ARTICLES | CONTENT CREATION
How often do you need to create content?
By Gary Bloomer
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Here's an interesting number for you: 4.4 million.
According to Worldometers, that's how many blog posts were published every day in March 2019.
And in 2020 the number grew to over 409 million people reading over 20 billion pages on WordPress alone each month.
A quick back-of-the-envelope suggests that by the year 2030 there will be somewhere in the region of 45 million blogs active in the United States alone.
Worldwide the figures could multiply that number by a factor of 10.
Yet, the number of those blogs that will succeed or even be active a year or even six months down the road is something of a mystery.
But let’s be generous and assume that a healthy 10% of them make it beyond their first birthday. That’s still 440,000 blogs a year that will need content. Lots of it.
Which brings us to the question how often do you need to publish content? I'm asking this because at one point, not that long ago, it's a question that tripped me up and that almost led to me giving up the idea of starting a blog.
The question of how often do you need to publish content trips up many would-be bloggers because they equate ‘publish’ with ‘create’, and (and probably more importantly) because they start their blog without also creating a content creation and distribution plan.
This mindset—that they must publish something every day—then flips them into overdrive and suddenly, reality kicks in. Been there. Done that. And it wasn't pretty.
A typical scenario looks something like this: one hundred people all start blogs on the same day in different niches. They’ve all bought into the notion that they must publish—for which they hear create—new content every day.
They think this because some guru somewhere told them they need to be everywhere and that they need to be productive. OK. Fine.
By all accounts, they all get off to a great start, they all publish fabulous content on day one. Phew and hooray! They’re off to the races.
Day 2 comes along and they’re all thinking: hmm … what shall I write about today? Day 2’s article is shorter than they would like it to be but it still gets out. Days 3 through 9 bring new challenges and over the next few weeks, both the amount and the quality of content goes down and down and down as the self-imposed pressure to publish goes up and up and up.
As first one reality kicks in—that blogging takes work—and then another as readers either don't show up or don't stay very long take over, for many of our 100 would-be authors the idea of maintaining the flow gets a little too much. So let’s say 50 of them throw in the towel at the end of month one.
Think about this for a moment: if you are "supposed" to post something new every day because some blog guru told you that that's the way it's supposed to be, or because you heard it from a friend of a friend's next door neighbour's plumber who "knows a guy" and you fail to carry out your due diligence, if you don’t think about the enormity of the task before you, new content every day means 365 pieces of content a year and man alive: THAT'S A LOTTA WORK!
At 500 words per post, that’s 182,500 words of text a year, or roughly three, 200-word business books.
For most people, that’s more than they’ll read in five years let alone how much they can write in twelve months.
Of the 50 who stick with the plan beyond the 30 day period the number of people who are still going strong at 90 days and 120 days will probably go down again as the scope and reality of the task goes up.
The difference between those who stick to it and those who quit lies in understanding a few basic guidelines—guidelines I was ignorant of and that I ignored for several years when I started out back in 2009. Not least of which is this: To succeed with a blog you need discipline and you need a plan.
Read. That. Again!
In the early days I had neither and it tripped me up and dragged me down.
Now, I work with a content creation plan and a distribution plan and I don’t write or publish anything new every day.
Without a content creation and content distribution plan my output slowed and my reach diminished.
I ran out of ideas, I had no clue how to repurpose content for multiple markets or audience types, and frustrated and angry, I quit.
My website—this website—remained stagnant for almost four years! It sat there, doing nothing, costing me money, pissing me off because I was too proud to admit I had no idea what I was doing.
On May 17, 2006 when Gary Vaynerchuk started his WineLibraryTV video blog, he made a decision to make a video about wine every day.
If you compare his approach on day 1 with the kind of content he was creating by episodes 10, 50, 100 and 1,001 (in February 2016), you’ll see his personality coming through and you’ll see quite a difference in his approach.
Although from the beginning he was focused on creating a video every day, one thing that Gary had that other people still don’t have is that Gary had a plan.
He would talk about at least one wine each day.
Given that there are thousands of wines and that he was managing his dad’s wine store in New Jersey, Gary had an unlimited number of things within a niche to talk about.
Here are a few thoughts to get your over the content creation/
content publishing hump:
1. Go narrow and deep. The thinner you slice things, the more you focus on specific aspects of your niche, the more ideas and the more subjects you’ll have to create content about. If you’re blogging about hair and make-up, slice things down to lip gloss, then eyeliner, then concealer, then eye shadow, and so on. Write out a list of sub-subjects and drill down. Compare a handful of similar products with each other. Create buying and shopping guides. Put together ideas on how to apply various kinds of cosmetics. With a little thought you can do this with every niche imaginable.
2. Create a stash. instead of starting on day 1 with one piece of content, invest time and effort over a few weeks in creating a small library of content that you can share over time. If you absolutely must share something every day, set a goal of creating 15 to 30 pieces of content ahead of your launch date and then set those pieces of content to appear every day, or every three days, or every week or so. Remember, nowhere is it carved in stone that you must create and share content every day. If you set out with a goal to create and share something every day you train your followers and audience to expect that kind of commitment and in doing so you put yourself under impossible pressure to pony up.
3. Keep adding to the pot. As your content appears on your publication schedule, be actively creating new content behind the scenes to add to the hopper. Draw from your list of content ideas and be active about creating while pulling from your pool of content to fuel distribution on the front end.
4. Distribute strategically. Once your content has been on your website for 7 to 10 days, start sharing it in multiple places and in multiple ways: chop a 2,000 word article up into a series of soundbites that you distribute via various social media channels (being mindful not to share the same content to multiple platforms at the same time). Share excerpts as longer social posts, or share the whole post on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Medium (but not all on the same day), being sure to include a call to action and a link back to your website so that anyone interested in learning more can become a subscriber. Once you have that person on your email list you can continue messaging them over time with useful, relevant, valuable content that is information-based rather than sales-based.
5. Go long. Creating longer content pays dividends over time by virtue of it containing more useful information. So don’t be afraid to create a 1,675 word article, or a 4,000 word article. in many cases the longer the content is, the better. True, not everyone will read it, but everyone is not your ideal reader. You want dedicated, focused readers rather than browsers.
6. Slice then serve. A 3,500-word article can be cut in two; it can be turned into a podcast, into a video, and into a white paper for download as a PDF. It can become a string of 30 or more social media snippets, it can become a slideshow. It can be bundled with other content as an ebook. It can be turned into an online course. In this way one simple piece of content that does a deep dive on one sub niche goes farther and reaches further than one standalone 500 word article.
There’s more but you get the general idea.
By setting yourself the goal of having to create and publish something every day you place yourself under needless pressure that will ultimately crush your chances of success. I’m telling you this because it happened to me.
When I started my website back in the latter part of 2009 I was going to share something every day and I was going to write a newsletter every week. By the time I got to week 43 of my newsletter—which was something I did without any kind of plan—I was worn out, fed up, and i resented the whole process.
I had no content creation plan.
I had no distribution plan.
I had no clarity as to who I was writing for, or why I was writing, or what I was writing about, or why on Earth anyone would care what I had to say.
While I did manage to build up a small list of 53 newsletter subscribers, I wasn’t giving them anything of value they could use, and because the newsletter was being sent out as a PDF, I was getting complaints from subscribers that they couldn’t open files because their firewalls prevented them from opening attachments
It got to the stage where I resented the whole process, so I stopped.
I stopped writing. I stopped sending my newsletter. I stopped sending emails. My website sat there, doing nothing and costing me money for the better part of five years.
Things have changed a bit since then.
In 2015 I deleted everything on my website and started again. I made copies of everything before nuking it but I stripped the site back to its bones. This one change scared the crap out of me but also liberated me to start fresh.
I niched down and thought long and hard about who my ideal, preferred reader is.
I then did my best to put myself in that person’s shoes and came up with a list of questions—if I were this person, what would I want to know? What would I want to learn? What content would I find useful, relevant, valuable, and timely?
Once I’d asked those questions I invested time and effort creating content aimed at answering those questions so that the people in that specific group would get some value out of my content rather than me just bashing out any old crap and hoping something stuck.
Nowadays, I create content according to a focused plan.
These days I have intent and clarity.
I create longer content but I share that content less often and in more ways so that it’s seen by a wider group of people.
I no longer send a weekly e-newsletter: my email subscribers hear from me when I have something to share that I believe will be of value.
The idea that you must create content every single day is nonsense.
The thought that you must get stuff out there and that once you’ve decided to start a blog that you must get it going now, now, now, is a flawed recipe for frustration and disaster.
There’s less of a rush than you think there is. You might think there is but there isn’t. You have all the time in the world.
If you had no Alpine mountain climbing experience and you suddenly decided you were going off to climb Mt. Everest, would you run from base camp to the peak in shorts and a t-shirt? Or would you take time to train and acclimatize, would you take your time and use a guide and the proper equipment, would you watch the weather and climb with oxygen, and would you take into consideration everything else you’d need to plan so that you could climb Everest and live to talk about it?
As for those 4.4 million or so blogs that launch each year, how many of them do you think are set up based on a solid plan? How many of them falter and fail? How many would-be bloggers quit because they’re blogging and creating dated posts when they probably ought to be writing evergreen articles?
Or how many quit because they’re using free platforms and because few people take them seriously because the blogger won’t shell out for their own domain name, or for dedicated hosting, or for an SSL certificate?
How many of them don’t connect their efforts to their social media streams? How many of them focus on the short term and on making a quick score instead of setting out with a longer-range plan?
There’s no reason to create (for which read ‘publish’) content every day. There’s no reason to put yourself under impossible pressure.
There’s no reason why you should be a casualty of your own inability or unwillingness to create a plan.
You can do this. Here’s an overview to get you started.
- Start with an outline of who you are creating content for and what kind of content you’ll create.
- Be specific.
- Figure out what subjects within your niche your readers (viewers, listeners) are looking for, then create content that answers their concerns and that addresses their questions.
- Of those subjects, niche down within them. If your subject is vegetable gardening, create posts about growing specific vegetables, about soil conditions, about common pests and diseases, about essential tools, about planting guides, and so on. This way you're delving deeper and deeper.
- Set up simple page layouts for templates so you’re not having to constantly reinvent things.
- Source images from copyright free, public domain sites such as Unsplash.com.
- Create a small library of in-depth pieces and roll them out on your website as evergreen content rather than as dated and time-stamped blog entries.
- Use keywords in page titles and metadata (the few lines of text that show up under a search result in a Google search listing), and set canonical URLs for your original pieces so that search engines know which page to show in search results as you share duplicate content across a range of platforms.
- Once you've set up pages, remember to cross link them within your site with natural-looking links and anchor text.
- While your articles are sitting on your site and before you start sharing them on social media, make a list of 10 to 20 thematically-linked websites that have blogs on them that accept user-generated comments.
- After a 7 to 10 day period, and as start sharing your articles through your social media sites, start commenting with useful, relevant, supportive comments on the blogs in your list above. Be mindful and respectful, avoid being openly self-promotional.
- Give every piece of content a call to action so that you’re initiating actions such as collecting email addresses.
- Once the material has been on your site for seven to ten days, start sharing excerpts from it as social media posts. Avoid posting the same content to multiple sites on the same day.
- Convert each piece of content into a series of mini-stand alone pieces (images, soundbites, call outs, etc.), sharing them over time with links back to your original piece.
- On your social media streams, intersperse your main content pieces with other, relevant, thematically-related content that connects with the interests of your community and followers. Don’t be afraid of sharing your main articles every 15 to 30 days to reinforce its value.
- Keep your plan simple and be willing to fine tune it as needed.
- Given everything else going on in your life (work, family, grocery shopping, going out, sleeping, commuting, etc.) be realistic about what you can reasonably get done.
- Don’t be afraid of failing. Fail quickly, fail forward, and fail frequently.
- Focus on incremental progress rather than on idealized perfection.
- Plan your work and work your plan.
If this list seems like overkill, it's not. It's a tried and true method of building essential momentum, reputation, and authenticity.
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About Gary Bloomer
Gary Bloomer is originally from the UK. These days he lives just outside Philadelphia. Since 2009, he's answered over 5,000 marketing, branding, and social media strategy questions from small business owners from all over the world on the Know-How Exchange of MarketingProfs.com. His website is a love letter to the world of small business marketing.
To learn more or to get in touch, read the About page.
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