Note: I really need your help with this post! At the end of this post I’m going to ask for your input. Even if you don’t read the whole thing please do read the last sentence and post a comment!
Does there come a point at which readers stop reading and start clicking away? How long is too long for the web?
On the flipside, SEO research suggests that your posts definitely can be too short. So, how short is too short?
In this post, we’ll take a look at the what SEO pros have to say on the topic of blog post length and boil down their collective wisdom into 3 guidelines you can use to make sure your content is always not too long, and not too short, but just right.
Let’s get to it.
1. Longer Posts Rank Higher in Search Engine Results
This first guideline is supported by the numbers. Let’s have a look.
A few years ago the graphic you see above was produced by SerpIQ. It really made the rounds. Just about every blogging-related blog on the web shared it and explained how it was spot-on, dead-wrong, or something in between.
Really, it’s just data — frankly, somewhat dated data at this point. However, it does drive home one useful fact: the content that does the best in search engine results tends to be on the longer end of the spectrum.
The key here is to remember that we’re talking about search engine results. So that’s an indication of the long-term organic traffic value of a piece of content. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything about the initial value of a piece of writing right out of the gate — your regular readers may hate a post of that length while search engines gobble it up.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Google cares a lot more about the quality of your content than the length. Sacrifice quality to make a post longer and you’ll be doing more harm than good.
2. Write for Your Audience, Not for Google
Seth Godin is a modern marketing genius. Surely his content is all detailed and long, right? Wrong. One of Seth’s typical blog posts might run just under 100 words.
Yep, you read that right. Not 1000 words, 100 words. Don’t believe me? Have a look for yourself!
The thing is that most of Seth’s content isn’t technical or hard-hitting in-depth reporting. Seth is all about inspiration and big picture ideas. The sort of content that lends itself to a short burst style of writing.
This is the content that Seth’s audience is looking for. Long form content full of technical details and step-by-step screenshots is exactly what Seth’s audience is not looking for.
Know your readership and write to them.
3. Say What You Need to Say and Shut Up
Neil Patel calls this “the most basic consideration.”
What is it that you’re trying to say? Define what you’re trying to communicate, communicate it, and shut up.
Sometimes you will need 2000 words to get your point across while other times 200 words will do the trick. Use the right length for the subject matter at hand. Don’t carry on under some misguided notion that Google will reward your wordiness.
So how can you apply what we’ve covered to your blog and writing?
Know your audience.
I think the two best ways to get to know your audience are to encourage readers to comment (please comment on this post — I really need your input 🙂 ) and to pay attention to the search terms that lead readers to your site. Whether you use the same methods or some other method for gaining feedback, figure out the topics and subjects resonate with your readers.
Be thorough without being verbose.
Cover your subject matter in depth and avoid setting artificial word counts limits. Make sure the content is solid and well written and don’t worry too much about the length.
Don’t be afraid of long posts.
While you should not ever stretch content to fill a larger word count that the content justifies, you also shouldn’t let post length scare you away from writing long form posts. Google likes long-form posts, and as long as you follow guideline number 2, your readers will get a lot out of high-quality long-form content as well.
How I Plan to Apply This Information
I follow a variety of bloggers — many in the WordPress space, but also quite a few that cover entrepreneurship and marketing. One blogger that I just started following recently is Matt Giovanisci over at Money Lab.
Matt is in the middle of a project called The SEO Impossible Experiment. The basic premise of the project is that Matt believes that if you produce the most comprehensive and well-designed content on the web, with just a little marketing effort it will climb into a top ranking position, even when dealing with competitive keywords.
It was reading about this massive undertaking that inspired me to do a little research into typical post length and to write this post, and it’s an approach I plan to implement on my blog immediately.
I plan to apply this information by writing long-form, detailed blog posts that clock in at a considerable word count that is fully justified by the wealth of content covered within the content.
I Need Your Help!
In order to write the sort of long form posts I’d like to write, I need your help!
What sort of detailed tutorials and blog posts do you wish you could find? What is something you recently tried to figure out only to end up frustrated by the lack of good, well-organized information?
I have a few ideas…
- A complete guide to on-page SEO and how you can optimize your WordPress website for search engine mastery.
- Everything the beginning blogger needs to know about WordPress — and I do mean everything: installation, themes, plugins, posts, pages, comments, media library, marketing, and more.
- How bloggers make money — a detailed guide with case studies describing how top bloggers make money (and how much money they make).
But, before I commit to any idea I want to know what you think!
So sound off in the comment section below! What topics would you like me to cover in an upcoming detailed tutorial?