Online services and apps come and go – often very suddenly. Getting too emotionally attached to a service is a rookie move.
I learned this lesson the hard way when Google Reader shut down.
Google Reader was simple, fast, clean, and did the job perfectly. Until Google Photos debuted, Reader by far held the top spot in my list of Favorite Google Services.
For the uninitiated youth, Google Reader was an RSS reader. RSS, or Real Simple Syndication, is a feature of blogs and websites that remains today and is still underutilized. When you subscribe to a website or blog via RSS, you get notified every time a new piece of content is published to the site.
At one point, I had hundreds of sites in my Google Reader feed. I could open up Reader and see all the latest content that I hadn't read yet, so I never missed a thing.
After the heartbreaking period of grief, I had to find a replacement (and I settled on Feedly, which has grown to a great service in its own right). But the question remained in my mind: why kill Reader?
There are plenty of Negative Nellies online who like to slaughter a company whenever they kill a service that they liked. Google is notorious for bailing on services, so they have a reputation as being flighty and unreliable.
Truth is, though, these decisions are rarely impulsive. Google Reader shut down because (apart from me!) nobody was using it, at least not at a level that made business sense for Google as a company. I was the only one in my social circle that used Google Reader, and as great and handy and convenient as RSS is, the general public just doesn't use it much.
If you publish a blog, that means you might be wondering: if your readers aren't subscribed to your content, when should you post to get maximum exposure? Does the time of day matter when posting?
Before we get into it, I'll answer it in short form right now: there is no easy answer to this. It might matter. It might not. And other factors will matter considerably more.
As much as I think everyone should just crack open a fresh Feedly account and subscribe to content, the mainstream just won't do it.
So let's talk post timing.
Frequency matters more than timing
Hang on a minute. Aren't we meant to be talking timing?
I do want to get deep into the timing discussion, but before we do that, we have to talk about frequency.
In any industry, the solopreneur is going to obsess over the wrong thing. Take the freelancer who has no clients but spends three weeks picking out business cards. Or designs a logo for a month and a half without developing a plan to build his or her customer base.
Business cards and logos matter – but not if you don't have the basics covered. Timing falls into the same category. If you're not posting regularly, then it doesn't really matter what time of day you post. You need to be posting often. Studies have shown sites that publish 16+ articles per month get 3.5x more traffic.
Think of it like baseball: you want to hit home runs every time you're at the plate, right? But you can't do that until you're at the plate more often. If you're not swinging the bat enough, you won't hit home runs.
If you want more home runs, you have to swing the bat. If you want to maximize the exposure your content generates, you have to be making content regularly first.
Option 1: Post during peak times
Back in the Stone Age of Television, before streaming services roamed the land, networks would agonize and debate when to put a TV show on the air.
Generally, the 7:00pm to 9:00pm slot was golden during the week. They called it "prime time."
Why? Those were the hours when people were off of work, maybe eating dinner, and putting their feet up after a long day. They were likely to be surfing the channels with remote in hand, so a decent show could do great numbers just by being on at the right time.
For bloggers, you want to think about when your reader might come across your stuff and actually be up for reading it.
When are people browsing the internet and checking out their favorite sites? Most people are doing so during the day, when they are taking breaks at work or on their lunch hour. Monday at 11:00am could be great – office workers are still easing into the work week after the weekend, and late morning is when they need a breather.
That's the positive angle. The negative side to peak timing is competition. Lots of people are publishing fresh content around the same time for the same reason. The market is flooded with new content.
This might not be a big concern for you. You might be generating fantastic content and you trust that it will catch the right people. Great! Take your time and be patient with building an audience at peak time.
Just know that competition is stiff.
Option 2: Dominate the down times
If you're that concerned about competition, maybe peak timing would be a bad fit for you. (It also could be a sign you're just not posting enough, but we've already talked about that.)
However, if you think you can be the reason why people will go online, then post on the down times. The nights. The weekends. The times when people are probably not going online to browse.
In exchange, you're banking on your content being a destination. Your content is appointment reading!
The negative side is you're going to have a hard time getting the casual reader. But you might not want that, either! If you can generate destination content, then you will likely have higher engagement among your readers. They won't be reading in passing or by accident.
Think of your content like the TGIF lineup in the '90s. Friday night was – and still is – a death slot for TV because people are out doing stuff on Friday nights. But ABC put on four shows in a row that were geared to adolescents and families who probably weren't going to be doing much on a Friday night. It worked really well, and I'm not just saying that because I'm still a banner-waving Boy Meets World fan.
Option 3: Test!
As a copywriter, this is my favorite approach. But it takes a whole lot of time and attention.
Before you do this, get your analytics in order. Wordpress has analytics built in. Google Analytics are great. Whatever you use, get to know it. Then, start testing. Take a few weeks and try posting during peak times, then take a few weeks and post during down times.
Pay attention not just to traffic and readers, but of different metrics that can give you a clearer picture of the best time for you. Compare reading against engagement. Look at how many readers are reading one post against how many are continuing to read other posts when they're done (that's called the "bounce rate").
There are more benefits to this than just working out a posting schedule. Check out this post on how analyzing your blog content can improve your writing.
Option 4: Who cares?
This is mine.
Publish as often as you can, whenever you can. Just keep things flowing. Unless you're attracting millions of readers per post, paying attention to timing might not move the needle that much for you.
Instead, focus on sharing your content regularly. Drive new engagement. Build your audience with regular content to the best of your ability.