One of my clients recently asked me, ‘Do you know how long a blog should be? I was told 900-1000 words for SEO reasons, but someone else told me a 1000 word blog is far too long and people will switch off!’
Creating a content marketing strategy is tough. We all want our content writing efforts to be worthwhile for our businesses. Many people worry that their efforts will be wasted if not done right. I hope my reply to a client helps you gain clarity on how long a blog post should be.
How long should a blog post be? – My reply
The truth is that both are correct. Longer blog posts may well rank higher than shorter posts. SEO isn’t really as mysterious as it used to be. There used to be a lot more SEO tricks, but Google picks up such a variety of complex indicators to see what content will be most valuable to those searching that it’s best just to focus on creating quality content that is right for your audience.
A longer blog post indicates to Google that this article contains detailed information. If there are two articles on the same topic, they may choose to rank the longer article first because it’s more likely to have pertinent information for the person who searched for content on that topic. However, Google also picks up on social activity. If they say a shorter article that has been socially shared on Twitter and Linkedin loads of times, they might actually place the shorter article higher because the social sharing indicates that this is actually better more relevant content.
In the past, I was hired to do SEO copywriting by a web designer. He had a formula to try to ‘trick’ the search engines into ranking his article for chosen keywords higher. He would give me the target keyword for the article. I’d have to write a 1000 work article with the keyword phrase in the heading and subheadings and include it as much as I could in the text. The text didn’t read naturally because it had too many instances of the keyword, so he was writing for search engines and not for people. In the end, his strategy was wrong. Google wised up to this trick and started penalising content taking part in what became known as ‘keyword stuffing.’ SEO experts would create content and stuff one blog post full of the same keyword and stuff even more keywords in the meta data that you don’t see on screen with the aim of tricking Google into ranking the content higher for the chosen keyword. Google noticed that visitors were bouncing quickly from the poorly written content that they were ranking highly. Google adapted and got better at displaying quality content. SEO tricks come and go. Good writing is eternal.
My advice is to write good quality content that is right for your audience. Your colleague is right that people are busy and have short attentions spans these days. Research does show with eye scanning technology that the majority of readers don’t read all of longer articles. It’s really all about what you have to offer to your readers. I’ve previously taught creative writing, and despite my own frustrating ‘wordy’ natural writing style, I have learned that great writers concern themselves with the words they take out, as much if not more, as the words they keep in. I often read articles that are longer than they need to be. Padding out content to hit a word target should be avoided at all costs. Use the words you need to get your message across. If the point you’re making has complexity, you’ll need more words to be clear.
There is nothing wrong with 400 – 600 word blogs. You might consider writing a mixture of lengths in your content strategy. For example, you could select 4 themes or content categories for this year. Then you could write one quarterly 1000 word article focussed around a topic you want to be known for.’ Then write two 400 – 600 word blogs in each content category to be shared throughout the year. By planning your content this way, you’re naturally ensuring that your content strategy is built around the topics you want to be known for. That’s good for your SEO, but most importantly, it’s good for your business. It means that when you share content on Twitter and Linkedin people start recognising that you have interesting things to say about your topic. You become relevant to your target audience through consistent writing.