The Truth About Content Length

Three hundred words. Five hundred. Eight hundred. Over 1,000.

When it comes to deciding how long to write your blog posts, you might get 10 different answers from different digital marketing experts.

Neil Patel of Quick Sprout has covered this topic at length, and he used more than 1,700 words to do it. On the opposite end of the spectrum, most posts on sites like Gawker or Mashable are in the 300- to 500-word range.

So how long should your content be?

Know Your Audience

When it comes to story length, you need to understand who your readers are. At least that’s the advice from Joel Friedlander, an award winning blogger and digital marketing expert.

“I’ve spent a huge amount of time figuring out who my readers are,” Friedlander told Nimble Media. “So if I want to post something today that’s, say, 1,000 words and tomorrow post something that’s 400 words, it’s OK, because I know my readers will be OK with that.”

But SEO writing is a different beast, he explains. It can be more mechanical and more technical, he says, due in part because the faster you write, the more income you earn.

“With SEO, the 400- to 600-word range is probably ideal, but that sort of depends,” he told Nimble Media. “Again, you have to know who you’re writing for and know their expectations. Gadget and tech readers, for example, want something quick, in and out. But what they don’t want is a 1,000-word story on why this widget is better than another. They want a ‘top 3 things’ list.”

Don’t Worry About the Length, but … Longer is Better

The above subhead contradicts itself, but both statements are true.

As Friedlander says, “write until you’ve said what you wanted to say.”

Patel agrees, saying, “… It simply depends upon your purpose and the message you’re trying to communicate.”

However, Patel is a big fan of longer posts. The reasons?

  • Longer posts typically get more search traffic: “Evidence suggests that the more content your page has, the better chance it has of a top position in Google results,” Patel writes. More content means more of it will get indexed, too. And the more content that’s indexed, the better it should perform in searches and results.
  • Better variety of keywords: This is fairly simple to understand. A 300-word post might use one keyword two times. But a 2,000 word post will use that same keyword twice as often and include variations of it.
  • More share-worthy: Believe it or not, research shows that longer articles are shared more often.

Elements of Determining Story Length

Patel breaks it down to substance, style, frequency, purpose and audience, among other factors, when deciding how long to write.

Substance goes back to what Friedlander said: If you can write something in 200 or so words, then keep it at that length. If it requires more than 1,000 words, then go for it. Just don’t force the issue. Likewise, the style depends on the subject matter and audience. Some topics don’t need to be long, while others need a more comprehensive report.

How often you blog can also help determine length. Some sites only have one long post a week, while others have several, shorter posts. The same can be said of your posts’ purpose. From educating to growing email lists, some posts naturally lend themselves to longer (or shorter) lengths.

And finally, your audience plays a big role in how long you should write, as both Patel and Friedlander say. “Your goal is to create content your audience is going to read,” Patel says.

(Total word count of this post, excluding the headline, bio and disclaimer, is 603 words.)

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