When it comes to writing anything—whether it’s a novel, poem, or even a blog post—the question of length always seems to pop up. How long should a blog post be? Can a poem be too short? What is the ideal word count that is sure to spell success? While we hate to be the bearer of bad news, the best and most common response out there is: As long as it needs to be.
Yes, we know, that’s a frustrating non-answer, but there is a lot of truth to it. No one person can dictate how long a poem should be when we have both the super short haiku and long ancient epics like Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. There is no sweet spot—only what works for the specific author and their intended audience.
So, while we can’t tell you that your next blog post should be 2,448 words in length with any sort of authority, we can tell you what you need to consider before writing out your next post. Let’s take a look.
Google Likes Longer Posts…
And of course, we want to make Google happy. They’re the number-one search engine on the planet for a reason, and most of your target audience will be using Google to find what they’re looking for. So, your goal is to play nice with Google and make sure your blog post reaches your audience when and where they decide to look.
The only trouble is that Google is not looking for a specific word-count that will ensure your post rises to the top of the rankings. Google’s algorithms are looking for quality when it comes to the content you produce. The better quality content you’re producing, the better your post—and ultimately, your website—will do in the rankings.
With that said, there is the potential for Google to consider anything under 300 words as thin content. While we don’t know Google’s exact reasoning for this, if you consider that the average American can read 300 words per minute, it makes sense. How good can the quality of your content be if it only takes your audience one minute to read it?
This might be why the average blog post length most marketers recommend is anywhere between 500 to 2,000 words. While this is a pretty large range, there is something else you need to consider.
…But What Does Your Audience Like?
Yes, you want to make Google happy, but your goal and Google’s goal is, ultimately, one in the same: to provide your audience with the information they need.
Aiming for a high word count might be good for search engine rankings, but will a longer blog post resonate with your intended audience and get the response you’re looking for? This is why it’s important to not only take length into consideration but the type of content that’s being consumed.
So the real answer on blog post length lies squarely in the hands of your audience. Do they have the time to read a long post? What type of content will keep them engaged? Will you lose them if you go over 700 words? These are the questions you should be asking before creating any type of content.
Getting Your Posts Shared
Making sure your site’s content lands on the first page of search results is a priority, but that’s not the only way to expand your blog post audience. Another way is through shares. Writing a blog post that goes viral is a great way to increase traffic to your website.
As such, you need to figure out what it is about a blog post that will get your audience to share it. You can do this by gaining a deeper understanding of who your audience is and why they might share a certain article. Know them better than they might even know themselves by uncovering basic background information like demographics, behaviors, needs, wants, and fears.
For example, a college professor might be more inclined to sit and read a 2,000-word article on technology trends in education, while a mother of three young kids might not have the time. This is the type of audience information that can help inform the length of the post.
Crunching The Numbers
Fortunately, in our data-driven world, there are many ways to find out what your audience is looking for in terms of blog post length. A few ways to use data to influence your decision on the post length include:
Content intelligence software: Sites like Epictions or Buzzsumo can provide you with a text analysis on the popular content on any subject. So, if you’re planning on writing an article on iPhones, you can take a look at the popular content lengths for that particular subject. At the time of publication, a text analysis of the word “iPhones” in Epictions is indicating that a 500-word post is the sweet spot for highly shared articles on that search term.
This will give you a good idea on A) the length of content your intended audience likes to share and B) what your competition is doing. And while this provides a good baseline to start with, you want to make sure you’re keeping this information in line with what your specific audience prefers.
Google Analytics: Accessing Google Analytics (or any website analytics dashboard) will get you in touch with your audience’s engagements levels. If you already have a blog up and running, take a look at the site analytics to find out how long, on average, your audience is spending on current posts. Are they staying on the post for as long as it takes the average person to read? This should give you a good baseline to determine if you need to consider either making your blog posts longer or creating more compelling content.
Competitive analysis: Sometimes the results we’re looking for are in our competition’s hands. Does your competition have a particular blog post that went viral? Did they create a post on a similar topic and it got shared on social over 100 times? If so, take a look to see what their average blog post length is. This practice might provide some insight into how you should shape your posts.
Split testing: If you’re still unsure about the type of blog post length your audience prefers, then you might want to incorporate split testing into your campaigns. Create a long and short version of each blog post and run an A/B test to see which one gets more traffic and engagement. This will give you invaluable insight into what your specific audience responds to.
Whether your goal is to get your site to take the top slot in Google search results or you want to create the types of posts that go viral, finding the right blog post length can be a tough thing to figure out. But as long as you keep your audience at the center of your content strategy, you’ll be able to determine what the right blog post length is that will keep them engaged in your content and sharing it across the internet.