What Really Is The Best Blog Post Length?
I generally write about 2,000-word blog posts. Sometimes almost 3,000. Should you do the same?
The question of how long your blog posts should be is one that popped up in a recent #CoChat and it’s also one being tossed around on marketing blogs for a while now.
A6. I wish I'd known that the actual readers can care less about word count. Just use however many words it takes to make your point #cochat
— Mention (@Mention) June 4, 2015
Debate: Long Blog Posts vs. Short Blog Posts
If you’re looking for a magical word count that promises a specific return, you’re going to be very disappointed. In the debate between long blog posts and short blog posts, no such precision exists. Oh, there’s a lot of data to be sure, but is it conclusive?
Search Engines Like Long Articles
The discovery that longer blog posts received more backlinks and fared better in search results led to a logical assumption: Blog posts should be long if you want to fare well on search engines.
Except there really hasn’t been any solid no-argument proof that this returns a “true” every time. Neil Patel, who is definitely no slouch on data and SEO, agrees.
As Neil says, “There is no single, standard length threshold that shows a consistent and conclusive correlation with better ranking, higher ratings, more shares, longer dwell time, lower bounce rates, etc.”
Check out your own site. Which pages are the most popular as far as search traffic? Can you say definitively that it was word count that did it? Look at random search returns. Look at social shares. Is it the quality or the quantity that pushed them to the top?
Sometimes longer content attracts writers who write with better quality because they aren’t looking to churn out content like a factory, putting in research and time. Is it the word count or the quality that did them the SEO favor?
Only Search Engines Like Long Articles
“Only search engines like long articles” is not a true statement.
As it turns out, people like to read long articles, according to Pocket.
Well, some people do. Some still don’t.
People will read what is interesting and what they want to learn. It may happen to be 2,000 words, or it might be 800. Our attention span is never dead when it has to do with something we are truly curious about or that feeds our inner ego. Outside of that realm, people will skim and skip.
When reading data and studies that prove people do or don’t read, I approach them with both interest and skepticism. Think about your own reading behavior. Sometimes you read every word, sometimes you skim, sometimes you skip. What drives you to behave this way?
Your reading behavior is never all-the-time consistent, but is based on factors such as how much time you have, your emotional state on the day, interest levels, and if you’re killing time.
What struck me most about what Pocket’s research revealed was the small paragraph at the end (emphasis added is mine):
With all the talk about virality, listicles, and clickbait, it’s easy to believe empty-calorie content is what succeeds and gets read on the web. But in reality — similar to what we’re seeing on television today — when you give people the power to save and view content later, what gets saved and read is actually longer, deeper and more complex than common convention.
Remember, Pocket is an app built on the idea that we often find content that we’re too busy to read now but want to save for later. They are aware of the problem of time, building their app around it, knowing that we might read more if we could access it in a different setting some other time of the day.
Whatever the case, if you wrote some good stuff and it’s long, there’s a good chance that someone will read it, even if not everyone will read it.
The Seth Godin Approach
Seth Godin writes short blog posts. But not always. But often.
When I looked at his blog on June 25, 2015, I did a word count of the blog posts on the main blog page. It looked like this:
Should I take an average? Should I look for a pattern? Should I find something to learn from Godin’s blogging approach?
I don’t know Godin’s traffic data, so I can’t tell you which blog post length is the most successful. But Godin, when it comes to word counts, consistently writes however he wants to write. It’s been working out pretty well for him.
Godin’s posts tend to be more philosophical, meant to prod you into thinking. They aren’t generally a 10-step how-to post needing lots of detail. So if you need some kind of takeaway from this, then let it be the idea that the type of blog post you’re writing will play into how long it is going to be.
A poignant punch can happen in a few words. No sense haranguing the point if you can get it done in 27 words.
My Conclusion: The Best Blog Post Length Is One That’s Finished
As a blogger, it gets a bit frustrating to see data and stats seemingly back up both sides of a debate. It’s, uh, even more frustrating when I find myself adding to the white noise, suggesting people aren’t reading even while we’ve also published blog posts that suggests long-form content is the best approach.
The way I sift through the hiss and pop of that noise is by asking myself two questions:
- Who provided the data? Does the blog that data comes from relate to my blog? Is it in the same niche? Do I have that same audience? Do I have the same goals for my content?
- What’s my reality? What can I actually write of good quality, as far as blog post length is concerned?
Do a word count on my posts here on the CoSchedule blog. Some get pretty long. Maybe I was an SEO genius. Maybe I was long-winded. Maybe I had a lot to say. Maybe I didn’t have much to say but fumbled around trying to find it. Maybe I was told to hit a specific word count. You can probably identify with these.
Your goal as a blogger is to populate the world with useful information, not with massive amounts of words.
In other words, write until you’re finished. No more than that.
Your Conclusion: ________
Look at the truths listed in this post. Are any particularly shocking? Are any exclusive while being conclusive?
Not really. There is a general sense that sometimes this “longer is better” data applies but sometimes it doesn’t, that sometimes this is the approach that wins but that sometimes the other one also wins. Even Neil Patel has the same to say, suggesting that you don’t have to write 2,000 word blog posts a few years after suggesting that you really ought to consider writing longer blog posts.
There is data and reason for every approach.
What do you think? Debate it in the comments section and let us know what you’ve found in your own data, how you read, and what has worked for you.
This post, by the way, had a word count of 1,412. It’s not one for the record books. It doesn’t have to be.