The Optimal Length for a Blog Post
When it comes to the ideal blog post length, this subject has been analyzed, poked, prodded, samples taken and studied since the inception of the blog, and conclusions come down to this: it depends on what you want your blog post to accomplish.
It may sound like a cop-out answer, but there is one vital question you, your company and your brand need to ask yourself to determine the optimal length for the post:
What do I want to achieve with this post?
If You Want Readers to Stick Around
You ideally want to keep it around seven minutes in length. According to a study done by medium.com readers tended to spend an average of seven minutes reading posts, and that comes out to around 1,600 words as shown by the graph to the left. Interest in posts peaked right around seven minutes, and then dropped off fairly quickly after that.
Mind you, this is based on the amount of time readers spent on a specific page, but it’s safe to assume that they were reading the article. Regardless of the data, the conclusion of medium’s study was as follows:
What it does mean is that it’s worth writing however much you really need. Don’t feel constrained by presumed short attention spans. If you put in the effort, so will your audience.
Another tool to keep the reader engaged is the use of video, images and infographics to provide additional information and segue into the next paragraph. This may lower the word count somewhat, but it will keep your reader’s eyes glued to the screen for that golden seven minutes.
If You Are Looking for SEO Rankings
Then the statistics point to the optimal length of 2,500 words. That is about 50% more words than the ideal 1,600-word, 7-minute length as just mentioned, but the numbers bear it out. Why does this length do so well with SEO? This number of words gives the search engine more keywords to use to determine if the article matches the search criteria. But this does not take into account how many readers click through and actually read the article, and let’s face it, 2,500 words can be an onerous task if you are used to less than half that length for your posts.
So how long should it really be? There are many who say it should be as long as it takes to get your point across.
There are those who think that using statistics, spreadsheets and science to determine the ideal length of a blog post is nonsense. Rand Fishkin wrote that “causation is not correlation” when it comes to blog length and success. He suggested instead to concentrate on the specific keywords you are using, and to match your goals and content to the audience you want to attract. No need to cast a wide net when you are looking to catch that niche fish.
Is It Social Media Shares That You Want?
Then you should stay within the 300- to 600-word range, as how this has been shown to be most effective for garnering shares. Want Facebook, Twitter or other social media love? Then this is the way to go, and this length will also generate a good number of comments as well. If you want even more social media attention, then you need to up the count to somewhere between 1000 and 1500 words. This will get fewer comments, but will definitely generate more traffic, especially if you are answering questions or solving problems for your readers.
All these statistics are well and good, but if you have the “perfect” word count and the quality of the writing is suspect, then it won’t matter how many hits you get. Some attention should be given to the quality of the writing and the research to back up any conclusions you come to. Again this is where you need to consider the interest of the audience you are looking to attract.
On a similar yet slightly off-topic vein, how your post presents visually can help or hinder its success. According to buffer.com the ideal width of a paragraph should be 40 to 55 characters. This ideal width gives the appearance of simplicity and is easier to read, so your readers will likely read more of the article, and get more out of it.
Wider paragraphs tend to be harder to read, so the likelihood of the reader sticking with it to the end drops as the format gets beyond 55 characters. Not to mention that most Millennials use their smartphones as their primary means of accessing the Internet so a width that is easily read on a mobile device works in your favor. While it has little to do with length, readability definitely encourages visitors to finish reading the article.
Once you have gathered the information you need and decided on a topic, then you should determine what your end goal for the post is. Whether it is social media shares, comments or high SEO rankings should matter and provide some parameters regarding length, but that should matter less than writing what you want.
If you put the effort in to write a well crafted post, then your readers will reward you by reading it in its entirety and sharing it with their friends.