Blogging is easy. All you need to do is write some words and throw them on Medium, and you’re good. Right?
Blogging is also complicated when you’re competing at the highest level. You need to perform keyword research and topic ideation, competitive analytics, create content, polish and proof that content, create images, manage metadata, create and stick to a publication schedule, manage a content calendar, foster a community through comments, promote your content on social media; and that’s just scratching the surface.
How much time and effort does it take to run a blog?
Well, it takes a lot of effort. Blogging can absorb all of your time, effort, energy, and cognitive capacity, and even after it becomes a full-time job, that blog will still ask for more.
That’s the trick with blogging. It can always ask more of you. It never ends.
At the same time, if you manage expectations, use the 80/20 rule to focus your efforts, and trick yourself into accepting “good enough” instead of perfection, you can run a blog on your own with a relatively small investment. It’s all about scale, limitations, and the decisions you make.
So, rather than tell you how much time and effort it will take to run your blog, we’re going to run down the kinds of results you can expect based on the amount of time you put into your blog. The time will be in hours per week.
Before we begin, though, it’s essential to make two notes.
Some people spend 5+ hours writing a 500-word blog post; others can pump out a well-researched, coherent, and high-quality 2,000-word post in an hour. Someone with a lot of experience and knowledge in their topic will be able to create content much more quickly than someone who has never tried to run a blog before and is diving into a niche they know nothing about.
Any of the results we discuss can be sped up, streamlined, or provided to you with zero effort on your part if you are willing to pay to do it. You can speed up any of these processes by investing money into them, whether paying freelancers to handle them, paying for high-quality tools to manage them, or both.
Now, let’s begin!
Anything under one hour per week is pretty meaningless, as far as blogging goes. If you’re highly practiced and have systems in place, you can create a largely passive blog in that amount of time, but that’s cheating. Sure, any master of a profession can do something way faster than an apprentice if you ignore the years or decades of experience leading up to that moment.
You’re essentially doing the bare minimum when you’re putting in 1-4 hours of time and effort into your blog each week.
Meanwhile, other areas of blogging are either ignored or have the bare minimum of effort put into them. You’re not doing competitive research; you’re not analyzing keyword variations or ranking difficulty. You’re probably not doing much to monitor your metrics. You’re probably not spending time writing and reading comments, but you probably aren’t getting any.
Moreover, other aspects of blogging may slip through your fingers. You’re not paying attention to website optimizations like site speed, and you’re not using Schema tags. You’re not promoting your content on social media or advertising, except maybe posting the link to your pages.
At this level, you have a blog, and that blog has reasonably consistent content, and that’s about all you can say for it. It’s the bare minimum to have something that ranks, and it’s perfectly acceptable for a personal blog for friends and family, a local community update blog, or something else that doesn’t need search engine ranking to succeed. For a business, though, it’s an unacceptably low amount of effort.
In this tier, working about five or more hours per week (which can be all in one day, or an hour each weekday, or however you divide it) is when you start putting more attention into things.
At this level, you’re probably starting to be aware of the core elements of SEO that make a good blog. You’re likely concerned with some of the significant elements of SEO, like links, metadata, site speed, and the user experience.
This tier is where you start reading more of the beginner SEO and content marketing guides and follow the essential tips. You start being more concerned with keyword usage in your content. You put more effort into creating better content than the competition and finding keyword opportunities with lower competition. You may also pick a niche to focus on and learn more about, like local SEO.
Of course, at this level, you’re still a novice and don’t have the time to do everything a blog demands. But, you’re starting to build awareness of all those aspects of blogging, and you’re consciously choosing the things that will have a tangible impact. Maybe that means you’re putting more effort into keyword research, or more into creating longer, more in-depth content, or publishing two or three times per week instead of once per week.
You still have a long way to go to rival the top blogs, but you’re taking the first steps.
You have time to start investing in more of the core elements of blogging. You may have built a process for creating content. You may be dividing your time from week to week, spending a week on topic ideation, a week on research, a week on link building, and so on. Once your weekly time investment reaches double-digit hours, you start thinking of blogging less as a hobby and more as the beginning of a part-time job.
You may find that you like writing content, but you hate all of the metadata and site-building tasks. You may find the opposite; you like tinkering with site infrastructure, but when it comes time to make the actual content, you get frustrated or bored. This phenomenon is where stratifications and specializations begin to appear, as well.
This tier is also where many bloggers make a heavy choice: do they start spending money to outsource some elements of the job – or at least to buy tools to make it easier – or do they quit? Many bloggers stop at this point.
Those who decide to invest in their blogs are also the ones who either have a store attached and are making money or who want to do so in short order. It’s not easy to make money blogging – it’s easier if you have a store, but running a store is a whole other project – so many business bloggers have started to look to hire freelancers or agencies to handle some of the work.
After all, if you’re spending 12 hours per week running a mediocre blog, that’s 12 hours per week you’re not spending on following up on leads, promoting your business, managing analytics, or anything else that can have a more tangible impact. Perhaps it’s better to hire someone to offload the more manageable tasks in favor of only those you can do.
This tier is one of the most extensive ranges because it’s all incremental. At this point, you know that blogging is a job unto itself, and you spend more time with analysis than you are in actual content creation. You’re looking for ways to optimize your time and money. You might pick one-and-done tasks like optimizing your site for speed, implementing SEO plugins, or performing content audits.
This tier is also where some bloggers who chose to bump up their frequency decide to dial back. One high-quality post per week is better for a site than three mediocre posts per week, almost universally. Similarly, you’ve probably reinvented the wheel and come upon best practices on your own enough that now you start to trust the people who tell you how best to manage a blog.
If you haven’t already, this is also where many bloggers start to hire someone to do at least some of the work for them. They might hire a freelancer to develop a content marketing plan for them or perform a bunch of topic ideation, or they might hire a freelancer to do the writing but handle everything else themselves. Or maybe they hire a graphic designer to create images for each post.
The single most extensive range is where your blog becomes a full-time job. You’re still trying to do everything, or almost everything, yourself.
This tier is where bloggers are divided into three groups:
All three paths are equally valid and depend on your goals and their importance to you. As mentioned in the introduction, blogging isn’t easy if you want to succeed. The people who dive in hoping for easy money have missed that boat by a few decades.
Luckily, this is where blogs can start showing serious returns, assuming you have ways to monetize them and get them to a point where they are self-sustaining.
You may have noticed that each successive section has gotten vaguer and less specific than before. That’s because, again, blogging ends up very personalized. What you find your passion in doing will differ from what other people decide to spend their time doing. Some people prefer to focus on making great content and do the bare minimum of site upkeep beyond it. Others only invest a minimum in content and do everything they can to optimize their site. Some love the promotional and social aspects of blogging. It all varies.
Sometimes, people who spend this much time blogging manage half a dozen or more blogs simultaneously. Sometimes, they’re just spending hours optimizing tiny elements of design or metadata for that 0.02% increase in traffic. Once you reach this point, the individual is either a dedicated blogger who knows what they’re doing or wasting a lot of time performing tasks they don’t understand how to delegate.
Most people at this point are either making a successful living from their blog and can afford the time or need to make the leap to trusting others to take some of the burdens. Outsourcing becomes much more common here, to dial back that time investment and leverage your efforts on other projects. Again, it all varies.
Blogging takes as long as you want. More importantly, it’s crucial to remember that blogging is a long-term strategy. It’s a project you start now so that the seeds you plant flourish into mighty trees years from now.
A blog can rarely spring up out of nowhere and succeed in short order, and it’s always either because the owner has a reputation and connections or because they have a lot of money to invest in promotion.
How much time do you spend blogging each week? Where does all the time go? Let us know in the comments below.