If you’re a blogger and you’re serious about your craft, you no doubt spend at least some of your time pondering how to compose that perfect post. And assuming that you’ve developed a suitable answer to that most basic query—What should I write about? —then you’ve probably moved on to trying to answer some other key questions. These may include the following: How should my blog look on the page? Who’s the blog for? What’s the ideal length for a blog post?
It’s that last bit of soul-searching that we’d like to focus on right now. Model blog post length. You’ll never be alone in trying to seek an answer to the question of how long a blog post should be. In fact, everywhere online you’ll find the Knights of the SEO Round Table off on that never-ending quest for this Holy Grail. The search for this ideal piece of writing is not exactly like the pursuit of that famed chalice of yesteryear. But still, wouldn’t you love for the “ultimate” blog to give your business eternal life? And if you could just land on the formula for that perfect post, you think, you’d finally know infinite abundance in the form of unrivaled website traffic.
Perhaps it’s best to save the Arthurian Romances for another day. Let’s bring this discussion back to the 21st century. Does a perfect blog post length actually exist?
Laying a good foundation for your post
Before we can begin to tackle the question of blog post length, we have to address some blog post basics.
- What’s the point? Sorry if this seems too basic or sounds, perhaps, too existential. But before you can rightly know how long your blog post should be, you need to land on what it’s going to be about. Are you blogging about hot topics in your industry to raise your company’s profile? Would you like to use your blogging platform to transform a hobby into a business? Are you, personally, striving to become an online influencer? You could have several, overlapping reasons for taking to the blogosphere. The only wrong answer is no answer at all.
- Who’s it for? Next, you need to figure out your blog’s primary audience. To a certain extent, this will be linked to your subject matter, and you should always be writing primarily for readers, not search engines. Are you hoping to have a lot of direct engagement with your potential audience in the form of comments on your blog? Will you benefit the most from having people share your blog insights on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or some other social media platform? Or, do you want to win Google’s heart through SEO? Whether it’s comments, shares, or rankings you’re after, you may want to adjust the length of your blog post accordingly. (More on that below.)
- Quality is job 1: Regardless of subject matter and readership, you need to make sure that your writing is good. The rules that we all learned back in fifth grade haven’t gone out the window. Don’t confuse “your” and “you’re” or “to,” “too,” and “two.” Be mindful of run-on sentences that meander forever. And remember that passive voice is to be avoided. Were you paying attention just now? Let’s try that again: Don’t use the passive voice, especially when making a call to action.
- Keep it lively and engaging: It’s not enough to simply consider the mechanics of your writing. You also need to make your blog posts enjoyable to read. After all, who’s going to add a positive comment to writing that’s boring or incomprehensible? Write for people, even if SEO compels you to think that Google is actually your primary audience. Search engine algorithms are sophisticated enough these days to differentiate good writing from bad. Think of your blog post as a chance for you to have a direct conversation with your readership and you’ll stay ahead of the curve.
And now let’s move on to blog post length
So, now that some of the groundwork is out of the way, let’s get to why you’re really here: blog post length.
Sorry if this is slightly unsatisfying, but there is no simple, straightforward answer.
There are, however, guidelines, based on what you want the primary function of your blog post to be. In general, longer content is better than shorter content, but don’t sacrifice quality in order to achieve length. If you can say what you need to say in fewer words, do that if you believe that people will still want to read it.
Here’s a detailed numerical breakdown showing the word count range you should strive for based upon the result you’ll most want your blog to generate:
- Comments: An effective blog is a conversational blog. Write as though you’re speaking directly to an audience, make your argument easy to absorb and digest, and you’re much more likely to gain engaged readers. If your goal is to elicit very direct and visible responses from them, then a shorter blog post—meaning under 1,000 words—might be the best way to do this. After all, if it’s short, then it’s more likely that busy people will read it all the way through and want to say something back. Blog posts this short are not the best when it comes to SEO, but if that’s not your main purpose in writing, and your audience will like it, then it’s fine.
- Shares: If you’re writing a blog post hoping to get readers to share it on social media, you’ll probably have to make it longer. Medium-length pieces—at least 600 words, but preferably beyond 1,000 words—are the ones that are best equipped to give you that result. At that length, readers may do some skimming, and not linger over every word, but they will usually be able to come away from the post with enough confidence to know whether or not they want to tweet it on to their followers.
- Rankings: If SEO is your driving force as a blogger, then you’re going to want to make sure that your posts are even longer. Ideally, according to recent data, your posts should be around 2,500 words long if you really want them to rank high. Google views longer posts as being more authoritative. This is consistent with the idea that lots of content is going to cover lots of territory. And the more you write, the more you have a chance to get those keywords out there into the blogosphere. (We don’t think, in 2019, that we have to point out the difference between keyword stuffing and incorporating keywords into a well-written blog post, do we? Good.)
Above all else, your blog should serve its purpose
Most of all, remember that you should write your blog posts to be read by people. A blog post should inform, illuminate, or inspire. And it should be as long as it needs to be in order to do just that. Plus, any rule that experts might sell as “universal” today simply won’t be set in stone. After Google performs another major overhaul on its search algorithm, all of us will have to reassess what we know about SEO once again. Content will have to keep up.
If your post sets out to answer a particular question, and you can do that in 300 words, then that’s fine. This is especially true if there’s not going to be that much competition to answer a particular query, whether because the answer is fairly straightforward or because the field is quite specialized. The scope of responses to the question, “What’s the difference between a bowline knot and a running bowline knot?” is going to be quite different compared to what’s given in response to the query, “What are the biggest SEO trends of 2019?”
There’s more to think about when composing a blog post beyond just the word count. Keep not just the composition of your audience in mind as you write, but also what you hope they will do in response to your words. Above all, in blogging, as in life, you should always do your best work.