Should you be writing longer blog posts?
As I explained in an earlier post, longer blog posts often attract more page views and social media attention. For that reason, many blog owners are asking for them. Don’t be surprised if you get a client request for a longer post.
Writers need to know the difference between writing an effective longer blog post and writing a short blog post. Most of all, writers need to understand that simply adding more words to blog post doesn’t make always make it better.
In this post, I’ll discuss longer blog posts and explain some pitfalls you may run into when writing a longer post. I’ll also discuss some techniques to help you write an effective longer post.
How Long is Long?
Most writers tend to think of a blog post as being relatively short–between 500 and 700 words. If you look at many blogs and news articles, you will notice that most of them fall somewhere within this range.
Some research shows that long blog posts attract larger audiences and receive more social shares. Experts disagree on exactly how long a longer blog post should be. In my earlier post, I defined a longer post as being over 2,000 words, but many experts cite a shorter word count.
Here are some of the prevailing opinions about post length:
- The Ideal Length of Everything Online Backed by Research, from Kevan Lee, published on the buffersocial blog. Kevan gets specific in this post. His data, based on a study of the platform, Medium, indicates that an ideal post is 1600 words long.
- Size Matters–How Many Words Should My Blog Post Be? from Joe Elvin, published on the Business 2 Community blog. Joe analyzes the post length and shares of popular posts. His findings are that longer posts are more likely to be shared.
- Do Long Blog Posts Scare Away Readers? from Jonathon Morrow, published on Copyblogger. Jonathon emphasizes that both long and short blog posts can be effective. He encourages writers to focus on good writing and not length.
My own experience with longer posts falls into the same vein as Jonathon’s article. I’ve found that the topic and quality of writing are far more important than the number of words in a post.
This means that writers shouldn’t just focus on length. Adding more words to a post doesn’t always guarantee that post will reach a larger audience.
Which is Better, Short or Long?
Should you write a longer post, or be satisfied with a short one?
To answer that question, let’s look at the advantages of shorter and longer posts.
Short posts have some definite advantages:
- They can hone in on one or two interesting points.
- They can be written more quickly than a longer post.
- They cost the publication less money.
- Publications with a tight budget can publish more posts.
- They are easily skimmed or scanned.
Long posts also have some advantages:
- They can cover a topic more completely.
- They sometimes do better in search results.
- If the longer piece is evergreen, it can generate leads for a long time.
- They bolster the writer’s (or client’s) reputation as an expert.
- Writers receive more pay.
The decision to write a longer post boils down to a couple of questions. First ask, does the client really need a longer post? Next ask, will the topic support a longer post?
Your 1st Step to a Longer Post
Have you been asked to write a longer post? That’s great.
Your first step is to come up with a topic (if you haven’t been assigned one). But not just any topic. You need a topic that you can cover in-depth. Some topics don’t lend themselves to longer posts.
To discover whether you can write a longer post on the topic you’ve chosen (or were assigned), list what you know about the topic. Next, list questions you need to research. (Eventually you’ll expand the list and convert it to an outline, but for now just write everything you can think of.)
Now, take a look at your list. If you only listed a couple of items, chances are good that you won’t be able to cover this topic in-depth. A longer post is probably not a realistic option.
3 Types of Longer Posts
Clients often don’t realize that not all long posts are the same. There are many different types of long posts.
Here are three of the most common types.
- Really long lists. List posts are popular. And when the list is extremely long (by long, I mean that the list has over 50 items on it), the list post can also cross over into longer blog post territory. For example, a list post with 50 items and 20 words describing each item would have 1,000 words. That doesn’t include the introduction and conclusion to the post. Be careful with long lists, though. If the list items are too obscure, your readers may lose interest.
- Detailed Tutorials. A step-by-step tutorial for even a moderately complex procedure can exceed 2,000 words. A tutorial needs to be checked for accuracy. Enlist the help of a specialist to check what you’ve written. Tutorials are also made more user-friendly with images. Plan on including screen captures or photos that illustrate the various steps you describe.
- Features. A feature provides the reader with more background than they would get from a typical blog post or news story. Features often include a detailed history of the topic. They may define terms and concepts related to the topic. They also often include quotes from experts or from the subject of the feature.
If your client asks you to write a longer post, be sure to ask which type of longer post they want.
2 Big “No Nos” to Avoid
Just writing a longer post is no guarantee that the post will be good or that it will become popular. A longer post should also be well-written and interesting.
With longer posts, avoid these two common mistakes:
- No formatting. With a longer post, formatting becomes more important–not less. Choose your subheadings and bolded list items carefully. Many readers will scan the post to find out what it’s about before reading it. Your formatting should help tell the story.
- Unnecessary wordiness. Just having extra words doesn’t make a post good. The rules of good writing still apply to long posts. If anything, they are even more important. Your writing should be clear, concise, and engage the reader.
Have you written many longer blog posts?
What secrets would you add?