What is the ideal length for a blog post?
That's a debate that's raged on ever since blog posts were taken seriously as marketing tools. There are two extreme camps lined up along the banks of the digital river. Each one has the correct answer, in their humble opinion.
And from time to time some of them will hurl salvos of propaganda boulders from their literary trebuchets, hoping to drop a rock on someone, making them a convert.
In this essay, we're going to look at:
- The lengths of short and long blog posts.
- The advantages and disadvantages of both.
- The actual and truly ideal length for effective blog posts.
Ready to get started? Let's begin.
How long is long and how short is short?
Yuwanda Black, editor of Inkwell Editorial, mentioned in an article she wrote for Copyblogger that the "industry accepted standard" blog post length is between 250 and 600 words. She also gives tips on determining how long a post should be. We'll come back to that in a minute.
However, that statement gives us a place to start.
Using that definition of an industry accepted standard, we can deduce that short posts are under 250 words. Posts written with over 600 words are long. On the top side of the scale, I think you'll find long posts are normally 750 to over 1,000+ words.
Looking at this post up to this point, the word count – minus the headline – is 251 words right here.
Had I stopped there, it could be considered a short post. But I didn't.
The usual length of a paragraph on blog posts is somewhere between 40 to 60 words. So in essence, a short post normally consists of about four paragraphs or less. You can file that away under blog post trivia.
Advantages and disadvantages of short posts
Some of short blog posts' advantages are:
- They are easily read, not much effort or time involved.
- They get right to the point; therefore, they are great for a quick call to action.
- They quickly drive home one main point.
That said, those advantages bring up some very important disadvantages.
One in particular.
You would think that a short post would be easy to write. It is, if you're a lazy writer. But short post must be written carefully if they are to deliver.
In fact, unless it's an announcement or similar "quickie," the short post could take as much time to compose as a standard length post.
Maybe even longer.
The words you use need to count in any post. But it's even more crucial that you use precise and highly effective words in a short one. There is no further explanation later on in the post. What you say, you say right now and you say it right, now!
It had better count.
I mentioned one use for a short post was a quick call to action. Here's another interesting idea for them, one that Copyblogger Media uses to great advantage on Google+.
For lack of a better label, I'll call it the "Post Preview Post." It's a quick, concise post about a longer one that's going live the next day on their site. It gives you just enough information to whet your appetite. It's a teaser post.
And it's quite effective.
When written well – and Copyblogger's authors are renowned for that – it leaves you biting your nails in anticipation; and (Warning!) it could keep you up all night, waiting for the full post to be published.
So if I were to state the main advantage and disadvantage of short posts they would be: Easy to read, but hard to write.
Let's move on to the long post. (Oh, in case you were wondering, we're right at the threshold of this becoming a long post. The next sentence ought to get us there.)
The advantages and disadvantages of long posts
How cool is that!
Just as we begin discussing them, this post enters into the realm of the long post. Not that I planned that or anything . . .
But here we go, starting with the advantages first. Long posts:
- Can explain a topic more thoroughly than a short post.
- Can be used to make comparisons of conflicting notions such as, uh, whether a long post is better than a short post or vice versa. (Sorry! It just fit so well.)
- Allow for "free writing." You jot down everything about the topic that comes to mind; then delete the parts that should have stayed in your head.
- Permit longer written "visuals" to be used. Anecdotes are effective tools. They are easier to implement in long posts.
Personally, I like to write long posts. I can usually write the first draft of a long post more quickly than the first draft and edits of a short post.
But long posts do have their disadvantages as well.
- The thought of having to come up with that many words scares some writers.
- It is easier to go off on a tangent. Your readers may start chasing writing rabbits, never to return.
- They can require extensive editing. After the first draft, you've got to put on your rubber boots, grab your pitchfork and start cleaning out the manure.
- You might not ever stop editing the post. Each time you read over the long post, you see something else that can be tweaked. STOP IT, RIGHT NOW! Sooner or later, you've got to hit "Publish."
Now I shall reveal to you the absolute ideal post length. But before I do, I must warn you that we are nearing the boundary of the really long post, with a word count of 954 right NOW.
The undisputed, the one and only, ideal post length
Are you ready for this?
Get out your pen and paper, because you're going to want to write this down. The ideal word length for a post is:
Earth-shaking and mind-blowing, right? But it is the only truly accurate answer. There are too many factors to put an actual word count on such an abstract idea as proper word count.
Need more proof? Then head on over to this post on HubSpot (after you're done here, of course).
Corey Eridon makes the case in the very first paragraph, comparing blog posts to college term papers. To quote:
I'll give you the answer one of my college professors gave to students who asked how long their term papers should be: As long as it needs to be.
Going back to Yuwanda's post, we find three important considerations when determining post length. She says:
- Tone – "Tone is important to how long your blog posts will be because they determine how you talk to your audience, not just what you talk about."
- Posting frequency – "The loose, industry-accepted rule seems to be that the more frequently you post, the shorter your posts should be – and vice versa."
- Posting schedule – "What does a posting schedule have to do with post length? Simply put, you can better self-edit…Once you have a posting schedule, you can settle into writing “routine posts” — of a certain length. Referencing the first point listed here, the flow of your “tone/cadence” won’t be interrupted when you consistently write posts of a certain length."
I quoted her directly because she puts it so well and so succinctly. But I'd like to quote her one more time, if I may. This quote neatly explains the "long enough" concept:
She says: I write until I get my story across.
It doesn't get any simpler than that.
Now it's time for you to write "enough"
I'm going to close now because the word count is fast approaching epic novel status. Not really. But I do hope you've realized that ideal post length doesn't depend on any industry standard. There is no magic word count that determines your article's correct size. Or its effectiveness, either.
The main considerations are: your topic, your reader and your intent. Now go write something epic and make it a long one! Or even a short one.
Just be sure to make it a good one.