In All Posts, Blogging

Asking how long a blog post should be is like asking how long should a piece of string be!

The only things you can be certain about are taxes and death. Oh, and that there will be changes in the ideal business blog length, which has run the gamut from long to short and back a couple of times since the arrival of business blogging on the content marketing scene.

So, how long should your blog posts really be, and what’s the criteria for saying that? Here’s the scoop:

Some Say Potato…

Just like the well-known conundrum about pronunciation, the answer depends on whom you talk to. Some blogging experts expound the virtues of the shorter post, using oft-quoted statistics about user concentration span to support their viewpoint. Others swear by the benefit of the longer post, particularly from the SEO point of view.

Short and Sharp : 250 to 400 Words

There are lots of reasons why short posts are good. For one thing, you get to present the reader with your call to action (CTA) much faster. For another, you can deliver your content in a bite-sized package, which works well in a “snack-and-go,” fast-moving world.

If it’s true that users commonly only read 20% of a post, that equates to the first 100 words. It makes sense, therefore, that a business blog length of between 100 and 250 words will have a better chance of being read than one with an average length of 500 words. And in retail sales, it helps to get to the point quickly with short posts and user-friendly formatting, including:

  1. Scannable content
  2. Bullet and numbered lists
  3. Infographics
  4. Social media posts such as tweets

All this reaffirms the belief that long-form content is dying out, and that short, sharp and powerful is the way to go for business blogging. Intellectual property lawyer and blogger David Vandagriff has made his name and garnered 44,000 followers with his blog The Passive Voice, where posts rarely run longer than 200 words and comprise mainly curated content with a short comment from him.

Middle of the Road : 400 to 800 Words

Leading inbound marketing software company HubSpot has cemented its reputation in the mid-length blogging segment by recommending that users publish posts with a minimum of 600 words. If you try to publish a shorter post on a HubSpot blogging platform, the system delivers an alert warning you that it might not be long enough to be effective. This is based on the premise that a post with fewer than 400 words doesn’t contain the keyword often enough to provide good fodder for the search engines.

Given that in most instances the primary purpose of business blogging is to get found in search results, searchability counts for a lot. This is based on an outdated convention, however; in the past, to get a reasonable ranking in Google your posts had to include your main keyword phrase a minimum number of times. Now searchability is based on a wider range of other criteria, including the use of alt tags, headers and outbound links to quality websites.

So why would you want to write a post of this business blog length, as opposed to a post of fewer than 400 words? For several reasons, actually:

  1. If you’re covering a complex topic in reasonable detail, you need to be able to say enough about it to impart the message you want to deliver
  2. To provide in-depth intelligence for the purpose of educating your reader or building thought leadership in your field. Anyone can produce a sound-byte, but to get real credibility you need to display significant knowledge on the topic. Whether anybody really reads it is not the point; the point is that you’ve put it out there.
  3. When your topic encompasses a number of different aspects, it’s helpful to break it up into sections with subheadings and lists to keep the reader engaged and to maintain clarity.

A longer post also gives you more opportunity to use images without it looking too busy, so if you have lots of photos, ergo—you need lots of text.

Living the Length : 800 to 1200 Words

Sometimes, size does matter. When you’re dealing with a high-value product or service, for example, short posts offering an easily-digestible point or two just aren’t going to generate leads for sales of thousands of dollars. Consumers want to know they’re spending their time and money with a provider who knows their subject, and long-form content is the ideal way to display that knowledge.

In addition, longer content gets shared more—probably because it has higher innate value than short content. Statistics from Forbes show that posts with 1,500 or more words get shared on Twitter 68.1% more than shorter posts, and on Facebook they generate 22.6% more Likes. The nature of social media is such that this usually means more traffic to your website, and consequently more leads for potential sales.

In the end, however, it’s not the number of words that ultimately counts but the quality of your content. So whatever length you choose to post needs to be chock-full of good information, reliable statistics and links to verifiable information sources. It also needs to follow best blogging and online publishing practices, or it’s not going to get found, not going to be read and is certainly not going to bring you quality leads. In the end, it’s your choice. Hasta la vista, baby!

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