Content creator friend — can we get real for a sec?
The only kind of content that works for your business is the kind that’s published.
Period, full stop.
The #realtalk about blog post length is this:
- Imaginary content doesn’t count
- Content plans, outlines, or first drafts won’t help
- Your content strategy won’t do a thing until your planned content goes live
In this article, we’re going to take three things into account:
- Your readers
- Your rankings
You may have written content to rank in search engines. You may have written blog posts with your readers in mind. But have you added yourself to the equation?
In the end, your content is:
- Created by you — and your health and wellbeing matter
- Consumed by your audience — your content length should meet their needs
- Found by your prospects — your content needs to rank in search engines so it’s found
We’re going to tackle these in reverse order, starting with the basics of writing content that gets found by the people you want to attract.
Think about your rankings when writing online content
If you write and publish a piece of content and no one ever finds it, it’s not going to do the job you set out for it to do:
- Attract an audience
- Deliver smart information
- Establish your authority
That’s why we’re going to start by looking at what search engines look for in a high-ranking piece of written content.
Search engines use a complicated and ever-changing algorithm to serve up content in search.
At its foundation, this algorithm is analyzing your keyword phrases to try to understand what kind of information can be found on your page.
Keyword phrases are a string of words that describe what your content is about.
Back in the early days of the internet, you could write content about a single concept, like:
… and you could hope to be found.
Now, people know to type in phrases or whole sentences so they can narrow down their searches. Longer phrases, also known as longtail keywords, help searchers find the exact information they need.
Instead of searching for “content marketing,” they’re searching for:
- Best length for content marketing articles
- Ideal word count for content marketing
- Content marketing length best practices
That’s why it’s important to choose a basic keyword phrase to target, and then weave variations of this phrase into your article.
(See what I did there?) 😉
How does search engine optimization impact blog post length?
The recommendation today is to write longer blog posts if you want to rank in search engines.
There are a few reasons for this:
Longer content gives you more room to weave in variations of your keyword phrase. You have plenty of space to spread out keyword phrases so they seem like a natural part of the flow of your piece.
Does that mean every blog post must be 3500 words long?
We’ll get into the specifics of length in a moment, but for now, just remember:
Longer posts give you more space to expand your keyword phrases and improve the chances of your content being found.
Longer content increases “dwell time.” Dwell time refers to how long users spend on your page. Longer dwell times equal higher rankings because search engines see them as a sign of quality information.
So what’s the perfect blog post length?
Not so fast, my friend. We have a couple more things to take into account
Think about your readers when planning your blog post length
Don’t add words for the sake of words.
One important way to respect your readers’ time is to make sure every moment they spend consuming your content is rewarded.
According to the Nielsen Norman Group, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average web page visit — 20% is more likely.
Because people often skim content rather than read in depth, be sure to make your content easy to scan and read.
To add high-quality words to your content, consider these approaches:
- Add data to back up the main points made in your content. Present research (and add attribution). This additional information will show readers that your content is based on facts.
- Reach out to experts and include quotes. Reach out to subject matter experts in your field with a single question that’s pertinent to your topic and include their answers in your content.
- Add a summary of your content at the bottom. Lightly edit your main points and repeat them at the end.
The great news is that content that’s backed by solid research and expertise is more likely to be seen as a trustworthy resource. This means journalists, other content creators, and people in your industry are more likely to link to it — these are the coveted “backlinks” you may have heard about.
When those backlinks come from a high-quality site, they can help boost your content in search rankings.
Content that’s perceived to be high quality tends to get more shares, too. People who are cultivating a presence on a social media platform look for quality content to share and will become advocates for your ideas on their platform of choice.
So … what’s the perfect blog post length?
Pro tip: Before you write about a topic, search the top-ranking posts for the same topic. How many words do they have? The best-ranking posts tend to be longer — can you write something that’s even more extensive?
According to a study by serpIQ (from back in 2012), the highest-ranking content on Google averages 2,416 words.
Before you make ultra-long content your goal, make sure your content length works for the readers you want to attract.
There are a few more exceptions to this “2,416-word count” rule that I want to talk about. Read on …
Think about yourself when planning blog post length
Your content is created by you — and we need to find an ideal word count that also feels consistently doable.
Remember: the only content that matters is content that’s published.
Ask yourself three important questions:
- How much time can I devote to content creation?
- How experienced/confident am I as a content creator?
- How often can I publish consistently?
Content marketing is a long game. That means you need to stick with it — without burning out — so you can see the results roll in over time.
That’s why I think one of the most important elements to take into consideration when planning your blog post word counts is your website lifecycle.
How to take your website lifecycle into account when planning blog post length
In my book Master Content Strategy: How to Maximize Your Reach and Boost Your Bottom Line Every Time You Hit Publish, I share content length recommendations based on your website lifecycle.
Very briefly, here are the three lifecycle stages:
Your New Website: Birth through Year 1
On a brand-new website, focus on populating your pages with helpful content that establishes your expertise. Aim to publish a new piece of content every week, with a goal of establishing your website theme (for both readers and search engines), and building your content creator skills.
Word count recommendation: ~1,200 words
Your Growing Website: Years 2 through 5
Your website is still new at this stage, and now you will have some flesh-and-blood audience members. Create content to help with their real-life challenges. Aim for a new piece of content every other week — use this extra production time to create content that’s richer, more detailed … and longer.
Word count recommendation: ~1,800 words and up
Your Mature Site: Year 6 and Beyond
At this stage, you may have 300+ pieces of content on your site. Continue to add new content, but be sure to make it in-depth.
Because you’ll be a confident content creator at this stage, challenge yourself to add multimedia elements: additional images, video, audio, slide decks, etc. This multimedia content will help you reach audiences on other platforms and drive them back to your website.
Word count recommendation: ~1,800 words and up
Read more about how to find the ideal word count for your blog posts
In researching this post, I came across some fantastic resources on this topic. I’ll include them below with links so you can read more.
Do you still have questions about the perfect blog post word count?
If you’re still puzzled about how to plan the best length for your blog posts, scroll on down to the comments section, or connect with me on social media and let’s chat!