“I’m just starting to blog, how long should each post be?” A good friend asked me this question the other day and I felt it was a pretty common question that merited an in-depth response.
So. What is the optimal number of words you should strive for with each blog post?
Short answer: depends.
Ok, I know that is a total copout answer, but bear with me. Ready for the long answer? Here we go.
As you start your blog, there are a couple of key considerations to take into account before actually sitting down to write your first post.
- What is your objective with this blog?
- Who is your audience?
- How often are you going to post?
As you get further along, there will be additional factors that will impact the look and feel of your blog, but I believe these three points are a great place to start.
What is your objective with this blog?
The objective of your blog should be (in my opinion) the very first thing you figure out after making the decision to start blogging. Is the purpose of your blog to help your company rank higher in search results? If that’s the case, for the sake of SEO, your word count should be higher. Is the purpose of your blog to update friends and family on life events (weight loss, finances, home renovations, etc.)? Well, in that case, you can probably get by with shorter posts. Are you trying to establish yourself as an authority figure in your field? Again, this requires longer, more researched and organized posts.
“But what about the number of words?” I hear you and I’m getting there. Long gone are the days when you could publish multiple 500-word blog posts and expect results. Today, if you are hoping to land on the first page in search results, your posts should be around 2000-3500 words.
Google values what we call “long-form” content over shorter pieces because, theoretically the longer the piece the more information it provides and the more value it creates for the reader.
That being said, there is no perfect number. Neil Patel (Google it if you don’t know) says, “Word count is not a standalone ranking factor. Word count only has merit if the content quality is high! You can produce a 10,000-word article. But if the content and quality suck, then the article doesn’t deserve to get ranked. You lose.”
He also posted this extremely useful graph that helps to visualize what type of content gets the most shares:
But I can’t iterate this enough: if your content is no bueno, then it won’t matter how long it is.
So. Your goals matter. If you want shares and you are trying to establish authority or rank in search results, then longer, more researched content is better. If you don’t care about those things, and you are just writing to write…well then why does it matter how long your blogs are?
Beyond what you want to achieve on a large scale with your blog as a whole, you should also determine the objective for each post. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the purpose of each post should be one of three things: it should persuade, inform, or entertain. Easy as PIE. What you want to accomplish with each individual post will determine how long it should be. For example, if I want to inform you of something very complex and detailed I will need to write a much longer article. If my purpose is to merely recount an entertaining story, well, the post may be much shorter.
Who is your audience?
The next question I ask when people want to know how long their blogs should be is, “who is your audience?”. This is actually a pretty important decision to make early on. If your audience expects long-form content, then that’s what you should write. If you believe your audience is more visually inclined (because your blog is about photography or design) then they won’t be as inclined to read text-heavy documents, but instead, prefer something with more pictures. Is your audience young or old? Do you anticipate they will consume your content via mobile or on a desktop at work? Are they in a hurry to consume as much as possible, or will they invest the time to read longer pieces?
Don’t be too critical of yourself if you can’t answer these questions right away. It may take a long time to really get to know your audience, but you can make some pretty educated guesses at the start. Share your work with friends you think will fall into your target audience and see what they think. Ask them how they read it (mobile or desktop) and if they read the whole thing or not. Through this very brief, superficial research you can get a great start on producing the right kind of content for the right audience.
How often are you going to post?
You may not have this figured out yet, but it is good to determine a posting schedule right from the start. Consistency is a crucial step in building an audience and inconsistent publishing can be detrimental to your success. That being said, in most cases, you want to try for at least once a week. Twice a week is better from an SEO perspective (just because it means your site will have more content, quicker) but again, there really isn’t a hard fast rule. I have seen blogs that only post once a month and still manage to rank on the front page of search results. The reason? Even though it is only once a week, the blogs are around 10,000 words and are incredibly well written. They are valuable in-depth pieces of research that many people share on social media. Even though it is only once a month, many people look forward to each post because they contain so much information. Other blogs, like Seth Godin’s, publish short, thoughtful pieces every day. Yes. Every. Single. Day.
If you want to publish more than twice a week, you should probably aim for shorter pieces, especially if you have other time commitments (and you do. We all do.). Publishing three 3,000 word posts a week is an incredibly difficult schedule to maintain unless that is what you do full-time. Otherwise, it will probably quickly become a chore, something you resent and you will find it harder and harder to stay consistent because you hate doing it.
Now you know what your goals are for your new blog. You have a pretty good idea about your audience and how they will consume your content, and you’ve figured out an ideal, sustainable posting schedule. You should now know exactly how many words you should write with each post…right? Still no? It isn’t a very precise science. There are countless studies, some of which I’ve posted below, which give a pretty good estimate of what gets shared in which industry, but that doesn’t guarantee your blog will find readers. Blogging takes a long time to get good at, and an even longer time to build an audience. Be patient and respect the process.