Why Posting Less Can Improve Your Blog

Is more content always better? Is more traffic, more followers, more page views automatically better? Is it more signal or more noise? Is it more of something that doesn’t help you achieve your goals? Isn’t it true that sometimes less is more? Can posting less actually improve your blog?

writing in a notebook

Last week Chris Brogan posted one big traffic secret, in which he said,

I’ll tell you one thing I know: the more you post, the more traffic you get

Chris is righ,t of course. It’s pretty easy to realize if you publish one more post that attracts only one more visitor over the course of a year, it’s still more traffic than had you not published that post. And more realistically each post is going to bring in more than one visitor per year. More posting is generally going to lead to more traffic.

  • It’s one more link for subscribers to click on in their feed reader
  • It’s one more page for search engines to index rank
  • It’s one more page that can generate incoming links and referral traffic

However does that mean you should post more often than you currently post now? Chris himself isn’t saying you should automatically post more. His article is mainly an observation, and a true one at that. More posts will lead to more traffic. As Chris points out many top blogs post more than 5 times daily. This more posts leading to more traffic really isn’t in question. The question is, is more traffic necessarily better?

My answer is the ever so definitive “it depends.”

Computer keyboard

Sometimes Posting Less Will Bring You More

It depends on your business model and goals for your site. It also depends on whether or not you can maintain the same level of quality with additional posting. If there’s nothing remarkable about the additional posts how much of a difference to they realistically make?

Quality trumps quantity.

If your business model is to sell advertising then yes more is better. The more people you can get to your site and the more pages you can get them to visit once there, the more advertising you can sell and the more money you can charge for each ad spot.

Advertising on the guitar scoreboard for the Nashville Sounds

For everyone else traffic in and of itself is mostly meaningless. It’s only when that traffic takes some action that it becomes meaningful.

If you sell a product do you care that 1,000,000 visited your sales page or do you care that 10 people actually bought your product? If you could get those same 10 sales with 10 visitors would you complain about the 999,990 people that didn’t visit and leave? Was all that extra traffic worth anything?

Sure, many top blogs do post a lot. Many also sell advertising as their primary source of income. Is that how your business works? It might and if so you probably are better increasing your publishing rate, even if publishing more reduces the overall quality of your content. Not everyone makes a living selling advertising, though.

One way a blog can help a site is to convince potential clients to get in touch or convince potential customers to buy. If posting more means lowering the quality of your posting, will your blog convince more people to buy from you? Probably not. Will it convince more people to call or email you? Again probably not. Not if posting more means a general drop in quality

Ever read through the comments on some top blogs? Some do get good comments. Many get useless “first to comment” and other “me too” types of comments. How many of those people do you think will buy?

Isn’t this whole idea of more for the sake of more what led Leo Laporte to question his use of social media a couple weeks back?

Search Engines and More Content

One of the reasons I suggested above for more content leading to more traffic was that each new page could potentially rank and bring search traffic. Seems plausible, but is it true?

In general yes. It’s really hard to argue that having a larger site with more content is going to lead to less traffic, but consider the following

V7N logo

Removing Posts Helped V7N

A few years ago John Scott, the owner of the v7n forum removed a large number of old and inactive posts from his forum. He didn’t delete them, but moved them to a private section of the forum inaccessible to search engines

John removed posts that were a certain number of days old, had less than a certain amount of page views, and were for the most part inactive in the number of responses. Within a few weeks he noticed an increase in search traffic, a 7,000 visits a day increase in search traffic, to the V7N forums.

John pruned the lower quality posts and the result was an increase in traffic. Less content did equal more for V7N.

SEOmoz logo

Keyword Cannibalization and Duplicate Content

Over the years Rand Fishkin has talked about the concept of keyword cannibalization. The idea is that by targeting the same keywords on multiple pages of your site those pages compete with each other. Links into the pages are divided and search engines have to determine which page to rank. Overall the multiple pages might receive less search traffic than if there were only one page targeted for the keywords in question.

When you post more you naturally write about the same subjects and naturally use the same or similar words in post on the same topic. It’s possible those additional posts might be hurting your overall search traffic as opposed to helping it.

A few years ago many of my own posts had found their way into what then was Google’s supplemental index. Google was indexing both the xml feed and the html posts and as a result most of my search traffic disappeared. After fixing the issue by removing the feeds from being indexed (less content) traffic not only returned, but increased.

Having less content indexed seemed to work very well for me.

Intensity stabilization diagram

Signal to Noise in Links

I’ve always suspected that the search engines use all the data they collect to look at a signal-to-noise ratio of links flowing into your site. Something like a comparison of how many pages your site has that are being linked to divided by the total number of pages on the site.

Speculation on my part, but my thinking is a site with 10 pages, each with 10 links pointing to each page is better than a site with a 100 pages and 100 links all pointing to one page on the site. The latter would get search traffic to the one page, but not the others. The former would get search traffic to all pages totaling more than the latter site got to it’s one page.

That second site is telling search engines that there’s some value to every page on the site. The first site is telling search engines that the one page is valuable, but the rest, not so much. It would seem to go toward the overall authority the site has in the eyes of search engines. Again speculation on my part, but it seems logical enough.

Whether my theory is right of wrong, the idea of this section is to point out some cases where more content may not always lead to more traffic from search engines. Of course more pages are more content for search engines to index and rank so consider everything in this section with a grain of salt. In general more posts will likely lead to more traffic.

However do realize that more isn’t automatically better. There may be times where more posts results in less traffic or not enough new traffic to make creating the additional content worth the effort.

Quality trumps quantity.

Fountain pen and glasses resting on notebook.jpg

My story

When I first started blogging I tried to post as frequently as I could. I regularly published 3 times a week and tried pushing myself to post 4 and 5 times a week.

The problem was I didn’t have enough to say to fill a post a day or the time to say it well. Many of those old posts aren’t very good. Some were, but most were rather ordinary and not especially worth reading.

In time I didn’t even like writing them and eventually stopped blogging for a few months. Part of the reason was I simply couldn’t find the time to write as often as I thought I should. The quality of the posts suffered and my interest in writing them suffered.

About a year and a half ago I resolved to revive this blog. One of the crucial decisions I made was to only post once a week. I felt I could write one good post a week and that it would better than writing three mediocre posts a week.

A funny thing happened. This blog has been consistently growing since that decision to post less. Traffic is up and subscribers are up. Both have increased at a much greater rate then they had been when I was trying to write more often.

Less posting is certainly not the only reason, but less posting has meant more quality to each post, which has been a big part of the growth I’ve seen over the last 18 months. As I’ve set up a process to increase blogging productivity I’m now also able to post twice a week, while still maintaining a quality I’m happy with.

Others have had similar experiences. Just this week Larry Brooks, who has an excellent blog for writers (mainly fiction writers) at storyfix.com, posted a similar story to mine above called Just Maybe…He Who Blogs Less Blogs Best.

Less blogging led to increased quality and ultimately more traffic for Larry as it did for me.

The next time I redesign this site, I’ll likely go through old posts and remove many. I’ll remove those posts that aren’t really worth reading and don’t pull any traffic to them. I’ll prune the posts that aren’t contributing, much as you would prune dead or dying leaves from a plant to help it grow.

It’ll be interesting to see what effect that has on traffic to the site.

Royal KMM

Summary

You’ve likely heard the advice to fire the bottom 5% of our clients/customers each year. Those 5% probably aren’t contributing much to your business so you get rid of them and either replace them with new clients/customers or better serve existing clients/customers. The end result being a net gain for your business.

The idea is to fix the weakest link in your chain and then move on to fix the next weakest link. Posting more usually comes with a loss of quality. Instead of fixing the weakest link, we’re creating more of them.

If your business model is advertising. If your money comes simply from having more eyeballs on your posts, then posting more absolutely makes sense. And realistically even if your business model isn’t advertising, more posts likely means more traffic and by consequence more clicks and more leads and more sales.

The question for most the rest of us is, is it really worth it?

If you can maintain the same quality while posting more, then by all means posting more will help your blog. If quality is going to drop you need to carefully consider whether that drop in quality is worth the extra traffic.

More traffic is not automatically better. You can probably generate just as many leads and sales by putting more into improving the quality of the few posts you write now. The added benefit is there are less weak link posts to turn people away.

You aren’t just improving each post by putting more effort into writing less of them. You’re improving your blog as a whole. You’re no longer the person who sometimes has interesting things to say. You’re the person who always has something interesting to say.

Quality does trump quantity and quite often less is more.

Pen in hand

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.

43 comments

  1. Thank you for this article, as its giving me a tonne to think about. I read the Chris Brogan article and for a few days now, I’m trying to figure out if I should post more as I’ve stuck to a schedule of twice a week. I decided to up it to three a week.

    I’m more interested in engagement/ comments and readers than visitors.

    • I’m glad I gave you a lot to think about. I think as long as it won’t affect our quality then more posts makes sense. If you find your posts lose something while you try to get that one extra post a week in, you might want to reconsider. If you can post 3 times a week without a drop in quality, then the extra post makes sense.

  2. Excellent post.

    Posting frequency is a big deal. I’ve tried both and find that like Chris Brogan says, “the more you post the more traffic you get”. It only matters though if you are posting high quality stuff though.

    Image is important and what and when you post really develops your brand identity quickly.

    • Absolutely. The more your posts, the more traffic you’re going to get. While I pointed out a few places this might not happen, in general it’s true. More posting leads to more traffic.

      The question though is does more traffic really help your goals. If your posting quality drops, especially if it drops significantly then I don’t think posting more benefits you in any way.

  3. Thanks alot for this article Steven. This is the first time i’m taking sight of your blog and this one has surely intrigued me in more ways than i could possibly imagine. the reason being, i used to get mocked for saying the precise idea that you’ve effectively put up here. Thanks alot steven.

  4. I think it should also be said that any blog should be consistent. Subscribers will expect content as per usual. So if a site posts once a week those subscribers or visitors will build that knowledge that they can expect X posts/articles on a repeated basis. Blogging randomly has been shown to be less successful.

    So for bloggers who write posts once a week they should try and define a day and time to consistently match that week in week out… Especially for posts on a general theme i.e. “sites of the week”

    • Agreed. I think consistency is important too. I settled on Monday and Thursday for the 2 posts a week I currently publish. I’m not 100% perfect in the time of day each post goes live, but I do aim for roughly 9:00 AM my time on both days.

      Darren Rowse said some interesting things in regards to reader expectations. He used the work anticipation and said that people subscribe to your blog, not for what you’ve written, but what they anticipate you’ll write in the future.

  5. Well said – you really have to ask what your goals are. If you want raw traffic and subscribers then yes, all else being equal, more posts = more of those. Personally, I’ve posted about twice in 6 months – I’m not saying that’s a good solution, but I’ve built up enough core, quality articles to send them around to people, get consulting work, get guest-blogging spots, etc.

    August revenue from advertising – $60. August revenue from consulting – $11K. Which number am I going to worry about?

    • And why aren’t you writing more? You’re someone who always has interesting things to say. Of course you have been posting on SEOmoz more often so I think it’s more like 6 times in 6 months. :)

      Your numbers say it all. Why would you spend all your time blogging when the money isn’t there for you. The advice Chris gave is absolutely correct. More posts means more traffic. Chris himself didn’t say that’s automatically a good thing, but of course many people will read it that way and assume the advice works for all situations when it doesn’t.

    • Glad I could help Jennifer. With your blog definitely concentrate on quality first. Ask yourself are your posts something you would read if they weren’t written by you. Make them interesting to yourself first and then others will find them interesting too. That’s much more important than posting more.

  6. Thanks for the great post. I’m a student, just about to engulf myself in the graphic design world and it’s a relief to hear from someone to actually do less, but with more quality. For the past four years of college, I’ve been crammed with “social network this” and “blog that” and the idea of how much time I should be spending viral marketing myself has become tiring! Thanks so much, again, for a little weight that you lifted off my shoulders with this post.

    • Try not to get too caught up in all the advice you read. Lots of people will keep pushing whatever the popular thing is. Not to say that social networking and blogging aren’t great ways to market yourself and your business. It’s more that you still want to have something of quality to promote in the first place.

      It’s much easier to market something of quality than something that lacks it.

  7. I couldn’t agree more. There’s no sense in posting more content for the sake of posting more content. By posting less, you’re able to focus on the quality of your posts and ensure that when you do publish it, it’s valuable material that will not only increase sharing and traffic, but ultimately, subscribers as people really treasure the content you put out there.

  8. Hey Steven,
    Great post. Thoughts on not indexing the blog page itself and only indexing the individual post pages in regards to your “fighting against itself”? Shoot me an email or comment if you would like to discuss.

  9. Argh…your captcha think failed even though I triple checked it.

    Damn you and your whole “make you think” writing! I post usually 3 times a week. Yes, sometimes it is a struggle. Is it weird that I feel guilty sometimes for not hitting that 3 post number sometimes? I feel like I am letting my 350 or so subscribers down if I do not. But when I haven’t hit that mark, it is because I don’t want to write about crap.

    This article has made me think about how I write for my own blog, which I believe was your main goal. So for that, I thank you sir.

    • Sorry about the captcha Jeremy. If it means anything I get caught by my spam plugin, which occasionally flags me for spamming my own site.

      I used to feel that same guilt about missing a post. Same reason too. I didn’t want to let readers down. After awhile though it got to me trying to force posts about topics I wasn’t interested in. When I pulled back and dropped to a weekly post I was able to make the posts better. Now I’m back to posting twice a week and in time maybe 3 times a week again.

      As long as quality isn’t suffering I see no reason not to post as much as you can. It’s really when the time to publish that extra post could be better spent improving the last one that you want to cut back how much you post.

      The first step to me is making sure you have posts worth reading. Once you reach that level of quality you can work to add more posts a week of the same quality.

      Glad I could make you think.

  10. This is very true. When I started blogging I thought it was industry standard to post often but I never quite warmed up to the concept. Now I post when the mood strikes me to, when I have an idea that NEEDS to be presented to my fan base. With that being said the quality of my posts (although infrequent) have gone up dramatically

    • Good to hear the quality of your posts is improving. I do think it’s a good idea to post regularly, though. I think it lets people know your blog is active and help create anticipation.

      I just don’t think we should be publishing, just for the sake of publishing more. I don’t know that there is a single ideal frequency with which you should publish, but I think you should try to publish regularly, while still maintaining your level of quality.

      If that means once a week, great. If it means once a month, that’s also great. If you can publish every day at a high level of quality, that’s also great, and please let me know how you manage to do that.

  11. Hi.

    I too run a professional blog but my traffic stats have kind of stagnated over the last couple of months (at 5,000 visitors per month) and that’s affecting my adsense performance. I thought it was related to my infrequent posting, of once a week (the quality is good, I can safely say that). Is there a particular number I should keep in mind for the posting frequency? I used to do it twice a week when I started…

    • I don’t think there’s a specific number of posts you have to publish each week. To me it’s more about thinking quality first and then publish as many posts as you can maintaining that quality.

      If your traffic has stagnated you might want to look more to finding a new marketing channel. What’s possibly happening is the people who you are currently reaching have found you so there’s not many new people you can get from your current sources.

      For example say you’re able to get 100 visitors a day through an ad you place on another site. When you first placed the ad you started getting more traffic and life was good. Eventually you maxed out that traffic at 100 visitors a day.

      So you place an add on another site and build that up to 100 visitors a day.

      The other thing you can do is look to your current sources of traffic and see if you can get more visitors from each. If you’re getting 100 visitors a day from search engines see if you can optimize things better so you get 150 a day and then 200 a day.

      You can post more since more posts likely means more traffic. However I wouldn’t water down the quality of your posts in order to publish more. I think it’s better to have a few people who really want to read your posts than a lot of people skimming them quickly and then leaving.

    • As above, it depends. If you’re trying to sell ads, then more page views = more money. If, on the other hand, you’re trying to only target visitors interested in specific (money-making) content, then diluting the pool can be counterproductive.

      • Agreed. It always depends on what your goals are. However even if page views is the goal I still think quality is a better long term strategy. Look at what’s going on now with all the Demand Media sites.

  12. This is very true. When I started blogging I thought it was industry standard to post often but I never quite warmed up to the concept. Now I post when the mood strikes me to, when I have an idea that NEEDS to be presented to my fan base.

    • I feel the same was as you can tell. Sure we could post more and more, but at what loss of quality. It makes sense to post more if you can maintain the same quality, but for most of us that won’t be the case.

  13. Hello Steven – Thanks for this post. It’s good to be reminded to stay focused on the quality of what I post.

    I have a couple of mechanical questions.

    First, if you prune a post that has links into it, do you create a 301 redirect to another post or your home page so if someone follows the link into your site they won’t end up on a 404 page?

    Second, I notice that you use %category% for your permalinks for single posts instead of %year% or %year%/%month%/. I have wanted to do that but WordPress advises against it (I guess having to with indexing). What was behind your decision to use categories?

    Thanks,

    David

    • Good questions.

      I think it depends on the specific post, but I usually use a 301 redirect to the most closely related post. If nothing is a good match I’d probably just redirect to the home page. If there aren’t any links pointing to the post you pruned and the post wasn’t a good match for any left, the redirect doesn’t really accomplish anything. In that case a 404 is probably appropriate though I think I’d still end up using a 301 to the home page.

      I’ve been reading lately about the issue of indexing when starting the permalink with either %category% or %postname% It creates more queries of the database slowing up load times. I still think /%category%/%postname%/ makes the most sense for the permalink structure for both people and search engines though. That’s why I use it. Also I set it up that way before I knew about the issue of it slowing up load times. :)

      The day after you posted this comment Chris Coyier wrote a post about this very issue. Andrew Nacin left a comment on the post suggesting that this will be fixed in WordPress 3.3, which will be out later this year.

  14. Excellent article and worth posting. It seems the online world is obsessed with posting uninteresting and worthless blogs in the pursuit of page ranking and traffic.

    We should take a more relaxed and organic attitude to posting. The old adage “If you having got anything useful to say, don’t say anything” was never more true.

    • Thanks Keith. I agree with you about too many worthless content just to increase traffic and ranking. It’s a shame since so many sites online aren’t worth visiting and they make the good stuff harder to find.

  15. This is very true. When I started blogging I thought it was industry standard to post often but I never quite warmed up to the concept. Now I post when the mood strikes me to, when I have an idea that NEEDS to be presented to my fan base.

    • I think the most important thing is to post the best quality you can. If it’s once a day, great. If it’s once a month, great.

      However, I also think if you can maintain it, it helps to post regularly. How often is up to you, but say it’s once a week, try to make sure it’s always once a week.

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