We all know that the best way to build a blog out is to publish high-quality content regularly and promote it well. However, are there ways that can give your blog an edge and, perhaps, help it stand out from the crowd?
With blogging being such a near-instant medium, many have debated what, if any, impact the timing of the post has. Does publishing in the early AM help you catch people checking their RSS readers before lunch or should you publish in the middle of the day to catch the lunch break crowd?
I expected to find a series of muddled answers and conflicting theories but, instead, actually found some decent research in the field with surprisingly consistent results.
Though it may not be perfect, it might give you a few clues about when your works should go online.
Looking at the Data
When AideRSS, now PostRank, took a look at this issue in 2008, they came up with a pretty surprising result. According to their research, the “sweet spot” in the day for a post to get notices, meaning having a PostRank score of 6 or higher, was between 1600 and 2200 GMT or between 11 AM and 5 PM EST.
(Note: Exact times may vary based on Daylight savings time but we are working under the assumption that EST is 5 hours behind GMT)
Posts also tended to do better on Tuesday-Friday of any given week. There was also an extra bump between 0000 and 0200 GMT or 7 PM to 9 PM EST.
The research, however, was based on social media interactions including Diggs, bookmarks, etc. and not actual traffic. Still, such mentions can be a good indicator of how much attention a post has gotten and, since PostRank is relative to the entries on the same site, it is a good apples-to-apples comparison of attention.
On the other hand, a different pair, done by Technorati and Hubspot respectively, found that 11 AM EST was both the time where there was the least competition in English-language posts and for visitors to Hubspot’s blog, which interestingly had all five of its most popular posts go online within 39 minutes of 11 AM.
Though this research is older, done in 2006, it seems unlikely that reader tendencies have changed much, at least in terms of times of day that are popular to read.
All in all, the numbers seem fairly consistent saying that late morning EST and shortly afterwards is the best time to post, both for attention and traffic though it seems almost any point in the day past the AM rush is a pretty good time to post.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean you have to write the posts at this time. Most blogging systems allow you to schedule posts into the future very easily. This is a matter of when the posts first go online, not when they were first saved.
However, that doesn’t mean you should change your posting schedule just yet, there are several key caveats to consider.
Caveats and Limitations
As interesting as all of this research is, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should change the timing for your blog. Consider the following.
- It is U.S.-Centric: If your target audience isn’t within the U.S., you probably have nothing to gain by timing your posts out with this schedule.
- Every Site is Different: Depending on the topic you write about and the audience you draw, you could be attracting readers who are online at different times of the day. Look at your own stats to see when they are coming by.
- It Just Doesn’t Matter That Much: Darren Rowse and Lorelle VanFossen both agree that, while post timing is a consideration, it is far from the most important element. Rowse, for example, maintains a very different posting schedule than recommended but still does very well. Both also recommend experimenting with your site to see what works best for you.
So while it definitely seems that posting around 11 AM EST may help your posts get more attention, the actual impact is minor and, considering that your regular readers are getting your content via email, RSS and other means, they are going to read it on their own time regardless.
In short, any edge you get from altering your post timing is slight and you won’t be able to change the reading habits of your die-hard readers. You may, however, confuse them if they have gotten used to a certain posting rhythm.
If you find yourself struggling to gain traction with your blog, experimenting with posting times may be a good idea, using the 11 AM EST time as a starting point. If you have a solid audience and seem to be growing steadily, it probably isn’t worthwhile.
Audience loyalty means far more than finding the perfect time to post and, if you’ve got a good thing going, there probably isn’t much of a reason to tamper with it.
Is it something to consider? Absolutely. But it is important to remember that, on the list of things to weigh when working on a blog post, timing should be way down on the list.