Whether you’re creating blog posts yourself or you outsource your content creation to a freelance copywriter or content marketing agency, chances are that at some point you’ve asked yourself, how long does it actually take to write a blog post?
You might not think there would be a definitive answer but thanks to the latest research from Orbit Media, there is: 4 hours, 10 minutes. Interestingly, that figure has been increasing year on year since Orbit first began their survey in 2014, when the average length of time people took to write a blog was just 2 hours 24 minutes. That’s an increase of 74% in 8 years.
Of course, an average can only ever be that – an average. There is likely to have been a fairly broad range of answers in the 1,000 plus that they received, with some people being able to bash out a post in much less time and others labouring over theirs for far longer.
In this article, we’re going to dive into why those variations might occur so that you can begin to understand either a) how much time to set aside in your calendar for blog writing or b) how much work your chosen freelancer or agency is – or should be – dedicating to your account.
Factors that affect how long it takes to write a blog post
First, let’s look at what impacts the length of the actual writing process itself. There are other elements of blogging as a whole that need to be considered, but we’ll come to them later.
The word length of the blog post
Although it’s not true to say that more words inevitably means more time (after all, a six word strapline might take weeks or even months to perfect), there is a degree of correlation when it comes to writing a blog post.
The Orbit research backs this up – the average blog post today is 1,376 words long compared to 808 in 2014, which may in some ways account for the amount of writing time increasing.
In a sense this links with complexity, as more involved subjects need both more ‘column inches’, as it were, to explore all the issues, and more thinking time to grapple with how those complexities are expressed.
Not all blog posts are made equal. A listicle (‘5 easy ways to stop your dev project going off the rails’ or ‘7 reasons why we think open source publishing is the future’) is far easier to write than a well-reasoned, carefully-researched piece of thought leadership.
This is partly because, even if they’re the same length, with a listicle you don’t need to create a narrative in the same way. You’re essentially creating 5 or 7 smaller chunks of copy, sandwiched between an intro and an outro. Much quicker to pull together.
Whether you’re weaving in quotes from contributors
If your blog post is styled like a journalistic article and incorporates quotes from one or more interviewees, you might find that it increases the time that it takes to write the post.
This is because there’s an art to deciding which bits of speech should be quoted vs reported, and how best to use those quotes to support the article’s narrative. The more contributors there are, the trickier it becomes to create a smooth narrative, especially if you’re trying to give each person fair representation through the article.
Making difficult concepts easy to grasp is an art and takes time.
How sophisticated your audience is
This isn’t as straightforward as ‘the more sophisticated your audience, the longer it will take to write a blog post for them’.
On the one hand, this might be true. With a sophisticated audience, you won’t be able to get away with just bashing out a ‘sort of okay’ blog. You might need to do more research, source better data, be a bit clever or more original with your arguments.
That said, if you’re a subject matter expert and your audience is made up of complete newbies, you’ll have to work hard to explain the complexities of your thoughts without dumbing everything down too much. Making difficult concepts easy to grasp is an art and takes time.
The wider factors that need to be built into your blogging schedule
This is where we go beyond the time it takes to sit at a keyboard, tapping away at a 800 or 1,200 or 3,000 word post. There’s plenty that needs to come before that happens, and a little that happens after that stage.
When deciding how much of your 9-5 should be dedicated to creating content – or whether your freelancer or agency is worth the money you’re paying them – it’s really important to factor these next points in.
Creating a content strategy
To make your blog successful, you need to create a thorough strategy before you make a start on the writing part. This involves having a deep understanding of your audience and working out everything from the problems you’re trying to solve for them in your blog, to the actions you want them to take once they’ve finished reading.
You’ll also need to spend time generating ideas for topics and titles for the blog. This might include plotting possible titles along the customer buying journey to ensure you’ve covered each stage, as well as researching the keywords and phrases you can realistically aim to rank well for.
Although most bloggers spend just over 4 hours on each post, those that spend more than 6 hours “are 50% more likely to report strong results”.
Research and interviews
We touched on research in the first section about writing time because there’s a good chance that during the writing process, you’re going to have to stop and verify a fact or find a study to back up an assertion. But there’s also that initial, foundational research period where you’re getting to grips with the subject.
Even if you’re a subject matter expert, you’ll need to see what other people are saying, so you can ensure you’re adding to the conversation rather than replicating what’s out there. If you’re a marketing lead with other subject matter experts to interview, this will take time too, especially if they’re hard to pin down.
Optimising and linking your content
Blogging is great for SEO but for it to be truly effective, you need to put the time into optimising your content. Even if we bypass activities like keyword research or creation of an SEO strategy, you’ll still need to think about how and where you can insert the right keywords, something which we find is best to do after you’ve written an audience-focused first draft.
Adding internal links is another win (note we didn’t say quick win) for optimisation. Wherever your new blog touches on another piece of content you’ve written, make sure to find that link and insert it. It can take a little bit of time but it’s worth it for the SEO points.
And the rest…
Once you’ve done all of this, you’ve still got a bunch of other stuff to factor in. Uploading the copy to your CRM. Adding imagery. Doing a final proofread to catch those errant typos. All pretty simple tasks but they add up, and they need to be on someone’s to do list.
A final word to those commissioning blog content, internally or externally
So let’s recap. Writing a blog post takes an average of 4 hour, 10 minutes. If you assume that someone works a 9-5 day with an hour for lunch, that’s 59% of their day creating that one blog post. Add on all the other influencing factors, from creating an effective content strategy to optimising those posts, you can see that blogging isn’t something you can fit into someone’s schedule as an afterthought.
Blogging isn’t a low level task you can ask the admin person to do. Your subject matter experts can’t just rustle up a bit of thought leadership at a day’s notice. If you’re going to blog for your business you need to do it consistently, with a strategy in place, and you have to give it the time it deserves.
And here’s the thing – keep scrolling through the Orbit research and you’ll come to a very compelling statistic. Although most bloggers spend just over 4 hours on each post, those that spend more than 6 hours “are 50% more likely to report strong results”. Putting in the time to write great quality content is well worth it.
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Journalist turned copywriter Rin Hamburgh (formerly Rin Simpson) is the founder of RH&Co, a Bristol-based strategic brand copywriting agency working with expert-led businesses across the South West, UK and Europe.