Greg Mischio

Three Guidelines to Help You Determine Ideal Blog Post Length

By: Greg Mischio | March 1, 2018 | 

Three Guidelines to Help You Determine Ideal Blog Post LengthThat’s right. The ideal blog post length is 99,121 words.

And you will only need to publish once every 89 years.

Where did I get that word count?

I refer you to the Harper Lee novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.

The 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning book became a classic work of literature.

In today’s digital terms, Harper Lee’s book would be a 99,121-word article, published at 89-year intervals.

So really, content marketers, bloggers, and communications pros—there you have it.

Instead of toiling away and churning out blog post after blog post, just write one uber article.

Then hang the retirement shingle on your office door and call it a career.

Okay, I know comparing a book to a blog is an apples-to-oranges thing, and writing website copy and blog posts is a whole different ballgame.

My point is it’s easy to become overly obsessed with blog post length when instead, you should be focusing on the audience and message.

So consider these three general guidelines to help you decide the length of your blog post.

You are Writing to Rank High in Search Engines

Most content marketers are trying to produce content that will get shared on social media, appeal to their target market, and fill a void on the customer journey.

One of the primary goals is also to rank high on search engines such as Google.

If you want to rank high for search engine terms, you need to produce the “best page on the internet” for a given term, as content marketing guru Andy Crestodina tells us.

Doing this requires you to create a post with lots of relevant content.

And some of that content is, well, words.

As noted in this great compilation research from CoSchedule, the ideal blog post word count is:

  • CoSchedule found posts with around 2,500 words typically rank best.
  • HubSpot research shows posts which performed best in organic search were between 2,250 and 2,500 words.
  • The Write Practice says if you want your post to rank in Google, it should be at least 2,500 words.

I’ve had clients who disagree with this type of data. “Don’t write such a long post,” they’ll say.  “People only want to read about 500 words. Anything else is too long.”

But when you’re searching for a topic on the internet, you want the most authoritative, relevant piece of content you can find.

For example, when my wife was researching her mother’s rare form of cancer, she wouldn’t have been content with a 500-word quick read.

When you’re searching for something very important to you, bigger is often better.

You are Writing to Build a Following

The other side of the coin is when blog post length doesn’t matter.

This is an instance when YOU matter—when you’re trying to establish yourself as a thought leader.

You want to build a list of subscribers to your blog, and SEO be damned (or not obsessed over).

Let’s look at three examples of case in point:

  • Gini Dietrich, the creator of the behemoth Spin Sucks blog, focuses more on building a following. Yes, there was a 1,000-word requirement to publish, but if you read Gini’s posts, she’s all about connecting with her readers. And her gazillion followers show she’s right.
  • Sean Callahan of LinkedIn recently published a post stating the value of “medium quality content.” He writes that “not every piece of content needs to be an award-winner: it just has to be useful.” In this case, maybe quickly answering a question is of greater value to your customers.
  • David JP Fisher cranks out a ton of great copy for salespeople, and he’s a gifted writer. He’s also about communicating first and optimizing second.

Don’t get me wrong; all three of these savvy marketers likely optimize their posts and have an SEO focus.

But they seem to be more focused on frequency, building an audience, and accumulating authority-rich inbound links, post-by-post.

You are Writing for a Specific Audience

The ideal blog post length depends on your goals, which should ultimately include sales. Because who creates sales? People do. The people you want to reach.

And you better be darned tuned in to what they want.

As Stephen King once said in his book on writing (a must-read for everyone called “On Writing,” go figure), you owe your audience BIG TIME.

You are asking them to take time out of their day and read your stuff.

So it better not be drivel. Make them laugh. Make them cry. Most importantly, make them take action.

Ultimately, it’s the reader who guides your work.

So do your homework before you worry too much about word counts.

Know Your Audience (How I Practice What I Preach)

Here’s how I did the homework for my company, Winbound, a content marketing and conversion optimization service specifically for micro-sized marketing departments.

Initially, I had written a persona for a marketing director and based it on what I thought they wanted to know about content marketing, SEO, and conversion optimization.

But when it came time to write content for our blog, I got nervous.

Was I writing the right stuff? I didn’t know.

So I picked up the phone and called several prospective customers.

(Yes, I called them. It’s amazing—these smartphones have a feature where you can talk to people!)

We talked about their job, what they want to learn, and their top priorities.

And at the end of the day, I felt like I knew what they wanted to hear, and what I needed to write.

As I speak with more of these professionals, clients, and others, I continue to refine the focus of our blog.

Test Blog Post Length, But Don’t Overreact

Look, I’m not a statistician, but I know there is a big difference between correlation and causation.

Many long posts never get ranked.

And probably just as many shorter posts never get a sniff.

If you’re looking to figure out what your ideal blog post length is, I suggest you start with the third guideline: find out what your audience wants to read.

It’s my guess you’ll get a mix in terms of what that blog post length should be.

Some people will be looking for a post chock-full of every detail on a topic.

Others will want your opinion on a matter, and they’ll read your stuff because they want to know what YOU have to say.

Publish based on what your research dictates, and then check your analytics.

React to the results, but make sure you’re not drawing connections — over word count or any other single factor — where none exists.

And most importantly, as Gini Dietrich pointed out to us, be unique with your content.

If all else fails, just crank out a 99,121-word blog post.

About Greg Mischio

Greg Mischio is the Owner and Strategic Director of Winbound. They provide an all-in-one content marketing and conversion optimization package specifically designed for small marketing departments. Check out their “Think Bigger” blog, filled with digital marketing wit and wisdom for small marketing departments.