The Long and the Short About Blogpost Length

It's interesting: when it comes to the length of blogposts, it seems nearly everybody has their own gospel about it.

In just the last month, I've heard a wide variety of opinions about rightsizing blogposts. "Not too short, not too long...here's the length that's juuuuuuust right!"

After some of these conversations I find that I, like Goldilocks, have to go take a nap.

Does length really matter?

Michael ScottAfter I wrote the headline above, I realized it sounded like it was plucked straight from the Michael Scott Book of Workplace Witticisms.

Sorry about that.

But the question still holds.

So what's the, uh, short answer?

Yes, length matters. Depending on what you're trying to accomplish, of course.

It turns out that the so-called optimum length for a blogpost has changed. What was once the "sweet spot" isn't the right solution anymore, especially if you've got SEO as a top priority.

Here's a list, based on my own experience and recent research, that shows how the length of a blogpost affects the types of audience engagement it creates:

  • 50-300 words: Short, sweet, and to the point -- but you can't tell much of a brand story, and they don't get much social sharing. What they do seem to get are a lot of comments, so use them to advance provocative discussion topics that drive conversations.
  • 300-450 words: I've had clients and colleagues swear by this as the gold standard in finding a balance between "snackable" and "informative." At this length, you'll see decent shares and comments, but can you really drill down and offer value (and get good SEO rankings)?  Not really, but I recommend clients -- especially in B2B -- mix this length of post in with longer pieces over the course of a month's calendar. 
  • 450-700 words: Once upon a time, this was considered the "sweet spot" for post length, too. You can tell a deeper story and get more shares and backlinks, and it's a feature-story length people are conditioned to reading from magazines and newspapers. But this is also the point where you've got to make sure you're adding value, not padding. Even the best topic can begin to seem dragged-out if it's stretched too far, and the blogpost doesn't feature insights, fresh spins and extra value that reward the reader.
  • 1,000-2,000 words: In B2B, this is the length where you're really able to beginning providing usefulness for the audience by getting into the kind of detail about issues and solutions that they value. You may not get as many comments as you will with the lengths above, but your social sharing will rise notably within those segments you're trying to target -- if, I have to stress, the content is really, really good and worth reading and sharing the first place.
  • 2,000+ words: Does this seem too long?  Not as far as SEO is concerned: When SerpIQ studied the top-ranking domains on Google a few years ago, every one of their top 10 results had 2000+ words of content, with the top two coming in at over 2,400. But length alone obviously isn't the answer. The topic needs to be popular enough to drive searches, and the content good enough to rank as being valued by your audience.  Just recently, other research has ratified this -- the longer and better-researched the piece, the higher it'll rank. So going above the 2,000 mark (even to using the 2,500 mark as your target) is the new benchmark for a post that pays off in terms of SEO, brand awareness and "thought leadership" positioning.

Blogpost Length GraphWhat's driving the love of longer lengths?

There are various reasons why longer blogposts are grabbing the interest of audiences, especially if you're in B2B. But they hold for some B2C and healthcare, too:

  • Mobile consumption: Tablets and smartphones make it easy to consume content anywhere, so it's easier to read a long piece when you're not strapped to a desktop during working hours. Yes, there's been an explosion of short-format content driven by mobile, but that hasn't necessarily been at the expense of long-format content.
  • Content is a precondition for purchase: More and more purchasers in B2B do research about companies and products on the web before making a buying decision or putting a vendor on their short list. So the the quality of your content -- including well-written, well-researched, value-stocked blogposts -- is one of the nice, shiny reassurances that gets them to engage.
  • Competitive pressure: At the top of the quality ladder, content is getting better...and to keep up with the best in their segment, smart content marketers need to ratchet up their game. So as the posts get better, the rankings rise, the R.O.I. becomes evident, and more content gets longer...and, hopefully, more valuable.
  • Better design: The better-designed the content, the more appealing it is to the content consumer. It doesn't matter how staid and convention-bound the segment is: there's no reason to not have content that's dynamic and arresting for the reader.  So as content become better-crafted for mobile browsers and intuitive interfaces, length isn't an obstacle to success. 

Go long or go home?

Nope. It's a matter of who you're targeting and what they're really looking for. As it should always be.

So, do your due diligence in researching your audience, drafting accurate inbound marketing personas, evaluating keywords and using tools like this to see which of your competitor's posts are being shared on publication sites.

That way, you'll be able to decide what content length, or mix of alternating lengths, helps you extract the best results when it comes to capturing eyeballs and building your brand.

Even a Michael Scott should be on board with that.

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