What I’ve Learned From Blogging Weekly Instead of Daily

A few months ago, I decided to try an experiment with this blog.  From May through July, instead of posting daily, I would only post once per week.  That way, rather than scrambling to say something relevant 5 times a week, I could invest my time in one good, solid post.

Here’s what I learned from my venture into minimalism.

1.  As predicted, my site traffic dropped off a cliff.

According to Compete, I had:

  • 9,900 unique visitors in April
  • 11,400 unique visitors in May
  • 2,600 unique visitors in June
  • July stats not yet available

According to Google Analytics, I had:

  • 7,500 page views in April
  • 7,491 page views in May
  • 3,583 page views in June
  • 4,877 page views in July

Finally, my Alexa ranking hovered around 162,000 when this experiment began; it’s currently at 245,546 as I type this.

This overall downward traffic trend is unsurprising, since I was only creating 20% of the content that I usually do.  (In fact, if anything, I should be surprised that my page views didn’t drop by a full 80%.)

2.  Posting once a week does not guarantee a high-impact read.

I initially thought that posting once a week would result in a heavy amount of traffic to each week’s single post.

I was wrong.

According to bit.ly, here are the number of first-week clicks on my bit.ly link for each blog post during the experiment.  (The numbers from my link are listed first, and the total clicks for all bit.ly links to that post are in parentheses.)

  • Apr 26 — 220 (1291)
  • May 3 — 50 (399)
  • May 10 — 72 (155)
  • May 17 — 99 (169)
  • May 24 — 81 (1671)
  • May 31 — 56 (59)
  • Jun 7 — 34 (182)
  • Jun 14 — 40 (115)
  • Jun 21 — 96 (109)
  • Jun 28 — 99 (197)
  • Jul 5 — 46 (51)
  • Jul 12 — 145 (194)
  • Jul 19 — 105 (624)
  • Jul 26 — 50 (273)

Granted, these numbers don’t reflect RSS subscribers, email subscribers, “walk-in” traffic, etc.  But it’s still worth noting that during the entire experiment only 5 posts got more than 200 clicks in their first week.

Now, let’s look a bit closer.  Here are the topics of the top 5 posts:

All 5 discuss social media, and since my audience is primarily social media-driven, the success of those posts makes sense.

Also, at least 3 of the posts were retweeted by Chris Brogan, Amber Naslund and other “influencers” on Twitter — which should make a huge impact.  And in these cases, it did.

But even a nod from an influencer doesn’t guarantee a traffic spike.  For example, neither my Jun 7 or Jun 28 posts cracked 200 click-throughs, even with lunchtime retweets from Chris Brogan.

In fact…

3.  There’s no obvious predictor of success.

Now let’s look at the 3 lowest-performing posts not published on a holiday Monday:

See the difference?

Me either.

The top 5 posts all discuss social media.  So do 2 of the bottom 3.

At least 3 of the top posts are written in a confrontational style.  So is one of the bottom posts.

And the ill-circulated pop culture post still generated 28 comments, which is a healthier discussion than some of the top posts engendered.

Evidently, I have not yet figured out the recipe for guaranteed traffic.  In fact, the only proven lesson I can extract from the low end of the spectrum is that holiday Mondays are disastrous for blog traffic.  (Nether May 31 nor July 5 cracked 60 clicks.)

However, while the cumulative traffic from these 14 posts would add up to a decent 3-week average, it’s a weak 3 month haul, compared to the stats from my daily blogging days.

Again, this makes sense.  When you blog 5 times a week, you have 5 opportunities to connect with readers.  If you only blog once a week, your post has to be stellar, or else your blog becomes a dead zone for a week.

4.  Withdrawal from Daily Blogging Is Survivable.

Although I really do enjoy blogging 5 times a week, and while I did initially experience “daily blog withdrawal” in the first month of the experiment, I quickly adapted to not having to be relevant 5 times a week.

I was also concerned that my drop in blog traffic would somehow hurt my personal brand, but my Twitter followers have risen in the interim (probably because I’m spending more time there), and so has my overall workload.

In fact, I’m busier now than I was when I was blogging 5 days a week — which, I think, may be the actual takeaway here:

Now that I’m blogging less, I actually have time for all the work I should be doing.

5.  So… NOW What Do I Do?

Continue blogging weekly?

Resume blogging daily?

Never blog again?

Well…

Actually, I’m trying another experiment.

For the next 2 months, I’ll blog 3 times per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday).  My goal during that time will be to learn:

  • If I can maintain (or improve upon) my current workflow
  • If 2 extra weekly posts will satisfy my creative urges
  • If (presumably) increased traffic creates new opportunities, or if my business operates independently of my blog

And, luckily, I only see one holiday Monday on the calendar…

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  • http://twitter.com/AnaRC AnaRC

    the mysteries of traffic! thank you for sharing this post Justin. Very genuine and open. I wonder if there's a correlation between traffic and sales (new business). At the end of the day that's what matters most. I've gone to 3 posts a week and yes the traffic has gone down but my sales have increased because I'm dedicating more time to follow up with clients.

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  • http://www.samsonmedia.net/ SamsonMedia.net

    Justin, your article helped bring things full circle: It inspired me to create my own blog post: http://samsonmedia.net/blog/2010/08/blogging-ho

  • http://bryonsheffield.com/ Ironshef

    This is awesome. As you continue the experiment, have you considered incorporating guest blogging into the mix? Possibly, writing one (or more) quality post(s) per week on your blog and two (or more) posts elsewhere?

    It could provide an interesting combination of traffic, exposure to new audiences (and business opportunities) and creative release. Or at least it may provide an interesting twist on your existing test.

  • http://justinkownacki.blogspot.com Justin Kownacki

    Factoring in guest posts would involve a whole new batch of variables,
    and would probably be best tracked over the course of a year, with a
    different guest post on the same day each week. Not a bad idea –
    maybe something to consider in 2011.

    As for me guest blogging more often on other people's blogs, that's
    always in the cards, but two things stop me from doing it more often:

    * Time (which, as you realize, I could have more of if I blogged less
    for myself)

    * A reason to do so

    Guest blogging seems easiest among like-minded bloggers who share
    complementary skills and goals.

    If the goal of guest blogging is to interest someone else's readers in
    what I normally blog about, I'm not sure I blog about anything
    consistently enough that my “brand” would port easily (and
    satisfyingly) elsewhere. And, if someone else's readers did start
    following me home, what would I *do* with them?

    (Not that I'd complain…)

  • Grant

    can you help me with a small question? When I leave a comment on a blog sometimes it gives you the option 'acceptable code' what does this mean and how do you use it? Thanks Grant

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  • http://justinkownacki.blogspot.com Justin Kownacki

    Grant: Some blogs allow commenters to include HTML in their comments,
    to help with style or links. Obviously, this is not to be abused,
    although spammers often do.

  • Virginia Nussey

    Hey Justin,

    I shared your findings with my readers and one had a question, and I think the answer would open up this discussion in an interesting direction:

    “any correlation between subject matter of posts vs. search trends/volume for those topics of the two time periods??”

    Would probably be fascinating to see if what people were searching for lined up with your most-trafficked posts or not. :)

  • http://justinkownacki.blogspot.com Justin Kownacki

    Good question. I just poked around in Analytics, and while it doesn't
    look like search is driving very much of my current traffic, the
    phrases that do bubble up (and one or two results in particular) are
    worth a blog post all their own. (Maybe next week.)

  • Lezlie

    Great, great info! Thanks so much for sharing this. I'm interested in finding out how the 3x weekly works out. Please share!

  • http://www.jeffpersch.com JPersch

    Has the quality of the discussion gotten better, worse or remained unchanged?

  • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

    Justin, this is fascinating. As a fairly new “professional blogger” (though I've been blogging personally for years) I'm struggling with keeping a set calendar vs. getting all the other work done vs. selling services. Glad to know that there may not be a magic formula, I was starting to feel like I wasn't doing it the “right” way (though I know, of course, that there is no “right way” in social media, ever). I'm encouraged by your post to try a few different ways to see what works best for me.

  • http://justinkownacki.blogspot.com Justin Kownacki

    Good question. Overall, I'd say the quality of the discussion has
    remained high. At least, *I've* enjoyed the feedback I've been
    getting, and that has to count for something.

    Since I was writing denser posts during this experiment, I should have
    been seeing more comments because there'd be more to comment about in
    each post, even if the actual number of posts was down. Overall, I'd
    say that was true during the experiment, but only on days when I wrote
    something that commenters could find a handle on. For example, my pop
    culture post –
    http://www.justinkownacki.com/2010/06/21/the-po
    – generated some great personal feedback, even though my non-biz and
    non-social media posts tend to get fewer comments.

    That said, the quality of the discussion also depends partly on how
    many people leave engaging comments, which is (in part) determined by
    overall traffic. If fewer people (and especially fewer new readers)
    are moved to comment, then the long-term quality of the conversation
    shrinks.

    So far, so good.

  • http://justinkownacki.blogspot.com Justin Kownacki

    There's never a “right” way, but there are “better” or “worse” ways,
    depending on:

    * your goals
    * your reach
    * your audience
    * your time
    * your skills
    * how much you actually care

    So tinker. If it gets better, go forward. If it gets worse, go back.
    Experimenting is half the fun of blogging (or, I think, it SHOULD
    be). Otherwise, it's just pressing buttons, and we have enough of
    those jobs already.

  • Lezlie

    Great, great info! Thanks so much for sharing this. I’m interested in finding out how the 3x weekly works out. Please share!

  • http://www.jeffpersch.com Anonymous

    Has the quality of the discussion gotten better, worse or remained unchanged?n

  • Stephanie Schwab:Socialologist

    Justin, this is fascinating. As a fairly new “professional blogger” (though I’ve been blogging personally for years) I’m struggling with keeping a set calendar vs. getting all the other work done vs. selling services. Glad to know that there may not be a magic formula, I was starting to feel like I wasn’t doing it the “right” way (though I know, of course, that there is no “right way” in social media, ever). I’m encouraged by your post to try a few different ways to see what works best for me.

  • http://justinkownacki.blogspot.com Justin Kownacki

    Good question. Overall, I’d say the quality of the discussion hasrnremained high. At least, *I’ve* enjoyed the feedback I’ve beenrngetting, and that has to count for something.rnrnSince I was writing denser posts during this experiment, I should havernbeen seeing more comments because there’d be more to comment about inrneach post, even if the actual number of posts was down. Overall, I’drnsay that was true during the experiment, but only on days when I wroternsomething that commenters could find a handle on. For example, my poprnculture post –rnhttp://www.justinkownacki.com/2010/06/21/the-popularity-paradox-why-do-we-hate-pop-culture/rn– generated some great personal feedback, even though my non-biz andrnnon-social media posts tend to get fewer comments.rnrnThat said, the quality of the discussion also depends partly on howrnmany people leave engaging comments, which is (in part) determined byrnoverall traffic. If fewer people (and especially fewer new readers)rnare moved to comment, then the long-term quality of the conversationrnshrinks.rnrnSo far, so good.

  • http://justinkownacki.blogspot.com Justin Kownacki

    There’s never a “right” way, but there are “better” or “worse” ways,rndepending on:rnrn* your goalsrn* your reachrn* your audiencern* your timern* your skillsrn* how much you actually carernrnSo tinker. If it gets better, go forward. If it gets worse, go back.rn Experimenting is half the fun of blogging (or, I think, it SHOULDrnbe). Otherwise, it’s just pressing buttons, and we have enough ofrnthose jobs already.

  • http://taylormarek.com/ taylormarek

    Sounds like the experiment brought up some interesting ideas. Thanks for writing it all down for us to read, I enjoyed learning from it! :)

  • http://taylormarek.com/ taylormarek

    Sounds like the experiment brought up some interesting ideas. Thanks for writing it all down for us to read, I enjoyed learning from it! :)

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  • Anonymous

    This is really fascinating!! Another point of interest might be to see see if perhaps engagement went up–i.e. more people read the fewer posts–by looking at bounce rates, time on site, etc. and see how it changed over time. If there’s less content coming out perhaps more are compelled to read what’s there instead of skimming? I have no idea if it’s true but it’d be a good thing to test.

  • http://justinkownacki.blogspot.com Justin Kownacki

    Someone else suggested that, too, so I followed up with another post:rnrnhttp://www.justinkownacki.com/2010/08/18/ego-cynicism-and-bad-reviews-what-i-learned-by-peeking-at-my-bounce-rates/rnrnEvidently, for an loosely focused “media / biz” blog of this size,rnbounce rates are inconclusive — but there were a few interestingrntakeaways.

  • http://justinkownacki.blogspot.com Justin Kownacki

    Someone else suggested that, too, so I followed up with another post:rnrnhttp://www.justinkownacki.com/2010/08/18/ego-cynicism-and-bad-reviews-what-i-learned-by-peeking-at-my-bounce-rates/rnrnEvidently, for an loosely focused “media / biz” blog of this size,rnbounce rates are inconclusive — but there were a few interestingrntakeaways.

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  • http://www.bighelpconsulting.com Big Help Bill

    Some good observations. I’m sure many of us were hoping (beyond hope) that your experiment would have shown a magic increase from only once-a-week.nnI’ll disagree with some of the notions about “good content.” In an ideal world good content would attract more and better traffic. I think the truth is that content simply has to be “good enough.” Anyone who disagrees is working with a different definition of “good” than I am.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Moscow-Abe/100001057938838 Moscow Abe

    Very useful and insightful post. I had no idea how such precision and calculation effects the outcome of site traffic. Nicennhttp://instant-apps.com/

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  • Ms Georgianna Blackburn

    Okay, so I’m late to this conversation, but I think the difference with the 3 lowest performing blogs, at least if tweeted, were the titles. Of the three, the only one that screams social media topic to me is June14th, but then it was the lowest performing of the three. Maybe not listening to your audience is a title that people fear?

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