How Long Should My Blog Post Be? Long-Form Content vs. Short-Form Content
posted January 30th 2019, 5:25 pm by Nicole Nelson
Back in 2017, I wrote a post about long-form convent vs. short-form content. To save you the trouble of reading it (though you're more than welcome to!), here's the summary: blog posts have value whether they're long or short, and the most important thing is to keep writing. While I still stand by that blog post, I'd like to add more detail to it. After all, a whole two years have passed, and the way people read on the internet has changed. Today, we'll walk you through the value of long-form content vs. short-form content and give you specific examples of the benefits of each.
How Long Should My Blog Post Be? Long-Form Content vs. Short-Form Content
Let's establish a baseline first, shall we? When we're talking about long-form content, we are referring to content that is over 1,550 words (yes, that's a very specific number. You'll learn why a little further down.). When we say "short-form content," we're talking about content that is at least 300 words, but isn't in the 1,000 word region. Why 300 words and not 100 or 200? The answer to that is easy: because Google says so. Seriously. 300 words is the minimum number of words that Google says should be on a page for that page to be considered "high quality" and for it to be indexed and ranked. So, if you'd like the page to be found on Google, it should have at least 300 words.
A page must have at least 300 words in order for it to show up on Google, but posts that are 1,000+ words consistently rank better on search engine results pages. Test it out: search something on Google. I can almost guarantee that the top results have well over 1,000. In fact, as an article on Forbes states, "According to some incredibly detailed research from serpIQ, the top 10 results from Google all have a minimum of at least 2,000." The reason makes sense when you think about it - the more content, the more chance to work in keywords. The more keywords that are within a post, the more likely it is that the post will show up, since there's a number of search queries that would qualify the post. Additionally, longer posts are more likely to have more backlinks to it, since there's inherently more content for a person to link to. Backlinks are a major SEO ranking factor, so it's natural that these long posts would have strong rankings on Google.
All this information is to prove to you one thing: long-form content is great for SEO impact. But there's an additional, benefit, too. Forbes: "Another perk of longer blog posts is the coveted 'shareability' issue. It has been found that posts which contain more than 1,500 words gained 68.1% more tweets and 22.6% more Facebook likes." So then, there's two benefits to writing long blog posts - SEO value and share value.
On the flip side is short-form content. There's four main benefits of short-form content: 1) It's easier for you to write. 2) It's easier for your readers to read. 3.) Because it's easier to write, you'll have more blog posts, increasing the depth on content on your site. 4.) Short-form content is more effective in convincing readers to take the "next step" and complete a CTA.
It's hard to find time in the day to write a 1,000 (or 1,550!)-word post. I can speak from experience on this! It's much easier to write something that's 6 or 700 words. Thus, it's much easier to be consistent with one's blogging when planning for 700-ish words vs. 1,500-ish words. Is it better to blog two times a week with shorter blogs? Or is it better to blog infrequently, but to do so with long-form posts when one has the time and inclination? To steal a line from my grandad, it's a horse a piece.
Here's another benefit of short-form content: you don't need to be an especially strong writer to accomplish it. One of the biggest drawbacks of long-form content is that you need a very strong and engaging writer to keep the reader interested throughout the entirety of the article. Some try to make do with long but weak articles, but there's really no point to those: the SEO value goes way down when Google sees that the majority of readers abandon ship. As Socrates said, “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.” If you know that you're not a strong writer, don't aim for the long-form posts. Use short-form content to your advantage instead.
Last comment: if you'd like to incorporate long-form content into your blog, but lack the time or inclination or skill, consider using a freelancer to ghost write for you. Or, you can reach out to us! Learn more about the marketing services we provide here.
Quick Facts of Long-Form and Short-Form Content
Let's summarize. Long-form content is
- Great for SEO impact
- More likely to be shared on social
- Keeps viewers on your site for longer amounts of time
but is also
- Harder to write, both in terms of time and skill
Short-form content is
- Easier to write, both in terms of time and skill
- More likely to be followed by an action on the site
- Contributes to depth of site
- Is easier for the site visitor to read
but is also
- Harder for search engine robots to understand the content and context of the blog post
- More likely to be "shallow" content
As you can see, there's pros and cons to each type of writing. With all this in mind, which length should you gravitate toward? The answer depends on a variety of situations.
When to Write Long-Form Content and When to Write Short-Form Content
Assume that the world is your oyster. You have the time, inclination and skill to write both long-form and short-form content. If that's the case for you, you should write for your goals. What do you want your reader to do after reading your blog post? Follow the guide below to figure out which length is best for the goal you have in mind.
If your goal is comments on your blog post
Write very short content. Even 75 words would work here. Your goal is to generate discussion, so you don't need a lot of words to get that going. Aim for around 75-300 words.
If your goal is social shares
Write long-form content, but not the longest form. Research has found that most readers like a 7-minute read, which equates to about 1,600 words. When you write between 1,000 and 1,500 words, you're more likely to get social shares on the piece.
If your goal is to rank #1 on Google
Write very long form content. Shoot for 2,450 words and up. The top-ranking articles on Google are nearly always around 2,450 words. Before you dive headlong into writing and revising, remember the caveats from before: write skillfully on a topic that people are interested in.
Other Factors to Bear in Mind
Of course, the formula above isn't the only factor to bear in mind when choosing a length for your next blog post. You should be cognizant of the topic of your blog post, the audience of your blog and the medium in which you'll present the content.
What are you writing about? Is it a how-to tutorial or more of an educational think piece? If the topic that you're writing on doesn't need 2,000 words, don't write 2,000 words. Example:
Topic: How to Deep-Clean Your Kitchen's Dishwasher
There's only so much you can say about cleaning your dishwasher (I think, anyway...). This topic probably doesn't need 1,500 words to adequately cover the subject, and to write more than is needed is to belabor the point.
Who's your audience for most of your blog posts? Do they like reading long-form content or short-form? Dive into your Google Analytics, look at the top-visited blog posts, look at the average length of user visits and extrapolate from there. If your audience craves long-form content, give it to them! In the same vein, write on the topics that matter and are interesting to your audience and then see above for choosing the correct length for the topic.
Will you be including a video with your blog post? Will you add in an infographic or chart of some kind? If so, your total word count won't matter as much. The bulk of the value of the post will come from the video or graphs that you've included in it. If you don't have any video or other media to include with your post, plan to write more words to appropriately cover the subject.
Okay, but really...How long should my blog post be?
Kidding! There's no right answer, and if you're still asking, then I just caught you skimming my blog post (caught in the act!). Keep the tips above in mind and write for your audience, your topic, your time and your skill level. The answer will be different from week to week.