Blog post length: How long is yours?

30 day blogging challengeWhen you first start blogging you’ll be looking for some guidelines to follow or aspire to. Ever since I started blogging back in 2007 there’s been a debate about how long a blog post should be. My first blog post was 50 words. And it worked for that audience. Now I regularly write about 1,000 words and sometimes when I’m feeling ranty/clever/invincible / inspired / motivated I’ll write a blog post with around 3,000 words in it. 

Then there are the blogging gurus that say things like each post must be at least 400 words and their mates (also blogging gurus, they’re like buses you’ll never find a blogging guru on their own) who will tell you that the post should be at least 1000 words or it’s not quality content. Yeah, it’s confusing, and then some smarty-pants will say “whatever length it needs to be.” These conflicting statements kick new bloggers into paralysis as they want get things correct right from the start.

Your blog post should be long enough to feel valuable and well thought out, show your expertise and not full of fluff and superfluous words (side note, I’ve always wanted to use superfluous in a blog post, this is a dream come true for  me, and no, no the irony isn’t lost on me).

But what you write shouldn’t be so long that people don’t have time to read it.

The answer “whatever length it needs to be” really isn’t helpful when you’re looking for a framework to work within. So I recommend when you create your blog posts you aim for a

  • Captivating Headline
  • Introduction
  • Main points and evidence
  • Summary
  • Call to action

If you think of a sentence having 8-10 words, a paragraph having 4 sentences and a blog post as outlined in the bullet points having 6 paragraphs a basic blog post length would be just 24o words, not including the headline  and call to action. Now that might not be enough to give the reader what they’re looking for, and we know that the blog post should add value or entertain the reader in some way. (See also the secrets of a great list post)

We also have to remember to add a dash of on-page SEO into the mix, as well as writing the content so it speaks specifically to your ideal reader. A sprinkle of keywords is essential for both the human reader and the search engines, but not so many that the content of the post becomes impossible to read. And remember a post that’s too clever for its own good won’t get as many readers as one that speaks the language of the reader.

Be careful with those headlines…  a blog post titled “Finding inner peace” isn’t nowhere near as effective as “7  tips to calm a chattering mind.”

After using a keyword phrase in your blog title, yet still making it interesting and intriguing, you must write for the reader, and you must know your topic. It helps to research your topic and know roughly the message you’re looking to get across. When you do this, the keywords flow naturally and organically (and you don’t have to worry too much about semantic search).

The blog post needs to cover your topic completely or touch on one facet of it. That means you can write content that’s deep such as the 365 business blogging tips or something lighter. For example, in a “7 tips to calm a chattering mind” blog post, you might list using meditation as one tip and give a paragraph or two about what it is and how it works to empty the mind.

Or you could just bullet point the ways to make your mind quiet and add in a beginning and a conclusion. You could try writing them both ways to see which method resonates the most with your ideal reader.

If you find that the topic is so deep that you could write about it forever, it could be that you have an ebook in the making or a series of blog posts. You don’t have to write 10,000 word “ultimate guides to” style posts every time you create a blog post. If you do, you’ll soon come to hate blogging as it’s become so time consuming.

Which brings us to proper formatting for your blog post.

No one wants to land on a blog and drown in a sea of text. Those paragraphs that are 30 lines deep are really off-putting and overwhelming to the eye. You will lose readers instantly. Newspapers learnt this centuries ago, and they have columns and short paragraphs for a reason.

Readers need to be able to read and absorb the information without your message getting lost.

  • Try keeping your paragraphs short,
  • Use neat and tidy sentences wherever possible
  • Use subheadings to make the post scannable

All of the discussion about length is basically common sense, which we all know isn’t so common any more.

Think about what you as a reader would expect and hope to see if you were looking for information on a topic. Would you want one paragraph that simply said “If you’re looking for peace and quiet, you can try the stress relief supplements sold on Amazon that cost 2.99. Everyone says they’re good for stress a quiet mind.”

29 words… that’s better as a call to action than a blog post in its entirety.

But some bloggers write just like that. What you as a reader really want is someone to talk a little about their experience and a lot about your needs, to show they understand your problems and then walk you through the solutions. And that dear reader takes a little more than 29 words.

If you think your blog post is too short, ask yourself what problem does it solve and if it doesn’t solve a problem ask what message does it send. If it’s not sending the right message then you might find your blog post is the wrong length.

Sarah

PS Want to join us in the blogging challenge? Join up here – it’s free.

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Sarah Arrow

Blogging an issue for you? Social media not quite working how it should be?That's okay I understand. I started blogging back in 2006 and grew into a kick-ass blog coach as well as creator of Birds on the Blog (listed 3 times by Forbes as a top 100 website for women), I'm frequently listed as both a top content marketing expert and as an influential marketer.
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32 Comments

  1. Great post Sarah, I find too that my blog posts are longer than they used to be, depends upon the topic. Breaking up paragraphs and adding bullet points and images is a great way to keep your readers engaged.

    Now just have to go off and write up my own post.
    Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Thanks Sue, I missed your post last week :). Writing tips are always valuable.

      Reply
  2. Great post, Sarah.

    I prefer short reads myself, but some people do get wordy. I also need that 7 things to calm a chattering mind—if you find such a post. ;)

    And, I must find a way to use the word “superfluous” in a post too. It’s a new mission. :)

    Reply
    • I’m still looking for it Patti :), but if I find it, I’ll be sharing heavily lol

      Reply
  3. Hi Sarah,

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful post.

    It’s true that there are so may varying responses to how long your post should be. I always think it’s important to look at what the purpose of your blog is and what your reader is looking for, as you are essentially writing for them. With my two ministry blogs, one is generally written with more detail, and the other is shorter posts for those looking for inspirational hope to start their day. Subheadings are really important and mixing it up with bullet points helps too doesn’t it.

    Reply
    • I love how you keep inspiration shorter :), I can imagine that it’s long enough to inspire but short enough not exclude all other options. Thanks for sharing that with us Anita, I think that’s really useful to know.

      Reply
  4. It really comes down to story telling (there are a lot of short stories – very short ones – that are really powerful. Of course, those rely on our ability to construct a story…a unique story by each person…by using the right terms, in an effective manner).

    Longer and shorter posts are both informative and useful…but it really comes down to the author. Some people are well versed with writing awesome short posts, they should probably stick with that (though, there is no fault in experimenting a bit).

    Of course, longer posts can be more useful…because they are long. But, there are a lot of bloggers who fill their blog posts with fluff, just for the sake of length (not a good idea!).

    Ultimately, it comes down to us and like you mentioned, the purpose (or the problem it is trying to solve!).

    Anyways, thank you for sharing this, Sarah :) Hope you are enjoying your weekend!

    Reply
    • Hi Jeevan, some of these stories by Stephen King (in my opinion) are his short stories in particular his Richard Bachman stories like Running Man. Of course, I wouldn’t say that to him if I met him…. And then there’s James Clavell who wrote Shogun… I’d be hard pushed to edit a word from it yet its 10 times the size of Running Man. Which makes me wonder if wring fiction is somewhat different?

      Reply
      • Perhaps, it is.

        I feel like fiction needs to be longer (but, not too long…because very long novels can be boring). It really depends upon a lot of factors: the author, their writing and the genre :D

        I have tried writing stories (granted I wrote them in my own language, I don’t think I have written fiction in English), and it was a great experience.

        Reply
  5. Post length really comes down to giving value… Plus… a call to action, as you’ve suggested, Sarah.

    If you can truly help someone in 29 words, and integrate a call to action, then fine.

    That’s not likely to be the case, though.

    You’ve given good advice on structuring your posts to accomplish your objectives.

    Reply
    • It would be a challenge wouldn’t it David? and one that I’m not up to. I’ve more than 29 words in my signature :D

      Reply
  6. I don’t write short blog posts because I want to cover my topic as thoroughly as I can. Occasionally this even calls for splitting a topic into 2 or 3 different posts, none of them short. I might add links to further information but I aim to provide as much as I can.

    Even if some regular visitors may not read a post in depth I hope they find enough to interest them so that when they need to learn about the type of topic I cover they will know to come back and find what they need. I want to show that I am knowledgeable and thorough in my research.

    That is just how I operate but, apart from the short call to action type posts, there is room for a lot of variety in blogging. Whatever the length, the points you make here about headlines and readability are essential for all posts.

    Reply
  7. Sarah,

    I write as I speak which is long winded. I can not help it yet my passion is expressed in each article. I go off the deep end most of the time yet write my daily experiences as an adventure most of the time.

    Sharing good quality helpful and useful information is what I feel a post should have. You must speak on things that you have accomplished and put to practice. If you just do this most people will understand the core message you are sharing.

    Be yourself and as you speak that is how to write. Add pictures based on visual aids are key with us people. Have fun and make sure to respond to have real interactions.

    Thanks Sarah for sharing your insight on how you believe writing content for your blog is to be. Most understand that there is never one way to accomplish the same end results. That is why we never give up yet try many ways until we achieve our goals.

    Reply
  8. I think it is about superflous words… as I know I write a long posts…(not comments you will be pleased to know!) – but it is about making sure everything has value and being clear with editing so you can delete what was part of your own process to getting the value you are sharing out….in the end most people have read a BIG GROWN UP BOOK and as long as it captivated you, entertained you — gave you what you need in some way you carried on till the end – so that for me is my blogging rule…make it matter and make it count without worrying too much about the numbers.. :)

    Reply
  9. Totally agree that all the “guru’s” have a different take on the topic of blog length – and they all sound so authoritative and make such persuasive points – meanwhile it makes for a lot of confusion in the mind of a new blogger and that leads to inaction – when you don’t know what to – you do what’s easiest….nothing.

    I’ve read posts that were 1 paragraph – and found them really compelling – others that were 3000 words and couldn’t get enough of them either. For me the key isn’t length so much as sticking to a topic, making sure that you don’t wander around, edit to bring it into sharper focus – and you’ve probably arrived at the right length.

    Reply
  10. I don’t think there should be specific amount of words per blog post, if your 50 word post conveyed its message then job well done.

    Reply
  11. One of the best articles on blog posts I’ve ever come across Sarah! And you are so right about the ongoing debate about length. I admit I lean toward a longer post, for the most part that has to do with the topics I write about. When I first decided to write about personal growth I did a lot of research and one off the biggest complaints I found from readers was their frustration with articles that lacked depth and provided few if any answers. I have always tried to keep that in mind whenever I post an article, but do make an effort to keep to the point and break it into readable chunks. Thanks for the great read!

    Reply
  12. This is the information that I was looking for when I began my blog close to a year ago. The information, however, is timeless and will be well used going forward. Wonderful advice that you adhere very nicely to in the composition of your own posts. Thank you very much and best wishes for an inspired day!

    Reply
  13. It was funny that I read this post and then after reading lots of blogs noticed more people are just putting up words without sharing some visuals to support each core message. This is easy to add picture with Google and would make it easy on the eyes as well.

    I walked some people new to blogging through their first article and showed them how to add pictures which the person who owns them gives authority. They are having so much fun now and are able to write many articles and store them for later.

    We have had so much fun and now more people are using their blogs to be their location point for sharing their passions and allowing others to interact with them on a personal level. Vs. being one who owns a real company and now one allowed to get to know the people behind the big picture.

    Thank you again for allow me to view this usable information that I put to use each day. Not only with myself yet for people who never wrote and shared their passions before. It is really helping people who would be just sitting in front of the TV or radio with never experiencing interaction globally and making new exciting friends.

    You have given use a priceless touch of what can be done if doing it right. Thank you

    Reply
  14. Hi Sarah,

    What an amazing effort you have put in putting together such an insightful post. Thank you for doing it. By the way, I love the way you have kept the design of your website. Superb!

    Length of the posts has always been a point of discussion and confusion in the blogosphere in general. But I tend to go along the same lines as you said. If my post is not solving a problem or conveying a point or two which I wanted to convey effectively, I haven’t done a good job.

    If conveying my point requires 1500 words, so be it. If it can be done in 350 words just fine, that’s how much I am going to write and if I need to go to 5000 words to write a detailed guide for something, guess what? I am going to do just that!

    That is the right way of doing it I believe and some of the top marketers I know, do the same way. So, I think what you shared here resonates with me very well :-)

    Have a great weekend ahead!

    -Kumar

    Reply
  15. Hello Sarah! I have heard that your post should be at least 500 words and have seen quite a few shorter ones lately and so I have been curious as to what is best, You made a great point, as long as you have the headline, intro, the points with the proof, summary and a cal to action all is good Right?

    OK Now for my question? I don’t always give a call to action, should I? Thanks for the great post.. Chery :))

    Reply
    • Hi Chery, a call to action guides your readers. So even if the call to action is “If you like this post please share it”, you should include one. However there are times when you might write a personal post, and then you won’t want a call to action at all.

      Reply
  16. When I first started blogging I was completely baffled on where to start. Luckily with some trial and error and reading other peoples work I have better idea on what is necessary. I do not post as much as I should but I am taking steps to change that. Great info, and I look forward to reading more.

    Reply
  17. I rarely use bullet points. This may be because of the type of blog posts I write. But as I read your post, I thought bullet points are kind of like dialogue in fiction. They add variety and colour to what could otherwise be a bland, boring post.

    Willena

    Reply
    • HI Willena, that’s a great insight I’ve never thought of bullet points as dialogue yet clearly they are! Thanks for sharing that with us :)

      Reply
  18. Great articles. It’s great to hear your views and some very helpful advice. I change the mix depending on the type of article. Writing about a quote – short and sweet with some great visuals. While in my main blog I go more in-depth. It’s a question so many people ask and this post is a great guidance – I’ll be sharing.

    Reply
  19. Oooh I’ve just written a long’un Sarah. Possibly my longest so far.

    But it’s all in bite-sized tips (75 to be precise). And I’ve tried to share a whole lot of wisdom in one post. Maybe too much. What do you reckon?

    PS. My thoughts are: some of the best blog posts I’ve ever read have been super short. And some have been super long. But I have to say, the long ones have been broken up well with lots of headers and bullet points. I can’t handle reading a wordy post and not being able to get to the info I want quickly. Unless they’ve seduced me with an ingeniously written story. But that’s rare. I usually want answers fast!

    Reply
    • Sometimes those long uns are the best Konrad. It becomes overwhelming for the reading so they bookmark the post to come back to. Over time the bookmarks send more traffic and the post gains authority – what’s not to love about a long one? As someone asked me on Twitter the other day “so, are you saying size matters after all?”.
      Seducing people with stories is harder than people would have you believe. Some of Stephen Kings best books have been short stories like Running Man…

      Reply
  20. Very good advice Sarah! I agree that the length of a post should be whatever it needs to be. One thing I didn’t like about writing research papers what that we were restricted by number of characters. Sometimes there is much more to be said, so why not just say it all?

    Reply
  21. Hi, Sarah

    Thank you for a very interesting post.

    In my case, blog post length is dictated very much by my audience. I’m writing in English for non-native English speakers and so the posts have to be not so long that they’re overwhelming, but long enough and clear enough to explain the language points or learning advice my audience is looking for.

    Some of my posts are very short (those that define and explain specific vocabulary points) and I’ve noticed that the WordPress SEO plugin will tell me these posts don’t have good SEO because they’re too short – but nevertheless the post does what it needs to do, and is the perfect length for its purpose and its audience :-)

    Reply
  22. Hi Sarah

    Thank you for an interesting post.

    In my case, post length is very much dictated by my audience. I write in English for non-native English speakers and the posts have to be not so long that they’re overwhelming, but long enough to explain the language points or learning advice my audience is looking for.

    Some of my posts are very short (those that define and explain specific vocabulary points) and I’ve noticed that the WordPress SEO plugin tells me that these posts don’t have good SEO because they’re too short – nevertheless they’re the perfect length for their purpose and their audience :-)

    Reply
  23. I’ve experimented a bit with different blog post lengths. I find that short posts aren’t massively appealing to my readers and I try and go for a happy medium. I knew there was one really important post I had to write and I knew that to cover it effectively I had to write about lots of different aspects. I did worry slightly that it was too long when I was writing it but the comments and feedback I got were that readers had really appreciated a detailed post as it contained all the information they were looking for. I’m rubbish at CTA’s though, so that definitely needs some work.

    Reply

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