If you’re planning to leverage content marketing to your advantage (and, if you’re not, you should be!), you’re likely looking for an answer to this one important question: How long should a post be?
Obviously, there are so many other elements at play than just the average blog post word count.
But, when you’re competing against complicated algorithms and crowded search results in order to get your content seen, finding a winning formula for post length certainly can’t hurt.
So, what do you need to know to find the magic number and crank out content that checks those algorithm boxes and actually wins some eyeballs?
We’re breaking down everything you need to know in this post.
Why Post Length Matters
- Outside of just curiosity, why does the typical blog post length matter?
- What impact does the word count of your content have on its ultimate success?
Here’s the short answer: search engine optimization.
Obviously, there’s a lot that goes into the algorithms that decide what pages appear within the first few search results. But, plenty of research has proven that content length carries a lot of weight in this regard.
While not specifically related to blog posts, Crazy Egg conducted an A/B test of their homepage. They ran the original page—which contained 1,292 words—against a revised version of only 488 words.
What were their results?
The longer homepage performed far better. In fact, the original converted 7.6% better than the shorter and newer version.
What gives? Why does longer content perform so much better?
You’ve likely heard many people and marketing experts attribute this to the fact that search engines view longer-form content as far more valuable, making the algorithm that much more likely to rank that lengthier piece of content toward the top.
However, as Neil Patel explains with his experiment, that’s not the entirety of the story.
Much of that lengthier content’s success can actually be owed to its linking potential.
The interesting part is that Google doesn’t prefer more content because it feels it is more valuable. It actually prefers content rich sites because data shows you like it, which leads me to my next point,
People feel content is so valuable that they are willing to link to in-depth content more than they are willing to link to content that is short.
As Patel points out in his article, Moz did an experiment to see if there was a direct correlation between the length of content and how frequently it’s linked to within other sources—and, there is.
So, basically, more words is perceived to mean more value. And, more value? That means more links. The more links you have pointing to your content? The higher you’ll rank with search engines.
The formula is a little more convoluted than you might have originally expected. But, the point remains the same: Blog post length is still very important for SEO.
How Long Should a Blog Post Be: What’s the Magic Number?
Now you know that longer content will contribute to your success.
But, what exactly does “long” mean?
Is that 500 words? 5,000 words?
What’s the ideal length of a blog post?
Well, this can vary. If you pour through all of the research that’s out there on the topic, you’ll come up with a variety of different numbers.
However, here’s your best bet: Aim for blog posts around 1,500 words.
The publishing platform, Medium, did some research to determine the length of time people will spend reading a blog post. The average that they found was about seven minutes.
In an article about the study, social media platform, Buffer, stated that seven minutes equates to right around 1,600 words—however, a photo-heavy post could bring that word count total down closer to 1,000.
Granted, much of that research is a few years old at this point.
However, it seems as if blog posts that surpass the 1,000-word mark are still the standard you want to aim for—even a few years later.
A more recent survey conducted by Snap Agency found that 51% of respondents wanted to read content that was between 700 and 1,500 words.
In contrast, only 27% of participants responded that 300 to 700 word blog posts were preferable.
There are plenty of studies and statistics out there that point to the fact that 1,500-word blog posts are the best for your tried and true standard articles.
However, it’s also wise to sprinkle in some even longer-form content as well.
CoSchedule took a look at their own top-performing blog posts and found that every one of their posts that ranked on the first page of Google was actually over 2,000 words—proving that investing the work to create even lengthier content could be a smart move for your own strategy.
Does Size Really Matter?
While it’s good to know the widely-accepted rules in terms of average blog post length, it’s still tempting to wonder if those numbers really matter.
Will hitting on that magic number guarantee instant success with your content?
No, not exactly. And, of course, there are plenty of other important things that you should focus on aside from just word count.
Quality, Quality, Quality
One thing that should be at the top of your list is the quality of the content. It’s most important to focus on the needs of your audience and then craft your blog posts with those ideals in mind.
This is helpful for a few reasons. First and foremost, one of your primary goals with content marketing should be to provide value to your readers.
When writing, put yourself in their shoes to ensure that each and every post that you create is something that’s worthy of their continued attention.
Secondly, quality is also another important element when it comes to search engine rankings. Google itself directly states the following in terms of basic principles for quality guidelines:
- Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
- Don’t deceive your users.
- Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
- Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.
All important points, right? It’s wise to follow some basic SEO principles when creating content in order to increase your chances of widening its reach.
However, take Google’s advice and subscribe to the philosophy that you aren’t creating content for search engines—you’re creating content for people. They should always be at the forefront when you’re writing.
Googler Gary Illyes sparked a pretty engaging SEO debate when he tweeted this sentiment:
DYK if you read out loud the text on your page and it doesn’t sound natural, that piece of text may weigh much less during ranking.
When you think about it, much of search engine rankings are based on the behavior that people utilize on your page.
If your content is highly readable? They’re more likely to stick around—meaning your bounce rate decreases, your time on page increases, and search engines are more likely to see your content as highly valuable and worthy of a top spot.
Despite that reasoning, there’s still always been some debate about whether or not the readability (or, in other words, how easy your content is to read) really carries any weight in terms of ranking. And, there are plenty who still choose to believe that it doesn’t matter as much.
But, our philosophy is that you’re better safe than sorry!
Even if readability doesn’t make much impact in terms of rankings (and, plenty of sources like Yoast maintain that it really does), ensuring that your content is organized and readable is just another way to serve your readers—which we always recommend.
So, let’s backtrack a little bit here. What exactly makes for readable content? Here are some tips you can implement to make sure that your blog posts are readable:
- Think About Structure: Start with an outline. Doing so will help you map out the piece in a way that flows well and makes the most sense to your readers.
- Use a Conversational Tone: Those jargon-filled, highly academic pieces are packed with information. But, they’re also a chore to read. Writing in a more approachable and conversational voice makes your content that much more engaging—which is important to your reader.
- Use Shorter Sentences: Your general guideline should be that if a sentence is longer than two lines, it should be split up.
- Use Numbers and Bulleted Lists: If there are places where you could share important information in a highly organized and skimmable way (like we’re doing right here!), do so.
- Use Headers and Images: Nobody wants to be overwhelmed with a giant wall of text. Look for places that you can break those seemingly endless paragraphs up with subheads and graphics.
- Avoid Passive Voice: Instead of relying on past tense, write in an active voice to further engage your readers.
Feeling overwhelmed? There’s a lot at play when it comes to the readability of your content. Fortunately, you can use a solution like Hemingway Editor to take a fine-tooth comb to your posts and improve them.
Remember when we mentioned that crafting high-quality content increases your chances of being linked to on other sites—which positively impacts your ranking?
Well, as it turns out, including some external links to other high-authority sites within your own content isn’t a bad idea either.
Sure, that might mean that you’re helping to boost the credibility and ranking of whatever outlets you link to. But, it also kicks your own value up a notch.
Marketing firm, Reboot, put together its own study to discern whether or not outgoing relevant links made an impact.
And, their conclusion?
When used correctly, those external links really do make a difference.
It’s still tough to determine exactly how powerful those outgoing links are. However, including a few that point to other relevant and authoritative sources can be just what you need to provide more value to your reader while also boosting your own rankings.
It’s Time to Get Writing
We’ve covered a lot here—there are enough statistics, studies, and surveys on this subject to make your head spin.
In general, we do think it’s wise to aim to create content that at least hits that 1,500-word mark—with some other longer-form content sprinkled in as well.
However, it’s also important to remember that length isn’t everything. Your primary focus should be on serving your audience.
And, stretching out an article unnecessarily only to meet that arbitrary word goal?
Well, that’s a surefire way to inspire your readers to click away from your content immediately.
You should know and understand the general rules for length. But, place your emphasis on creating high-quality, readable, and authoritative content for your audience. Do that, and you’re bound to see some positive results.