What’s The Ideal Blog Post Length In 2020?

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Originally published February 10, 2020

When it comes to the ideal length of blog posts, many “expert” writers swear by the phrase “the shorter the better”. A common belief is that you should try to keep your content under 600 words because readers have short attention spans and will be intimidated by long articles.

Stop thinking like that. 

It shouldn’t be your goal to hit 2,000 words on every blog post because somebody told you that it’s the “magic number” for ranking on search engines. Instead, it should be your goal to give your readers what they want, regardless of how many (or how little) words it takes. 

On one end of the spectrum, SEO gurus are telling us that long-form 2000 word posts are the optimal length. While at the other end, others are arguing that the average human attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish so we need to keep our posts under 600 words long to keep our readers’ interested. 

The truth is, there really is no “magic” one-size-fits-all number when it comes to the ideal blog post length for 2020. It’s all a matter of quality over quantity. Too many people place more emphasis on hitting an average word length in their blog posts than providing actual value to their readers. Your ideal blog post length depends on your goals and target audience,  and it may very well be different for each article you write.

Does the ideal blog post length differ based on your goal?

The short answer is yes, absolutely, it has everything to do with your goal. But how does it vary depending on your goals?

User Engagement

In a world of smaller screens and shorter attention spans if you’re trying to stir up a discussion, short (usually under 600 words long), discussion-based blog posts that are focused on asking your readers questions work best for generating lots of comments and engagement.

The attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds. According to a study by Microsoft, the average human attention span is just eight. So while we’ve all been throwing around the idiom that somebody has an “attention span of a goldfish”, the phrase has recently taken a very literal turn. The average page visit is less than a minute long, which means that in order to keep people from clicking off your site, you’ll have to put effort into writing content that really latches on to your readers. 

The easiest way to do this? 

Short content

Bite-sized, straight to the point content is fantastic for keeping your readers engaged. It’s quick, simple and answers their question right away. Long blocks of content that beats around the bush in answering your reader’s query, will certainly not hold your readers’ attention for long. In fact, they’re already on your competitor’s site. 

Keep in mind that although shorter posts great for engagement they are rarely shared on social media sites and tend to not rank so well in SEO. Even though you may theoretically have the most engaging content, if there’s no audience for you to engage it’s practically worthless! Because of this, it’s a good practise to also include longer posts too every now and then to assist in growing your audience 

Shareability / Social Shares

If you want to write blog posts that your readers will share with their friends over social media it’s best to keep a medium to long length post. Long enough to give value but not so long that it takes too much time to read. However, keep in mind that in order for your audience to share your post in the first place, they need to be interested in the topic! 

For example, if you have a veganism blog, a post on how to cook the best steak is going to get much less social shares than one about your favourite pasta recipe. Why? Because your audience isn’t interested in how to cook steak and neither are their friends.

In order for a post to be shareable, it must be interesting and engaging. Short posts work well for engaging your audience. For social shares, short sentences work better. 

Keeping your sentences short allows you to write more content without compromising your engagement. Why? Because it forces you to be straight to the point. Shorter sentences are easier to read and more efficient at hooking your readers in. Content that hooks your readers in is content that your readers will want to share with their friends. You get the picture. 

As well as incorporating short sentences, make sure you keep your paragraphs short too. A widely agreed length is that each paragraph should be under four sentences long.

Short sentences and paragraphs make your readers feel as though they’re reading less so it’s easier to write more without losing their interest. They won’t even realise how far they’ve scrolled through your post until they reach the end! Short sentences strengthen your content’s connection to your audience will give them more incentive to share your article.

SEO

On average, first-page ranking articles do tend to be over 2000 words. So, if you want to rank on Google and grow your audience, long-form blog posts are the way to go!

While Google doesn’t directly credit blog post length as a ranking factor, it’s clear to see that it loves long, heavily researched content that showcases your expertise on a particular topic and will prioritize those that can provide its users with the answers they’re looking for. 

In late 2013, long-form style blog posts became more popular, and for good reason too! Since the release of Google’s Hummingbird update, search results have been ranked based on topic authority rather than keywords. So it makes sense that long-form articles with full coverage on a particular topic are most often seen on page one of Google’s search results. 

As well as this, long-form blog posts take longer to read, meaning that users will spend more time on your blog, and you’ll also have a lower bounce rate thus also contributing to increasing your SERP rankings.

But keep in mind that Google wants to provide value to its users, it does not want to provide lengthy, keyword-stuffed content that describes the same concept several times over. So while long-form blog posts are said to be great for SEO, it’s not the length alone that will allow you to rank in SERPs. Google penalises thin content and is smart enough to pick up on when you’re just trying to reach a word count.

To put it briefly, longer blog posts, generally at least 2000 words long, are ideal for growing your audience. They tend to rank best on Search engines and accumulate the most social shares. While shorter, straight to the point posts are more efficient at generating discussion and keeping your readers engaged.

While you may choose to focus mostly on one of these goals, whether it be SEO, shareability or user engagement, an effective content marketing strategy will typically target all three to some extent. So it’s a good practise to vary the word count from article to article. Both long and short-form blog posts have their space in an effective content marketing strategy.

Does the topic you’re writing about affect the optimal word count?

So, as you can see, your ideal blog post lengths will differ based on your goal. As for actual numbers? There’s no “magic number” when it comes to writing quality content, but perhaps the topic you’re writing about has something to do with it too?

Each industry has a different audience, each with their own opinion on whether they prefer to read long detailed posts or shorter, more easily digestible posts.

On the other hand, some topics just require higher word counts to cover adequately. For example, you wouldn’t write a 2000 word post describing how to create a Facebook page, it’d simply be too repetitive and bore your readers to sleep. However,  you could create a 2000 word post explaining how to create and use Facebook as part of an effective inbound marketing strategy. That’s why it’s important to focus on providing your readers with valuable, high-quality content, rather than just trying to hit a word count. 

Some topics can adequately be explained in just a few sentences, while others may take over 5000 words. The basic idea is just to write as much as you need to in order to explain your topic and answer your readers’ questions. It’s simple, keep everything that adds value, remove anything that does not. 

4 Tips to find the ideal blog post length for your content

1. Consider your audience

Your audience is one of your best resources. If you already have a decent online presence, ask your readers directly whether they’d prefer longer, detailed posts or quick bite-sized reads. This could be through a poll on your blog or within your email newsletters. Having a gauge on the length of content your audience prefers ensures that they’ll actually enjoy reading your blog posts. 

2. Consider your audience

Some topics will demand a higher word counts, while some topics, particularly when writing about fast-paced niches, suit a shorter, more easily digestible length. Don’t expect every post you write to be the same length. Think about how much detail you need to include to cover each topic you write about.

3. Consider your current posts

Check the analytics on your current blog posts to see what word counts are already working well for you and your goals. Use this as a rough estimate of a word count to aim for on your future posts. Also, take a look at how you are already ranking on Google’s search engine, there are many free tools available online to simplify the process. Make sure to check these analytics every month or so to keep track of your progress.

4. Consider your competition

Check what your competitors are doing. Take note of the length of content that is already ranking high on the front page of google for your targeted keywords and try to reproduce similarly lengthed articles of your own. You may also want to have a look at which of your competitors’ articles are generating the most comments and user engagement. If you notice any posts within your niche being shared on social media sites, it also pays to check them out to see the average length of posts that people are sharing.

While it’s important to understand that while the length is important, it’s only one of the many components that make up a quality blog post. Your main focus should be supplying your readers with high-quality content that fulfils their intent. The main idea is to give your readers what they want, regardless of how many (or how little) words it takes.

Your ideal blog post length should be however long it needs to be to get its message across, not a fixed number of words. It depends on your goal, your topic, your audience and many other unique factors.

Words aren’t all that matter

Although this post is about the ideal blog post length, keep in mind that your content doesn’t have to be entirely written. It’s a great idea to incorporate media such as infographics, images and video into your content too. Creating blog posts that are more visual-centric not only allow you to be more in-depth without the extra paragraphs (A one minute video can save you up to 1.8 million words) but are also more interactive and engaging, therefore likely to be shared by your readers. These are especially useful for when you need to explain a topic in a lot of detail but fear boring your audience. 

The Bottom Line

On average, bloggers who publish shorter posts tend to post more frequently than those who publish long-form posts. So, as a good rule of thumb, if you want to increase the length of your blog posts you may want to decrease the frequency of them, for both you and your readers’ sake. Otherwise, you may end up overwhelming your readers and overloading yourself. Be sure to set realistic and achievable goals.

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