Did you know there is a specific pattern of traffic to most content that is published online? Ky Harlin of BuzzFeed analyzed content on BuzzFeed and across the company’s partner network (a total of 300 million monthly visitors) to get a better understanding of how the time of day that content is published affects its traffic and overall exposure. What he found might surprise you.

Harlin found that the number of page views content gets follows a common pattern throughout the day. He wrote, “regardless of the time range you choose or the day you’re looking at, [the pattern’s] shape remains remarkably similar. The peaks and troughs may shift slightly depending on other qualities, but the overall shape remains the same.” He explained, “The pattern won’t come as a shock. What might be surprising is the high predictability of the pattern — over the 1,700 days I looked at, 86% follow the above pattern. Furthermore, this is independent of extraneous factors, such as the number of articles published on that day.”

He offers the following notes about the common pattern he found:

  • Content published between 4:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. gets the fewest page views.
  • Page views grow steadily until the lunch hour where they continue to grow but at a slower pace throughout the afternoon.
  • Page views peak at 4:00 p.m. and traffic drops slowly but steadily after 4:00 p.m.
  • From midnight through the remainder of the night, page views drop quickly until they reach the low point at 5:00 a.m.

You can see Harlin’s complete graph that shows page views by hour in his article, “How Time of Day Affects Content Performance.” He also explains that content performance has less of a correlation with the quantity of content published than you might think.

Bottom-line, quality content is key, and when you make an effort to publish that content at the right time of day, you can maximize both traffic and exposure to it. This isn’t a new discovery, but publishers are still not giving it enough attention. Last year, I wrote an article for Newstex about the best times to publish content on Facebook and Twitter. Combine the lessons in that article with Harlin’s findings, and you’ll be on your way to growing your audience.

Image: Ivan Prole