One of the questions that comes up a lot when people ask me about blogging is “How long should my blog entries be?” I’ve struggled with the same issue and did a lot of research over the last couple of years to find out what other writers, content strategists, and marketing gurus think.
I found a lot of information and opinions. What I didn’t find was a clear answer. So I had to come up with my own.
Each post needs to be as long as it needs to be
That may sound a little fancy, but I think it’s true. No matter what you’re writing—a book, a blog post, a movie script—the text is going to have a natural length that’s required to get your ideas across.
If you can convey your entire idea in 200 words, that’s great. Many bloggers are skilled at coming up with powerful ideas that don’t take many words to explain. Some have millions of readers with posts that aren’t not much longer than Tweets. The short length works for them and their audience.
If the idea is more complex and takes 2000 words, that’s fine too. Some subjects can’t be condensed into pithy, short posts. If you’re explaining a complex concept, 2000 words may just be scratching the surface enough to get people interested.
Length of posts should also be influenced by what you’re selling. There’s a common saying in the advertising industry that goes, “Short copy gets admired. Long copy sells.” (“Copy” being the text, if you’re unfamiliar with that term.)
I think this is more true for products than it is for services. If you write a long post explaining a product, the reader may think you’re providing a lot of value to them, even if they don’t read the entire post.
On the other hand, people looking to purchase services may respond better to shorter lengths of posts. Many services require a time commitment from the buyer. So someone looking for a service might want to know that the seller isn’t going to waste their time. And if they’re looking for consulting or advice, they may find value in someone who can provide that advice succinctly.
Know your audience
The better you know your audience, they better you can match your post length to their expectations.
If you interact with a lot of people who are detail oriented, longer posts may be justified. If the product or service you sell appeals more to people who don’t care about the details and just want the facts in as few words as possible, cater to that.
More likely, you’ll have a mix of personalities in your readership. Don’t try to be all things to all people. If you’re in this situation, play around until you find a length that appropriately covers the subject matter and gets positive feedback from a large group of your audience. This may help you hone in on who you really want to be targeting from a business perspective as well.
Some writers settle into 400-800 word-type posts as a default, but it might turn out that your audience really likes the short or long posts.
But what about the search engines?
Doesn’t post length affect your ranking in search engines? Sure it does, but not as much as most people think. And a lot of people go overboard trying to cater to Google and alienate potential readers and customers in the process.
If you’re trying to improve your search rankings, a post length minimum of 300 words is a good rule to work with. It’s just long enough to fit in some good keywords that fit with the idea you’re conveying.
On the other end of the spectrum, you may see diminishing returns when you push past 1000 words. You’ll have plenty of room for lots of search engine-friendly keywords at this length, but unless you’re very good at having each post fit within a niche topic, the search engines may begin treating your site like a random collection of words, holding you static in the rankings.
Regardless of how long you write your posts, always write for people first, search engines second. The search engines will help people find your site, but what’s the point in having visitors if they’re not engaged by what they find?
If your idea needs to expressed outside the bounds of what’s “search engine-friendly”, throw out the rules and write a great blog post. It may take a little extra time, but people will find it.