A week or so ago, a client we have worked with in the past sent me a link to an article that he thought I’d find interesting. It revisits the conundrum I recently addressed in another #Strella blog post, How Long Should a Blog Post Be?—which, incidentally, was inspired by an inquiry from the same client. His response to me after I wrote that blog post was, “So the answer is that there is no answer.”
This client likes to play devil’s advocate and challenge me, which I appreciate because it’s always helpful to dig deeper and explore topics from multiple viewpoints. The blog post he recently brought to my attention shares study results that indicate longer posts (1,500 - 2,500 words minimum) secure better ranking in online searches, get more reader engagement, and generate a more favorable ROI.
But I’m not prepared to change my stance on the subject and jump to the conclusion that bigger will be better for most business blogs.
Below is an excerpt from my reply to my client after he had sent me the article:
Thanks for sending this my way. It seems the ideal content length ultimately depends on the goals—such as going viral, search or page rank. It’s interesting that 85% of blog posts are less than 1,000 words. That ties into what Mark Schaefer says about content saturation. (His book, The Content Code, is my content marketing Bible). Who would have thought of carving a niche based on the length of a post?
Much in the same way some are focused on the length of a post, many content marketers are fixated on headlines as a key to the success. They write headlines for similar goals such as SEO. Mark points out his own story in this book. He said the popularity of his top three posts had nothing to do with SEO. (Although, he did say they were longer than average posts)! Hmm...
Creating content that serves the audience and makes every word count is the way to earn respect and win customers.
Gaming the system by writing long posts for the sake of reaching an ideal word count might facilitate favorable search engine ranking, but readers will tune out if you don’t provide quality and value.
What good is having your content found if people don’t find it interesting or useful?
I think too many business owners believe there is (or should be) an end-all-be-all success formula for blogging. But it's not that simple. Blogging can't be distilled down into a set of calculated tactics that will deliver certain results. Instead, it has to be part of an overarching strategy that takes more into account than a specific word-count goal or headline optimization.
With the #Strella blog, the only “rule” I have followed is to make my posts interesting, relevant and real. And that has served me well.
I encourage business owners not to get hung up on making their posts voluminous simply because that’s what they think Google wants to see. Instead, focus on blogging in a holistic sense—as a platform for creating content that serves your audience’s needs, answers their questions, and builds trust.
Why add 500 or more words to a post when they’re not adding value? That's pointless, and it can ultimately harm your brand's credibility and professional reputation.
In fact, even the post that advocates longer articles shares that long-form content does a disservice to readers if it falls short on quality:
“...blowing up a topic that you can cover in 200 words to 2,000 won’t increase the value for your audience.”
“...you need the writing skills to sustain longer blog posts and make them valuable. Otherwise, they might scare off your audience rather than draw them in.”
“...write as much as necessary to bring your point across.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
The moral of the story: By all means crank out a 1,000+ word blog post if it will require that many words to satisfy your readers’ need for information. But never make volume a higher priority than value.
Rachel: Less is more! 😉
All the Best,
Great article Rachel. We blog articles related to high performance Human Resources topics. Our audience is very broad and includes college presidents, business owners, ministry directors, HR professionals, pastors, and non-profit executives.
Since it is such a broad audience each readers needs are a little different, so it takes some tweaking to make our material relevant to everyone. The good thing is most organizations experience the same people opportunities; the product or services may just differ.
We have found that it is best to keep the posts to about 600 words. If we are going to go over that amount we will often turn the concept into a series, and maybe have three posts in a row that are related.
We have also used pagination for articles that are really long, but needed to be because of the content. Pagination is great because it can keep people focused on one paragraph at a time, without overwhelming them to the length of the article.
Hey Mark! Thank you for chiming in. And thanks for the fun birthday note on my wall this week!
I love that you acknowledge that your content should have a broader appeal. Having more words does not make it more likely to attract all audiences.
GREAT idea on the pagination! And, if the content is great, they will keep scrolling through the paragraphs. Smart.
Thank you, again. Have a great weekend, Mark.