Looking to hire someone to write blog posts for your website but not sure what word length to ask for? Or are you a budding writer who’s wondering what’s involved in writing blog posts of various lengths? Either way, you’re not alone. There’s always been debate over what the ideal word count should be for a ‘successful’ blog post (probably because this ‘ideal’ length has evolved over the years), so if you look into it, you’ll find there are discrepancies between the numbers recommended by various marketing experts.
The thing is, there isn’t just one ideal word count that applies to all blog posts, because there are a variety of factors that determine what is “ideal”, like the industry you’re in, the complexity of the subject you’re writing about, the purpose of the blog post and more.
So, what’s the difference between a blog post of varying word counts and when should you aim for a specific length? I’ve prepared some examples so you can see for yourself.
Before we get stuck into the examples and the differences between them, you may be curious about the current industry-recommended ‘ideal length’ for the average blog post, so here are a few numbers you can use as a guide based on existing research:
- According to a 2019 HubSpot study of their 50 most-read blog posts, the ideal blog post length for SEO should be 2,100–2,400 words, but they also posit that there are different ideal lengths for different post types. For example, the average length of a very detailed post that’s designed to be an in-depth guide, is about 4,000 words. List posts should be about 2,300–2,600 words (although this would depend on the topic) and “How-to” blog posts should be 1,700–2,100 words.
- According to Orbit Media’s 7th Annual Blogging Survey based on data gathered in late 2020, blog posts have been getting increasingly longer every year, with the current average blog post length (1,269 words) up 57% since 2014. Where in previous years shorter blog posts typically performed best, longer blog posts fare a lot better now, with the majority of bloggers who write 3,000+ word articles reporting “strong results”, according to the study.
- According to research from Ahref, long blog posts get a higher rate of backlinks (links from one website to another), which is a factor that contributes to a blog post’s ranking on Google. The longer the post, the more other websites seem to refer to it, presumably because it is impressive and contains valuable content or data.
As you can see, various reputable sources seem to be recommending different word counts as the optimal “average length” for a blog post, so it’s no wonder that confusion is rife over what is considered to be the definitive guide for how long a blog post should be. But as mentioned above, while the factors that determine the “average” word count for the “most effective” blog posts vary depending on the subject niche, audience demographics, content quality and even the device the blog post is read on — you also need to consider that there’s only so much you can hope to achieve within the constraints of a particular word limit. A short blog post of 600 words, for example, will not have the same effect or benefit as a 2,000+ word blog post because there’s only so much you can say in 600 words. Even a 1,200-word blog post — which may certainly be an interesting read — will obviously not be as comprehensive as a post that’s 2,000+ or 3,000+ words.
NOTE: You’ve reached the 600-word mark for this blog post, and although there is clearly a discussion in progress, I’m not done yet. Here come some handy tips:
The best way to determine the most effective content length for your particular business needs is to use analytics to review the most effective posts in your website (if you don’t have any, start publishing some posts and experimenting). One of the metrics to look out for is “Pageviews”. Although logic suggests that a metric like “Pageviews” wouldn’t necessarily be the best indicator because it measures how much traffic arrived at your blog post, not how people reacted to the length of the post once they arrived, or how the content length affected their dwell time (how long they spent on the page before leaving) — it seems that Google favours long-form posts and ranks them higher in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) — presumably because it deems longer content of higher quality because it’s more comprehensive and therefore more beneficial for the reader — so it pays to bear word count in mind if you want to optimize your blog posts for SEO.
Other indicators you could use to rank your top-performing posts include average time on page, engagement or click-through rates and social shares (all of which indicate how readers actually interacted with the post) and then identify the elements that are common to all of those ‘most successful’ posts — including word count — to establish what average works best in your industry or niche. You may find that content length doesn’t influence the success of your blog posts at all — meaning that your most popular posts in terms of reader-engagement were of a variety of word counts, both short and long — or you may find a definitive pattern among your most popular posts and notice that the majority of them are either long or short or of a very specific length. Once you’ve established the word-count ‘sweet spot’ that’s common to the majority of your most successful blog posts, you will know what to generally aim for to maximize their performance.
What to consider when deciding on content length for your blog posts
Deciding on a particular word count in advance usually guides the writer’s approach to writing the blog post — including estimating the time required to write it and the most effective way to achieve the post’s primary objective within that timeframe — so before you can decide on the ideal length for your blog post, you first need to know your purpose for publishing it.
Your purpose for publishing a blog post might be:
- To discuss a particular topic so that the reader comes away with a basic takeaway or information, or a desire to learn more about the subject (or about you or your brand) — all of which could be done in a short post.
- To dive a bit deeper into a particular subject by providing examples, introducing relevant research or telling a story that strengthens brand awareness. For this, you’d probably be looking at around 1,000–1,500 words, give or take.
- To position yourself or your brand as an authority in your niche with an educational resource (or ‘thought leadership’ piece) that provides context, explores a topic thoroughly, includes reference to research or data, and offers in-depth analysis, insights and practical lessons or benefits.
The goal you want to accomplish with your post should help determine the content length to aim for in order to achieve that goal successfully.
Let’s look at the examples:
For the purpose of this post, I wrote a companion blog post titled “Why Leveling Up Crappy Copy Should Be a Top Priority For Brands and Businesses in 2021”, only I didn’t just write it once, I wrote four different versions of it so you can see how they differ at 600, 1,200, 2,000 and 3,000+ words.
Why Crappy Copy Can Cripple Your Businesses (and What You Can Do About It) - Noya Lizor
To remain competitive in a ruthless attention economy, you simply can't afford to produce poorly-written content, so…
The ‘deluxe’ 3000+ word version is published on Medium, and the other versions are available here. For the sake of the exercise, it would be good to have all four versions open on your screen at the same time so that when I talk about the differences between them, you can navigate to the different versions easily (although probably far more easily on a desktop than on a mobile device).
NOTE: You’ve reached the 1,200-word mark for this blog post. So far, I have focused on providing industry data, best practices and practical tips to give you context for the next part of the discussion, which will highlight the differences between the companion blog post examples of varying lengths.
And by the way, if you’re wondering why I chose “600, 1,200, 2,000 and 3,000+ words” rather than “500, 1,000, 1,500 and 2,000+ words” — there’s no particular reason, those numbers are meant as a ballpark. The idea is to differentiate between a mini post, a short post, an average-length post and a long-form post.
As you can see from the four examples — there are certain elements that remain more or less constant despite the varying word lengths. For example, all four versions include:
- An intro paragraph that introduces the subject of the post and a talking point that the reader will hopefully find interesting enough to want to read more about in the next few paragraphs.
- A ‘breakout quote’ with a punchy, thought-provoking statement that will hopefully linger in the readers’ minds even after they’ve finished reading. It might even be impactful enough to encourage them to share the post in social media so that their friends or colleagues might also benefit from reading it.
- At least one visual within the body of the post (except for the 600-word version) — partly to give the eye a ‘rest’ from all that text, and also to encourage shareability.
- A concluding paragraph that sums up the gist of the post and gives the readers something to think about or act on once they’ve finished reading it.
But there are some differences in the ‘meat’ (the body) of the post between the four versions:
The 600-word version –
- Elaborates (over five short paragraphs) on the argument that poorly-written copy gives readers either a bad impression of your brand, or no lasting impression at all (meaning, it is forgettable) — which in a content-saturated web is akin to business-promotion suicide at worst, and an unfortunate waste of time and effort at best.
- The final three paragraphs build up to a call-to-action that encourages readers to do something about any of their own content if it is sub-par, by investing in professionally written high-quality copy instead.
The 1,200-word version –
- Does everything the 600-word version does, but in more detail:
It includes sub-headlines that indicate what each section of the post is about. Since most readers skim blog posts rather than read them in their entirety, if they can’t be bothered reading the whole post but can see clearly defined sections that deal with a particular point thanks to the sub-headline, they might at least read the parts of the post that interest them most since they are able to locate them easily.
- It introduces a talking point that wasn’t covered in the 600-word version, about “what makes copy great”. This ‘tips’ section is educational, so it offers more value to the reader than the 600-word version which didn’t allow for the extra value due to the constraints of the word limit.
The 2,000-word version –
Does everything the 1,200-word version does, but includes yet another educational section that talks about “key copy elements that could be crippling your marketing efforts when written poorly” — adding even more value to the reader than the 1,200-word version.
The 3,000+ word version –
Does everything the 2,000-word version does, but includes additional insights and a more in-depth discussion of the talking points and concepts covered in the post, as well as references to research, data and statistics that reinforce the talking points. This gives the readers extra food for thought, possibly even helping to shape their opinion or attitude towards the subject matter.
Overall, the post feels more like a useful resource that the reader might want to bookmark or refer back to again and again, rather than a fleeting read. It’s also far more likely that readers would share this kind of extensive blog post (rather than short ones that are not as comprehensive) so that their friends and colleagues might benefit from it.
So, which word length should you choose for your blog posts?
As you can see from the four examples of varying lengths, each version of the post deals with the same topic, but the writer (that’s me!) is able to include more useful talking points and insights (i.e. extra value for the reader) the longer it is. The decision to create a post that’s short versus long and vice versa depends on how you want your reader to feel about the subject matter or what action (if any) you’d like them to take. If it’s a B2C post designed to entertain or build brand awareness rather than educate, it could be fine as a 600 or 1,200-word post. But if it’s a B2B post designed to teach something or discuss a subject that’s more complex, it makes sense that you wouldn’t be able to do it justice or convey the content successfully in less than 2,000+ or 3,000+ words.
There are exceptions to this logic (as with anything), in that sometimes people actually prefer to learn something quickly rather than labor over a long blog post they don’t have time to read. If that’s the case, they’d be grateful for a piece of content that gets straight to the point, so use your own common sense to determine the right content length for the subject matter, and possibly even the ideal format. Maybe it’s not a blog post at all, maybe it would be conveyed best via an infographic or a short video.
So there you have it. We end as we started, with no single ‘ideal’ blog post length to declare definitively — but now that you understand why that’s the case and have seen the differences between several versions of varying lengths for the same blog post, perhaps it will be easier for you to determine now long your next blog post should be. If you can find the right balance between covering everything you want to say while being mindful of the performance factors discussed in this post, you’ll most likely have nailed it.
NOTE: You’ve reached the 2,340-word mark for this blog post, which is also the end. As you can see from the previous two word-count milestones in the post (600 words and 1,200 words) — in order to provide a thorough discussion of the concepts I wanted to cover rather than rushing them or not elaborating on them as fully as I would have liked — it was necessary to aim for about 2,000–2,500 words. Time will tell how you as the reader interacted with this post and how it fared compared with some of my other posts of different lengths (stay tuned!).