How Long Should A Blog Post Be? – A Thorough Analysis
How Long Should A Blog Post Be? – A Thorough Analysis
Due to the highly competitive nature of the SEO landscape, knowing the tricks of the trade that give your content the edge up on your competitors is what every content marketer seeks. Determining how long a blog should be is essential because it can affect budgets, posting frequency, and overall content marketing performance.
So, how long should a blog post be? The answer can be tricky, since there’s more at play than just a one-size-fits-all search engine mandate. There are a number of differing opinions from SEOs about what the magical word count should be for a blog post, and many of them are based on data gathered as long ago as 2012. Since the internet has changed quite a bit since then, we’ll analyze more current data to help answer this question.
But first, let’s go over some of the most common charts that everyone else uses to answer this question.
These Charts Can Be Misleading
The chart above was created by Brian Dean in 2016 showing the average word counts of high-ranking blog posts.
What do These Charts Mean When It comes to How Long a Blog Post Should Be?
Both charts dramatically show that content with a higher word count ranks better within Google’s top 10 than content with a lower word count. This could be in conjunction with the number of shares the posts get (we’ll get to this) or could just be an inherent preference by Search Engines like Google to favor longer articles with a higher word count.
Another theory is that topical relevancy is increased with longer word count, by nature of the inclusion of more details and related keywords in the content. Google then gets a deeper understanding of your content’s overall topic, thus boosting your position.
Lastly, there’s also the idea that the site owners that are publishing the longer content pieces that are ranking well just care more about providing excellent, in-depth content. While this scenario is likely true for a lot of site-owners, it’s impossible to narrow it down to one specific thing using an average across millions of blogs.
So how long should a blog be? According to these graphs – and many SEO’s have concluded their numbers based on these graphs – the right word count for how long a blog should be is an average of 2,225 words.
Ideal Word Count
How Are They Misleading?
The main reason these are misleading is due to the deliberate setting of the scale of the Y-Axis. The Y-Axis scale is a very small subset of the total 2,450 words, basically only showing us a sliver of it with a span of 300-400 words. This small scale makes the word count jumps look huge between ranking position 1 and 10.
Based on the charts, many make the false assumption that if you don’t write blog posts that are at least 2,225 words, you won’t rank high at all.
This is simply not true.
What is the True Effect of Long Form Content on Rankings?
Matt Bentley from CanIRank shows us the true effect longer-form content has on rankings.
First, Matt took the same data, which mimicked the charts above, but set the scale from 0 to 2,500 words on the Y-axis. He also extended the X-axis to show Google rankings from 1 to 40.
Here’s how it looks:
Higher Word Counts Only Affects the Top 20 Results
Using a smaller median scale on the Y-axis to exaggerate the effect, here is what the chart looks like:
As you can see, the slope is pretty steep for positions 1 through 20; however, it flattens out considerably after that.
This means that longer-form content really only makes a difference for Google positions 1 through 20, and isn’t as strong for positions above 20. That being said, it also does again reinforce the point that if you want to rank in the first 1-2 pages on the SERPS that more content is seemingly more beneficial.
Longer Word Counts Do Generate More Backlinks
There is one other interesting tid bit to gather from studies done on long-form content – namely, that blog posts with higher word counts do generate more backlinks. See the graph below by Brian Dean:
In this image, the number of referring domains seemingly correlates with the increase in word count. However, this study seems to show that articles with 3,000+ words tend to have 77% more referring domain links than content that is less than 1,000 words.
There have been many studies that show that backlinks are an important ranking signal, including Google just coming right out and saying it on their “How Search Works” report:
In addition to Google just stating it, studies have shown the actual benefit that backlinks can have on ranking. And more specifically, how having links from multiple sites is much better than just having links from the same domain.
Take, for instance, the following graph that shows that top positions on Google have hundreds of referring domains.
You can see that not only is having multiple backlinks beneficial, but having multiple backlinks from multiple domains is even more important. Google wants to see you endorsed by lots of different sites, not just the same site over and over again. Diversity in backlinking seems to be a key factor in winning the top spot on Google.
Given the fact that 94% of the world’s content gets zero external links, backlinks can be hard to come by. If upping the word count on your blog posts increases your chances of getting links from multiple referring domains, it seems like a worthy cause.
The problem is that more content is published now than ever before. Just increasing the word count of your blog posts won’t be enough to get you in the rarefied air of getting backlinks (especially from differing domains). So the question isn’t necessarily how long is a good blog post but rather what makes a good blog post. There’s definitely more to making your content stand out than just increasing word count, but data does suggest that it definitely can’t hurt your chances to start increasing the word count of your blogs. So it’s a start!
So How Long Should A Blog Post Be for Google?
If we look at the charts purely from the perspective of winning top ranking spots on the search engines, the average word count of content that ranks #1 in Google is around 1,900 words. It’s important to note that this word count is about 325 words less than the number from 2012.
This means that a blog post should be at least 1,900 words if you are trying to rank high on Google for any content that is targeting a high-value/competitive keyword phrase. Chances are you are trying to do exactly this, so now you have your answer, right? Right?!! Not so fast.
Average Word Count
Do Readers Really Prefer 1,900 Words?
This is where it gets a little tricky. While Google definitely is rewarding content that is 1,900+ words, it doesn’t necessarily mean that viewers prefer the content of that size.
Tim Brown from Snap Agency recently polled blog readers via Twitter to see what word counts they prefer reading.
My previous research has indicated that the best blog length for traffic is at 2,250 to 2,500 words but what is your preference as a reader?
— Tim Brown (@timbdesignmpls) November 7, 2016
From this and other polls, it’s clear that there is a preference among readers for shorter content when the subject matter doesn’t require longer content.
So while content with 1,900+ words is favorable to Google, it may not be favorable to your audience based on the type of information being relayed and the types of answers your readers are seeking.
How Long Should a Blog Post Be for Everyone Else?
While the poll above is a pretty small subset of people, there are other studies that show that once a post hits about 1,000 words, the average number of social shares increases, as does organic traffic.
This means that posts that are not targeting highly competitive keywords should still be around 1,000-2,000 words to keep audiences happy, while also ensuring performance. In fact, this “sweet spot” for maximizing shares gets nearly 56% more shares than content pieces that fall under that 1,000 word mark.
The charts below were created by Backlinko to illustrate word count effect on shares and traffic:
Average Word Count
This was a study Backlinko did on over 912 million blog posts to see trends in word count length, backlinks and shares. For organic traffic, the impact really isn’t seen on lower word counts at all. Traffic starts to gain traction and spike once the word count reaches 1,000+. After 2000 words, however, there seemed to be a diminishing return on social shares. For context, they looked at social media networks like Reddit, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook.
So how long should a blog post be? From just a social sharing perspective, this study shows that content under 1,000 words and over 2,000 words may get shares, but the strategy is probably a little more unique/innovative. The majority of shares are happening for blogs between the 1,000-2,000 word mark. This would probably be the ideal target when asking how long my blog post should be, if social shares are your main KPI.
This next graph was very interesting because it highlighted that only a tiny number of “power posts” get most of the social shares. So, basically, 1.3% of all articles get three quarters of all the shares online. Backlinko then went on to drill deeper to find that 0.1% of posts get 50% of the social shares. This incredibly small percentage of articles getting more than half the shares would be considered “viral” posts.
While you can’t always plan for virality in your article content, you can see how they can drastically alter the social media sharing landscape. This adds another layer on top of just a total word count (obviously), but goes to show there’s a lot more to maximizing content than just creating it at a certain length – but we’ll get into that later.
Is Word Count the Only Thing That Drives Traffic and Shares?
While word count does seem to play a large part in the overall algorithmic scheme of things when it comes to traffic and shares, there are several other factors and signals that can trump word count.
For example, Seth Godin’s blog is known for being very short, with each post often being under 200 words. Here’s a blog post directly from his site:
This is literally a blog he wrote. It’s all of 41 words. 41 WORDS! He also get’s crazy amounts of shares and traffic. The reason why?
He has a very large following and is very popular. He understands what his readers want and has established a relationship with his base that they respond to.
What this means is that websites that have a large existing following base or authority on the web can still get great results with shorter posts.
So how long should a blog article be? Where you sit on the spectrum can determine how long you should try to make your posts. If you are a new website or business just starting out, creating longer posts would make sense. However, if you are a well-established business that has consistent traffic, creating content with a mix of different word count sizes makes the most sense, and is likely the most cost-effective.
So, while 1,000 words is a decent word count mark to hit, it’s not the be-all-end-all number as your situation could require more or fewer words on average.
How Do I Balance Long-Form and Short-Form Content?
Since not everyone wants to read a blog post over 1,900 words, how then do you balance the posting frequency between long and short content? The answer comes down to your content marketing strategy’s preference on how frequently you are posting blogs and the purpose of the content.
Based on the chart above (I know the chart is a little old, but the trends are still sound), posting blogs weekly results in a 66% chance of landing a customer via their blog. What’s interesting is that by upping that frequency to 2-3 times per week, your chances only increase by 4%. However, if you increase the frequency to more than once daily, your chances increase by 26%.
For agencies that post multiple times a day, having to come up with 1,900+ words per post is near impossible, which is why these agencies typically post content of a much shorter word count.
Therefore, if your content marketing strategy includes a high frequency of posting, shorter word count blog posts should work just fine for you – as long as you’re using them to promote and boost some 1,900 word “pillar” pieces that you’re also creating that are targeting high-level keywords along the way. The key is to balance content with different purposes to help support an overarching campaign that checks all the boxes. You need content that appeals to readers, that appeals to search engines like Google, that promotes shares and also gets you backlinks. When you can kill two birds with one stone, you do it! Otherwise, you vary your marketing mix and make sure you’re still doing what needs to be done in a smart, interconnected way.
I Don’t Have a Posting Strategy, What Should I Do?
The first thing to be done when coming up with a posting strategy is to decide what you can realistically and consistently do as far as budget constraints and bandwidth is concerned. Is it once a month, weekly or daily?
Only you can answer this, but do it with the understanding that you can always work up to whatever frequency you would like to achieve. It’s more important to be consistent with posting rather than intermittent as far as Google and your readers are concerned, so don’t shoot for the moon unless you’re willing to allocate the time and resources to get there!
If you are a small business blogging primarily for increased organic ranking results, I would suggest the following strategy:
- 1-2 monthly, 1,900 word blog posts that focuses on a high-value/competitive keyword.
- 1-2 weekly, 1,000 word blog posts that keeps your readers fed while also alerting Google that you are consistently serving up fresh content.
Try to shoot for producing 6,000-15,000 words a month and start with those pillar posts and target keywords. Build a strategy of complementary content that can support/enhance those larger blogs. Build content consistently and give it time. These results don’t happen overnight.
How long should a blog be? If you are fighting for a competitive keyword, Google does reward content that is 1,900+ words. Your readers, however, may not respond well to longer content based on your subject matter or industry. In most cases, having content around 1,000 words should keep your readers happy without making them feel like the content is too long.
Finding the balance between long- and short-form content is different for everyone, but is so important. Ultimately, the right answer is to create content that is long enough to clearly and concisely share your message to your readers. Mixing short and long content is the best way to cover your bases in order to keep both Google and your readers happy and engaged.
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