Are You Throwing Away Readers by Posting at the Wrong Time?

By Daniel Scocco

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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21 Responses to “Are You Throwing Away Readers by Posting at the Wrong Time?”

  • Pro-Vamsi

    Well time does effect your readers however, I don’t think the time you post will effect your readers. you can always adjust delivery timings of your feed at any point right.

  • Adib

    Timing, I should have known! Now I’m debating to myself whether I should carry on posting daily as I usually do or just a few times a week.

    Great advice and keep up the great posts!

  • Tyrone

    Yeah that’s true timing plays a great role for a post. You should post article on some specific days so that people may get idea when your next post will come.

  • Erik Deckers

    @TumbleMoose, you can also post-date your posts to appear at your requested time. Submit your posts whenever they’re done, but set it to publish at your best time.

  • Erik Deckers

    I always post my humor column at the same time every day (8:00 am), and my marketing blog whenever I can (but before 5:00 each day).

    However, most of my traffic comes from StumbleUpon, Reddit, and Twitter, so it doesn’t seem to matter when I post, but when it makes those three social sites.

  • Dining Guy

    I have never thought about the timing of my posts. Usually I just try to post as soon as I can. I will have to pay more attention. I just get so anxious, but patience is a virtue.

  • Jabna

    I have tested one of my other blogs by watching when my peers post their content. Several of them post early morning, mid-day and again at night. Others post at night. Still others post whenever they happen to be writing.

    On the blog I have tested I rarely post more than once per day, normally I post every other day and not much on the weekends. My audience diminishes on the weekend.

    As for as time goes I seem to have the most traffic on a post when I load it early in the morning. I seem to catch three groups of people. Visitors before they go to work, visitors while they work and visitors just before they go to bed.

  • diabetes man

    I never think about this case before…. time management is very important, I can take some learning from the articles above…thanks

  • Wayne Coady

    My blog is targeting workers injured on the job, I get a reasonable number of visitors ,but would like more to visit. How can I get my blog on more search engines?

    Thank you

    Wayne Coady

  • joe gelb

    There is alot to this, unfortunatelly during the prime time the social media sites slow up.

  • Mark Pack

    Thanks for the interesting comments.

    Cyrus: it’s true that finding out what works best for your content and your site takes effort, but the good news is that once you have found out, it takes very little effort to exploit this knowledge. Unless you’ve got a time-sensitive post, you can just schedule it for the next “peak time” after you’ve written it.

  • Tumblemoose

    I do struggle with this almost every post. I tend to post in the early am 5am – 7am. I’m in Alaska so That’s 9a-11a est. Feel like the day is gone by then.

    I also feel if I post at midnight AK time, It’s too early for anyone to see.

    On top of that, my RSS sends out a new post anywhere from 12 to 18 hours after posting. Is there any way to get my RSS to send immediately?

    I love daily blog tips, BTW. Love seeing it in my inbox.

    Cheers

    George

  • Cyrus

    I hear that timing was one of the reason that can also bring your traffic. So I have to study what is the best time for me to write a my post.

    But if I have different type of post, does that mean that I have to find out that too. If yes, that will be a lot effort to put in.

  • Sheila Atwood

    I agree with experiment, experiment, experiment. There is no clear rule of thumb. My partner’s blog is in a completely different genre than mine. She has as attracted a large following from Europe so she posts to accordingly.

    I am still experimenting. I am keeping a close eye on my analytics.

  • Max Pool

    I have written about this topic as well:

    http://www.problogger.net/archives/2007/11/10/use-feedburner-statistics-to-interpret-reader-habits/

    In short, scheduling posts at 1:00 AM (Central US) on Mondays works the best for me.

  • Kathy | Virtual Impax

    I used to post my stories at 6:00 AM ET US – and then one day, I got delayed and didn’t post until around 10:00 AM ET US. Traffic and comments were both higher – and it was a REAL wake up call for me.

    Of course – as you point out – what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another and everyone has to figure out their own “rhythm”.

  • reinkefj

    Another point about timing, in the beginning, when I was enthusiastic, I post three or four posts in a row. Overwhelming folks, I think. Now I preposition them. If I have two, 12 hour interval. If they are “timeless” (i.e., not dealing with a topic of the day), I spread them out like one-a-day vitamins. If they are time-sensitive, I “wedge” them in with some decent interval of time before and after other posts. Haven’t measured if it makes a difference, but seems logical to me.

  • techandlife

    I think when you post depends very much on the location of your audience. As you say in your case, you’re aiming at a British audience but for many bloggers their audience may well be global.

    I’ve found the best way to publicise blog posts to a global audience is to push them to your followers on twitter. And retweet this about 3 times over 18 hours to try to catch everyone awake around the world.

  • Ben

    Excellent point about being buried in a RSS feed reader. I didn’t even think of that one. One would have to assume that if someone is subscribed to your blog, they have also subscribed to numerous others.
    Certainly something I will have to keep in mind.

  • SEO Tips

    Great tips, an unusual sujbect to write about and I like that. I try and post around the same time however I have no evidence to support that this time is the best time to submit my articles.

    I think doing some sort of split testing or comparing different days and times are something that bloggers should do to maximise their traffic.

    Thanks

  • Guillaume

    Timing is indeed a problem. Don’t you think that tools such as Twitterfeed might be a solution as you can reach a different audience at a different time.

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