Find out what 400,000 articles taught us about content engagement
My colleague Henley Wing recently published a post on why content goes viral, which outlined what he had learnt from analyzing over 1m articles and almost 1bn social shares. One of his findings was that posts published on a Thursday got more social shares on average than other posts. Whilst there have been many surveys in recent years arguing about the best time to post, I have always been doubtful about the impact of the day you post. However, I was keen to look at the data and to see how significant the timing of a post might be.
The findings from Henley’s research in terms of shares by day of the week were as follows:
There are almost too many surveys to list which argue there is a best time to post content. Beth at Buffer has helpfully summarized many of the findings of the various surveys in her review of the best time to post. Many of the surveys she lists in her post have contradictory findings for example Argyle Social found much higher levels of engagement on weekdays than weekends whereas a Buddy Media survey found the opposite to be true. Social Fresh agree with Henley’s findings that Thursday is the best day to post to achieve maximum social shares on Facebook.
Other surveys suggest the best day of the week to publish content varies according to topic area, some suggest weekends can be good days for some topics. One study suggests that B2B content gets more engagement on weekdays which feels logical.
I decided to undertake a small research study to test the theory using BuzzSumo data for articles on ‘seo’ and ‘marketing’.For ‘Marketing’ the data included over 9,000 articles and over 18m shares, so it was a reasonably large data set. Over 90% of all shares were for content published on a weekday, see chart below. One thing that is absolutely clear is that most content is published on weekdays (Monday to Friday) and most shares relate to content published on weekdays.
For ‘SEO’ the data also included over 9,000 articles though there were less shares, just over 3.6m. Again most content was published on a week day and over 90% of shares related to this content.
So far these results just show that most content is published on a weekday and that most shares relate to this content. No real surprises here, it would be a surprise to find anything else but it doesn’t prove that you will get more shares by publishing on a weekday. We need to go a step further and look at the average number of shares for each day.
When we look at the average number of shares for posts by the day published we get a different picture. The average number of shares for SEO articles by day of week published was as follows:
In the case of Marketing the average shares by day of week published were as follows:
These results do not provide evidence that more sharing is achieved by publishing marketing or SEO content on weekdays. There is some evidence that Saturday is a poor day for publishing content in terms of shares but Sunday appears to perform well. Other surveys have also found Sundays to be a good day, for example see this article on Entrepreneur.com. We should be cautious though as there could be other factors at work. For example, content may be published on a Sunday but shared on a Monday, also content published on Sunday afternoon and evening on the West Coast of the US is effectively published on a Monday morning in Australia and Asia.
The only conclusions I think we can draw at this stage are:
1) over 90% of content on SEO and Marketing is published on week days
2) for articles on SEO or Marketing there is no obvious correlation between the day of the week published and the number of social shares they achieve, there is some slight eveidence that posts published earlier in the week do better than posts published later in the week.
3) it may be worth testing the occasional post on a Sunday as the competition for attention is far less and there is some evidence that posts published on a Sunday still receive significant social shares.
Overall whilst in certain industries some days may work better for posting and you do need to assess the situation for your industry, I think there is no general best time to post. This may be a self-fulfilling prophecy as if there was a best time to post, everyone would schedule their posts accordingly and hence it would quickly become a poor time to post because of the amount of posts at that time.
If there is a best time to publish content may be it is 2.37pm on a Sunday as argued by Matt McGee. Matt is not serious but it makes the point well.
Are you a bit concerned about how much your content is being shared? Find out how content experts survive when social shares dive. We also recommend double checking that you are using social sharing buttons to drive engagement to their maximum potential.
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