19 blogging metrics for startups and beginners
Which blogging metrics can help guide your new blog?
My email service provider (ConvertKit) just published a great report called State of the Blogging Industry. In it, they reveal some fascinating findings gleaned from a survey of more than 850 bloggers. Since I had just finished telling my readers how important it was to start a blog, I thought I’d see which blogging metrics might help guide you as you jump into this essential content creation tactic.
I’ve pulled together 19 statistics from the report that I believe are of interest and value to content marketing beginners, beginner bloggers, and those in business startup mode.
The full report has even more data in case 19 blogging metrics aren’t enough for you!
Who writes blogs?
Blogging metrics about bloggers as people
- You don’t need to be a pro to be a blogger
Only 14% of those surveyed were classified as professional bloggers, leaving 86% not-yet-professionals. So even if you’re just starting out you’re probably in good company.
The survey used median household incomes in the United States to determine pro vs. non-pro. Bloggers that generated more than the median were categorized as “pro” and those that made less were “not-yet-pro.” Median income in 2015 was $72,165 for family households and $33,805 for non-family households.
This doesn’t mean you should settle for making little or no money from your blog. Blogging is a key element of content marketing, and as such it should be a driving force for growing your startup’s revenues.
- You don’t need to be a Millennial to be a blogger
There are bloggers in every age group, from under 18 to over 65 and beyond. I happen fall in this latter group, and I bet many of you do, too. Whatever your age, you can become a blogger.
- You don’t have to be a rocket scientist, but it doesn’t hurt
A full 91% of bloggers have at least some college, which you’d expect. What you might not expect is that 30% of bloggers have a master’s, doctorate or professional degree.
The good news for beginners is that, no matter what your educational level, blogging requires few formal credentials. But if you’ve learned a thing or two, by all means share your knowledge!
Why write a blog?
Blogging metrics about motivation
- Blogging can help you build a business using content marketing
Look at the top seven reasons noted here:
With the exception of creative expression, these goals align well with using content marketing in a startup: drive your own employment, build an audience, teach what you know, earn money, build a company, and serve a specific audience.
What are your own reasons to start a blog?
What should you write about?
Blogging metrics to help define your niche
- Make your topic clear and focused
When asked about their topics, the surveyed bloggers were often not very clear. The report stated, “…too many blogs have a complete lack of focus or topic. They can come across like wide-ranging dialogues on the meaning of life or myopic, self-centered personal journals. To grow an audience today, it is almost a requirement that you start with a specific topic and clearly communicate it.”
I couldn’t agree more, except I’d change “almost a requirement” to “an absolute requirement.”
You’ll find a similar argument in my lesson, How to start a business blog.
- Find your niche by avoiding common categories
You’re going to have a lot of competition if you choose to write about “entrepreneurship” or “personal development.” These popular topics have a lot of blogs already.
One way to select your topic is to combine two or more areas to make it more unique. That’s what I did for CMS: I combined content marketing + startups + freelancers to narrow my niche and reduce my competition. I’m not sure yet whether that’s narrow enough; time (and you, my audience) will tell.
- Think like a pro before you get started
The topics that pro bloggers choose are more likely to be something that other people will pay for. Contrast this to writing about lifestyle or creative expression. Those topics may be satisfying to you, but probably won’t drive revenue.
What techniques should you use?
Blogging metrics about the blog itself
- Use self-hosted WordPress
76% of bloggers today use WordPress to manage their blog – which I recommend as well.
Of all WordPress bloggers, 82% use self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org) rather than WordPress-hosted (WordPress.com). That also matches my recommendation.
- You don’t need to publish daily
Most bloggers in the survey published one post per week. The next two most popular frequencies were two posts per week and one post every other week. Whatever schedule you choose, it’s more important to stay consistent than to be prolific.
If you published weekly and stuck to that schedule, you’d write around 50 posts per year. To adequately teach the ins and outs of your topic, is that enough? Too many? Choose a schedule that makes sense for both your personal time and your topic’s depth.
My own goal is one post per week. So far I’m pretty close to that.
- Write ahead of schedule
52% of bloggers write either the day before or on the same day as they plan to publish. If you write further ahead of schedule, you’ll have more time to improve the quality of your post. And you’ll have more of a cushion to ensure you stay on a consistent publishing schedule.
So far, I’m guilty of writing my posts the day before publishing. But I hope to improve that!
- Plan on writing 1000 words, or more, per post
44% of bloggers in the survey write posts of 500-1000 words. But pro bloggers are 79% more likely to write over 1000 words, and not-yet-pros are 141% more likely to write less than 500 words.
This is pretty consistent with some survey results I read on Hubspot’s website, which reported that the average post in 2016 was 1050 words, up 19% over the previous year. They also reported that bloggers felt their longer posts yielded stronger results.
If the pros are writing longer articles and getting better results, you should, too.
My own guideline is to write at least 1500 words per post.
- Measure site visitors, email subscribers and social shares
The top measures of post success for surveyed bloggers were site visitors, email subscribers and social shares, with around 20% of bloggers focused on each of these. Although these aren’t the only measures of success, they’re key indicators of an audience’s initial response.
- Include an email opt-in form in your post
About 88% of surveyed bloggers include an email opt-in form somewhere in their post. That’s because for overall content marketing success, you can’t rely on just site visits or social shares.
As ConvertKit put it, “To turn a blog reader into a customer, you have to have a way to get back in touch, and that almost always means turning them into an email subscriber first.”
I’ll be covering ways to convert visitors to subscribers, and subscribers to customers, in future posts on Content Marketing Startup.
Where do readers come from?
Blogging metrics about the audience
- Blog like a pro: Use SEO to drive website traffic
The top two website traffic sources across all surveyed bloggers were social media and organic search (organic search is driven by search engine optimization, or SEO).
Non-pros rely more on social; pros rely more on SEO.
I’ll examine both of these content tactics in future posts on the CMS blog.
- Blog like a pro: use email to build your audience
The top two techniques bloggers use to build an audience are social media and email.
While about 90% of pros and not-yet-pros alike use social media, only 64% of not-yet-pros use email, compared to 88% of their pro colleagues. The implication is clear: if you’re serious about driving income with your blog, use email to build your audience in addition to social promotion.
I use and recommend ConvertKit as an excellent email choice for bloggers.
- Don’t overlook any channel for promotion
While Facebook and Twitter are the top two popular social channels for promotion, today’s bloggers use a wide variety of channels in total.
I was a bit surprised by the lower popularity of LinkedIn, because I’ve found good success on that channel for B2B promotion. At the same time, I haven’t tried as much Facebook promotion because I think of that channel as better for B2C companies.
But here’s the deal: placing a standard post on any of these channels costs nothing other than your time, so it’s a good idea to try them all and see what happens.
Of course, most of these social channels also offer paid advertising options. To get a perspective on paid advertising, I looked again at the Hubspot report on bloggers. They showed that Facebook and Twitter were the most popular, but were the least likely to produce results. By contrast, although paid ads were only used by 15% of surveyed bloggers (the least-used method), those bloggers ranked their results from paid promotion higher than any other technique!
I’m going to experiment with additional social channels and paid ads soon and will let you know what I learn.
How can I make money?
Blogging metrics about sales and expenses
- Sell digital products if you can
The survey results indicate that 65% of all bloggers have a product or service for sale, and make money from that.
Most bloggers who made money sold digital products, followed by services, physical products and advertising.
Consider how your startup business model could support that. Examples of digital products include books, courses, audio programs, and other digital media.
- Plan on spending about $1000 to get started
“Bloggers who did not earn money in the past year spent an average of $953 building their blogs.”
So, as a new blogger, you should budget about $1,000 per year of operations to get up and running before earning revenue.
In future posts I’ll be highlighting the least expensive, yet useful, tools for blogging and other content marketing techniques.
What will challenge you?
Blogging metrics about likely struggles
- Get organized and follow Content Marketing Startup!
The top struggles for bloggers were finding time to dedicate to their blogs, growing their email list, and converting subscribers into customers. It’s likely you’ll experience those challenges, too.
It’s my goal to help you through those struggles. My future lessons will focus on getting you organized and giving you a framework to use content marketing as efficiently as possible.
What do you think about these metrics?
I hope these highlights have given you some things to ponder as you plan your own entry into the blogging side of content marketing. I know I’ve learned about a number of things that I want to incorporate into my own efforts!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these blogging metrics. What resonated most with you? What caught you by surprise? Are you more likely to start blogging now, or less!?
Graphs were created by ConvertKit. Used with permission.
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