The Long and Short of It: How Long Blogs Should be

Blog Post by Lauren Leal, Director of Engagement at The News Funnel

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To write long blogs or short blogs, that is the question. The blogosphere debate over blog post length has created two schools of thought. “Long-form” generally refers to content 1,000 words and longer, while “short-form” blogs range from 250-750 words. Research shows that longer-form content tends to perform better in search engine placement than short-form blogs. If that’s true, why don’t more bloggers write long-form content?

Why the debate

What the word count dispute boils down to is search engine optimization. Blogging creates content that search engines index and furnish to users depending on their search query. Logically, the longer the post the more potential keywords content contains. Yet shorter content that follows blogging best practices can hit on relevant keywords and rank just as well. Short content displays well on mobile devices and generates discussions. Plus some content doesn't need to be 2000 words long to get the point across. Therein lies the length conundrum. That said, there are some loose guidelines when it comes to word count.

When shorter is better

Short content has some clear advantages in today's fast-paced social media world. Generally speaking, the average time a user spends on a blog is 15 seconds. That means they're not reading extensive essays. Raiders skim the headers to pinpoint the content they need. Crafting shorter content allows for blogs to narrow in on topics and become very specific, which search engines tend to like. Since these topics are uber-focused and short, they'll allow for a higher posting frequency.

Another factor to go short depends on your purpose. If the mission is to spread brand awareness, improve SEO, provide education, or build an email list, going shorter may benefit your strategy. Audience should be another factor when deciding if short blogs are preferred. Content creation should match their needs and passions. If they're not the kind of person likely to read in-depth research but prefer a quick and easy fix, shorter content wins.

When longer is better

Search engines favor long-form content over short form content.  As we have said before, long-form blog content has more keywords that boost ranking. Other research hints that long-form content sells better than shorter content. If conversion is your goal, spending less time posting often but delivering quality, well-researched articles could be the way to go.

Certain topics deserve an in-depth analysis in order for readers to truly comprehend the scope of the issue. In this case, a long content may be better. Writing and publishing this way isn’t a churn-and-burn operation; blogs take time which translates into a reduced posting frequency. As the writer, weigh the benefit of website traffic over time against a weekly or more frequent posting schedule.

When choosing to write longer content, be careful of selecting a narrow topic that naturally is less than 500 words. Trying to stretch content into over 750 results in low-quality content stuffed with boring and repetitive phrases. Readers know fluff when they read it. Research-backed content will be more likely to earn reader comments and shares than empty articles.

long-form content performs better on different social networks. For instance, we recently wrote about how long-form content is preferable on LinkedIn. Of course, because long-form is a content gold mine, the blogs are easily promoted on other social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Choose from multiple quotes, add the article link, and share away. Savvy bloggers can add click-to- tweet into the long-form content to make it easy reader sharing easy.

What’s the word count answer?

The real answer is it depends on your purpose, your audience, and the time you’re willing to commit to writing. We can find examples of super-short bloggers that perform really well (Seth Godin), long-form bloggers that excel posting once or twice a month (Bill Gates), and everyone in between. Regardless of word count, quality will always win the blogging debate.