How long should a blog post be?
In the past year, content specialists have cited the benefits of longer blog posts. By longer, they typically mean more than 2,000 words in length.
According to experts, longer posts solve a lot of problems that web owners and small businesses face. Apparently, longer posts can improve your site’s search engine rankings, engage more readers, and generally drive more traffic to your site.
It sounds like the solution to all your problems, right?
Many website owners have jumped on the long blog post bandwagon, some without thinking about it. Are they right in doing so?
In this post, I’ll take a closer look at longer blog posts and their effectiveness. My goal is to provide the information you need to make and informed decision. At the end, I invite you to share your own experiences.
Are Longer Blog Posts Better?
There’s a lot of discussion about blog post length. Let’s take a look at some of the evidence.
First, let’s look at Garrett Moon’s post on the CoSchedule blog, 5 Things That Will Change Your Mind About Long Form Content Marketing. If you read this post carefully, you’ll discover that most articles that rank well in search engines are longer.
Next, let’s look at Neil Patel’s post on the Quick Sprout blog, How Long Should Each Blog Post Be? A Data Driven Answer. An interesting finding from this post is that longer posts get more quality back links.
With the evidence that longer posts can be more effective, you would think that every website owner should be creating longer posts. But, let’s take a the other side of the issue.
Longer Blog Posts Done Wrong
As with any trend, as soon as it becomes popular, people start to do it wrong. And with longer posts, there’s a lot you can do wrong.
Here are some mistakes that I see websites making with longer posts:
- Poor editing. Badly written copy is often longer than well-written copy. Unfortunately, skipping the editing step is not the right way to go about creating a long-form post.
- Lack of formatting. You’ve probably seen these posts too. They’re nothing but paragraph after paragraph of unbroken text. In the worst cases, they are one giant paragraph.
- No real focus. Did you ever start reading a post and think to yourself, “what’s this post about?” That’s because the author hasn’t taken time to establish a direction for the post.
- No images. Along with formatting, images are vital for breaking up large chunks of text. With longer posts, you need more than one image.
- Not targeted. Some posts don’t consider the audience. The author just throws out as much information as he or she can (probably in an attempt to make the post longer) and hope that someone responds.
The bottom line is, no matter how long the post, quality still counts. Length alone is not enough to guarantee a post’s success.
What does all this mean for your website?
Are Longer Posts Right for Your Site?
If you’re reading this post, you’re probably thinking about using longer posts or articles for your website. That’s great. But before you make the jump to longer posts, there are some things you should know.
- Cost. If you pay a writer to create longer posts, be aware that an in-depth post will cost you more. In How Will Freelance Writers Earn Well From Longer Blog Posts? by Carol Tice on Make a Living Writing, she puts the floor (that’s the lowest cost) for writing longer posts at $300.00. Having written longer posts myself, I think that’s a pretty accurate figure.
- Time. One reason that longer posts cost more is that it takes a writer much longer to create one. Don’t believe a writer who says they can whip one out in less than a day. In my experience, a longer post can take several days to research and write. If you plan on doing the writing yourself, you need to ask yourself if you have the time.
- Audience. If your post or article isn’t useful to your target audience, publishing it won’t be worth it for you no matter how many words are in the post. Always, always, always… take time to understand who your audience is and what they need. It takes a little extra effort on your part, but it’s worth it in the long run.
A Happy Compromise
Right now you’re probably thinking “$300 a post. There’s no way I could afford to pay that. I guess I can’t afford longer posts.”
Unless you’re a large publication or big corporation with a huge blogging budget, cost is a legitimate concern.
Fortunately, adding long content to your website is not an either or proposition. As long as it’s relevant to your audience, everything you publish doesn’t need to be longer for your blog to be effective. Consider a compromise.
Let’s say that your budget for blog posts and articles is $800 a month. For that price you’ve hired a writer to create eight original, hiqh-quality posts that average 700 words a piece. That means you publish a post twice a week, which is a pretty good frequency.
If you were to try to publish eight longer form posts, your cost would suddenly triple. That might seem to put long-form posts out of reach. But consider spending your monthly budget like this:
- Five well-written shorter posts at $100 each
- One top-notch long-form post at $300
- One short announcement written by you or your team at no cost.
With this compromise, you can still publish one long-form post a month. By the end of the year, your site will have 12 long-form posts. On the weeks you don’t publish a long-form posts, you publish two high-quality shorter posts or you publish an announcement and a shorter post.
(Note: Added 4/19/2014. The post prices above are intended merely as an example of how a budget could be reconfigured to include a longer post. They are not necessarily recommended prices for such a project, nor do they reflect what I charge for such a project.)
A high-quality shorter post can still be extremely effective in reaching your target audience. It will certainly be more effective than a poorly written longer post.
You don’t have to choose between long and short content. Your website can have both. With the right compromise, longer posts are not out of reach for smaller sites.
Have you published long-form posts on your blog? Have you noticed different results?