How long should a blog post be for maximum SEO? How many words should you write in a blog post so that it get’s better rankings? These are questions that I get very often in the comments and I hope that this post will help you understand how long to make your blog posts.
Search engines love content
Search engines and especially Google, love content because they live out of content. Their job is to search and find content on the web so that they keep their users happy by answering their search queries correctly and accurately.
Of course content is not only text, it’s also video, images, sound and any combination of the above. The thing with text is that it is the most common type of content you expect to find in a website and for website crawlers it is the easiest to understand. So by providing text on a page you make things easier for them and thus you increase your chances of getting a higher place in the rankings.
Naturally, many people wonder how long to make their blog posts and fortunately there are some guidelines you can use to get the maximum possible return from your content creation effort.
How long should each blog post be?
Factors that you need to take into account before deciding how many words to make your blog posts are:
#1 – Type of post
The length of a blog post depends on its type. If you are maintaining a news blog then the length of the post depends on the information you have available about the particular topic you are covering. People reading news don’t like to read unnecessary information just because you want to make your blog posts longer, but they need to get the ‘new’ information and this is what your focus should be. So in this case the length of a post depends on the ‘source’.
If on the other hand, you are reviewing a new smartphone, then in that case you should try and provide as much meaningful information as possible. Notice here the word ‘meaningful’ which means that you shouldn’t sacrifice the blog post quality for length. in other words, while you want to have many words in your blog, don’t repeat yourself or provide information that is not relevant with your topic as this will decrease the overall quality of your publication.
Another example that shows that the type of post matters is the recent agreement between Google and Twitter where Google gained access to the millions of tweets in real time. With this agreement a tweet is only 140 characters long but under some circumstances can get a top position in Google SERPS.
In addition to the type, we should not forget the purpose of a post. There are cases where the objective of a blog post is fulfilled with less words. For example a classified ad has the purpose of presenting a product or service in only a few sentences so in this case the purpose of a post defines the length as well.
#2 – What Google wants
The first step I take before start writing a new blog post is to search Google for my title (or focus keywords) and quickly analyse the type and length of blog posts that are in the first page of the search results. This is an easy and quick way to find out what Google likes about a particular topic.
For example, before writing the blog post you are reading now, I did my research on the number of words the first 5 positions on Google have and these are the results:
Position 1: 1790 words
Position 2: 1150 words
Position 3: 1420 words
Position 4: 730 words
Position 5: 2660 words
It is clear that the range is between 730 – 2660 words with 4 out of the 5 entries to have above 1000 words so I will try and make my post close to 1800 words.
Note: To make sure that everybody is on the same line: it does not mean that if I publish a blog post that is 1500 words it will rank in the first positions of Google. There are many other factors that play a role in rankings, the above test is just an indication of what Google likes in terms of word length for the particular topic and nothing else.
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You can follow the above technique for all types of blog posts and get an idea of what your competitors are publishing and what Google prefers to show in their top positions for that topic.
#3- Thin content and Panda
One of the problems that Google tried to fix with the Panda updates was to get rid of websites that only had thin content. Thin content, among other things, is content that is short in length, duplicate and not meaningful. The keyword here is not ‘short in length’ but duplicate and not valuable.
Although Google officially states that short content can rank well, it is generally accepted that articles that are short i.e. less than 500 words are not the best choice when it comes to rankings. This of course depends on the type of post but in my opinion and as you will read below about research findings, short content should be avoided, if possible.
Even if your short blurb is unique and valuable, it will be bypassed by other posts on the same topic which are longer with more insightful information.
In addition, with long content you increase your chances of staying unaffected from any Panda updates, provided of course that your practices are safe and not against any other Google quality guidelines.
#4 – What does research says about blog posts word length?
If you search Google for studies related to how many words a blog post should be, you will arrive in two important sources. The first one is a study performed in 2012 from serpIQ and the one is a blog post from buffer which explains in detail the ideal post length for everything that is published online.
The resume from both sources is the following:
- The optimal length of a blogpost is around 1600 words
- Longer posts generally perform better in search
- Posts that are more than 2000 words receive more social shares
- The average word length for a blogpost found in the first 5 positions of Google was 2400 words.
Other studies by moz, medium and hubspot tend to agree with the above findings. The example shown above is also aligned with these results (you can test for articles in your niche and share your findings in the comments below).
The bottom line is that research shows that longer posts are more valuable for a blog (both in terms of SEO, social shares and engagement) than shorter posts.
So, how many words should I write for my next blog post?
It should be obvious by now that my preference and recommendation is to go with long articles (above 1500 words) and this is why:
Why longer is better?
- By publishing long and informative evergreen content you can steadily increase your organic traffic both in the short and long term. Read how I increased my blog traffic to 400K visits per month using this approach.
- It is a fact that long content performs better in Google. That’s why they created a ‘special treatment’ for in-depth articles back in 2013.
- It is also a fact that long type articles get more social media attention and comments.
- It is easier to provide unique and original content if your articles are long. Short content is more difficult to be differentiated from other short content that is already published on the web.
- Long articles (provided that they are interesting), take more time to read so users spend more time on your site which is good.
- With long articles you can easily add more internal links to other pages in your website and keep users engaged and at the same time reduce your bounce rate.
- When running contextual ads (for example adsense), you can maximize your earnings because the ads will be more relevant and you will have the ‘space’ to add your ad units without making your website full of ads. Imagine how a page with 500 words and 3 ad units looks and how a page with 2000 words and 3 ad units looks. The first one is a page full of ads while the second one is a page full of content with 3 ads.
- Long, unique and valuable content is the real asset of a website which also increases the selling price of a website or blog. If you are planning on selling your website at some point then having long articles will get you more money because they are not easy to produce.
- It’s a way to differentiate your blog from the rest. If the majority of the blogs in your niche publish short to medium content and you can publish good longer content, over time you will gain an advantage in SEO.
- Last but not least, let’s not forget that blog posts that are explaining a topic in detail will keep your users happy and they will come back for more valuable content.
Long content is more difficult to create, what should I do?
I know from experience that is much more difficult to create long content and at the same time maintain your publishing schedule so here are some tips to consider:
- Before committing to a publishing schedule make sure that you have some posts ready in advance. If you decide to go with 3 articles per week then make sure that you prepare at least 6 posts finished before start publishing. This will give you enough time to catch up and keep to a schedule.
- Decide on your post titles in advance. When working on a schedule you should spend most of your time in producing the content than researching and thinking of the titles to use. Spend some time in advance and create the article titles you will need for the whole month.
- When creating long posts, it is easier to break the post into several parts, each part with it’s own heading, rather than having one big post with no sections. It is easier for both the writer and the reader.
- Make long blog posts easier to read by adding lists (where applicable), making short paragraphs and giving special attention to the formatting of the text.
What is your take on the optimum word length of a blog post, do you agree with the research findings and my recommendations?