I say blogs, but you might call them posts or articles. I’m talking about long-from writing, the kind of thing you might send out to your subscribers in a newsletter, post as an article on your LinkedIn page or on the likes of Medium. For handiness, I’m going to keep calling them blogs.
According to a 2021 survey of over 1,000 bloggers, the average blog takes four hours and one minute to write. Does that surprise you? Not me. That would tally with my experience of collaborating with clients to produce top-quality blogs.
I imagine that the more you do it, the easier it becomes. I say, ‘I imagine,’ because I don’t blog. I know – disgraceful! The content writer who doesn’t blog. I hang my head in shame. Except that I am blogging now – am in the very act of doing it, in fact – and it’s not so bad. I had an idea for the topic, I typed a few words, they became a sentence; then I typed some more words and then I had a paragraph. I looked some things up, and now I know where I’m going to go next.
I’ve reached 216 words that way. Apparently, to be effective, I need to write another 1,784. 2,000 words are recommended. Gulp!
To that I say, it depends on what you want the blog to do for you.
For search rankings, longer content performs better
If you want to improve your website search engine rankings then yes, you do need long-from content that is relevant to your line of business.
If, like me, you want to showcase your skill to anyone who comes looking (“She claims to be a writer – let’s see if she can write!”), then the blog need not be anything like that long. I could demonstrate my way with language in 200 words just as well as I could in 2,000, but I might be depending on my reader finding me by typing my name into Google or my website into the browser. Most of my business comes from word of mouth so for me, that’s OK.
If I wanted to engender loyalty, I could, in relatively few words, explain how to solve a common problem my bull’s eye customer has. I would do this repeatedly, addressing all my bull’s eye customers’ common problems. The people I am writing for would come to trust me as a helpful expert in my field. This is known as giver’s gain. You know the gratitude you feel towards the person who wrote the blog or made the video that helped you get that annoying light to turn off on your car dashboard or unlock your phone when you want to switch providers? That’s what you’re going for.
In 2021, most blogs (63 per cent) were between 500 and 1,500 words long.
If I wanted to demonstrate that I am a thought leader in a particular matter that is relevant to my best customers, I don’t necessarily need a 2,000-word blog in which to do it. A client of mine is a leadership coach. His secret sauce is asking the questions that stop us in our tracks. He can ask the killer question in less than one hundred words. Anyone who has subscribed to Seth Godin’s daily thought knows that authority can be conveyed in a few careful lines.
Writing is editing
I did say ‘careful’. Writing carefully takes longer than writing a lot. Those few lines could take four hours and one minute to compose. There is the thinking time, the research time, the typing time and the most important time of all, the editing time.
People think that writing is writing, but actually writing is editing. Otherwise, you're just taking notes.
For what message did not improve with reading over – better still, reading over after the passage of time, be it the 15 minutes it takes to nip out and buy a coffee, or a restorative night’s sleep? Anyone who has winced on noticing a glaring mistake in an email or text hastily typed and sent knows this truth.
But it goes beyond looking out for typos. You need to take yourself outside your own head and read your words as if you were your reader. Will he or she follow your train of thought? Are you assuming too much knowledge? You’re a specialist. Is your reader? Jargon, between specialists, is shorthand. Between the expert and the lay person It becomes a barrier.
There is also the option to use a copy-editor (know any of those?).
Is anybody even reading this?
What it has taken me two hours, 47 minutes (and counting) to say is that well-written blogs take time and, as your business coach is constantly telling you, time is money. To get a decent ROI, you really want to know that your bull’s eye customer reads blogs. Would you be better to make a video or podcast? A series of infographics or photos? Have they time to read your 2,000 words?
If your customers or stakeholders are not readers at all, then going through the pain of establishing a blogging regime is not an efficient use of your time.
Of course, blogging has other benefits: sitting down regularly to write is a discipline. Mastering this discipline shows us we are capable of exercising it in other areas of our lives; it helps us sort out our thoughts and arrive at a position; it improves our ability to make an argument or simply to write better; it sparks ideas. Discoveries we make through blogging can be repurposed in other parts of the business such as pitches, video, social media (including LinkedIn) or website content, so even if your customers don’t read your blogs, writing them need not be a complete waste of time.
If, conversely, your bull’s eye customer will read your blogs (so long as they are relevant, useful and well written), research shows your rewards shall be great. A word of warning here: content marketing is a long game. You may get immediate conversions but blogging tends to build loyalty and create advocates over time. It’s a slow burn.
Another very useful outcome of blogging is the opportunity it creates for engagement with your current and potential customers. You can get useful feedback (and some spam) from a comments function. Social media is all about feedback and you will soon get a picture of what your followers are interested in.
So, yes, taking on a blogging regime is not for the faint hearted, but it can be rewarding in a number of unexpected and enriching ways, for the writer as well as the business.