One of the challenges that most content writers are faced with, is trying to determine what length their blog posts need to be. This article looks at what some of the top experts in the field of content marketing have to say on the topic, and tries to find out whether there is indeed an answer to the unavoidable question –
"how long should my blog post be to achieve the best results?"
Ideal length for a Blog Post
So what is the ideal length of a blog post? Well the answer to that one is probably as long as it needs to be – no longer and no shorter.
In the beginning (well a few years ago anyway) the average length of most blog posts was about 500 words. But the reason for that was because blogging at this time was similar to keeping a journal. Many bloggers shared daily activities and newsworthy conversations and there was no real SEO or marketing skills required.
However, as blogging began to have more commercial purposes, Google (our beloved search engine) wanted to see better content and to be able to separate out the informative posts, from the journal diary activities of smaller individual bloggers.
Companies began competing against each other to get ranked in the search engines and so posts that were more informative got ranked higher (with all other factors being roughly equal).
Obviously one of the ways to be more informative was to be longer.
Average Length of Blog Posts Increasing
This correlation pattern between length of the blog post and rank position is still continuing today. The average blog post length is still increasing from the original average of 500 words to nearly 1,200 words. Many articles can now even be 2,000 words or more.
Research by SerpIQ showed that ranking position for some searches is definitely affected by the length of the post, a point that top SEO blogger Neil Patel frequently points out in his 4,000 word length posts.
Whilst newer blog posts can start at 1,500 words, more established and older posts are often a lot longer.
In this graph for top ranking posts, the length of content is also affected by domain age. This is mainly due to expanding content and comments, both of which add to the overall total length of the post. According to SerpIQ newer domains start with an average length of approximately 1,600 words whereas domains over 10 years averaged nearly 2,800 words.
Short Blog Posts Also Rank Well
At the other extreme you have bloggers and marketing gurus such as Seth Godin, who have made their name for writing incredibly short posts. This is a sample of one of his longer ones.
Does a short post rank well, well for Seth yes, because he has the authority and following, that Google recognises.
Below is today’s screenshot for the post written by Seth called ‘What Does Branded Look Like’, which was only published hours ago at the time of writing this article.
As you can see the post is number 1 published 9 hours ago.
So does size matter? Yes but only if it fits with the needs of your audience. If your audience wants high visual, low or short text content, then that’s what you need to give them.
Purpose of the Blog Post
This leads onto the main point of content writing, which is “what is the point?” – of your blog post that is.
In other words what are you trying to achieve and who are you trying to engage and reach?
New Blog Posts
One person that I enjoy following is Steve Cartwright, who is an expert in content marketing. He often writes about the importance of establishing authority and being recognised by Google as an authoritative site.
He also argues that short posts have a definite role in blogging and are useful for building up your overall total number of posts. This is important especially at the beginning of your website development , which is when Google will consider the number of blog posts as one criteria for determining authority.
Steve also says that shorter blog posts are also an easier way in which to;
- Share curated content
- Give product announcements
- And like Seth Goldins posts, they are useful if you have thoughts to share
Neil Patel often blogs for over 2,000 words and yet his landing page is 20 words. Purpose and intent are therefore important factors when deciding what length to aim for.
Medium Length Posts
Most affiliate marketing bloggers are encouraged to write around 1,500 words per post, and this fits in with the early research from SerpIQ that showed that new top ranking posts, seemed to be at this length.
There is another length that Steve Cartwright describes as medium length posts. These he states are between 500-800 words. This is obviously a lot less than the research suggested, but Steve argues it can still enable you to use keywords effectively and engage your audience. It is also an ideal length if you are blogging every day.
Long Blog Posts
Posts over 800 words can fall into this category, although as content writing keeps getting longer this may change to nearer a 1,000.
Longer posts are considered the best for SEO because you have so much more space in which to use keywords and associated terms. Longer posts can also affect search engine ranking in a number of other ways, because of how the length can be used to leverage more SEO tactics.
How Does the Length of a Blog Post Affect Search Engine Ranking?
There are over 200 factors that affect Google’s ranking algorithm and content length is only one factor. However longer content is also more likely to achieve some of the other ranking factors such as;
- Longer content means that keywords can naturally be used and appear more often.
- There is a greater chance of being able to benefit from long tail keywords because the content material is greater
- There is more opportunity to provide alternative versions of the keyword which gives Google a clearer context, another ranking factor.
- There is more opportunity to ask and answer questions that searchers may ask, which means your content will be better placed.
- You can format and use a variety of headings to attract the attention of the search engines.
- You can acquire more backlinks since there are more opportunities for your content to be relevant or become quoted in other work.
- According to research the longer the content the more likely it is to receive social shares.
Use Other Material As Well As Written Content
It should be worth noting that it is not just written content that ranks well. Many people do have short attention spans or engage better with other formats of content, and this is definitely being noticed by the search engines.
- Videos are increasing in popularity and as Google owns YouTube, then this trend of ranking highly in search engines through video is likely to continue.
- Images – they say a picture says a thousand words and for many people who prefer to skim across articles this could be a better way to engage them.
- Podcasts – these are useful for people to listen to whilst travelling to work or driving in the car.
- Infographics – these are educational diagram with writing and images. They can convey messages very quickly and in a more visually inspiring way than just using plain text.
Different formats of content are useful if your material is quite long, since reader interest can deplete quite rapidly.
It has often been said that the average attention span of a human being is now only 8 seconds (a drop from 12 seconds in 2000). That puts us below the goldfish!
As modern technology continues to grab people’s attention it is, according to research in Canada, causing our overall attention span to diminish. This will inevitably impact on how we write articles and present our content. Longer posts might be more SEO friendly, but are they reader friendly?
Conclusion – So What Is the Best Length For a Blog Post?
Firstly it depends on what you are trying to achieve, sometimes shorter works better and other times longer is best. It depends on what you are trying to achieve.
The real moral of the story is don’t get too caught up in length, but focus on content and the message you are trying to get across. If you can put across your message and persuade people to buy your product in a few hundred words then that is all you need.
Remember if you are relying on search engines and SEO tactics, then longer posts have greater potential for ranking purposes – if they are filled with appropriate content. Longer posts also have to remain focused and interesting otherwise customers and readers will leave early.
So what length do you use in your blogs and have you noticed better results from shorter or longer posts?