Eric Wendt

The quality-first approach to content marketing has been standard practice for some time, but recent numbers illustrate just how much writing for the web has changed in recent years.

Chicago-based web design firm Orbit Media Studios conducts a survey of more than 1,000 bloggers each year to capture trends from the front lines. If you’re a content marketing professional wondering about the state of content production today, the results are illuminating.

Time is of the essence

As of 2016, the average blog post takes 3 hours and 16 minutes to write, marking a 26 percent increase from the previous year. What’s more, the number of bloggers who spend six or more hours on a post has doubled. Only one-third of bloggers spend less than two hours writing one piece of content.

Of course, content marketers aren’t suddenly putting in longer hours for no reason. Only 23 percent of bloggers who spend less than six hours on a post report strong results. Thirty-three percent of those that spend six or more hours writing content say the same.

One factor that may be driving lengthier blog creation timelines is editing. While only 1 out of 4 bloggers currently has a formal editing process, the percentage of bloggers who have multiple editors is twice as high as last year. Again, the extra time appears to be worth the effort. Thirty-one percent of bloggers who have a formal editing process that includes one or more editors reported strong results. That number was only 23 percent for those with no editors or established editing processes.

“Thirty-one percent of bloggers who have a formal editing process that includes one or more editors reported strong results.”

Longer blog posts are also increasing time required. The average post is now approximately 1,050 words – a 19 percent increase from last year. Meanwhile, the number of blog posts that are 500 words or less has been halved when compared to 2014. Survey results showed the longer the post, the stronger the results reported by bloggers.

With longer pieces, bloggers are employing less frequent posting schedules. The number of bloggers who post daily has fallen more than 50 percent from the previous year. Most bloggers now post weekly.

That said, content writers with more frequent posting schedules reported stronger results. However, the data to back this up is based on only 35 people who post either daily or more than once per day so it may not be indicative of the industry as a whole.

It takes 3 hours and 16 minutes to write a blog post.

Then and now

Like nearly every facet of the web, digital content marketing has progressed by leaps and bounds over the past several years. How people find and interact with online content has changed significantly thanks to constant search engine refinement and the proliferation of social media.

The number of companies investing in content marketing has also skyrocketed, creating a crowded playing field. It’s up to marketing professionals to stay up to date and rise above the competition.

As the Orbit Media survey results highlighted, effective content requires time and attention. This goes beyond word length.

In addition to optimizing your content for maximum organic search visibility, you must target your preferred audience and fine-tune your content to be as valuable and relevant as possible.

Crafting content that exudes authority in your space is also essential. This means diving deep into pertinent industry topics, prioritizing useful takeaways and generally bringing a unique perspective to discussions.

Additionally, content marketers must expand beyond text. Orbit Media reported a majority of bloggers ensure multiple images are included in each post. Video is also increasingly being utilized, with 15 percent of bloggers saying they implement videos in posts.

The right tools for the job

Trial and error may play a small role in perfecting your content production, but it’s vital to take advantage of tools that will allow you to more easily create impactful posts.

Measuring content effectiveness should be your first course of action. There’s no point in employing a new content strategy if you’re unable to evaluate its success.

Data from Orbit Media showed there’s been an 18 percent increase over the past three years in the number of bloggers checking post analytics. However, approximately 7 out of 10 bloggers don’t always examine content performance. Even worse, 1 out of 5 bloggers don’t even have access to analytics tools or rarely ever look at results.

The number of bloggers who always check analytics has risen 18 percent since 2013.

Unsurprisingly, only 18 percent of bloggers who don’t regularly check analytics report strong results. Among those who do regularly check analytics, 30 percent report strong results.

Your next focus should be on tools that make crafting impactful content easier. For instance, the Searchmetrics platform spotlights not only which keywords are being searched for most, but how high the competition for ranking for those keywords is. This makes it easier to optimize blog posts for maximum SEO effectiveness.

Meanwhile, tools like BuzzSumo offer a glimpse into what stories are being shared most across social media platforms. Not only can you see which topics are resonating, you can analyze what features popular stories contain and which channels get the most engagement.

The only sure bet is that content marketing will continue to evolve. However, it’s clear the shift toward more in-depth content isn’t going away anytime soon. By focusing on creating valuable content and using tools to consistently enhance blogs, you stand a better chance of engaging your audience.

The state of the blogging union is strong. The question is whether you’re keeping up.