Welcome to the 7th Annual Blogging Survey.
Years ago, we set out to get some basic questions about blogging. It’s grown into a long-term project that tracks trends in the changing world of content marketing.
Each year, we ask 1000+ bloggers about their content and their process. Then we make a giant pile of charts. We add input from content marketing experts. And we look for correlations between the data and results.
This year we had 1,279 survey responses.
What follows are 33 charts, 13 experts and hundreds of blogging statistics that reveal some fascinating insights into an industry in flux.
Blogging still work for most bloggers
The general performance of blogging as a strategy hasn’t changed much over the years. We ask bloggers to report on results and each year, around 1 in 4 bloggers report “strong results.”
Of course, “strong results” are subjective and self-reported. There are 31 million bloggers online (source) with a wide range of goals: fame and fortune, reach and revenue, links and leads. Considering the diversity of blogging objectives, we do not ask bloggers to report on specific results.
1 in 10 bloggers do things differently…and get better results
For each question in the survey, we’ve correlated the answers with the results question, using that 25% number as our benchmark. Almost invariably, there is a small percentage of bloggers who do things differently, who do more and are far more likely to report success.
Around one in ten bloggers do the following:
- Write 2000+ word posts
- Add 7+ visuals per post
- Write 7+ draft headlines per post
- Work with multiple editors
- Collaborate with influencers for most articles
Around one in five bloggers do the following:
- Spend 6+ hours writing each article
- Add video to their content
- Publish multiple times per week
These are exactly the bloggers who are most likely to report success.
You are about to discover the popularity of various blogging tactics and which of those blogging tactics correlate with results.
Spoiler Alert! At the end of this report, we combine all of the findings into a single “Ultimate Blogging Strategy” and get a bit of advice from Ann Handley.
Sounds fun! Let’s skip right to that…
The average blog post takes 3 hours and 55 minutes to write.
After years of increase, the time invested in each article has finally leveled off at about four hours per post. We’re spending 63% more time on each post than we did six years ago. That’s a big increase.
Look at the trend over time. You can see just how quickly bloggers worked in the old days. In 2014, the majority of bloggers hit publish within two hours of starting an article. Not any more.
But the time investment pays off. Bloggers who spend more time with each post are exactly the bloggers who are most likely to report “strong results.” That direct correlation between the work and the rewards is a theme you’ll see repeated throughout these blogging statistics.
brian dean, BACKLINKO
“I’m not surprised to see more time spent on each post correlating with “strong results.” The bar for content is higher than ever before. And it takes a ton of time to create a post that’s legitimately unique, useful and worth sharing.”
The average blog post is 1269 words.
Like some kind of arms race, blog posts keep getting bigger year after year. The word count of the typical post is up 57% since 2014.
Let’s look at that breakdown over time. You can see the dramatic drop in short-form blogging and the steady rise in 1000+ word posts.
Here we show just the very long and the very short separately. It was once rare to write long and common to write short. That’s flipped.
Maybe bloggers learned from personal experience that longer content performs better. Maybe they’ve seen past versions of this survey or similar reports. Maybe they just have more to say.
Regardless of the reason, bloggers who go big are more likely to see results. In fact, the majority of bloggers who write 3000+ word articles report “strong results.”
Jay Baer, CONVINCE&CONVERT
“Blogging was once an online newspaper: lots of short articles, published frequently. Now, it’s an online magazine: a few longer articles published less often. The next step in this transformation is blogging to become something closer to television, via the embrace of mixed media.
We still look at “word counts” when crafting a blog post, but that’s soon to be an anachronism. More and more bloggers are including image galleries, videos, and even audio clips into their work. And it’s no wonder, as this research demonstrates that mixed media blog posts consistently outperform words-only posts.
You’ve probably heard the maxim “show, don’t tell”? The reason you’ve heard it is that it’s always been true. And blogging is well on its way toward embracing that advice.“
Let’s see how Jay’s thoughts about the intersection of length, frequency and formats align with the rest of the blogging trends.
Most bloggers publish consistently, weekly, bi-weekly or monthly
There was a time when bloggers published more often, but as post length increased, publishing frequency decreased. Makes sense. Who publishes a 2000+ word article every day? No one in this data set.
High frequency bloggers are getting better results. In fact, more than any response to any question in the survey, daily bloggers are the most likely to report “strong results”. Conversely, inconsistent bloggers are the least likely to report “strong results”.
Apparently, more content equals more results. This seems to be true in frequency, just as it was in length.
Is there some magic in the daily blog? Do readers make it part of their daily routine? Or does it push the blogger up the learning curve, becoming an expert faster? Are these bloggers getting more data and evolving faster? Or is it simply a numbers game where success is proportional to attempts?
jodi harris, CONTENT MARKETING INSTITUE
“Daily blogging certainly helps to expand a blogger’s own knowledge base – you learn more as you do more research to inform your writing. But there’s another benefit: The consistency helps build your authority on search, making it more likely your work will rank well and get discovered and shared. Ultimately, you’re building your audience’s expectation that your insights will be trustworthy – and worth turning to, directly, when they need expert advice on other related topics.”
“How-to” articles are the most popular format by far. Education is the key to content marketing. We saw this same answer in our research about thought leadership marketing. Teaching is a big part of what thought leaders do.
amanda milligan, fractl
“I’m not at all surprised to see the prevalence of how-to content, not because it’s “trendy,” but because it’s what people want. My team at Fractl studied how different generations search online, and when we gave people a sample prompt and asked how they’d search for the information, 13% of the 1,000 respondents provided hypothetical searches that contained “how to.” The generations that used those two words the most? Millennials and Gen Zers. To me this indicates the continued value of how-to content and its likelihood of remaining relevant for years to come.”
This chart also shows the popularity of news and trends. This is one of those big, fundamental content strategy questions: News or no news? Here you see bloggers are split down the middle (almost 50/50) on that question.
Which formats correlate with success? It’s a virtual tie between the top five. But these are not the five most popular formats. For the most part, the least popular formats are the most effective formats.
Roundups were the least popular format (they’ve declined year after year), but had the strongest correlation with success. The data shows how roundups and interviews (both are types of collaborative content marketing) can be very successful. You’ll see more evidence of a slight decline in influencer marketing later on.
“You can give yourself a higher chance of success by zigging where others are zagging. There are two ways to do this. The first is to take a popular format (e.g., how-to articles) and “niche down” on the topic. If you write about TikTok for marketing, there are lots of existing posts out there.
If, however, you write about “How a Newly Discovered Feature Uncovers the Secrets to B2B Marketing Success on TikTok,” you’ll attract attention. Why? Because no one else is likely writing about it. The second tactic is to place bets on formats NOT currently popular with bloggers. Based on the survey results, I’d try webinars, interviews and opinion.“
Next we’ll look at the elements blogging are putting into their content.
Blogs are visual. 90% of bloggers add images to their posts. Gotta have a picture, right? But only one in four bloggers are adding video. Of course, video is a bigger investment.
But adding contributor quotes to articles doesn’t cost money and often takes very little time. Organic influencer marketing is simple and inexpensive. But, just 37% of bloggers are including quotes from expert sources. That same percentage of bloggers do interviews, as we saw above.
Blogging is mostly a solo endeavor, and not very collaborative. A journalist wouldn’t publish an article without a source, but bloggers are still going it alone.
What correlates with results? The less common elements are the most effective. Most bloggers don’t add video or contributor quotes, those that do are more likely to report success.
Let’s dig deeper into the visuals. We asked bloggers how many images they’re adding to their content. Just 3 percent add 10+ images to a typical post. But those are exactly the bloggers most likely to report success.
The more visual the content, the more likely it is to succeed.
Nadya khoja, VENNGAGE
“I‘m not surprised that bloggers are using more images. At Venngage we have found that by summarizing key findings into engaging visuals increases time on page, and assists with information recall. After all, people are busy and want to consume information that is memorable and concise, and images and graphics are known to increase information retention drastically.”
There are two kinds of content programs: those that are the primary source for original data and those that only cite data from other sources.
Every year, more bloggers tell us that they are conducting original research and adding it to their content mix at least once a year. It’s a big trend.
It doesn’t, however, correlate with success as much as it has in years past. In 2020, bloggers who conduct and publish original research are 32% more likely to report “strong results” from their content than the benchmark.
Let’s hear from some marketers who have embraced this approach.
michele linn, MANTIS RESEARCH
“I’m not surprised to see the rise in bloggers using original research. It’s popular because it works. To get the best results with your research, focus on three things: 1) verifying your data is as credible and accurate as possible; 2) using your data to provide insights (it needs to do something), and 3) creating at least 6 pieces of content from your findings.”
jeremy moser, USERP
“I love to see original research becoming a more popular content format for bloggers and companies alike. For passive link building efforts, there is no better modality. And when it comes to proactive link building, acquiring big media mentions is even easier when you can promote interesting, unique data that isn’t found on hundreds of other blogs.”
A few years ago, we noticed that some bloggers and content teams write dozens of headlines before choosing one. So we added the headlines question to the survey. It immediately showed a difference in effort and performance.
Most bloggers write a few, pick one and call it a day.
A tiny percentage of bloggers write lots of headlines before choosing one. These bloggers are far more likely to report success.
I am not surprised a bit.
Headlines have a huge impact on the success of a piece of content. They are still an undervalued and misunderstood aspect of content marketing. They affect virtually every metric by which a blog post is measured.
Related: Check out this guide on how to write a headline for our best advice on the topic.
ahava leibtag, AHA MEDIA GROUP
“I’m surprised that bloggers aren’t spending more time crafting headlines. They are critically important, particularly when posting videos (always make sure the subheading relates to the video content. Don’t just plunk it there.) Headlines make all the difference in terms of clicks, so experiment with them. The more you A/B test, the more you learn about the audience. In turn, you become more valuable to them, which is the whole goal of blogging!“
The professionalization of blogging means more time and effort spent on content, but also a more formal approach. Working with editors is part of that.
In 2014, only one in ten bloggers worked with an editor. Today it’s one in three.
Maybe they’ve learned from experience that results are better when that second set of eyes is involved. Editors add measurable value. Bloggers who use an editor are much more likely to report success.
Promotion is critical. Good content with great promotion will beat great content with good promotion. We’ve all learned this from hard-earned experience.
So we ask the promotion question. In the answers we discover the blogging trends and statistics around traffic and promotion.
When we combine the promotion question with the “are you getting results” question, we see which channels correlate with results.
Here again, the less popular tactics are more effective. Straight down the line. Here is some quick analysis on why some are more popular and less effective, while others are less popular but more effective.
- Sharing is easy
That’s why it’s the most common. You can literally do it in one click. But it doesn’t correlate with results whatsoever. Social streams are noisy and fast flowing.
- SEO is hard
Organic search is a popular promotion channel, but not on the rise. It generally requires a combination of skills. It’s effective, but not for everyone. More on that in the next section.
- Email is controllable
It keeps growing in popularity, possibly because unlike search and social, there aren’t any tech giants (Facebook, Google) between the blogger and their readers. Email is disintermediation.
- Paid is expensive
After three years of increasing popularity, we’re now in our third year of decreasing popularity. Bloggers are trying to win readers, not buy them.
- Influencer outreach is underrated
Although it may be in decline among bloggers (we saw in the dip in round ups, interviews and contributor quotes) it’s the most effective promotion channel. It improves both quality and reach, but only 12% of bloggers use it.
kim kosaka, ALEXA
“Based on these insights, it may be the time for bloggers to stop investing in low performing channels and revisit strategies like incorporating influencer/micro-influencer outreach or paid promotion. Considering the amount of time bloggers are devoting to writing, editing, and producing blog posts, promotion is something that really can’t be overlooked!”
When asked how often bloggers work with influencers, we see that the bloggers who include influencers in most of their content are far more likely to report success. The more collaborative blogger, the more likely they are to report success.
Over time, we’ve seen a rise and decline of both influencer outreach and paid promotion. So we plotted those trends separately here. Were they fads?
I showed this to Mark Schaefer and he suggested bloggers might be getting better at driving results without the help of these channels.
mark schaefer, BUSINESSESGROW.COM
“A decline in influencer collaboration and a three-year downward trend in paid media support seems counter-intuitive. Could this be a function of growing sophistication with organic social media?”
Let’s look more closely at SEO. Bloggers certainly understand the concept of keyword research, but they don’t always do it. Clearly, the majority of blog posts are not keyphrase focused.
That makes sense. Not every topic is a keyword opportunity. There are lots of important, viable topics that people aren’t searching for, such as breaking news, opinion, “challenger sales” content.
They’re more to life than search, right?
But keyphrase-targeting certainly correlates with success. There is a huge connection between bloggers who “always” research keywords and bloggers who report “strong results.”
About half of bloggers don’t usually worry about SEO, but they still care about search traffic. Two thirds of respondents listed organic search as an important traffic source. It’s the top answer to the traffic question, followed by social, email and direct.
At Orbit, we love a good keyword. But certainly, not every article on this blog is search optimized. Something like half of our articles are optimized to rank. And maybe half of those rank well and attract a steady flow of traffic. All told, search drives around 1M visitors a year to this website.
Related: Check out this guide on how to research keywords for our best advice on the topic.
Not a whole lot. Only about half of bloggers consistently check the performance of their content using analytics (Google Analytics or other tools).
That number has held steady over the years.
It’s not surprising that bloggers who check results are more likely to report good results. After all, analytics is intel into how your readers are interacting with your content. It’s an opportunity to iterate, optimize and get better results from the next post.
You have to wonder how bloggers who don’t use analytics can report on results at all. Maybe their definition of results is Facebook likes or blog comments? I’m not judging. Those metrics may align perfectly with their goals.
Once we discovered the amazing effectiveness of updating post content, we went all in. Today, one fifth of my “new” articles are actually rewritten old articles.
We aren’t the only blog to embrace this strategy. Every year we’ve asked the question, more bloggers tell us “yes,” updating old content is part of their strategy.
They seem to be winning. Bloggers who go back and update old content are more than twice as likely to report “strong results.” They may have come to the same realization we did: you don’t need 1000 articles. You need 100 great articles.
Related: Check out this guide on how to update content for SEO for our best advice on the topic.
melissa fach, SEMRUSH
“There is a lot of great content out there that ranks, and holds value; updating is the way to go (if it doesn’t rank, it still can). In fact, I suggest people make a point to update valuable content on a monthly to bi-monthly basis.”
Throughout this report, we found over and over that greater effort leads to greater rewards. Every stat seemed to make the case for greater investment and elbow grease.
Theoretically, combining these would lead to the greatest likelihood of success. So let’s put them all into one content strategy and see how it looks.
Here is the ultimate blogging strategy, according to our research.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking? This is totally impossible. You’d need a team of 10+ marketers plus a network of freelancers and contributors to run this process.
ann handley, MARKETING PROFS
“Process” sounds about as much fun as organizing canned goods or scrubbing dirt from beets. But the truth is that writers who slow down in key areas to pay close attention to key details have more success.
So what cans should you organize/beets should you scrub…metaphorically speaking? What “process” pays off? Keyword research. Headlines. Work with an editor. Root around in your cupboard (again, metaphor) for the high-performers, update them. Make a sincere effort to produce the best post you can on a very specific topic with a recognizable point of view.
Andy told me to keep my comments tight. Right now I have a bit of anxiety because now I’ve already written three paragraphs. So:
To sum up: Slow down the process to speed up results. The slowest way is the fastest way.”
Agreed 100%. Our job is to slow down and decide in which elements from this report we can reasonably implement.
- We have no budget for video, but can we pull off an annual research project?
- Keyword research isn’t my thing, but can work harder on headlines?
- I can’t write weekly, but maybe I can update that high-performing post from last year.
Ann also puts our final data point into context. It explains why we don’t all use this “ultimate” blogging strategy.
There is no time.
Attracting visitors is a challenge. But the biggest challenge is fime.
Most bloggers know what works.
We know the difference between good and great content. We know how to get better results. We might even know what we’d do with a $25k budget or 5 more hours per week.
But most bloggers aren’t full-time writers.
We have other jobs to do. We are busy with sales or clients or meetings. Even the full-time blogger has to spend time reporting and explaining (or defending) their work.
We hope this report will help. Bring it to your next meeting.
Thank you, bloggers!
Thank you to the 1279 bloggers who responded. You spent 3 minutes and 37 seconds on average. Together that’s a total of 77 hours and 43 minutes (that’s our final statistic, I promise) and you shed light on a dark corner of the world of content.
Also, thanks to our expert contributors. I recommend following, subscribing and reading each of them. We are grateful for their insights and promotion help.
And huge finally, thanks to Amanda Gant and Janzten Loza and all of my family of Orbiteers!
Methodology and Data
The respondents to this survey are self-described bloggers with whom we connected over many years on social media and at live events.
- The data set is heavily populated with my personal network, which skews toward LinkedIn users, B2B marketers and people in the US
- Responses were gathered in August and September of 2020
- This is a survey of bloggers (individuals), not companies or brands (groups)
- No one was incentivized to take the survey in any way
This survey is well known in our industry. It’s likely that many respondents have seen the correlation data from past reports and it’s possible that this has affected some responses. “I remember this survey. It shows that writing longer posts is good. I should say that I write long posts…”
Data was captured using a simple one-page Survey Monkey survey of 20 questions. Early versions of the blogging statistics and trends were sent to influencers to gather insights. The insights and data were analyzed in the wee hours in a dark kitchen.
How is this survey promoted? Read our playbook here.