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How Long Should My Blog Post Be?

11 September 2013 BY

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As the buzz around ‘Content Marketing’ and all the promises it holds of ‘genuine links’ continues to grow, I’m finding the same questions pop up time and again from my clients. They also often are frustrated when I tell them there is no guaranteed magic approach.

The question ‘how long should my blog post be?’ has been around for as long as blogs have. There are also numerous reasons across why we care about this question. Is it from a usability perspective? Is there a secret formula to improving reader engagement through mastering the perfect ‘not too long, but not too short’ blog post length? Following Google’s sneaky update to their link guidelines, should we still be concerned about guest posts and the editorial rules around the blogs of others?

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The first point to make here is, as we all know, that there is no perfect answer to how long a blog post should be. A common rule of thumb seems to be ‘500 words’ – so much so in fact that I’ve had rejections of blog posts I’ve written upon request from an editor (not State of Search I should add!) because my post was considered too long for their readership. Is that my fault or is my editor too concerned with ‘best practice’ rules?

We can also be sure that the length of a piece of content does affect its traffic, engagement, impact upon engagement with the rest of the site and potentially its ranking. Some of the most popular posts shared across our industry are those that heavily go into detail about one very niche subject, take Haukur‘s recent post all about the AdWords Dimension tab for example. That’s over 2,500 words on a very granular topic, that was also hugely popular both on State of Search as well as being featured in round-ups like Search Engine Land’s SearchCap last week. How does this fit in with that old 500 word rule exactly?

So how do we know how to best shorten or lengthen our posts to maximise their potential? There is a lot of subjectivity around the topic but here are few concentrated tips that may help:

1. Know Your Audience

Us bloggers often forget that these posts are not actually our diaries, and we’re not actually writing for ourselves. Haukur’s post for example is a hands-on, pro-active step-by-step guide post specifically aimed at those using the AdWords interface. You’ll know from the title if it’s relevant to you or not so the bounce rates will drop and engagement rate rise, based on its clear call to the right audience. If you’re writing a an ‘Introduction to SEO’ post for a women’s career site, the details aren’t relevant. Instead of long-winded explanations, integrate links to useful sites and give the readers short-form top tips.

2. Practice Editing

I waffle. I’m a terrible blog waffler. In fact I’m doing it right now. A good tip a journalist friend gave me many years ago is to practice being your own sub-editor. Be harsh and cut out what isn’t 100% relevant to the topic at hand. Although interested readers will still engage with long and practical blog posts, there is never any harm is making the point clearer cut. Try taking the final article as you have it, then shave off 10%. It’s easier said than done! This helps to focus the relevancy of the post not only for users but also from a search engine and keyword point of view.

3. Long Posts Need Sections

There’s nothing wrong with long posts when relevant, but help your reader to understand where you’re going with your post by clearly defining sections. There’s an intro, an explanation and a denouement. Use headings, sub-heading, images and even paragraph formatting to make the stages of the story stand out. A reader should want to come back to your post and easily be able to find that particular titbit of information they are looking for. A search engine should easily be able to understand what heading and section is most important and/or considered relevant to that particular post through basic HTML formatting.

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4. Analyse This

Google Analytics is your friend. For once, we don’t have to only sob over our continued loss of keyword data thanks to that ever increasing (not provided) percentage. Look at the page as a landing page, not just at the keywords that drive the traffic. Keywords and SEO remain relevant. However the length of the post will also dictate engagement and loyalty. How does bounce rate compare to other posts? Is the reader moving onto a related page on the blog? What is the percentage of new vs returning visitors to that particular page?

5. Heatmap That

This was actually an interesting point made by Neil Patel over on Quick Sprout. The tone of an article will also impact its success. Conversational style articles often encourage longer dwell time and engagement, as the reader is happy to continue scrolling down. This won’t be true for all industries or styles of blog so the best to confirm what is or isn’t working is to get scientific. Use a Heat Map tool and monitor what that scrolling situation looks like, taking note of the difference between paragraphs vs bullet pointed lists vs images as an example.

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AUTHORED BY:
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Originally from the UK via France and Malaysia, Annabel Hodges is a digital marketer with long experience in the industry now residing in Sydney. She heads up the Digital Marketing at Next Commerce, working across an array of products, channels and brands.
  • Chris Lee

    Great post. Key thing is satisfying the two audiences: humans and search engines. Relevancy/quality are likewise key factors. Entertain, educate, answer questions etc.

  • Facebook User

    When I write in my webshop blog I keep it to aroound 200-300 words. Enough to keep someone interested, but really I want them back looking at the product pages!

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  • http://www.todayicanchange.com/ Robb Gorringe

    Annabel,

    I’ve heard people say that Google is only going to pick up blogs that are a certain number of words. I think that’s ridiculous. Google is like a vacuum cleaner— it picks up everything. They can change the filters, but our stuff is still gonna stick. Writing from the heart is what I’m shooting for, and…. “knowing your audience”, as you mentioned. It’s the peanut-butter and jelly to a beautiful blog post sandwich. // nice post.

  • The BnB Club

    Thank you for this post and comments. I am considering my blogs for 2014 and have decided to go with relevance/quality rather than focus too much on length.

  • http://businessoxygen.net/ BusinessOxygen

    In our part, 300-400 words will do to promote the brand. Not too long and not too short just enough to keep the readers informed with the product or service we have to offer. Thanks for sharing this! seo atlanta ga

  • vane

    There
    is much talk of “the best times to post on Facebook.” As with Twitter, obviously there
    are high points of connection to the
    network, days with increased public, etc. This is important
    because our post
    Facebook could reach
    more people depending on the time
    it is scheduled. The American
    company Sure Payroll published in April an
    infographic with the best times
    and days to post on each social network. Such
    guides can help, but no Work out life.
    Ideally define your own hours and days of greatest
    impact through the experience.
    Experience.

    http://www.followersandlikes4u.com/buy-real-cheap-country-targeted-facebook-fans/

64 Flares Twitter 46 Facebook 7 Google+ 7 LinkedIn 3 Buffer 1 Email -- StumbleUpon 0 Pin It Share 0 Filament.io 64 Flares ×

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