesn’t you need to think about the value of comments versus readership for a particular post.
Then think about how long the gap will be between your blog posts. Generally giving a post a longer run at the top of your site / RSS feed will garner it a larger audience.
Finally, don’t forget the Oscars effect. There’s a reason film studios release what they expect to be their best films in the run-up to the Oscars; otherwise they fear the judges may have largely forgotten their film by the time of the awards. Similarly, are there any round-ups or link collections that other people do which you want to try to get a post in to? If so, look at the timings and try to make sure your post is neither so early it is likely to be forgotten nor so late that it may well be missed out.
Above all: don’t forget to experiment, experiment, experiment. And if you have some breaking news, it most likely makes sense to junk all the above and post as soon as you can, so that you can make your post part of the news cycle as the story spreads and gets attention.
Mark Pack is Head of Innovations for the Liberal Democrats (a British political party). He blogs at www.libdemvoice.org and is on twitter at twitter.com/markpack
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