Are you wondering if there is an ideal blog post length for businesses?
Spoiler alert: there isn’t one.
But that doesn’t mean that the length of a blog post doesn’t matter. Short blog posts often mean that content is thin, which is one of the main things we check for in a content audit.
So how do you figure out the ideal word count for your blog posts? Allow us to help you understand how it all works.
If you’d prefer to listen to the rest of this article, please use the player below.
Blogging Back in Time
There is no single, clear, definitive answer to the question we’re trying to answer here. If there was a suitable length for all posts, everyone would be using it.
To use a well-worn phrase, a blog should be as long as it needs to be. We don’t ask how long the ideal novel is, or the ideal poem.
The perspective of time is always helpful.
Back when the internet was young, freedom was the watchword. Based on the egalitarian principles of its inventor, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the whole point of the World Wide Web was to allow the free dissemination of information and data, with open access to all.
In this kind of climate, it made sense that the internet should also offer a platform for people to self-publish. Blogging started out as a form of online diary writing.
In 1999, nobody asked about the perfect blog length. You wrote as much or as little as you wanted or needed to.
Enter Business Blogging
It didn’t take too long for the world’s corporations and enterprises to catch on to the popularity of blogging. Business blogging started out largely as a PR exercise and a way for businesses to present a friendly face to the world.
Then, as the dot.com boom took hold on the back of social media, bloggers began to realise they could make money. And businesses quickly realised that content was bringing traffic.
Then Google decided that it would start ranking websites in part based on how ‘fresh’ the content was. This caused a seismic shift. Suddenly, businesses had to start blogging a lot more frequently. Running a blog quickly became a cornerstone strategy of pretty much every school of marketing known to humankind.
Ideal Blog Post Length and SEO
Will the length of a blog significantly influence whether people click through to your page, read what is there, and then click through somewhere else on your site? Probably not.
You can publish a 500-word blog or a 5,000-word blog and people will read both if they’re presented the right way.
But the danger here is thin content.
It is now widely accepted that the amount of content on a page is one of the determining factors used by Google and other search engine algorithms to rank search results.
To explain why, I refer you to marketing guru Neil Patel.
When it comes to SEO as well as grabbing and holding the attention of an audience, the written word is the best tool at your disposal.
And, yes, word count is a factor too. Out of HubSpot’s top 50 ranking blog posts, the average word count was 2,330.
Now we’re getting somewhere.
Search Engines Reward Longer Content – But Not Too Long
Neil Patel refers us to a SERPIQ study when making the case that, from an SEO perspective at least, longer blog posts work better. In fact, the study goes a step further than that. It actually tells us what the best ballpark word count is to hit the top spots in SERPs.
The researchers counted the number of words on the pages that make the top 10 SERP spots for dozens of different Google searches, and then took an average. The results are pretty clear:
- From search position two down, the average number of words declines steadily
- In straightforward probability terms, pages with more written content are more likely to hit the top two positions in search rankings.
The average amount of content per page in ranking positions one and two is just over 2,450 words. In position 10, that average is just over 2,000 words.
There are a few solid SEO reasons which explain why search algorithms seem to prefer more text. Again, Neil Patel’s analysis of this topic is solid. Here are the mean reasons:
- Indexing is quantitative. Search engines gather up and analyse all of the different types of content you have. The more ‘stuff’ there is, the more goes into the index. Think of it like spreading your bets – the more you have in the index, the higher your chances of winning out.
- The longer a piece you write is, the more chance you have of hitting all of the different keyword search terms and phrases for your topic. This is a matter of good quality writing as much as it is SEO. Journalists are often trained to think of several ways to say the same thing. This is a good tactic. Because for any given keyword phrase, there are bound to be at least a dozen alternatives. In a short piece, you may only have the opportunity to use three or four of them. In a longer article, you might end up having to use them all, just to avoid repeating that first one. There, in a completely natural way, you have nailed your keywords and varied them at the same time.
- Search algorithms use natural language analysis approaches like latent semantic indexing (LSI) which, to give a very simplistic definition, assesses how well the content on a page explains or expands on the topic in the title and the meta description. It basically boils down to quality control; Google bots are looking for content that is thorough, relevant and informative. In many cases, longer content seems to perform better on these scores because it matches search intent.
None of this tells us how long a blog post could be, but it’s a strong indicator that longer is better.
So Is 2,500 Words the Ideal Blog Post Length?
The SERPIQ study and the HubSpot blog both suggest that there’s a point where Google starts to favour longer blogs.
But there are a few caveats to throw in:
- The SERPIQ study is for all types of web page that appear in rankings, not just blogs.
- Its measurements are averages. The problem with the mean is that it can quickly become distorted by a few massive pages.
- Even down at page rank 10, the average was still around 2,000 words. This suggests there was probably a large range from the smallest to the largest word count in that position too.
- Given that this is all averaged out, it is hard to say that 2,500 words is the ideal blog post length. It just happens to be in the middle. Rather than be so precise about word count, all you can really conclude is that longer performs better.
It would be perfectly possible to write gigantic blog posts that never rank because length is just one part of a much more complicated equation.
Are Short Blog Posts Ever Worth Publishing?
Some of you may have been reading this with a puzzled look on your face for past few paragraphs. Some may even be shaking their head in disbelief.
Wait a minute; all the advice I’ve ever been given is that shorter content works better on-screen.
This is true. It is extremely common to hear that the ideal length for a blog or any other kind of web article is 400-600 words. In fact, so common is this thinking that the 500 word blog has almost become the default.
Where does this cult of the 500 word blog come from? Are there reasons even more pressing than SEO which make shorter blogs best?
Blogs Should Be Easy to Scan
Pretty much everyone agrees that blogs have to be at least 300 words to get a reasonable amount of detail in. Otherwise, you’re in thin content territory.
So the trend for short blogs could be based on an assumption of exceeding that minimum, but without ‘overspending’ on any one post.
Other valid arguments made in favour of shorter blog posts include:
- Readers’ preferences
- How people physically read from a screen compared to paper
- The time a visitor will actually invest in reading something
- Tests on the way we scan screens, rather than reading them
- The role of the marketing industry — in particular, the press release.
Should we blame journalists for this 500-word convention?
Before working in PR, I trained and worked as a consultant. So I happen to know that the standard length of a page lead news story is 500 words.
I also know that, as a PR professional, you write most of your press releases to 500 words because it increases the chances of the release being used.
These two things are obviously connected.
Blogs Should Be Affordable for Microbusinesses
The final possible explanation for a trend towards short content centres around budget and resources. For many people, writing 2,000 words is daunting. There is the issue of the time it takes to research and draft, and then the skill it takes to make such a long post readable and engaging.
No small business can be expected to publish multiple 2,000-word blog posts each week unless they have a marketing budget geared up almost entirely for content marketing.
Users Need Time to Actually Read This Stuff
SEO might be important, but readers are too. Do we all really read lost of 2,000-word blog posts every day?
The speed at which people read obviously varies from individual to individual, but most sources I found in a Bing search seemed to agree that the average adult reads at around 300 words per minute. So that means that a 2,500 word post would take 10 minutes of your time.
According to Buffer’s infographic on the optimal length of everything from Twitter posts to YouTube videos, the ideal length of time to keep someone reading your blog post is seven minutes.
Longer articles cannot attract the most social shares if people avoid reading them because they are too busy. Referencing research from Pocket which found longer blog posts were more popular with readers than shorter, Julie Neidlinger makes the point that, when something grabs our attention, our attention spans are as long as they need to be.
And if time is a factor, the solution surely should be to find ways to help people consume longer content more flexibly, with page markers and easy download options, rather than resorting to shorter content for fear of scaring them off.
Blog Post Length Isn’t Everything
Whatever you want to achieve with your blogging, you cannot do it by looking at word count alone.
But if you want a ball park figure to aim for, we’re a bit closer to knowing the real answer.
Neil Patel does us one last service in his excellent exploration of this topic by listing all of the other factors that you need to consider when writing a blog. They are, to paraphrase Neil briefly, as follows:
- Substance. Have you got something worth blogging about?
- Frequency. How often do you post?
- Format. Does the layout of your blog, however long, support readability and allow people to scan quickly for information?
- Purpose. What exactly do you want to achieve through blogging?
- Audience. Do you know who you’re writing for?
- Medium. Choosing a different medium can take word count out of the equation completely.
To these, I might add two more: style and tone. Some audiences will be won over by humour, whereas others will respect a more authoritative style. Likewise, some topics will lend yourself to be more playful in your tone, whereas others need to be treated more soberly, and perhaps with sensitivity.
Style and tone may also vary depending on the purpose of your article – defending a strongly held position in a comment piece may require a strong voice, while an advice piece usually works best with a more conversational tone.
All of this is just as important as how many words are on the screen.
If in Doubt, Quality Wins Out
Whatever your purpose, quality content is the key factor.
From choice of topic to content to manipulation of style and tone for your audience, and from the length of what you write to how you present it on the screen, quality depends on weighing up all factors and creating the best possible amalgamation.
If your posts are good, people will take the time to read them. But you may need to write longer posts to elevate the quality to that degree.
Do you need help creating some truly epic blog posts? Take a look at our blog packages. You could publish a post like this each week without lifting a finger.