How long is too long?Long? Really long? Or short?

You’ll find all kinds of advice on the internet about how long you should make your blog post. This is top of mind these days with the results of Orbit Media’s 2017 survey of 1,000+ bloggers, which show:

  • The average blog post is 1,142 words.
  • This is 41% more words than the average post three years ago.
  • Six times as many bloggers are writing 2,000+-word posts.
  • 56.3% of bloggers show “strong results” (whatever that means) for posts with 2,000+ words.

Inc.’s John Rampton claims content that’s too short (under 1,000 words) is one of 15 mistakes that sabotage content marketing. “While there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to word count,” he says, ”the general trend is clear: longer, more comprehensive content usually performs best and ranks better in Google.”

Wait just a minute.

Don’t think that means bloggers should automatically aim for 1,000 and more words. Even Orbit Media’s Andy Crestodina warns, “Careful with this data [from the 2017 survey]. This doesn’t say that long posts are always better” (my emphasis).

Think about your own behaviour when reading something. You don’t read something because it’s long.

You keep reading a long post because it grabs you, tells an interesting or emotional story or tells you information you want or need to know. If not, or if it takes too long to get to the point, you give up.

So here’s what I take away from all these claims about blog post length:

  • Length does not automatically equal results. The results come if, as Andy says, you “are going deep into the subject matter, answering questions from every angle, and making a sincere effort at producing the best page for the topic.”
  • Since length in itself isn’t the point, don’t add a lot of extra padding, the way you used to do in school. This includes lengthy introductions, multiple examples of the “pain” you’re trying to address, stretching to make a connection to something in your life or a long series of one-sentence paragraphs.
  • You don’t need more and lengthier content, you need better content. As Ann Handley comments on the 2017 survey, “The bigger themes here are two. One: quality matters. And two: We don’t need more content. We need more relevant content.”  She advises,“Focus on whether it’s meeting your objectives: Is it igniting conversations? Is it enabling relationships? Is it sparking business?”
  • Don’t feel you need to meet a certain word count. “Content and SEO experts love to write articles about precisely how long your content should be,” says Copyblogger’s Sonia Simone. “My advice: your content should be as long as necessary to make your point.”
  • Figure out your point. Writer Linda Dessau says that’s more important than length, suggesting 500 words are perfectly fine for a how-to article.
  • Be considerate. “Because we all know that everyone enjoys reading a 2,000-word post when they have exactly three minutes to scan the internet before getting back to work,”How long is too long? says writer Lori Widmer. “Please. The length is as long or as short as it needs to be for you to make your point without boring the hell out of your audience.”

The bottom line is that long is not necessarily the best length for a blog post. As Andy Crestodina says, “Every piece of content should be as long as it takes to convey the message, and no longer.”