Writing Blog Posts – The Long and Short of It

      14 Comments on Writing Blog Posts – The Long and Short of It

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.

screenshot early blogger cartoon

Early Bloggers – image found on ladystyx.blogspot.ie

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.

screenshot SerpIQ stats for content length

Research from SerpIQ shows the link between content length, domain age and ranking

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.

screenshot Seth Godin blog example

Known for his short blogs and style of writing Seth Godin meets a particular niche audience need.

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.

screenshot google search position for Seth's article

Article is ranked number one on Google a few hours after being published

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;

  1. Longer content means that keywords can naturally be used and appear more often.
  2. There is a greater chance of being able to benefit from long tail keywords because the content material is greater
  3. There is more opportunity to provide alternative versions of the keyword which gives Google a clearer context, another ranking factor.
  4. There is more opportunity to ask and answer questions that searchers may ask, which means your content will be better placed.
  5. You can format and use a variety of headings to attract the attention of the search engines.
  6. You can acquire more backlinks since there are more opportunities for your content to be relevant or become quoted in other work.
  7. 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.
image human have 8 second attention span

image found on slideshare

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?

14 thoughts on “Writing Blog Posts – The Long and Short of It

  1. Chris

    Great article on blog posts. A few years back I was stuck in a rut with the actual length and frequency of my posting but that seems to have worked itself out. I now have articles on the first page of google with 400 words…and some with 1000 words. I have come to the conclusion that it is your site behind that attributes most. If you have a site that is 3 years old with over 300 articles you are going to see great rankings – regardless of article length.
    This is the way it has panned out for all 5 of my websites!!!

    Reply
    1. Marie

      HI I agree, it is important to have a mixture of lengths especially if you are trying to establish expertise in a particular area. And what seems equally as important for rankings is using a mixture of media as well such as videos, podcasts, graphs, photos etc. Give your readers variety and interest to keep them coming back and you will also please search engines.

  2. Alberto

    Thanks for your post. I read your article with very interest because I am a new blogger, and I am learning to write articles. For me, write posts is harder because English it is not my first language. Anyway, I am learning written English too.

    The length of the article is one of my challengers because for me is hard to give quality content to my audience. Do you have some ideas to find relevant content?

    Reply
    1. Marie

      Hi Alberto thank you so much for your comments, I know that it is so much harder trying to work through another language.

      Finding relevant content is a problem that all bloggers face I think, I have a couple of posts that may be of interest to you Writing Content To Fit With The Customer Purchase Cycle and also How To Get More Keyword Suggestions For Your Content but there are also others if you use the search bar at the top of the page and type in content. Thanks again, Marie

  3. George

    As someone who is trying to speed learn how to write for the first time, I was immediately drawn to this site. Well, written, good layout. Entertaining, engaging and informative. The graphics that were meant to make me smile, did so without diminishing the content. I was interested in one of the comments where you stated that you had a problem finding content. I have the opposite problem in that I have so many ideas for content I am struggling to get it all down in a way I am satisfied with – perhaps you could offer some advice for that problem on the site!

    Reply
    1. Marie

      HI George thank you so much for your feedback and comments they are much appreciated. I like your suggestion of writing about the problems with too much content and organising sites, so that is definitely something for me to consider, thanks!

  4. Sim

    Hey! I just found you website and let me tell you, it’s particularly timely.

    I’m having a hard time writing and keeping up with my blog posts on my website. It certainly helps and will be back for more info on the subject.

    Your explanations were great and very motivating.

    The only thing is that writing up to 1000 words and more per article can be hard, especialy when you don’t have a lot to cover.

    Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Marie

      Hi thanks for sharing and commenting, I’m actually in the same position on another website trying to find enough content – one thing I do is aim for at least 700 words and publish, and then later go back and update or expand the content. This means that as a new site I’m getting the posts published and they can start to rank but I’m not spending hours trying to write those last 300 words and struggling.

  5. Imad

    Hello,

    I like the name of your website. Very motivating and straight to the point. I enjoyed reading this article, very informative because there is a lot of useful stuff to take into consideration when writing a blog post.

    Personally, I don’t pay much attention to the length of my blog post as long as they provide help and value, I’ll be fine. But, if we have to put a number, I’ll say from 1000 to 1500 is an acceptable strategy.

    Regards,
    Imad

    Reply
    1. Marie

      Hi Imad thanks for commenting I appreciate your feedback!

      I agree I think nowadays in order to keep a reader interested in what you have to say it takes about 1,000- 1500 words. Any less and I think readers are left wondering what to do next and anymore and you are really into reference pieces that people will hopefully bookmark and return to.

      The only exception is producing detailed answers to specific questions which can be shorter, but then can be linked to other posts as an aside. Podcasts and Videos may also have some shorter content but I think many readers still want to hear your opinion as well so don’t leave it all to the video.

  6. Kirill Pometoun

    Thank you for this great and detailed overview. I have been trying to solve the conflict between my posts length and trying to minimize the amount of time I spend on the writing itself. You have managed to put everything in such a simple way even I can understand 🙂
    The wealth of information I’m finding here is incredible. I even afraid that I may never leave your site 🙂
    Thank you.

    Reply
  7. Sharon May

    Hi great article about how long a blog post needs to be. I have two website, with one I try to have at least 600 words, yet my other website can vary around 1200 to 1500 or maybe a bit more. The reason for the difference is that one site requires little information, but my other is super informative a bit like this article you have created. Of course, the site with the longer article is much more active. Thx for a great post 🙂

    Reply
    1. Marie

      HI Sharon thanks for commenting and interesting the differences between your two sites. I would just add that it doesn’t necessarily follow that a site with only short posts would be less active, it could be that some alternative form such as video marketing is better suited for that niche?

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