While you may not want to admit it, most content marketers have performed some variation of the Google search: “What is the best time and day to publish content?” You scrolled through countless articles, listicles, and surveys from industry experts extolling their personal philosophies on publishing cadence.
Timing is everything—or so you’ve been told.
What did you discover in your quest for the perfect publishing formula? Conflicting information. You left these websites unconvinced and continued to publish as you did before, hoping you would miraculously discover the secret in future searches.
Here’s something I think you already know: The “best” time and day to publish content doesn’t exist.
Print publications have it far from easy these days, but their publishing schedules were never subject to debate. Newspapers were dailies. Magazines were monthlies. Occasionally, publishers would shake things up, but the majority stuck to the same tried-and-tested methods.
Content creators and publishers in the digital age often think about publishing in relation to their audiences’ schedules and routines: Do audiences reach for their smartphones before they get out of bed every morning? Do they scroll through their news feeds during their lunch breaks? Do they browse for an hour (or two) before crashing every night?
Does this information matter?
Image attribution: Mpho Mojapelo
A data study from web analytics firm Kya broke it down: Page views and reader engagement are highest on Tuesdays between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., and click-through rate is highest on Fridays between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Case closed, right? Well, not exactly.
Kissmetrics, a behavior analytics and engagement platform, said your best bet for page views is actually Mondays at 11 a.m., and Saturday at 9 a.m. is the best time for comments. Meanwhile TrackMaven, a marketing analytics software company, said Sunday is the best day to publish because it’s also the day with the least competition.
While this data certainly highlights some interesting publishing trends, does it give us much to work with? A successful publishing strategy must be unique to your brand—and cannot rely exclusively on a smattering of information.
Try this: Instead of searching for the “best” publishing time and day, consider that you may already have the information you need to develop a successful publishing strategy. Start by asking yourself some tough questions about your goals, audience, and content. The answers will highlight the reasons behind past successes and illuminate areas where the most improvement is needed.
Page views and bounce rates are critical when it comes to publishing, but do you judge content by this alone? Think about what you want your content to achieve—what you need it to achieve. From increased audience engagement and referrals to conversion, heightened brand awareness, and improved customer retention, there are myriad goals outside of traffic.
You have a unique audience, so don’t target them like everyone else. Dig deeper than age and location: Find out who they are and what they want from you. What are their problems? Help them find a solution. What are their goals? Help them reach those goals.
Image attribution: Clem Onojeghuo
Engagement means more than how many times your audience shares content on social media. Which content gets the most comments? How many new visitors do you have—and how many are coming back for more? How long do people stay on your website? Understanding these metrics could help you identify patterns within your content, which you could then put to good use.
A content audit could help you identify patterns in successful posts. Based on your measurements for success, do successful pieces of content have anything in common? Do they share themes or writers? Are they covering news, trends—or are they evergreen topics? Identifying the similarities between successful posts could help you recreate past success.
You’re not doing yourself any favors if you have a sporadic publishing schedule. If you don’t have an editorial calendar, make one. Not only will it help you organize your ideas but it will also create a regular flow of content that keeps audiences engaged and coming back to your website.
Maybe you’ve been publishing regularly for years, but when was the last time you created a post that resonated with your audience? Content for content’s sake is not the secret to success. Understanding what makes an excellent piece of content—and then creating that content—will bring audiences back for more. You’ve heard it many times before, but it won’t hurt to see it again: quality over quantity.
Timing isn’t everything—but you still can’t help but think about your audience reaching for their smartphones, tablets, or computers to scroll through your latest piece of content. Now you know, however, that when they do, that act of reaching isn’t nearly as important as keeping them engaged and coming back for more.
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Featured image attribution: Ana Azevedo