I opened my inbox this morning and found the following question. It came via my “Ask Me Anything About WordPress” page:

Hi, I’m going to start a new blog for the small business I run and I’m putting together a time-cost strategy. I know this is not strictly a WordPress question, but since you blog with WordPress I was hoping you might offer some advice. What I’d like to know is what is the optimum time to post new content on a blog? Thanks.

When to post new content is an essential blogging question and I’ll try to answer it in as succinct a manner as possible. I tend to split timing in to two things: frequency and impact.

A lot has been written about blogging frequency. A quick google search for “how often should I blog” will return a raft of results, but it really boils down to this:

  • Set a realistic target for new content on a daily or weekly basis.
  • Let your audience know when to expect new content.
  • Stick to that frequency.

From there, the next thing to think about is quality over quantity. It’s better to post quality content less frequently than the reverse.

Blogging impact also racks up the Google results, but it’s slightly more complex than frequency. Posting content at different times of the day and on different days of the week will produce different effects.

Knowing when to post new content requires good knowledge of your audience demographic and that in turn requires you to monitor your blog traffic with an analytics tool (I recommend Google Analytics as a free and comprehensive solution).

Since you mention that you’re about to start a new blog, I’ll assume that you don’t yet have any analytical data to work with. So perhaps the best thing I can do in this blog post is to offer some general case scenarios.

1. Posting for frequency

This is by far the most simple scenario. All it requires is knowing where your audience is from and which time zone they fall under. Google Analytics, for example, will serve that data up on a neat little world map.

Once you know more about your audience, you can time the publishing of your posts to coincide with the frequency you have established for your blog and with the optimum reading time of your audience.

2. Optimum posting hours

Since you run a small business, I’ll assume that the audience you’re going to engage with consists of existing and potential customers as well as other people in your industry. So chances are, your audience will be a working audience. In this case you should think about which time of day they are most likely to consume your content.

Breakfast time, for example, is a very short window of attention in which people tend to skim through content searching for the most important news of the day relative to their interests.

Lunch time is another key slot. Many people spend part of their lunch break searching the web and this can be a productive time to engage your audience and get feedback. It also allows them time to “digest” your post over the course of the afternoon.

Evening time, or after work, is the final key slot. However, posting at night does attract a different type of mood and dynamic. In my case, for instance, I find that I am far more receptive to new content in the morning than I am at night. I also find that I tend to be more positive in the morning. Bear this in mind if you’re about to post a polemical piece!

For me, the ideal time to post new content is an hour or so before breakfast (6-7am) so that your readers have all day to pick up the content. Don’t forget that you can schedule your posts to be published at a specific time.

3. Optimum posting days

Choosing the right day of the week to post your content is also crucial. The tendency is to post something new on a Monday to tie in with the beginning of the working week. People’s capacity to take in new content is significantly greater on Mondays than it is on Friday’s for example, when all thoughts are geared towards the weekend and taking a break from life online.

If Monday is the optimum day of the week to post new content then Wednesday is perhaps the second best choice. BY Wednesday, we tend to have already forgotten Monday’s headlines, but we’re not yet thinking about the weekend, so we’re looking for something new.

Most blogs and websites see a marked decrease in traffic on weekends for obvious reasons. Posting new content on the weekend is of course entirely possible, but make sure that it fits the weekend mood, relaxed, laid back and stress free. For example, you might want to avoid posting a blog with scathing criticism about a new app. Unless it’s news with real stakes then We are less likely to care.

4. Posting for impact

In this scenario you post your content to coincide with a particular event. Let’s say you were fortunate to attend the preview of a new movie and you have written a killer review. You might want to time the publication of that blog post to coincide with the general public release of the movie.

Timing it to coincide with the exact day of the release would increase the chances of having your post show high up in Google’s latest content list for search terms related to the film title. With this strategy, you’re more likely to connect with an audience that’s genuinely interested in the film.

However, bear in mind that for a major Hollywood movie you’ll be up against some stiff competition from major journalistic outlets who will of course also publish reviews and their sites are more likely to dominate the search results.

Thus, you might also consider publishing the review well in advance. If your post is optimized with the key search terms for that movie, publishing in advance would give your post a greater chance of ranking high in general Google search results.

5. Posting for surprise

Once you’ve established a clear frequency with your blog posts, you might think about occasionally disrupting that pattern with an off-the-wall post that aims to capitalise on the element of surprise.

While all your posts should aim to be the best posts you’ve ever written, playing with the timing of their release can amplify the effect of your post’s impact.

On the other hand it can also have an adverse effect and fall flat on its face. It depends what sort of relationship you have built with your audience and how eager they are to receive new content.

6. Beware of latency

Posting new content is just one part of blogging practice, the next step is alerting your audience to that new content. That usually entails talking about it on the social networks you belong to; or through an email list; or an RSS feed. If you rely heavily on email and RSS, bear in mind that there can be a degree of latency before your content shows up in someone’s inbox or RSS reader. To monitor this, make sure you subscribe to your own content via both means and via several clients to check frequency and latency.

That’s it. I hope that’s of some help and remember, this is just my opinion, do search out information from other bloggers on this topic too. Speaking of which, I’d love to hear from other bloggers about their approach to posting new content. When do you post? What differences in terms of the reception and interaction with your content have you discovered as a result of posting at different times of day and different days of the week?