How Long (or Short) Is the Perfect Blog Post?
How do you know whether your blog post is long enough – or short enough, for that matter?
My friend Silviu Constantinescu of Net Market Success has recently written an interesting article challenging mainstream wisdom about how long a blog post should be - namely, that bloggers should restrict themselves to writing short articles not exceeding 500 words. It might amuse you to know Silviu came across this very advice in an article amounting to about 1200 words – the writer had obviously attended the “do as I do, not as I say” school of blogging.
Silviu consulted ace blogger Ana Hoffman, of Traffic Generation Cafe, for her views and advice, as he’d recently come across a 3000 word article on her site. Ana’s response included the comment, “I couldn’t write a 500 word post even if I tried”, and she said her traffic had increased when she started writing longer posts. Silviu has tracked this same effect on his own blog – a significant increase in traffic and comments when he’s increased the length of his posts.
This reminded me of one or two other articles I’ve read, suggesting that readers are more likely to share longer posts and that long content can have a positive impact on your site’s rankings.
So where does that leave the great Seth Godin, whose posts are never long enough to go below the fold?
Silviu reaches the conclusion that writing long articles is better than writing short ones, provided they have substance and quality.
But does this always hold true?
I write long posts myself – as I draft this, I’m conscious it’s creeping up to the 1000 word mark – but I’m wary of hard and fast guidelines and loathe to suggest that a long blog post is always better than a short one.
So – how long should YOUR next blog post be?
How much string, tape and packaging do you need to secure a parcel? Don’t be daft, I hear you say – it’s going to vary. It all depends what you’re wrapping up.
Quite right! And it’s just as unreasonable to ask what’s the perfect length for a blog post.
The words of your post are simply the containers that carry your message – the more bulky, weighty and complex your subject matter, the more words you’re going to need to hold it together.
But if you bury a tiny item in too much packaging, it’s going to be fiddly and time-consuming to unwrap. Write a thousand words on a subject you could have covered in 250, and your readers are likely to lose patience with you before they find your hidden gem. Who’s got time to read hundreds of words of padding?
Like Goldilocks’ porridge, you need to try to get it just right. And it will be different for every post you write.
Here are one or two brief tips to help keep you on the straight and narrow:
Your Blog Post’s Too Short If:
- Your readers get less than they bargained for. For example, your headline promised 101 tips and you only gave us 99.
- You leave people scratching their heads, confused and frustrated because you haven’t given them enough information.
- You know you could have added some more useful tips or references, but you just couldn’t be bothered – you’d heard 500 words was enough, so you thought you’d leave it there.
Your Blog Post’s Too Long If:
- It’s longer than you promised. For example, if your headline promised 5 quick tips and you’ve give us 5 lengthy, complicated bits of advice – or maybe squeezed in two or three more for good measure.
- You haven’t bothered to edit it before you click “publish”. Some of your first draft should almost certainly end up on the cutting room floor. Stephen King, in his great book “On Writing” (affiliate link), says he has a formula he keeps by his typewriter:
If you’re writing a piece on a complex issue and you get through it in 400 words, ask yourself if you’ve really done it justice.
On the other hand, if you’re covering a simple, uncomplicated topic and find yourself rabbiting on for over 1000 words, have a think about whether all those words are really necessary.
You’re never going to please all of your readers all of the time. If you produce a fantastic 2000 word blog post, some people will hate it on principle, because they’re not prepared to spend time reading long content.
I recently came across a telling comment on one of Greg Ciotti’s wonderful posts – the person commenting said they were “put off reading it because the posts are always so long. Is there any way you can break them up into series and post more regularly, rather than post lengthy pieces less frequently?” Sad – or what?
One of the problems with the suggestion that 500 words will do, is that it’s helped create a generation of bloggers who think that’s as much as they should ever have to read – or write.
Joel Friedlander of The Book Designer has also written an interesting article on blog post length. He cites three popular bloggers, who have written posts varying in length from as little as 25 to over 7000 words, and concludes with these highly tweetable words of wisdom:
I think I’ll leave you with that inspiring thought – and, as usual, a question:
How long’s your next blog post going to be – and why?
If you’ve made it this far (I’m aware I’m now over 900 words, so I might have lost some of you) and have any views you’d like to share, please join in the conversation by leaving a comment below.
And if you’ve enjoyed this post, it would be lovely if you could share it with others who might like it.
Filed under: Blogging Tips
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