A blog post can really be any length – as long as it’s focused on meeting the needs of the people reading it.
If you’re trying to work out how long your blog post should be, the first thing to do is make sure it’s actually going to be useful for your readers – whether that’s answering a question, providing more information, or offering an opinion or advice.
Once you’ve done that, it’s time to think about what its purpose is for you – which will be a big help in deciding how long it should be.
In this post, we’ll look at the merits of long form articles vs shorter blogs, Google’s new entity-based approach to SEO, and the old keyword-based method.
We’ll take for granted that your content is something useful for your readers – and let’s jump into how you might change the length of your blog, depending on how you want to make it work for you.
Blog posts to drive search engine traffic to your website
American marketing software giant HubSpot, recently assessed the average length of its 50 most popular reads to work out the optimum blog post length for being found on search engines. It came out as about 2300 words.
But before you start scribbling with high hopes of being ranked on page one, remember that working on average rates can be deceptive. In HubSpot’s research, one third of the blogs in the sample actually had less than 1500 words (though that’s still pretty long-form copy).
Long-form blog posts are great for serving up detailed information to your target audience. Because you’ve got the space to explore topics in depth, you can cover lots of ground – providing useful information, as well as showcasing your own expertise. That ticks two important boxes: building credibility, and creating goodwill. It’s a powerful combination for persuading someone to choose you when the time comes for them to buy.
If you’re writing with SEO in mind, don’t forget to follow the other good practices, too – from proper backlinking to adding alt-text to images. We’ll cover this in more detail further down.
Blog posts to generate leads
As well as demonstrating expertise, building credibility, and driving traffic to your website, you’re probably also hoping that your content marketing will help generate leads and bring in more business.
According to the research, long form blogs are also great for lead generation – with a slightly higher word count, at about 2500. This is good news for busy business owners – it means you can kill two birds with one blog, boosting your chances of being found by search engines, and generating leads at the same time.
Do blog posts sometimes need to be even longer?
If you want to go all out and try to become the number one authority on a subject, then you’ll want to write a pillar page. This is a long-form landing page focused on a specific topic, which links to a number of your other blog posts that handle different aspects of the topic. Think of it like the trunk of a tree, with smaller branches shooting off – they might cover different elements, but they’re part of the same theme.
Pillar pages can be anywhere from 2000 – 10,000 words long, though the average is about 4000. It’s no small undertaking, so if you’re going to spend the time producing such a lengthy piece of content, make sure it’s a calculated part of your marketing strategy – well researched, authoritative and linking to all your other related content.
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When might shorter blog posts be appropriate?
Don’t worry! This article isn’t condemning you to writing War and Peace when pursuing your content marketing strategy.
Lots of people like content that’s short and snappy, and if a topic can be addressed succinctly, it’s absolutely fine to do so. “How to change a lightbulb” or, for an accounting audience, “How to find your unique taxpayer reference” doesn’t require 2,500 words.
Regularly publishing shorter blog posts can also be a great way to keep your website looking busy. That’s great for SEO, because Google loves and rewards fresh content, but it’s useful for your other marketing channels, too.
A shorter, regular content calendar feeds in brilliantly to a social media or email newsletter strategy. Sharing bitesize content through these channels means you’re finding ways to keep top of your clients’ minds, add value between your billable interactions, and continue the process of building rapport. Make your content work as hard as it can for you by using a range of channels to reach the people you’re interested in speaking to.
Is there a minimum blog post length?
Nope, there’s no minimum blog post length – because as long as you are being useful, size doesn’t matter. In fact, some types of content, like myth-busting pieces designed to show how simply something can be explained, can benefit from being really sparse.
That said, one reference point to be aware of is from the Yoast WordPress plug-in, which advises a minimum of 300 words when optimising a page. It’s not a golden rule though, so if you can say what you need to in 100 words, go for it.
A few years ago, overloading your content with the keywords you wanted to rank for was a popular way to get found on Google. This created problems, as it often led to poor-quality content, with good writing and clear messaging being sacrificed for crowbarring in the keywords (known as keyword stuffing).
Given that content is only king when it’s truly useful – and it’s not overly useful to read lots of keywords strung together – this created a disconnect. Your content might get found, but it wouldn’t do much else.
Google being Google, of course, has now recognised this, and changed its algorithms.
If Google detects keyword stuffing (or any other gaming of their system – known as black hat activity) it’ll penalise it. Its algorithms now look at the context and intent behind people’s keyword searches, and use of “entities” is one way it works.
Google defines an entity as “A thing or concept that is singular, unique, well-defined and identifiable.” It can be anything from a person to an abstract concept. Basically, if you could write a Wikipedia page about it, it could be an entity. In fact, Google’s algorithm uses Wikipedia as a reference tool.
To get technical, it uses knowledge graph technology – which links information together from multiple sources – to identify and establish entities. Keywords are still important, but entities mean that keywords should be considered as existing within entity topics.
What does this mean for blog length? It definitely shifts it towards longer form writing if you want to be found on search engines. Rather than just focusing on keywords, Google will analyse the topical discussion, and rank accordingly.
If you’re blogging for the right reasons (to serve your audience), this should be music to your ears. You’re less likely to be beaten on rankings by lazy keyword stuffing, and can feel happier that your posts will be considered holistically, and assessed on merit.
Develop your blogging strategy
If you’re an accountant that needs help developing a content strategy and setting it to work, we can help.
If you’d like to speak to one of our team about your own blogging, and how it can help you grow, please get in touch.