If there was one thing every content writer or online business would like to know when it comes to publishing blog posts, it would probably be the answer to this question: “How long should a blog post be in order for it to perform its best?” Of course, no magic number really exists. While there are great recommendations to follow, there are always exceptions to the rules. For example, it’s not hard to find a page one ranking article that is much shorter (or longer) than the recommended ideal length.
Because there are a lot of variables that go into determining whether or not a blog post will be seen (and read). Remember, not all blog posts or online articles are setting out to do the same thing. Some are created primarily to attract visitors to websites, while others are purely for SEO and ranking purposes. What’s considered a “typical” or “standard” article in one industry will be “outstanding” in another.
When it comes to optimizing online content, the only rule of thumb is to know that there are a variety of ways to make articles work.
A Closer Look at SEO
For a lot of businesses, one of the main reasons they publish online content, whether as a blog post or article, is to boost their SEO (search engine optimization) rankings. And, even if blogging is just something a company does, the fact that it can, and most likely will, improve online visibility is a huge bonus. So, how do you know that you’re doing everything you can to make the online content you create have multiple benefits for your business?
First, you do want to look at blog post or article length. While word count isn’t everything, it definitely plays a role in determining whether or not a certain article gets more traction than another. In general, it seems like Google does like longer posts more than shorter posts, which means posts that are at least 1,000 words or longer will take priority on page one. But, in order for the “magic” of 1,000+ word posts to work, the content needs to be more than just words grouped together on a page.
In terms of SEO, content optimization matters. This means that certain keywords are showing up organically throughout text, letting Google know that, yes, this article is talking about a certain topic. The longer your article is, the more chances these keywords will naturally show up. Google can absolutely tell the difference between a 200-word post stuffed with keywords and a 2,000-word post with the same number of keywords scattered authentically.
But, longer isn’t automatically better.
According to data gathered by HubSpot, the best-ranking posts hit a length “sweet spot”, ranging from 2,100 and 2,400 words. Of course, this is just the average of the data collected, meaning that there are plenty of posts and articles that perform incredibly well coming in below and above that 2,000-word range.
SEO Optimization Tips for Blog Content
Like any business “hack,” it’s never quite as simple as it seems. Again, while the word count and length of your article does play a role in determining whether or not it gets traction in search engines, there are a lot of other factors that will decide the overall fate of what you publish. Part of what makes certain content more successful than others is the fact that it gives a target audience exactly what they are looking for. By focusing on what your audience needs to hear and wants to see, you can help improve your chances of creating content that excels in terms of SEO. And, if you know how long the top-performing piece of content is for a certain search term, making your post longer certainly can’t hurt.
Other things to consider aside from length when creating content specifically for SEO purposes include:
- Intelligent backlinks
- Research on the current Google featured snippet (and what you can do to be even better)
- Creating alt-text for your post
- Investing in professional keyword research
- Adding engaging media to your posts, including videos, GIFs, etc.
Optimizing Content for Lead Generation
In addition to wanting to excel in SEO, one of the other main reasons that businesses create online content is to generate leads. Knowing your content’s goal will help you create blog posts and articles that are effective, because how you create effective SEO posts and intelligent lead generating posts is quite different. While SEO posts look to target a very specific keyword or search term, lead generating posts tend to be broader and more generic because that allows them to be seen by a larger audience (which means more chances to get the right people to the right page).
Additionally, posts wanting to generate leads tend to be a bit longer than SEO-oriented posts. According to more data from HubSpot, articles wanting to attract new eyes need to be at least 2,500 words to be effective. This is partly because longer content positions you as more of an authority within your industry, making potential customers more ready to trust you and your business. In fact, the longer your content is and the more you can craft it so it speaks directly to your audience, the better it will perform in terms of converting eyes to hot leads (and then, hopefully, paying customers).
Content Tips for Different Types of Posts and Pages
Of course, there are far more types of blog posts than just those wanting to boost SEO and those designed to get leads. As you dig down deeper into the world of online content, you realize that there’s a whole unique vocabulary surrounding blog posts and articles. The more you understand the different types of posts that exist (and why they do), the better you’ll be able to create an effective content strategy for your business.
1. Pillar Pages
Designed to be an “all-encompassing guide” for a certain topic, pillar posts need to be long in order to compete and, therefore, rank. In general, any pillar page needs to be at least 4,000 words long, although some are significantly longer depending on the content being covered. Almost all pillar pages are rich with links, pointing readers to other related topics and even more information.
One of the easier types of content to create, listicles serve as a curated “round-up” of tips, ideas, links, etc. that are deemed valuable by a specific audience. Shooting for around 2,500 words is ideal for making effective listicle posts.
3. How-To Posts
The goal of a how-to post is easy: Describe in detail how to do something. Of course, most how-to posts have ulterior motives, like getting you to click on an affiliate link or enticing you to sign up for updates and newsletters. In general, the best-performing how-to posts are right around 2,000 words.
4. What-Is Posts
While how-to posts explain how to do something step-by-step, what-is posts answer specific questions. The rule of thumb for these type of posts in terms of word count is 1,500 words, although this category of online content definitely has the most variations. Because some “what-is” questions are incredibly straightforward to answer, creating longer posts just to “hit” a certain length can actually make them perform worse than shorter posts.
Remember, more than anything, to keep your target audience in mind when creating online content. If you write for Google instead of real people, then you’ll miss the mark every time.
Is there a minimum length for effective blog posts?
Again, the subject matter, industry and type of post make the effectiveness of blog posts incredibly variable. But if you had to have a minimum viable length for blog posts to use as a guidepost, 300 words would be that amount. However, if all you post are short, 300-word blogs, then the chances that you will be recognized as an authority by search engines and your audience are slim. While it’s fine to post shorter content here and there when needed, the longer the blog posts you can create, the better.
One of the most common mistakes when it comes to creating effective online content is the idea that longer blog posts will magically rank well and out-perform the competition. While longer blog posts do have better chances of being seen, the only way they will really do their job is if they are well-written and valuable. If content is created just to hit target numbers and to pump out content on a regular basis, then your audience (and Google) will see right through you. Quality always outperforms quantity.
If you can create a valuable piece of content that is well-organized and well-written, then it will do well online. And, if that piece of content happens to be within the “recommended” range for length, then all the better.