People often obsess over how long their blog posts should be. There’s a lot of information out there regarding the “perfect” length of a blog post, but a lot of that data is conflicting.
Content is really important when it comes to search rankings, so if you are going to leverage content marketing, you might as well do it right. But before we get into the ideal length for a blog post, let’s first go over a few shocking myths:
Myth #1: Shorter is the only way!
The shorter-is-the-only-way school of thought believes that a blog post should be as brief as possible. They insist that once you cross the 200-character threshold or so, you’re sunk. No one’s going to read it.
Seth Godin is one of the greatest marketing minds of our age. How long are his blog posts?
They’re really short.
That 66-word wonder is 3% the length of the article you’re reading right now.
For Seth Godin, shorter is killer. It matches his audience, his style, his message, and his approach.
I am not Seth Godin.
The takeaway is this. Shorter is not always better. Shorter is sometimes better for some posts, in some situations, and some of the time.
Myth #2: Longer is the only way!
Another school of thought subscribes to the it-must-be-long-or-else approach.
I see people wondering about this all the time.
In a radical pendulum swing, away from the short-content fans, these content marketers rave over the long post. They insist that the most successful and high-converting blog posts should be in the multiple thousands of words.
Yes. 20. With one zero.
I’m comparing pages that are not blogs, but the point is the same: long is not always better. It simply depends upon your purpose and the message you’re trying to communicate.
Myth #3: People don’t read content on the web.
This is the most egregious of the myths, and it’s been around for a long time.
Back in 1997, Jakob Nielsen published an article titled “How Users Read on the Web.” His answer? “They don’t.”
Nielsen was being blunt to make a point. His point was that people tend to scan online content.
The myth lives on, however. For a long time, marketers have churned out spun content, cheap content, and crappy content…lots of junk content. According to this strategy, they would throw mud on the wall of the Internet, thinking it would stick in the form of indexed pages, high-ranking keywords, and better search results. Their content was not written for people to read because, hey, people don’t read!
That’s just not true.
People do read content on the web, even if they tend to scan headlines or linger on pictures. The web is driven by content. The cliche “content is king” is true.
All three of these myths should be shunned in favor of a more strategic approach to content length. Longer is not necessarily better. Shorter is not necessarily better. And people do actually read your content.
It’s not all about length.
When it comes to web content, length is only one of the factors to consider. You’ve got to consider a host of other issues. Take into account how all these other factors affect the length of your post.
- Substance – this is the most basic consideration. What are you trying to say? What’s the substance? If you can say it in 100 words, then you may want to do so. If it requires 2,000 words, that’s fine too.
- Style – some writing styles lend themselves to content that is short, brief, and to the point. Other times, the style is more conversational and interactive. Style will affect your content length.
- Frequency – how often you post affects how long your posts are. Some bloggers may post only once a week, but when they do, it tends to be a very thorough blog post. Other sites pop out short ones every day. It’s just a matter of how much the content marketing team can manage. Good content takes time!
- Format – the way an article is formatted has a massive impact upon its readability. I tend to use a lot of subheadings, a sprinkling of images, and short paragraphs. It’s important to break up your content into chunks so people can scan it.
- Purpose – every good content marketing plan has a purpose…many purposes, actually. The ultimate goal is conversions, but within this broad goal, there are sub goals. Other goals may be to spread brand awareness, drive social engagement, grow email lists, provide education or improve SEO. Different purposes will naturally mean differing length requirements.
- Audience – a huge part of content creation is knowing your audience: their needs, their interests, their passions, and their problems. Your goal is to create content your audience is going to read.
- Medium – not all content is words. When I post an infographic, I typically use around 100 words to introduce the topic. The rest of the words are in the infographic, which don’t really translate into an accurate word count metric. If you post a video, meme or infographic, word count becomes irrelevant.
By no means am I saying that content length isn’t important. I’m saying that length isn’t the only thing you should be concerned about.
I’m also saying that length is just one factor out of many that influence a content marketing strategy.
Now that I’ve set forth this information, I’m going to make a case for longer content.
Longer is Usually Better
If you look at the data below, you will have to agree with me. Longer posts usually perform better on every level.
Let’s go through the reasons why this is true.
The first is the fact that a higher word count typically results in more search traffic. There are more than 200 factors that influence how your content ranks in the SERPs. Evidence suggests that the more content your page has, the better chance it has of a top position in Google results.
SerpIQ studied search results rank based on content length. Here’s what they found:
The higher the Google SERP position, the more content the page has. Notice that every one of these first page results has content exceeding 2,000 words.
Google’s web crawler, Googlebot, is responsible for indexing your site. When it does so, it looks at every single word, tag, and particle of information (with a few exceptions like rich media files and dynamic pages).
There are different content types that get indexed — page title, headlines (H1, H2, H3, etc.), metadata, alt tags on images, etc.
The more content you have, the more of it gets indexed. The more that gets indexed, the better it will perform in searches and results. It’s just that simple.
The more variety you have, the stronger your keyword potential
The sheer variety of words is also an important factor that can improve your SEO.
For instance, let’s say you’re creating a short blog post on “writing great headlines.” You’re aiming for 200 words. In a post consisting of a couple hundred words, you’ll probably use the search term “writing great headlines” and maybe one or two variations on the theme. Good enough.
But what if you were writing an article that was 2,000 words long? You’ll get to use a variety of other keywords that are related:
- “how to craft a killer headline”
- “creating great headlines”
- “writing better headlines”
- “tips for a great opening line”
- “an effective title”
- “the title of your post is important”
- “it’s a winning headline”
- “because these words in the title…”
- “those first words and their magnetic power”
- “sizzling hot titles”
- “some of the most popular headlines…”
You can use a lot more variety when you have a lot more content. The more variety you have, the better you’ll perform in search queries. Remember, Google isn’t just delivering results that have an exact match to the query. It delivers results that are semantically related.
I googled “creating a great headline” and got these results:
The first result is about writing “magnetic headlines.” The second result has to do with “catchy headlines.” I didn’t use “catchy” or “magnetic” in my query, but Google is smart. It knows that I’ll like these results.
When you write longer posts, you’ll be able to leverage the power of long tail keywords and latent semantic indexing. The spread of keywords creates a more effective matrix for search engine ranking potential.
The greater your word count, the more link-backs you’ll get.
One of the biggest SEO factors is gaining high quality backlinks to your pages. The longer your post is, the more likely it is to gain backlinks.
I’ve mentioned before that long content garners more link-backs. Here’s the proof from a Moz test:
The correlation couldn’t be clearer.
From a sheer data perspective, you can’t argue against this. Longer content gets more link-backs. More link-backs means better SEO. Better SEO means more conversions and revenue.
Longer content gets shared more
A popular online journal ran the numbers on how shareable its content was from a length perspective. What the team discovered was that longer articles got shared more.
Once the word count exceeds 1,500 words, it’s in the golden share zone.
My own research on Quick Sprout confirms this. All of my posts that are more than 1,500 words receive 68% more tweets and 22% more Facebook likes than the articles with fewer than 1,500 words.
For all the talk about making posts “shareable,” it turns out that the defining factor is content length.
I want to warn against getting hung up on content length. There’s no magic formula on word count that’s going to put your rankings through the roof.
At the same time, I’ve shown you the data that proves that longer content gets better ranking, higher indexing, and more sharing.
If you’re looking for numbers, a post that is above 1,500 words seems to be in the zone of ideal length. I’d shoot for that if I were you.
Just because long content trends better doesn’t mean that yours automatically will. It helps to have an active social presence, rock-solid copy, and stuff worth talking about.
How long are your regular posts? What differences have you noticed between long posts and short ones?