Ideal blog post length [2020]

What is the ideal blog post length? This question is often asked by people for all the wrong reasons. It’s usually asked in the context of SEO, or more specifically in the context of ranking a blog post on the first page of the Google search results.

If this is the reason why you are asking this question, we will cover that too. But first let me say that your focus is most likely wrong. Unless you focus first, and foremost, on your visitors then this is really a wrong question to ask.

Why?

Any philosophical discussions aside, there is one very fundamental reason why you should always focus on your readers first: they are the lifeblood of your online business.

If you treat them well and give them the information they came looking for and then some (perhaps cover some related questions or even issues they were not even aware of), they will see the value your site provides and are more likely to become the loyal readers of your blog.

These days you may get away, as far as the Google search engine rankings go, with between 1,800 and 2,200 words on a page. However, for many popular topics, if you want to cover them in depth, this is just not going to be anywhere near enough.

Then again, if you run a small business and your blog has plenty of posts that typically just answer common questions asked by your everyday customers, a 300 to 500-word post may often be more than enough to answer the question thoroughly.

An answer on a plumbing website to a question asking about the two most common thread sizes for domestic water pipes may typically require only a couple of hundred words. (Disclaimer: I just made this question up as I have very little idea about plumbing standards.)
If this is a typical length of an article on this particular topic, what should you do?

Well, if you really want to stand out from the crowd and be as helpful as you can be, then try to expand on the topic: provide some diagrams or photos, talk about some common issues that you are well aware of, which may trip an unsuspecting DIY plumber. Anything else that maybe helpful to the reader. Maybe even a short video covering some of these.

Not only will you be a hero in the reader’s eyes, Google will also notice that your article is more in-depth (people stay longer on your page) and, all other things being equal, it will eventually reward your page with a better search ranking and more traffic.

On the other hand, if you want to cover a topic such as (for example) how to increase the traffic to your blog with content syndication, you would likely want to write a well-researched article, with some real-life case studies, key points and takeaways. When you do that, you are likely to end up with a blog post (or a guide) somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000 words, well above the often quoted 1,800 words article length.

When I started this blog, I had to ask myself: Do I want to use my available time to write the minimum-length posts and publish often, or do I instead write well-researched, long posts, that give the readers an in-depth coverage of the topic, and therefore only publish less often?

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time the you have probably guessed that I chose the latter. I don’t publish a ton of content, but tend to spend a lot of time and energy on covering my topics as best I can.

All things being equal, which article do you think Google is going to favor more? Is it going to be a 2,000 word article with an average coverage of the topic, or is it going to be the 8,000 word in-depth guide or a case study that people love and take their time reading? I think you will agree that it’s obvious that it’s going to be the 8,000 article.

Google, from the very early days, understood that it was all about user experience. This is what they are trying to deliver in their search results and they are getting better at it every year.

Anyone that just tries to get away with the minimum content length is playing a short-term game. Yes, you may get away with thin content for a while, but what are you going to do one day when there is a new study that shows Google now favors articles 2,500 words or longer? Are you going to rewrite some of the articles to make them longer and forever play the catch-up game? Are you going to add more valuable content, or just pad them with some fluff in order to make up the length?

In his blog post “I went from making $20k in 2016 to $100k in 2017 by dropping my web design/SEO clients and doing affiliate marketing/blogging full-time.Tom Dupuis had this to say:

“The biggest factor by FAR was the time I spent meticulously creating my tutorials… which eventually resulted in a sudden 3x increase in SEO traffic.”

Tom also added that generally, “the longer the post, the higher it will rank. It makes sense, he said, since you are covering the topic extensively which gives your post substance and people are more likely to give you a share or a link. It increases average time on page and average time on site, which Google measures. Don’t hold yourself to a word count – Google your keyword, view the top results, and make sure your content is more detailed/valuable than everyone else’s.”

Many of Tom’s super long tutorials gave brought him over 100 visitors per day. With an average daily traffic of 2,500 visitors and 90% of those being from Google, this translated for Tom into a six figure income and a huge income jump in a space of a year.

I love reading success stories like this, not only because they are motivational by nature, but because that very post is also Tom’s extensive tutorial on how he did it and how anybody can emulate his success.

Great, long, in-depth content can bring anyone similar results. And you know what, if you decide to go this road less travelled, you will have no competition. Most online marketers and bloggers will try to get away with the minimum, to cut corners. It’s always been like this and always will be because it’s human nature. The rare blogger that truly understands the meaning of giving will have no problem standing out and doing well. Yes, it will take time and effort, but the end results will be well worth it.

Having said that, we will now look at some research published on this subject, particularly from the SEO perspective. It’s not just about the word count, as you will soon see.

 

It’s not just about word count

Recently Brian Dean published a hugely popular (updated) study on his blog, We Analyzed 11.8 Million Google Search Results. Here’s What We Learned About SEO. In that study of one million Google search results Brian and his project partners looked at which factors correlate with high search results rankings in Google.

One of the things they found was that comprehensive in-depth content significantly outperformed shallow content. This is also reflected in the fact that average time spent by visitors on a page correlates with rankings (the longer the average time, the higher the rankings).

They also found that the average word count of a Google top 10 result pages was 1,447 words. It was evenly distributed among the top 10 pages, meaning that there is no direct relationship between the word count and rankings.

The old chart published by Brian on that page around 2016, which showed correlation between the word count and the ranking in the top 10, is no longer there:

Yet, this chart is still making rounds on the internet.

Brian and his team have also found that longer content tends to attract more backlinks over time.

There are other significant findings in that study. However, since our topic today is about a length of a post, I’ll leave it up to you to study Brian’s article some more.

 

CoSchedule have found that typically their own best performing posts are about 2,500 or more words.

In fact, the average of their top ten best performing posts was 4,066 words, and the blog post that performed by far the best (both in terms of the search engine rankings and the traffic) was 5,309. This was also the second longest of their top 10 posts.

They also emphasize that it’s the quality not just the quantity. The more comprehensive blog posts will tend to be longer, of course. They will tend to be rewarded by Google with better rankings and by your visitors with more social shares or comments.

 

Joe Bunting, the founder of TheWritePactice offers his perspective on the length of the content. According to Joe, it largely depends on what you want to achieve with your piece of content.

For example, if you want more comments on your blog, Joe advises to try writing short, discussion-based posts, under 300 words. He gives an example of a post that is only 275 words long, yet received over 300 comments.

The trick is that if you want to have a lot of comments on your blog, you need readers. If your short posts are not doing well in the search engines, one way to resolve this might be just mix it up a bit, with some of your posts being of decent length, and some short posts focusing on generating a discussion.

Joe advises that if you want your posts do well in Google, they should be well-researched and at least 2,450 words long.

 

Yoast, the makers of the great Yoast SEO WordPress plugin, also shared that they have quite a few articles over 2,500 words long and they really help with the growth of their organic traffic.

They also say that it’s much harder to produce long articles that are also well-written. Badly-written articles will mean that most users will click away sooner rather than later and this will also be reflected in your Google rankings. So, care must be taken that an article is not just well-researched and in-depth but should also be well-written.

This doesn’t mean you have to be a great writer. It means you need to structure your article so that it’s easy to read: sub-headings that make logical sense, short paragraphs, short sentences and maybe a table of contents as well.

 

Neil Patel has got his own theory behind why long-form content is often very successful.

First the obvious: it’s almost impossible to cover any topic in depth with short content. Secondly, long content is perfect for scanning. He subscribes to the theory that most readers will only read about 20% of long content (by scanning through it). I personally think this depends entirely on some factors like personality type, whether the person is in a hurry or not, etc. We shouldn’t be generalizing.

Neil also feels that after reading a long-form piece of content readers tend to feel good, they tend to feel like they have just read something epic. I tend to agree with this point of view.

Neil says that these days he only produces long-form content and it’s worked for him very well.

“Longer posts usually perform better on every level.” Neil Patel

Of course the content needs to be good-quality, well-researched and well-structured.

A long piece of content that is poorly researched and lacks substance is not going to do well no matter the number of words.

 

Content length will depend on the topic you cover

Neil agrees that in most industries it’s hard to get traction these days with short content. But how long should it be then? This depends on the industry (or niche) and Neil provides a lot of research-based advice for various industries. For example when you are doing a writeup about gadgets, 300 to 500 words may be all you need to succeed, while if your niche is finance, then 2,100 to 2,500 would be likely the minimum in order to do well.

Neil provides data for many industries in his post and it’s well worth having a good look there to see what is the minimum content length to do well in your niche.

Incidentally, Neil also included an excellent three minute video on how to create great content in two hours or less.

 

According to Alex Chris of RelaibleSoft it’s generally accepted that articles that are shorter than 500 words are not the best choice when it comes to Search engine rankings. Even if your short article is unique and valuable, it will be bypassed by other articles on the same topic which are longer and with more insightful information.

Alex also feels that all things being equal, with longer content you are likely to be more immune to future Google updates related to content length. While nobody can tell the future, this is a very logical conclusion.

Alex also observes that based on various studies, content with more length tends to also get more social shares.

Creating long, informative and evergreen content will allow you to steadily increase your blog traffic and this is exactly what Alex did to increase his blog traffic to well over 400,000 visits per month in a very competitive weight loss niche.

 

Rand Fishkin also argues that there is no such thing as perfect content length. It largely depends on your keywords and also the purpose of your content. Rand encourages people not to be afraid to do their own research.

 

Some takeaways

I tend to agree with those views, except to say that if you write certain specific types of content, such as case studies and in-depth guides, it’s a no brainer to have content as long as necessary in order to cover the topic well. This often means more than 2,500 words.

Incidentally. longer content should also help Google figure out what you post or article is all about. That’s why it may be best to focus each piece of content on a very specific topic.

In my humble opinion, if you are a blogger and care about your readers, you should always err on the long side of the word count.

On the other hand, if you are building a niche site and target keywords with low competition, quite often between 1,000 and 2,000 words might be more than enough. In any case, for an affiliate niche site your review articles will tend to be shorter and your informational articles will tend to be longer. After all, how many words do you need to write when you are comparing three juicers to each other?

Doing your own word count research

You can always do your own research of the top 10 search results for the keywords you are targeting. This is most likely going to give you a much better idea of the optimum length for your content.

One quick and dirty way to get this number is to take the word count of the top 10 results pages, then remove the one with the highest count and the one with the lowest count. Then average the remaining counts. This would give you a pretty good idea of the minimum length required for your own article.

Another use for this idea is this: If you are in a niche that you are not quite sure what minimum length you should be shooting for, one way to find out is just do a simple research in Google. Pick a dozen or so most popular keywords in your niche. Most popular, for the purpose of this exercise, simply means they get the most searches in the niche.

Then just have a good look at the content in the top 10 results for each keyword and you will soon spot a pattern. Then try to better that by a significant margin in your own writing and you will have a pretty chance to do well.

You are also likely to notice that informational how-to type keywords tend to attract longer content than review-type keywords in your niche.

Quality over quantity

Of course the high-quality of the content is always of the utmost importance. I know this has been repeated a number of times by a lot of people (and already mentioned in this post as well), but that’s because it’s so vital. Also make sure the content is well structured (divided into logical sections with their own sub-headings), add relevant pictures or charts, make sure you give proper links to the sources you quote your research from and consider having a table of contents, particularly if your content is super long.

When you write the informational pieces of content, such as case studies, in-depth ho-to guides and the like, the best approach is to just make sure you do thorough research. If you don’t skimp on that part, you will find that your content is naturally going to be quite long. Not only that, it will tend to be of good quality as well.

If you dedicate yourself to doing good research, the writing will almost take care of itself. You will also enjoy the process a lot more, will stop watching this darn word counter, and are likely to go into the zone during writing quite regularly. That’s when writing becomes really enjoyable. When you are in that state of mind, you often lose the sense of time and you barely remember that such thing as the word counter even exists.

Until next time. Stay focused.

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