How long should a blog post be?

Bloggers want to know: how long should my blog posts be? Sorry, but there simply is no right answer to that question.

Two things happened yesterday.

First, I published a short post for the Chamber of Commerce on how business writing should be short. Here is an excerpt from my article:

That’s how your business writing should be: concise and to the point. Sure, make it chatting and personable, if you like. Business writing doesn’t have to sound formal. But there is no need to throw in a whole lot of extra words. Offer less, but they get more. Not more words, but more value – like the 100-calorie Kit Kat bars.


Second, I commented on a friend’s long post that, among other things, recommended that blog posts should be long. Here is an excerpt from Sherman Smith’s article:

So starting towards the end of 2013 I started writing post that were over 1,000 words. And guess what happened? I started to get more traffic as you probably have guessed. From what I’ve seen, writing a 1,000 words is the bare minimum as far as getting decent traffic and ranking. writing between 1500 and 2500 words each post would be more substantial.

longer blog posts

So how long should a blog post be? This is one of those questions that has been driving bloggers crazy for years. We humans seem to need to quantify everything. We assume there is an ideal height to be and an ideal number of hours per day to engage in light fitness and an ideal amount of vitamin D to consume each day. And an ideal number of words per blog post.

There isn’t.

For starters, there are too many factors to consider.

What type of post is it? If it is a tutorial, the length of the article will depend on how many words it takes to carefully describe each step, leaving nothing out and adding in nothing that might confuse the reader.  If the post is a review, a lot depends on the complexity of the product, service, movie or book being reviewed.  If it is an editorial, how complex is the issue, and how much background do you have to give (and how much of that background needs to be in the article versus how much can be hyperlinked to)?  If it is a case study, how much happened?  There are so many types of blog posts, each requiring a different length depending on factors unique to that type.

Who is the audience?  Is the audience busy?  Are they already overloaded with information?  The busier and more overloaded the audience, the more concise you need to be.  Unless you have truly earth-shattering news (Have you cured cancer?) or information they can’t live without (No, really – will they lose their professional license if they don’t read your post?), or you are THE authority on the matter and they hang on your every word, short is better than long.

We seem to have entered an arms race – a rush to longer and longer posts – and I wonder where it will stop. In this age of information overload, I tend to gloss right over uber-long posts.  Sorry, I have only 24 hours in a day. Fewer if I sleep.

What’s your style?  It is critical that you write in a consistent style.  When you meet people, they get to know you by the tone of your voice, your posture and many other intangibles.  When they read you, all they have to go on is your writing style.  Whatever that style may be, that will to some degree determine the length of your posts. Let it flow naturally.  Here is some good advice about finding your blogging voice.

What’s the topic?  Some topics beg for long-windedness.  Others just beg for getting to the point.  It’s OK to have one blog post that runs past 2000 words and another that runs under 500 words.  Don’t sweat it.  What counts is that the reader enjoys the post and finds it useful.  Don’t throw in too much for them to enjoy.  Don’t leave out anything they need to enjoy it.  And don’t include fluff to reach some arbitrary ideal of how long you might think a blog post should be.  Because whatever length that is, it is wrong.

Now, let me contradict myself.  A post of 2000 words, followed by a post of 400 words, followed by a post of 1000 words, followed by a post of 500 words could be confusing to your readers.  As with every other aspect of branding, it is wise to be predictable.  Hopping from one extreme to another could make it hard for readers to connect with who you are.  I used some fairly extreme numbers just to make a point.

It’s probably best to stick to either long-form, medium-form or short-form, or at least categorize posts accordingly (visually and textually) if you do wish to vary widely.  In fact, if there is such thing as an ideal length for a blog post, it is this: what your readers are used to.  And that might even mean publishing one short post daily, but inserting a longer Tutorial Tuesday or a weekly “Digging Deep” column into your editorial calendar.

Instead of focusing on word count, focus on the big idea.  What is it you want to get across?  How do you want your readers to feel?  What action do you want them to take?  Focus all your creative juices on reaching that goal, and your blog post will end up having just the right number of words.

But what about the facts?

But is it true that longer content tends to get shared more?  Is it true that longer content tends to get linked to more?  Is it true that the search engines rank longer content higher?

Yes, longer content tends to get shared more.

Yes, longer content tends to get linked to more.

Yes, the search engines rank longer content higher (probably because it tends to get more shares and more links).

But that does not mean that the length of the text is what earns those shares, those links and those rankings.  Longer content tends to have the advantage because it tends to be more substantial.  Just making it longer won’t make it better.  Making it more substantial might.

Over the past 10-15 years, I have seen many trends on the Internet, as marketers try to dissect data and copy what seems to be working best.  The data shows that article marketing works?  OK, let’s do more of it.  Oops, now we have a duplicate content problem.  The data shows that article spinning takes care of duplicate content?  Sure, let’s send out thousands of the same article.

The data says that longer content ranks better?  Let’s add more words.

Don’t get me wrong; data can be extremely useful.  But data-driven communications sucks.  Sorry, that’s the only word for it. The “ideal” length for blog posts overall is not the ideal length for each blog post. 

Consider what would happen if a Walmart store inventory manager decided to stock shoes based on the ideal size.  They make the most sales of size 9 shoes for men and size 7 shoes for women.  So the manager orders only those two sizes, because they sell the best.  Surely that will mean the store will sell more shoes, right?

Let’s pause for a moment while we ponder this career-ending calamity.

I’ve written some long posts.  I’ve written some short posts.  I don’t obsess over my numbers, but I can tell you that I have not seen a sudden drop in engagement or shares from short posts, nor a sudden leap of  traffic when I publish a longer post.

Long posts do have one advantage – sometimes.  If your post is really the ultimate guide or resource to something, so complete that people want to link to it as a resource, it will get more inbound links (assuming you have the network and the time and the patience and whatever else it takes to reach out to other bloggers in a really, really big way).  Again, that does not mean every post needs to be 2500 words or longer.

I just checked the word count on my Chamber of Commerce article.  It turns out that it is not as short as I thought.  666 words is not considered long anymore, but I’m not sure that qualifies as “short”, either.

Questions:

So what’s your strategy?  Do you aim for a specific length?  How focused are you in reaching that length?  Do you ever publish outlier posts, much shorter or much longer than your normal posts?  If so, do you do anything special to make them “fit in”.  Do you think I’m a luddite to dispense with data so easily?  Should this post have been shorter (Do I talk too much)?






About David Leonhardt

is President of The Happy Guy Marketing, published author, a "Distinguished Toastmaster", a former consumer advocate, a social media addict and experienced with media relations and government reports.

Read more about David Leonhardt



Comments

  1. David, nice one. I agree that there is no magic number that we should stick to. The topic and your audience are two important factors that decide the length of a post.

    There has been this theory that long-form gets more shares and likes. I tend to disagree slightly. I believe that good writing is where you write short but with punch and passion. Get a strong message out with as little words as possible. People are busy and they do not have time. Respect your reader’s time and give them the best value for their time investment.

    I have naturally found myself to be beteen 900 and 1200 words most of the time. I do not know what is the reason for that but probably as you mntioned, your niche, audience and the nature of the topic play important roles.

  2. Bravo David.

    Love this: “Bloggers want to know: how long should my blog posts be? Sorry, but there simply is no right answer to that question”.

    Correct. It’s like a few emails I’ve had about writing eBooks, every email asks ‘how long should my eBook be?’ and my answer is always the same – as long as it needs to be until you have covered all the topics you want to cover.

    I actually commented on Sherman’s post and told him I disagree. I said this: “…the one bit that peaked my interest was when you say you are writing longer posts because Google prefers longer posts. Can you give me a source from Google that says this? Because I disagree with it entirely.

    I have posts that are around 300 words long, they get visits every single day, and indeed some of them occupy #1 – #5 spot on page 1 of Google. I think you are right about the quality bit, but unsure about the quantity – sometimes one doesn’t equal the other and vice versa.

    I don’t even look at my word counts, I say what I say, and then hit publish. But I haven’t seen any noticeable difference between shorter posts and longer posts – none whatsoever”

    Like I say, I don’t care if a post is 300 words or 3,000 words when i publish, as long as the quality is there (which doesn’t always happen) I don’t think we should care about the word count.

  3. Hi David,

    Well I just saw your comment on Sherman’s blog and so I had to hop over here to see what you had to say.

    Glad I did.

    I like to write what I have to write. Like you say a post will be as long as it needs to be. There is absolutely no point in forcing a blog post or article to be any longer that it needs.

    I’m with you – Quality trumps quantity!
    – David

    • David Leonhardt says:

      Indeed. But people do love to quantify things. Most of the time the problems people have with their blog posts are related to quality, not to quantity.

  4. Hey David,

    This was a great write up and this is a hot topic. As far as the length goes for each blogger, to each his/her own. There are many factors when it comes to generating more traffic, and the most important thing is how much quality is your post and the connections you make with other bloggers since they can be your advocates.

    As I mentioned in my conclusion, my routine isn’t the only routine that everyone should follow. There’s just not one way of generating more traffic. But for me, when I started writing longer posts once a week, I started to get more traffic. But as you’ve said, it depends on your audience. But I do have to say the one thing that got me over the hump of getting over 1,000 visitors/month was commenting on more blogs

    One thing I didn’t mentioned in that article, which I should have, is that I believe also formatting plays an important factor as far as generating traffic. If your blog post is just text based with no type of formatting (headlines, sub headlines, bold, italic, etc.) then this can be a big turn off. At least for me it is. I really don’t like to read them, and I’m pretty sure most bloggers don’t either.

    But what it all really comes down to is what works for you. I can’t really say tell you that you’re wrong for writing shorter posts (under 1,000 words) or you’re right for writing longer posts. But one thing I can say is as long as your audience can take something from your posts that they can apply for themselves, then you’re doing a good job.

    Thanks for sharing your opinion! Have a great weekend and thanks for the mention!

    I found your post on kingged.com under the category of Blogging
    http://kingged.com/how-long-should-your-blog-post-be/

  5. I must say, that many are asking about what is the perfect length for a blog post and how long should a blog post be?”

    Many “expert” bloggers perpetuate the myth that “shorter is better,” that blog posts should never be more than 600 words long. Then my suggestion, do not listen to them, because the real thing is, the longer, the better these days. You’ll see over the net that many bloggers love to publish long posts that have been over 1,500 words long.

    But yes, of course, you need to think about your intention, your approach, your target market, and what type of post you will create.

    Awesome post all in all!

  6. This post reminded me of being at school when I was about 11, being told that we had one week to submit a 1000 word English essay on the subject of X.

    Rather then thinking about writing a good piece on whatever the subject was, we’d be more concerned with meeting the word count.

    Now, I write to be useful for the audience I am targeting. I try to be as thorough as possible on a subject without boring anyone to death. The idea is to rewrite and lose a third of it be subtracting fluff. Two drafts and a polish is a good rule of thumb.

    “To write is human, to edit is divine.”

    Besides, 1000 words can be written in a half hour if you’ve been internalising the subject for months or years. Sometimes, a very detailed article is actually two or three posts that can be broken up and internally linked to one another.

    • David Leonhardt says:

      Indeed, breaking up a long article can make sense from an inbound marketing perspective, too. Each segment can be optimized for a different aspect of the topic.

  7. While it may serve better for your SEO to create longer posts, it’s technically not the final answer to this question. As you state it really depends on what you are writing about. Also, the direction/audience of your blog plays an essential role as well.

    For me, I have small blog geared towards helping new bloggers. It would be easy to create 2000 word posts, but who really has the time to read 2000 word posts? Don’t get me wrong I have the occasional long article in my back pocket, but I like to break it up into different posts because I get better statistics from shorter posts.

    Times are changing and a lot of people who are reading blogs are skimming for the important parts, not taking the time to grasp the full content of the article. I wish it wasn’t like this, but it’s a new reality.

    Awesome post!!!

    • David Leonhardt says:

      Right on about the skimming. Which is why you need to have lots of sub-headings (or other ways for people to easily pop back in lower down) if you write longer posts. By “longer” I mean even 700 or 800 words. I hate reading long posts, even if I do write a fair number of them. And I do use subheadings and such, but I wonder if sometimes I don’t do enough to help readers visually through my longer posts.

      • Those subheadings are vital. I don’t know why, but all the online newspapers seem to be stuck in the received tradition of writing one long chunk of text without any formatting whatsoever to break it up.

        I hate that and I hate that new bloggers copy the online newspapers and create what looks like a headache on a webpage. Especially when the text is tiny.

  8. Good points David!

    I just want to knock people’s socks off. I may score the first spot on Google, Page 1, for a short post, but if I wrote a few hundred words, for me, I missed that opportunity to impact people in a positive way. My feeling, my vibe. I know Richard and other folks rock it out – per his comment above – with shorter posts topping google….awesome! He’s clear on it and I am not, so power to him!

    As for me, I like one, 5,000 word post weekly as an advertisement for my eBooks, as this would be a short eBook for me. Then, I write those shorter posts, for my actual eBook releases and for my weekly podcast. Vibes perfectly with your 2nd tweetable point. Cover the topic how you should, and, if it’s 500 or 5,000, or 10,000, it matters not. It’s all about one’s clarity. Thanks for sharing!

    Ryan

  9. I never really thought of counting my words. I just write what I know and like and to the point.

  10. It all depends on our goals. If we want to game the system or what else. In my opinion, we should simply write what is necessary to make our posts clear, useful, funny, or whatever else we want them to be. But I’m probably a bit too naive on this.

  11. Hi, David,

    You are absolutely right, David, and I’m so glad that you covered this topic.

    I couldn’t agree with you more when you said there is no simple answer to the question. That is correct! Sometimes it’s possible to cover a topic in a concise manner and other times elaborating through many examples is the best way to convey the information and get the necessary points across.

    I enjoy rich media content, so videos, infographics, images are all enjoyable to me, of course I read articles, but would much rather watch a video or look at an infographic. Having said this, I do prefer blog posts that are NOT extremely long unless they are comprehensive guides and/or extremely well formatted.

    I suppose I’m a visual learner and lots of text is just not my favorite way of consuming content.

    Thanks for sharing, and I hope you have a lovely weekend.

    ˜Carol Amato

  12. Hey David,

    I completely agree. There’s no “one size fits all” method when it comes to the length of the post. I believe what should be done is write enough words that you thoroughly answer the question readers may have about the post.

    That may mean it could take 1300 words or 2300 … as long as you answer their questions.

    I USED to write 3,000 words every time… however, I’ve stopped that and try to keep it between 1300 – 2200 each time. I typically like to make my posts longer so I cover every angle of whatever topic I write … and leave no unanswered questions.

    Great discussion and post here.

    – Andrew

  13. David,

    If you ask me, I would say that the count of words should be that much in which your blog post looks complete.

    There is no need of writing thousands of words if you can write a post in 400 words.

    But when you write step by step guides, the word count naturally goes higher because you need to make things clearer.

  14. I usually write longer posts, but I may be a little long-winded.

    I first realized that years ago when I witnessed a car hit a parked car and then take off. I quickly got to work creating a note for the victim to let him or her know what happened. I thought about what I should say and described the accident in greater detail than needed, and by the time I finished the ‘note’, the car that got hit was gone!

    Sometimes getting to the point is necessary. If I feel that way, I usually write about 500-600 words. Otherwise, I naturally write 1000+ words.

  15. It’s sometimes amazing that this is still a big topic of discussion. Then again, I got into it a couple of months ago when someone recommended that blog posts needed to be at least 5,000 words or more; ugh. Can you imagine someone who hates writing putting together something like that?

    For me, I write whatever needs to be written until I feel like I’m done. That’s it; sometimes it’s long, sometimes it’s… well, shorter than long. lol

    • David Leonhardt says:

      I hear you, Mitch. I am already planning out my editorial calendar for 2020. One of the posts will be entitled, “Why it’s OK to write blog posts under 25,000 words”

  16. Hi David. My target length is 1000 words. It is a guideline, not a rule. I have had a few that reached 2000 words because that is what the topic called for. Sometimes they might be only 800 to 900 words if I’ve said everything that I wanted to say.

    I think that 1000 is a good target to balance having enough content for Google to index without being too long for someone to read in a few minutes. As in Mitch’s comment and your reply to it, I don’t want to take the time to plan out a 5,000 word post or take the time to read one. I have enough other books that I want to read.

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