How Long Should a Blog Post Be?
There are only a handful of issues as divisive in digital marketing as blog post length. Everyone has an opinion, and experts all across the industry will claim they have the definite answer based on one study or another.
The reason everyone tries to weigh in is because blogging is a vital part of any marketing strategy.
(For full infographic, click the image above. Source: Ignite Spot.)
As is often the case, though, the truth in terms of the right word count is in the grey area. You see, ideal blog post length is less about some universal number and more about the needs and objectives of the business.
The most common misconception surrounding blog post length is that one specific size will determine your success in every single area. This is simply not true. Small, medium and long form pieces all tend to have specific things they excel at.
With that in mind, let’s proceed to evaluate all the information available, dispel some annoying myths, and, rather than land on a magical number, establish the parameters you should consider when deciding how long you want your blog posts to be.
Shorter Blog Posts: The Art of Brand Awareness (75-750 words)
Short blog posts usually range between 75 and 750 words. You could argue that fewer than 75 is still some sort of microblog post, but chances are search engine algorithms won’t even be able to detect what the topic is about.
And even matching that range, it’ll be extremely difficult for search engines – which are essentially robots crawling through your pages – to determine where your post fits or if it has real, credible value.
So, right off the bat, we’re making something very clear:
Short blog posts are not the best choice for SEO.
What are they good for, then?
Well, the first thing to keep in mind is that writing small blog posts should take relatively little time. That means you can produce them at a faster rate, allowing you to post several times per week. In fact, depending on how much time you spend on it, you could be posting several per day.
Mass producing content like that means you’ll be constantly calling attention to yourself. Even if you fail to acquire a loyal readership, the audience will still be aware that you’re there, with something to say constantly.
In fact, Twitter is often called a microblogging platform, so it serves as a good example of content mass production for the purpose of gaining attention.
This is called brand awareness. By constantly reminding people about you, you’re slowly conquering a spot in their top-of-mind.
And if you do manage to lure them in for a read, then great news:
Short blog posts tend to have a high rate of comment interaction. This is definitely true in microblogging platforms, sure, but even when the content is on a website, it will usually generate greater motivation to weigh in.
This is because shorter content can itself be perceived as commentary on a given topic, which invites discussion from others.
If you already have the traffic or a decent social media audience, shorter blog posts can be a great way to create or keep some quality engagement going. However, if you want to use content creation to actually bring in the visits, then it’s time to move up the blog post length ladder.
Medium Blog Posts (800-1500 words)
These are the most commonly found blog posts, simply because this word count range is the perfect size to deliver a message with plenty of details and convince readers to take action without resorting to extensive research.
Some years ago, BuzzSumo and Moz carried out a study that showed that blog post lengths of over 1000 words (which back then was adorably considered long form) achieved the best results. At that time this was probably true, though as you’ll learn once you keep reading, this is no longer the best option to drive traffic and earn shares on social media. Oh, that can still happen if the content is great (which it always should be!), but it’s not necessarily the optimal choice for it.
That said, this still remains the most common length because it’s easier when it comes to keeping up a constant flow of content. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who’ve mastered the craft of the written word to such an extent that they can dish out high quality, properly researched 3000-word blog posts on a daily basis. But that’s simply not the case for most of us mortals, unless you have an entire team of writers at your disposal.
As a typical blog post length, this is what I like to call the comfort zone. With proper work and care, these blog posts can still get you great organic traffic (because there’s enough information there for search engines like Google to do their thing), social media shares (because the subject matter is interesting or innovative), and even comments.
So, they get the job done.
Just not as effectively as modern long form lengths.
Long Form Blog Posts (1800-3000 words)
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a single expert that won’t agree that aiming for an average blog post length above 1800 words is the best choice to drive traffic and shares up. This is where things get interesting, though.
This is where the divide is most prominent.
Because most of them can’t agree on what the best number actually is.
You see, in most cases they are using a system that determines an average blog post length based on their existing body of work (more on that below!). The problem is, what works for some doesn’t necessarily work for others.
Take, for example, a study conducted by Hubspot that used their own blog posts and found that the sweet spot (for them) was between 2250 and 2500 words.
Brian Dean and Backlinko, on the other hand, identified a very specific number: 1890.
Neither of those numbers are wrong. They are based on research conducted on material that works. What they prove is simply that long form posts are indeed the best course for optimal results in terms of traffic and shares, and that each person must carry out their own tests to figure out what their key word count is.
You will notice also that the cut-off for the word count range is at 3000. This doesn’t mean you can’t exceed that number, but keep in mind that people have limited attention spans. They may want to be properly informed about a subject, but that doesn’t mean they’re willing to invest a huge chunk of time reading about it. In fact, most people don’t read entire blog posts. The Nielsen Norman Group determined that readers only consume between 20% and 28% of the content.
Don’t assume that just because bigger is better for traffic, enormous will be best. Keep it simple. Keep it within the range that works. And as far as organic traffic goes, that word count works.
That’s because one thing is for sure:
Long form blog posts are the best for SEO.
In order for search engine algorithms to work, they need information. The more information available in an article, the easier it is for them to determine what that piece is about and the target audience it serves best. That means if you want to target specific topics, long form provides you with ample opportunity to really dive into details that can rank you higher in results pages for your desired keywords.
Long form provides a rather nice opportunity to give search engines what they expect and your readers what they need.
As for finding that mythical sweet spot everyone talks about, sometimes the best way is to conduct your own research.
Finding the Sweet Spot: What Is the Average Length of Your Blog Posts?
This system will only work if you have a body of material to work with. It doesn’t matter if it’s yours or someone else’s, as long as you have access to the analytics. The more blog posts you have access to, the better.
Step 1: Calculate the blog post length for your top twenty or top ten performing pieces.
Step 2: Add all the word counts up and divide them by the number of blog posts you used.
Step 3: Bask in the glory of how easy it was to land on a number.
That’s right. It’s a basic equation of averages to get a, well, average blog post length. You see, by doing this you establish an approximate ideal count based on what’s already working for you.
This by no means is a sure science, of course. If your top performing blog posts are all over the place in terms of length, it might be a good idea to use the top ones within a specific range, landing you a more accurate estimate for each category.
Bear in mind that all the numbers in the world won’t mean a thing if your content isn’t good. That’s just a fact. Quality will almost always outweigh quantity.
Which is why you should always make sure you’re creating great content.
The Golden Rules of Quality Content Creation
This is a good place to remind you of some very basic but necessary best practices when crafting content, because no blog post length will mean anything if the content being consumed is not fit for digestion.
Create engaging content. Write with your readers in mind, making sure you are creating something they will enjoy or feel informed by.
Research thoroughly. If you are writing something to educate, make sure you can state the facts and defend them. Don’t just state opinions unless they are based on a great deal of experience, giving you enough authority in the matter.
Update frequently. If you’re writing about something that can or will change at some point, make sure to go back and reflect that on your piece. Or write a new one if you prefer! The point is: stay on top of things to show that you’re interested in offering the best possible advice or information.
Don’t write for numbers. I know, we all want traffic, but when you write with the sole purpose of boosting numbers then it’ll show. Think of your readers first, what they want, what they need, and that way you’ll be writing something that will organically grow over time.
Remember that quality will always be the key to success. At the end of the day, regardless of which length you choose for your blog posts, it’ll be the content itself that determines whether people engage and have a favorable reaction to it.
So, To Recap: How Long Should Blog Posts Be?
Smaller blog posts. Great if you’re aiming to engage more directly with your audience or generate a discussion.
Medium blog posts. A nice middle ground – big enough that you can leverage SEO best practices, not so huge that you can’t dish out content with steady consistency throughout the week.
Large blog posts. Great if your goal is to get more social media shares and traffic flowing to your website. These are the best choice for SEO and can be a powerful tactic as long as you take the time to do proper research.
The multifaceted marketer, Neil Patel, believes length depends on the industry rather than goals, so give him a check as well if you’re looking for an extra voice on the subject.
Choosing the right length for your blog posts is not a complex task. If you’ve been writing for a while, then the answer is right there if you’re willing to investigate. If not, you can still follow the suggestions outlined here and align the decision with your objectives. Never forget that, in the end, the best choice is the one that gets you your desired results.
And always remember:
Quality > Quantity.
If you feel the task is too daunting, remember that there are those of us around willing to lend a hand by becoming that much welcomed extension to your marketing team.
[A bit reluctant to outsource your digital marketing work? Here are the top reasons you should consider doing just that!]