Another Blogging Study Turns Out to Be Useless

Long ago, we discussed misinformation in online marketing studies and how some surveys were so poorly executed that the findings might as well be disregarded. We focused on one study in particular, which looked at an important question: Whether having a targeted keyword in a site’s URL improved its ranking for that keyword. However, the study gathered a lot of data that was terribly misleading, skewing the results.

Now, another misleading study has surfaced, this time about best blogging practices. Unlike the earlier one about keywords in a site’s URL, though, the data that was gathered in the blogging survey was not the problem. Instead, it was the conclusion that was misleading to those who don’t know how to blog, and useless to those who do.

Survey of bloggers proves to be useless

Study Asks Bloggers About Best Tactics

The study at issue was done by Orbit Media and reported in the Search Engine Journal.

The heart of the study was simple: Let’s ask bloggers what they do and how successful it is (sadly, no one at Myers Freelance was surveyed). The questions were simple and straightforward, and included:

  • Do you pay attention to analytics?
  • Are you conducting original research?

The study then asked bloggers if their techniques were “getting results.” The survey then combined the answers: Was the time spent on an article getting “strong results”? Were there “strong results” from the length of a post? Were more bloggers with an editor getting “strong results” than those without one?

The conclusion was meant to sound mind blowing: Bloggers who spent more time, wrote more words, promoted their posts more, and did original research reported getting better results than those who did not. If you don’t blog, that can sound like a real revelation—putting in the time and effort pays dividends.

For those who know how blogging works, though, the response was more along the lines of…

Duh

Yeah, of course you’re going to get better results if you’re spending six hours on a single blog post. Of course you’re going to rank better if you write 5,000 words instead of 500. Of course you’ll get more traffic for a post that has original research and interviews than for one that doesn’t.

In fact, you’d better get stronger results. If you’re putting in all that time and energy, you’d better get some additional return on that investment.

The Big Issue: Return on Investment

Which leads us to the real reason why this survey is misleading: It forgets that the whole reason for online marketing and blogging is to spread word of that company online and attract more clients. Blogging is an investment, and the reason for making any investment is to get it back and then some more, in the form of new business.

The blogger survey forgets this, and that is its Achilles Heel. While it looks at the level of investment and the amount that comes back, it fails to look at the rate of return. In fact, if you read the study and its findings between the lines, it seems to undercut its own conclusion that spending more time and energy on a post is the Holy Grail of blogging.

Let’s look strictly at the survey results for how long a blogger spends on a post, and how “strong” the “returns” are.

Bloggers who reported spending less than an hour reported “strong results” only 3% less often than those who typically spend up to six hours on their articles. If that’s the case, then spending more than an hour on a post is a terrible use of time!

But the study focuses on the bloggers who reported spending more than six hours on a post. They were reporting “strong results” at a rate 14% higher than those who spend less than an hour. The survey claimed that this was a big deal, but even a brief second take reveals that this simply doesn’t hold: Spending more than 6 times the effort on an article and getting less than double the return is a terrible investment.

What are “Strong Results”?

We’ve been putting the phrase in quotation marks throughout the article, so it would be remiss if we didn’t mention why.

It’s simple, really: What are “strong results”? Particularly from the perspective of the typical blogger who does not have a solid idea of how many new clients are coming from their efforts, there’s no way to really know if there are any results, at all. In fact, the survey found that 2 out of every 5 bloggers didn’t even check the analytics associated with their work more than “occasionally.” These bloggers can’t have a clue how well their work is doing, online, let alone report “strong results.”

Even for the bloggers who are measuring the stats from their blog work, though, there are numerous metrics that provide clues of a “strong result,” but none that gives a definitive answer. Worse, different blogging projects aim for different results—some strive for traffic, others aim for backlinks, others are all about ranking well.

In the end, asking whether a blogger is experiencing “strong results” from their work is woefully imprecise.

The Takeaway: Much Ado About Nothing

In the end, this study is just another example of a poor line of questioning leading to weak data that then gets presented as something life-altering.

Once again, that’s simply not the case.

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