Blog articles can be any length, but depending on your goals, you may want to flesh them out or keep them as concise as possible. Here are some suggestions from Marketing 360®.
The Short Answer
The short answer is that your blog article should be as short (in terms of word count) as possible while still completely conveying your idea.
This is the answer of a writer and editor who wants your piece to read well – and who wants your piece to be read at all.
When you revise a piece of writing, you cut out the deadwood. Every unnecessary word and redundant idea must go. The best editors will be ruthless at this.
Your first draft could be 1000 words, while your revised piece is 600. If you convey your ideas fully, with clarity, the 600-word piece will be a superior version.
Make the assumption that you have minimal attention spans with online readers. Getting someone to read for 5 minutes straight is an accomplishment.
This is another reason to keep your blogs concise and to the point. The longer it is, the less chance it will be read in sequence or in its entirety.
This is amplified because the majority of your visitors will be on their phones. Organize and structure your writing for mobile phone readers.
One reason attention spans are so short is interstitial reading habits.
Interstitial content consumption happens when people have brief moments of free time. For instance, it’s as likely someone will be reading your blog when they have a few minutes waiting for an appointment or standing in line at Starbucks.
Hopefully they’re not doing this, but it’s possible:
Don’t write with the assumption your reader will be in a quiet space with time and attention completely devoted to what you’re saying.
Write for how people live. They’re busy and they’ll read your stuff when they get a moment. This includes when they’re sitting at their computers at work…between phone calls, chats, taps on the shoulder, impromptu meetings, coffee breaks…
When you write a blog, narrow your idea into one, specific topic and stay on that topic.
It’s impossible to write a concise, impactful piece if your main idea is too broad. Use the writing process to dial-in your topic. Go for something unique. Delve beyond the obvious.
Now comes the monkey wrench.
If your goal is to rank your content on page one of search, you may have trouble if your piece is too short.
This is a limitation of search algorithms. According to Google, it seeks to rank articles with a substantial, complete, or comprehensive description of the topic.
The article should provide a “satisfying amount of content” that has “substantial value” when compared to other pages in the search result.
Algorithms tend to equate “substantial” with volume. They can’t interpret how a piece is better when it’s shorter.
They don’t start reading, get distracted, and think to themselves “just get to the bloody point.”
This creates a conflict. Ideal blog writing for online readers – and the best writing overall – will be concise. If you distill your ideas into something that can be read quickly, you’ve done your readers a huge favor.
But if you write this way, the algorithms probably won’t rank you. At least at this point, it’s clear that “substantial” and “satisfying amount” mean longer description, more media (images, videos, etc.), and probably links citing source material.
So SEO copywriters flesh out their material, usually resulting in something that’s a bit chubby – or too often – morbidly obese.
Seth vs Neil
The most renowned marketing blog on the internet is Seth Godin’s. He perfected short-form, concise blog writing. Few of his posts take more than a few minutes to read in their entirety.
But you’ll rarely see him rank for competitive marketing search terms.
Neil Patel also has a popular marketing blog. His pieces are long, filled with details and examples. It’s a serious commitment to both read his work and try to process everything he’s saying.
But Neil does well with SEO. He consistently ranks for competitive marketing keywords.
I read all of Seth’s blogs from beginning to end. He gets to the point and stimulates your thinking.
Personally, I find it difficult to read Neil’s work all the way through. It’s not just the length of time to read, but the amount of info he asks you to process. He can go from satisfying into overkill. I only need so many examples, citations, and explanations.
Your goals will dictate the length of your blog. Ask:
- Do I have a vital point and need readers to read the entire piece in sequence?
- Or is my primary goal to rank for a keyword target?
If you have an audience expecting your work, narrow your topic, distill your details, and cut every unnecessary word.
If you want your post to rank for a keyword target, you’ll have to make it longer. Flesh-out your details, use multiple examples, and fully develop your explanations.
Just keep in mind that if you’re writing a long piece, few readers will read it sequentially or completely. The goal of these blogs, in reality, is as a landing page that exposes the audience to your brand.
Make sure your landing pages have a call to action to capture contact info and also set up retargeting to expose these people to more content. This is top of funnel optimization.
If you’re in a position to write concise pieces with ideas you’ve concentrated through the writing process, do it. This is the way to keep an audience and really communicate important ideas.
Last, remember this irony. It’s more difficult to write a complete piece with a satisfyingly short amount of content. It requires multiple drafts, and you’ll probably need the help of an editor.
Seth Godin is the unexcelled master at this. You won’t match his skill or brevity, but use him as an inspiration to tighten your writing.
Hopefully Google will soon get better at understanding what the best content truly is, regardless of length. It will mean better writing and less content glut online, which is a worthwhile goal for everyone.