Quality vs Quantity: How Long Should a Blog Post Be?

By Jim Robinson | Content Marketing
Posted June 22, 2017

How long should a blog post be

Short answer: In 2018, there is no one-size-fits-all blog post length. Blog posts serve a multitude of purposes, and none of them line up to an exact word count.

Is there a typical blog post length? If so, how long should a blog post be?

At one time (pre-2010), blog posts written for SEO—regardless of length—could rank with the right tags, keyword density, a high number of backlinks, and a page rank higher than competitors.

While algorithm updates occurred prior to 2010, Google Panda shook the SEO world to the core in early 2011 by penalizing major brands for poor quality content and a high volume of low quality backlinks.

Google continues to roll out algorithm updates without warning, often without confirmation, and ranking factors are unclear. While the latest ranking factor reports give a good starting point, none of them answer the age-old question: How long should a blog post be?

Bonus: Download our Free Blog Post Length Guide

 

Ideal Blog Post Length – Competitor Research

Start by conducting competitor research for your top keyword targets on a desktop/laptop and a smart phone/tablet. Record your findings for later reference.

Type the keyword into the search bar on a desktop. Eliminate news sites, landing pages, and press releases, recording the word count only for blog posts. Next, type the same phrase into a mobile phone or tablet. Compare the results in a spreadsheet.

Here’s an example for recording competitor blog post data:

Page One results for home decor VR tool:

Screen Shot 2017 06 15 at 3.35.00 PM

Screen Shot 2017 06 15 at 3.35.12 PM

Note: All of the results match, except for the last listing.

MobileResults

Instead of showing the Houzz blog post on mobile, there is an Ad for the Houzz App at the bottom of the page, and a LifeHacker blog post showed up in place of the Houzz blog post.

 

Typical Blog Post Length – Case Studies & Influencer Recommendations

Once your competitor research is complete, keep these case studies and influencer recommendations in mind.

Yoast: In 2016, Yoast says that a minimum word count of 300 words is required to rank, but posts over 1,000 words have a higher chance of ranking well.

Buffer In 2016, Buffer identified the ideal blog post length in terms of minutes, translating to a 1600 word count.

SerpIQ tackled the subject back in 2012, and higher word counts are associated with higher rankings. Note – That was 2012, and they did not analyze blog posts. They included landing pages, news articles, and all types of content in their results.

Moz is the only resource that tackles the desktop vs. mobile word count analysis and average session duration. While the contributor identifies 1,125 as a maximum word count, the findings are restricted to medical keywords. The jump in traffic (57%) is impressive, so increasing word counts on existing articles is something to consider.

Taking all of these recommendations to heart, it’s safe to assume that a minimum blog post length should aim for 1,000 words for SEO purposes. Does this minimum word count apply to every keyword target? No, it doesn’t.

Look at the number one blog post from our competitor research above: Decorilla’s blog only had 686 words.

Andy Crestodina from Orbit Media puts it this way:

“The research and the trends are all toward longer articles. But don’t be tempted to take a concise piece and fluff it up. Every piece of content should be as long as it takes to convey the message and not a word longer.”

Other SEO blog post factors to consider:

  • Backlinks and Shares – If you go to the trouble of creating blog posts specifically for ranking purposes, consider a backlinking and social media share strategy.
    • Drive high-value backlinks to the post?
    • Get influencers to share the post?
  • Target Audience Consider buyer personas and the buyer’s journey when identifying an ideal blog post length. Personas and journey mapping will help you understand buyer behavior, giving you insight into factors like:
    • Device type for consuming content
    • Topics that drive conversions
    • Calls to action that are valuable to the reader

For example, if your personas match up with people who search for and consume content on mobile devices, have limited free time to research and make decisions, and juggle a packed schedule with work and kid activities, they don’t have time to read your 1,000+ word blog post. Give them short cuts.

Bonus: Download our Free Blog Post Length Guide

See what I did there? You’ve read approximately 700 words (six minutes or less), and you don’t need to read my entire post to get what you need.

  • Device Formatting Make sure blog posts are formatted for quick, easy reading, skimming if necessary, and readers can easily locate the CTA or action item.
  • HTTPS Google is pushing for “HTTPS Everywhere,” and while search results don’t yet deliver 100% HTTPS results, it’s not difficult to migrate your site.
  • Page Speed Google revealed that page speed matters as early as 2010, and a mobile-friendly algorithm was released in 2015. Don’t go to the trouble of creating blog posts that are the right length for ranking without reviewing responsive design factors that might kill your page speed.

 

Blog Post Optimization Shortcuts

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Upgrade Existing Content

The fastest way to improve rankings with blog length optimization is to dive into your existing blog and work with posts that have high bounce rates, lack CTA’s, and contain long, boring blocks of text.

You can also use a ranking tool like Ahrefs Rank Tracker to identify posts that are hovering on page two or three and increase word counts to try and push them to page one.

Transcribe Video & Podcasts

Does your brand have a video or podcast library? Transcribing these videos and recordings for blog posts will deliver fast and valuable content to your blog without delay.

Guest Posts

Invite industry experts to submit guest posts. Not only will it cut down on content creation and publication time, but the author will promote the content to their audience.

Event Coverage

Is someone on your team attending an industry event? Ask them to write up a summary blog post that captures the highlights of the event. Event previews also work well, attracting influencers and increasing the chances of social shares.

Case Studies

Case studies provide excellent opportunities for valuable blog post content. By featuring partner brands, you’ll increase the posts share value.

Bonus: Download our Blog Post Length Guide

 

Conclusion

SEO is no longer a straight and narrow process. A holistic approach to rankings is necessary to achieve long-term success. I’d be leery of an SEO firm who insists on a minimum word count for a series of new blog posts without asking about the target audience, page speed, HTTPS, device information, and shortcut options to cut down on publication time.

Whatever your approach, the message is loud and clear: your blog posts require a checklist of SEO items for them to rank well. The right word count will only help you get there faster; it won’t guarantee results on its own.

Author: Jim Robinson

Jim is the Founder and Chief Growth Strategist of ClickSeed, and a 18-year veteran in the digital media space. Stay connected with Jim by following any of the social media links below, or get in touch via our contact form any time.

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2 Responses to “Quality vs Quantity: How Long Should a Blog Post Be?”

  1. Owen Kariuki

    I like your rendition of this issue. But what is the bottom line? Should I churn out 1000-word posts with a higher chance of getting backlinks or just concentrate on my content being of quality?

    Reply
    • Jim Robinson

      Thanks, Owen. I think high quality is the price of admission these days — there’s just too much competition out there to expect results from content that isn’t high quality. From there, I think the key to determining the right content length is to do the bit of competitor analysis I mention at the beginning of this post. Look at the the SERP for the most likely/most desirable keyword target(s). What types of pages are you seeing? What’s the average length of the content on those pages? I think understanding the types of pages Google is serving for a particular types of queries will help you establish where you’re going to need to be in terms of length to be competitive.

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