How long should our blog posts be?
More and more financial advice firms are now blogging, and seeing the benefits — greater brand awareness, higher levels of trust, and improved client acquisition and retention.
One of the questions advisers commonly ask me is, how long should a blog post be? The answer is that there is no ideal blog length; how long you should aim for mainly depends on what you’re looking to achieve.
Tastes are changing
There used to be a time when brevity was all the rage. But in the last few years we’ve seen a definite trend towards longer posts.
Orbit Media Studios recently issued the findings of its annual survey of more than a thousand bloggers. The survey began three years ago. In 2014, the average length for a post was 808 words, but the average now is 1142 words — an increase in length of 41%. Half as many bloggers are writing posts shorter than 500 words as three years ago; six times as many bloggers are writing posts of more than 2000 words.
But just because longer posts are the current fashion, that doesn’t mean that shorter posts are a bad idea for you. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
The pros and cons of shorter posts
There are excellent examples of a short blogs that work extremely well. Seth Godin's is a case in point. Very few of his posts are longer than 300 words; some are shorter than 100.
There are two main advantages to shorter posts. First, they don’t take as long to write. It’s less of a problem if you have a dedicated content team, but say, for example, you’re the owner of a small business owner, the chances are you don’t have time to spend several hours researching and writing each post. Secondly, short posts take less time to read; most people are busy and impatient, and if a post is too wordy, you risk losing your readers before they reach the end.
But there are downsides to brevity too. The whole point of blogging is to establish expertise and thought leadership. You want to be the go-to person in your particular field. Can you really say everything you need to say about a particular subject in 400 words? The second major drawback with short posts is that they reduce your keyword potential. Keywords are less crucial than they once were, but they’re still important from an SEO perspective. The shorter the post, the less likely you are to include the words and phrases that people are typing into their search engines.
The case for longer posts
The most interesting finding from the Orbit Media study is that the bloggers who write long posts were twice a likely to report “strong results”, including higher return on investment. For example, just 19.9% of respondents whose average blog post length was between 500 and 1000 words reported strong results, compared with 56.3% of those who wrote more than 2000 words.
This finding is consistent with similar research by SerpIQ and, most notably, Medium, which found that the optimal length for a blog post is around 1600 words. But why do longer posts tend to be more effective?
The algorithms used by search engines to rank content are changing all the time. They’re also quite complex; Google rankings, for example, depend on more than 200 different factors. But, generally speaking, the more content you have on a particular page, the higher its ranking will be.
“Google’s web crawler, Googlebot, is responsible for indexing your site. When it does so, it looks at every single word, tag, and particle of information (with a few exceptions like rich media files and dynamic pages).
“There are different content types that get indexed — page title, headlines (H1, H2, H3, etc.), metadata, alt tags on images, etc.
“The more content you have, the more of it gets indexed. The more that gets indexed, the better it will perform in searches and results. It’s just that simple.”
So what are the disadvantages of longer posts? Principally, they take longer to write and longer to read, and unless you’re a particularly good writer, it’s hard to keep someone’s attention for more than 2000 words. Also, if you want to post every day, as many bloggers do, it’s almost impossible to produce long-form posts consistently without making it a full-time job.
So, how long should my blog posts be?
Ultimately, the optimal length for your blog posts depends on you. What do you want your blog to achieve? How good a writer are you? And how much time are you willing to devote to it?
Yes, length is important, but there are other factors to consider as well. Readability and shareability are key. Remember, it’s all about your audience. What sort of content are they most likely to read and share?
If you’re looking for results from your content (and let’s face it, most of us are), the evidence in favour of writing more than 1000 words is very compelling. You do, though, need to write well, or employ or commission someone who can. It also helps if you structure your articles well and break them down into sections with separate headings.
Personally, although I acknowledge that evidence, I find that around 800 is the right length for me. Yes, when it warrants, I do write more. The only time I write fewer than 300 words is when I’m introducing another piece of content, such as a video or an audio podcast.
Finally, whatever length you go for, concentrate on making your content epic. The better is, the more effective it will be.
If you haven’t yet discovered Susan Weiner’s blog Investment Writing, I can highly recommend it. She specifically tackled the issue of blog post length in this very helpful article from February 2016:
Are you looking for help with your blogging?
If so, Regis Media, producer of Adviser 2.0, has a wide range of syndicated content for advisers. We also provide a custom blogs and content marketing strategy. For more information, visit our website and YouTube channel, or email Sam Willet or Christina Waider.