When I first started working in marketing, one of my primary tasks was to write blog posts. While this should’ve been easy enough, I quickly found myself asking a ton of questions – one of the biggest being, “How long should a blog post be?”
This is probably the most frequently asked question among bloggers, and yet the most common answer I’ve gotten over the years is, “it depends.”
Gee, thanks … that’s helpful.
When it comes to ideal blog post length, you could ask 100 bloggers and get 500 different answers: Bloggers and inbound marketing communities are quite often divided on this issue. Some say blog posts should be short and to the point, pointing out that the more concise the post, the better. Others insist blogs should be quite lengthy, to provide an in-depth, valuable resource that people will dive into.
So, how many words should a blog post really be? And how do you determine the right length for your next blog post?
Average blog post length: Longer is usually better – but not always
Do a quick Google search of “average blog post length” or “how long should a blog post be,” and the general consensus is that longer blog posts – specifically, those over 1,000 words – generally perform better, get more social media shares and are more likely to show up in search results. In fact, the average word count of top-ranked blogs on Google is 2,500.
There are several reasons why these extremely long posts perform so well, but it mostly comes down to the fact that long posts give Google more clues to determine what your post is about.
How so? Long-form content pieces tend to do a better job at answering a person’s questions, which is exactly what Google wants to see. Also, from a searchability perspective, longer blogs have an advantage for a few reasons.
Long-form blog posts have better searchability
The longer the post, the more often keywords will appear in a natural way. Sure, you can try to shove the same keyword into a few short paragraphs, but the results tend to be pretty off-putting. Plus, they can actually harm your SEO, according to Google:
When written well, longer pieces go into more depth on topics, creating opportunities to repeat keywords, add synonyms, use rich headings, and embed images that all count toward high-quality content.
And by giving all these keywords room to breathe (instead of jamming three versions of a keyword into once sentence), you’re making the piece much more readable and pleasant. This not only helps your search engine rankings, it makes your blog – and by extension, your website – much more appealing and impactful to your ideal buyers.
Finally, Google has gotten pretty smart. Pages with limited content are assumed to be “thin” and less likely to properly answer user queries. This makes your page less likely to rank well.
Don’t just take my word for it, though. I found some eye-opening statistics on the performance of long-form blog posts in search engine rankings, backlinks and social shares:
- After analyzing over 6,000 of their blogs, HubSpot found that blogs between 2,100 to 2,400 words generated the most organic traffic.
- The same study showed that blogs with an average of 2,569 words generated the most leads.
- The Backlinko Content Marketing Study of 2019 showed that long-form content generated at least 77% more backlinks than short-form content.
- Demand Gen reported that 41% of B2B buyers spend between five and ten minutes reviewing a blog post — longer than most other content formats.
However, when it comes to long-form posts, there’s a BIG caveat: Make sure you’re actually saying something.
A long blog post will either demonstrate your knowledge and authority on a topic … or it may appear to be a jumble of unnecessary rambling for the sake of word count.
In fact, an Adobe Brand Content Survey showed that 39% of consumers report poorly written or “too wordy” as their biggest irritant about content, and three of every five people would leave a website without making a purchase if the content was too wordy, poorly written, or poorly designed.
How to write a long-form blog post that isn’t bloated
If you’re struggling to find writers with the experience and skills to help you write impactful, long-form content, we can help.
So how do you write long-form blogs that aren’t padded with extraneous words? It isn’t easy – many of our clients have struggled with this.
In essence, what makes long blog posts stand out from a reader’s perspective is quality content that’s readable, well structured, and original. Let’s break these three elements down:
Most people think of things like grammar and style when they think of readability.
We’ll get to that kind of stuff in a moment, but we want to emphasize that readability isn’t just about avoiding run-on sentences and choosing a Flesch-Kincaid reading level. Instead, it includes making sure the information is relevant to the reader.
We’ve written quite a bit about buyer personas and the buyer’s journey. Both come into play here. You need to know the people you’re targeting with your blog posts, the questions they are trying to answer, and for what purpose. Are they just starting to look at how to resolve an issue, searching for specific information, or deciding between options? Knowing these answers will help you create content that addresses their questions.
Related Content: The Marketer’s Guide to Buyer Personas
Here are some other suggestions to improve readability:
- Create an outline that includes your main ideas and proof points. This helps you ensure the piece doesn’t meander aimlessly.
- Vary sentence structure (short sentences, compound sentences, clauses, etc.) to create a more pleasant rhythm.
- Vary paragraph length, instead of creating a wall of same-length paragraphs.
- If explaining complex ideas or introducing a lot of data points, use short paragraphs or bullet points to make them easier to visually digest.
- Read through your blog and make sure to delete all of the unnecessary words and sentences.
- Use transition words and phrases to connect paragraphs, so your writing flows smoothly from thought to thought.
- Use active voice as much as possible. If you’re not sure how to recognize passive voice, here’s a quick test: If you can add the words, “by squirrels” to the verb – e.g. “In July, the new legislation was introduced [by squirrels].” – then it’s probably a passive sentence and you should rewrite it.
A great way to structure your blog – and break up content into manageable, easy-to-read chunks – is to use headers. Headers and sub-headers are incredibly useful for several reasons:
- Headers give readers an idea of what to expect in your blog.
- They guide the reader to each subsequent concept or idea in your blog.
- They allow readers to skip to the exact content they want or need.
- They offer an opportunity for your reader to pause while staying engaged.
I should also point out that headers give your blog an advantage with searchability. Google loves headers, especially when they include keywords.
Being original is tricky. There is so much content available, making it almost impossible to choose an idea that hasn’t already been covered by another company, even a competitor.
So, don’t put too much pressure on yourself when it comes to creating new ideas. Instead, focus on your unique view of the same topic. There may be a different angle to talk about the topic, different people you could interview, or another way to approach the presentation of the idea. For example, if you’re writing a blog about workplace ergonomics, why not explore a fresh angle by talking about ergonomics for non-standard body types? Instead of rehashing the same ideas and the same voices, ask yourself whose story isn’t being told, or what elements aren’t being considered – and then start digging.
When are shorter blog posts better?
To be honest, I’ve written plenty of blogs under 2,000 words for clients that have shown up on the first page of Google, so short blog posts aren’t irredeemable SEO-killers. Just don’t use that as an excuse to write fluffy 300-word posts all the time and call it a day!
While posts between 75-300 words can be a great tool for conveying company news or generating discussions, the truth is they’re terrible for SEO. This is because Google considers blogs under 200 words to be “thin” content, which are pages that scammers can quickly publish at volume, and that are typically full of spammy links or keyword-stuffed content.
At the very least, if you’re going to write short blogs, try to hit at least the 300-word mark. A post between 400-600 words is widely considered the “standard” length, and it’s a good middle ground if you’re looking to get more social shares and comments. It’s not the best for SEO, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to achieve a first page ranking. I’ve seen plenty of 500-word blog posts rank high in Google search results. The key: They’re clear, engaging, and have something substantial to say.
Other factors to consider when determining blog post length
While I poked fun at the “It depends” folks in my introduction, they do have a point: The best length for a blog post does depend on a variety of factors. Some of these factors include:
What are you hoping to achieve with this blog post? Do you want more comments? Social media shares? Traffic from Google? The goals for your blog post ultimately determine how long a post will be.
For example, longer blog posts (approximately 2,500 words) tend to get more traffic from Google while posts that are around 600 to 1,250 words get more social media shares.
According to HubSpot, an ideal blog post for SEO should be 2,100 to 2,400 words with an average word count of 2,330. Even if your post has fewer words, you can still get good results with backlinking, alt-text, thoughtful keyword selection, and achieving topic authority.
For lead generation, HubSpot recommends at least 2,500 words with specific guidelines depending on the type of blog post:
- Pillar pages should be about 4,000 words.
- List blog posts – known as listicles – should be 1,700 and 2,100 words.
- How-to blog posts should be 2,300-2,600 words.
- Blog posts that answer a question, or “what is” blog posts, should be 1,300-1,700 words.
When you’re writing a blog, always keep your audience in mind. How much time does your target persona have available to read a blog post? Do they even enjoy reading long blog posts, or do they prefer something much shorter? A busy CEO reading a blog about a new industry development, for example, may not have time for much more than a 500-word piece that gives them the key takeaways. But they might make time for a 1,500-word blog that dives into original research and thought leadership.
Additionally, if you’re trying to solve a very specific problem and it’s an easy-to-answer question, you probably don’t need thousands of words of content. But if you’re trying to solve a complex problem and you have a ton of information to share (especially if it’s insider information or original research), you’ll want a longer post to address that question with real authority.
Maybe you have a more direct writing style and can do more with fewer words. Or you might be conversational and long-winded. Your writing style will naturally influence the length of a blog post.
More importantly, however, is your brand voice. Think about how you are presenting yourself and your company to potential customers. What does that voice sound like in terms of word choice and tone? Is your brand voice terse and businesslike? Or is it flowy and evocative? Whatever your brand voice is, your blogs should follow suit.
Just as important as your brand voice, is the voice of your customer. The best way to capture that is through market research. If you’ve done the work to create your buyer personas, you already have this information and can use it to craft your content in a way that speaks their language.
Infographics or videos in blog posts don’t add to word count, but they can enhance the written content you include by presenting it in a different way. Using carefully selected visual elements can work miracles when it comes to breaking up large walls of text, making even a 5,000-word pillar page an effortless pleasure to read.
There are only so many hours in the day, and a lot of tasks to complete. Your team may not have the time to write, edit, design, and publish three long-form blog posts every week. To solve this problem, you might mix things up, making every second or third blog long-form but the rest shorter. Or, you might decide to enlist the help of freelancers or a content marketing agency (hey, that’s us!) to help you meet your blogging goals.
Related Post: How to Create SMART Marketing Goals for Your Business
Finding your blog length sweet spot
It seems there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question “how long should blog posts be?”
But the upside is that you get to decide what works best for your business. Experiment with different blog post lengths, paying attention to performance and analytics for each to determine the length(s) that perform the best in accordance with your goals.
Remember: Not all blog posts have to be the same length. Some of your posts may be just 500 to700 words while others tip the scales at 1,500 words or more, and that’s perfectly okay. In fact, variety is a great way to keep your readers engaged and your content fresh.
So, it turns out, the answer to the question about how long a blog post should be really is simply “as long as it needs to be.”
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