When creating your content strategy, should you consider the length of each blog post? Absolutely. However, determining the right length of a post is more nuanced than simply targeting a word count.
Numerous factors influence how many words a blog post should include. So Olive & Company has gathered our recommendations about blog length into a single post, whose word count may or may not be predetermined.
Blog Post Length Made Simple
Our go-to rule of thumb for blog length is this: a blog post takes as many words as it takes.
If you’d feel better with an actual number, we find that 1,500 words provide a nice balance between user experience and SEO. But that’s only a general guideline. Many variables can alter this advice.
Here are some more quick tips before we move into the finer details of blog word count.
- Focus on the story you are trying to tell.
- Don’t stretch content to reach a magic number of words.
- Don’t go delete-crazy trying to fit into a prescribed word count.
- Think of each blog post like a comfy sweatshirt—you want it to feel right.
Best Practices for Blog Post Word Count
There are many excellent sources for advice on blog word count. Among our favorites is HubSpot. According to their research, the ideal average length for a lead-generating blog post is 2,500 words. Case closed. Or is it?
HubSpot also reports that the ideal blog length for SEO practices is 2,100 – 2,400 words.
Determining the right length of a post is more nuanced than simply targeting a word count.
So which is it? Do you prioritize SEO or lean toward conversions? Maybe split the difference? Well, consider this.
The HubSpot numbers came from evaluating their own blog posts. The posts ranged in length from 331 words to 5,581 words. Those numbers are well outside their recommendations.
So, where does this leave us? Several factors impact word count. Read along as we explore them.
The Blog Writer Affects the Total Word Count
Some writers provide readers with rich, highly detailed, and often lengthy descriptions. Conversely, other writers believe concise wording offers the greatest clarity and focus. Of course, both styles can work.
In popular literature, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald are very different writers, but both succeeded in connecting with their audience. That’s what you want blog writers to do. Connect with your audience. Whether the writing style is pithy or flowery, if it works, it works.
How will you know if the writer’s work is successful? By referring to your website analytics. You can’t always A/B test a blog topic, but you can evaluate what length and writing style generates the most traffic, page engagement, and shares.
Knowing the Blog’s Audience and Interest Level
HubSpot has a highly engaged audience that geeks-out over all things inbound marketing, lead generation, and so forth. That’s why HubSpot writes posts of 5,000 words and beyond. They know their audience is looking for detailed information and will absorb every syllable of knowledge. How do they know? Because they have created audience personas.
Through research, interviews, and analytics, companies can discern who comes (or should be coming) to their blog, and why. This information makes the process of writing blogs much more manageable. Now the writer can address a reader’s specific questions, needs, interests, and preferences. Without the benefit of audience personas, the writer relies only on assumptions.
Through research, interviews, and analytics, companies can discern who comes (or should be coming) to their blog, and why.
When you know the audience persona, you know how to approach a topic and how to craft a story that appeals to them. For example, some readers are skimmers. They like short, abbreviated content that delivers valuable information in very few words. Others want all of the depth and detail you can provide.
Personas help the writer understand the readers’ attention span and appetite for content. Using these insights will help you determine the appropriate word count for your blog’s audience.
How a Blog’s Title Impacts Word Count
The topic of your blog title can go a long way in determining the word count. For example, we’ll write a one-word blog.
Title: Will The Sun Rise Tomorrow?
Blog Content: Yes.
There it is, a one-word post that fully delivers on the title.
This example teaches two lessons. First, avoid asking yes or no questions in the title. Doing so doesn’t allow enough room for content, explanation, and insights.
The second lesson is that meeting the expectation of the blog title is the writer’s top responsibility.
In our example, we could have written about why the sun will rise, what time it will rise, what impact the sun’s rays will have on the planet, how people enjoy sunrises, and so on. However, all of that is beyond the scope of the blog.
If the writer decides those ideas are essential additions to the blog, it’s their duty to modify the title. For example, Why People Enjoy Sunrises More Than Sunsets. This title opens the door to far more information and content than the original title.
Blog Topic Complexity and Word Count
You won’t be able to express some ideas in 500, 1,000, or 3,000 words. While brevity can be valued, it can also be the undoing of a great topic. Once a topic is selected, the writer should do it justice by following these tips:
- Strive to be the authority.
- Don’t cut corners.
- Don’t edit out essential parts.
- Don’t be vague.
Your blog topic will not be unique. Hundreds of competing websites will be writing on the same subject, utilizing identical keywords and potentially sharing similar data.
To stand out, you should think, act, and write as an authority, and you should always provide your own unique point of view. You can do this by diving deeper into the topic, providing unobvious insights, connecting ideas, and using research and data that other blogs don’t unearth.
When writing as an authority, it’s important to keep sight of each post’s most important messages. These core ideas will anchor your blog headers. How will you know what’s essential? The answer comes down to knowing your readers. You’ll want to understand their comfort level with your topics and content.
To stand out, you should think, act, and write as an authority, and you should always provide your own unique point of view.
Writing a how-to blog for DIYers about safely changing a light bulb differs from a pro’s approach to high-voltage electrical installation. Both posts are important, but the pro’s blog will likely require more words. Don’t sacrifice essential details or discussion points in an attempt to limit word count.
Lastly, specifics matter. Vague content does not help the reader. Mentioning that there can be risks involved in changing a light bulb isn’t enough. A good writer will list the risks and explain how to mitigate each one. Doing this gives the reader information they can act on without looking to other sources for more details.
How Broad Is the Blog Topic?
When writing a blog post, consider if it’s a broad topic with many potential aspects to be explored, or a narrow topic with a single question that needs to be answered.
If you’re working on a broad topic, you have a choice to make. Do you want to explore all aspects of your topic in a single, long-form blog post, or, do you want to split your topic up into multiple, shorter blog posts.
In some cases, it makes sense to do both. With a “hub and spoke” approach, you can connect a broad topic post (the “hub”) to several narrow topic posts (the “spokes”) to build authority around all of the related topics and keywords.
Naturally, your hub content will be significantly longer than the spoke content (usually 5-10 times longer), but, even with this approach, there is no set rule determining appropriate word count.
What Is the Blog Post’s Purpose?
Not all blog posts have the same objective. Know what your blog post’s purpose is before writing. Then consider what’s needed to create that outcome. Doing so will alter the number of words you write. This consideration should be part of developing your content strategy.
If you are selling a product with a long sales process, you may need longer blog posts to tell a complex story. Or, you may opt for many shorter blogs published over a more extended period that lead the reader to a purchase decision.
Know what your blog post’s purpose is before writing. Then consider what’s needed to create that outcome.
If your objective is to establish a position of thought leadership, like those from HubSpot, make sure the blog posts provide ample insights and support to sway opinion.
Then again, if your blog topic is meant to convert readers into buyers quickly, go to the most potent sales hook possible right away, make the content short, use bold calls to action and add a sense of urgency.
Where Is Your Blog Post Viewed?
Google Analytics should become a blog writer’s friend. Among its data-treasures is the ability to see what types of devices are popular among your readers. Use this insight to write content that fits their screen of choice.
If most traffic is via a mobile device, blog posts should be short as can be.
- Break important topics into multiple posts.
- Use bullet points.
- Write clear headings.
If most of your audience is on a desktop, let the post flow along the lines of a traditional blog post or news article.
Minutes to Read vs. Word Count
Thus far, we’ve discussed blog length in terms of word count. But there’s another metric to consider, time. Specifically, how much time a blog takes to read.
Time is a fascinating idea that our friends at Medium explored in great detail. At Medium, they are less interested in clicks and more interested in how many minutes readers spend engaging with a blog.
According to their findings, the ideal time spent reading their blog posts is 7 minutes. That equates to roughly 1,600 words.
Medium makes some good arguments on why time is a more valid measurement than word count. They suggest longer posts may be viewed as having higher value content.
However, like HubSpot, Medium doesn’t always adhere to their own advice. Overall, 74% of their posts are under 3 minutes long, and 94% are under 6 minutes long. Our takeaway is that there will always be a need to balance ideal best practices with the actual message.
Build a Better Blog Strategy
So here we are, 1,705 words into this post. How are we doing? Are you still with us? Do you want more? Should it have been less? We’ll look at the analytics to find out.
Ideally, what we hope you have come to realize is there isn’t a specific target for word count. Your takeaway should be the importance of being intentional about the length of your blogs. Make blog length a part of your content strategy discussions. Check to see how your audience responds to your posts and see how length may or may not impact their performance.
A blog is a powerful tool for SEO, thought leadership, storytelling, and more. Use your blog in a manner that best delivers its intended purpose. If you are succeeding in that regard, you are writing to the right length.
If you’d like to discuss more ways to evaluate blog performance, and refine its role in your content strategy, reach out to Olive & Company. We’re here to help, answer questions, save you time, and save your money.
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