The ideal length for a blog post is one of the most common questions from companies starting corporate blogs. How long is the average blog post? Or put more technically, how many words should an article contain? There is no right answer to this question. Both long and short posts may deliver the desired results, so the ideal length depends on what you are setting out to achieve.
The debate on long versus short texts is topical not only on the Internet, but also in print media. The Journal of Brief Ideas is a case in point: a trade journal—normally the place to go for long articles—that limits scientists to contributions of a maximum of 200 words.
“Scientists often spend months writing just one research article,” chief editor David Harris noted on Nature.com, the website of another science journal. “While they actually have a lot of other good ideas that they don’t have the chance to address. The aim is to get these out into the open.”
At the other end of the spectrum, the newspaper De Standaard recently published a new initiative: The Correspondents. Seven journalists are given the opportunity to examine an issue in depth and this results in long-form articles (often three newspaper pages). These articles also appear online (for subscribers), and the editors don’t condense them for the digital version. (227 words)
Long blog posts can be useful
De Standaard is a newspaper brand and not a corporate blog seeking to distribute content. But if a newspaper is convinced that high-quality pieces will persuade the target audience to consume every detail, then this is relevant to companies that invest in quality content.
An initial answer to the question of how long a blog post should be, therefore, is that long pieces—long meaning 1,000 words or more—are okay. If this is offline, 1,000 words in a magazine represents roughly two A4 pages. This isn’t a major reading challenge if one is reclining on the sofa, but it may be on the screen. Unless, that is, the quality is good and you know that Google rates it highly.
On Forbes.com, John Rampton explains how this works. “Googlebot looks at every piece of content on a page, such as words, titles and whatever other information you’ve shared. So, when you have a post that has maybe 1,500 words you have more flexibility with keywords, meaning that you’re not limited to one or two specific keywords. Instead, you can include a lot more of keywords that may not be specific, but are still relevant to your theme. This works because Google doesn’t only provide exact results, but results that are related to the subject.” (449 words)
Short blog posts are good too
So Google likes long blog posts, but that doesn’t mean that short blog posts are bad. Authors such as Seth Godin have made their name with short, powerful pieces. So, quality aside, there’s a good chance that people will read the entire post time and again.
With short-form writing, you can create expectation through both regular publication and the format of your post. For example, readers return time and time again for Seth Godin’s ‘riff’ on things.
This approach can also be complementary to a good CTA (Call To Action) policy. Ideas that you introduce in a short and punchy post can be elaborated on in another place (an ebook, a webinar, etc.) in exchange for personal details from the interested reader, for example. (581 words)
The perfect length for a blog post doesn’t exist
Size doesn’t matter? In fact, it does. Although both long and short blog posts can be justified, the content dictates which would be the better form, so the wrong choice is possible. If your objective is findability, then long-form posts are better (generally 800 to 1,000 words). If you’ve already been found and prefer to link to leads, then you’re better off writing shorter blog posts (around 500 words). There’s also nothing wrong with falling somewhere between the two.
But in the end, there’s no point in producing the perfectly judged length of blog post if the other important elements aren’t there: a consistent writing style, good frequency of posting, the use of tags and meta descriptions, a coherent structure and the use of illustrations (images, video, infographics).