What is the Perfect Article Length?

by Ashley Barnett
*Some of the links below may be from our sponsors. My full disclosure statement.*

Your articles should be long enough to give the reader what they need but not so long that you've gone off track. Give the reader everything they need then get out.

The average blog post is about 1,100 words — and to me, that feels short. I typically aim to hit between 1,500 and 2,000 words; more if I can get it. I like nice long articles.

Good content is helpful content. How helpful can you really be in 500 words? Not very.

So, if you’re confused about the ideal length for your next post, don’t despair. It’s time to break down long vs short blog posts, what’s ideal in different scenarios, and how you can incorporate this concept into your post planning.

Long vs Short Blog Posts – What the Data Says

If you’re curious about the best length for a blog post, you’re not alone. In fact, this question has been up for discussion since the first blog post hit the internet.

Luckily, this means there’s actually a decent amount of data to help you make a decision.

The Best Length for Getting Backlinks

Broadly speaking, the answer to long vs short blog posts leans towards the longer side for most metrics you look at.

According to a content study by Backlink.io of more than 912 million blog posts, longer blog posts have some pretty massive advantages over shorter posts for backlinks and social shares.

The study found that long-form content generates significantly more backlinks than short-form content. Specifically, posts that are 2,000 to 3,000 words have 3 to 4 referring domains on average, whereas shorter content have between 0 and 3.

This data makes sense if you think about what you normally link to. Longer posts are typically more in-depth and informative, making them more authoritative (and who doesn’t love linking to authoritative content?)

This isn’t the definitive answer for the long vs short blog post debate, but it’s worth keeping in mind if you’re trying to obtain backlinks — and you should be.

The Best Length for Social Shares

Backlink.io’s study also found that the ideal length for maximizing shares is between 1,000 and 2,000 words.

Again, this data seems fairly intuitive. Massive blog posts that are authoritative might be great for getting links, but think about the average piece of content you see on your Facebook timeline. Oftentimes, people share shorter articles, news snippets, and easy-to-read material.

It’s worth noting that another study from Moz found that longer content still significantly outperforms short content for social shares, so take this with a grain of salt and do your own testing!

The Best Length for Organic Traffic

Backlinks and social shares are always nice. However, what really moves the needle for your blogging growth is ranking highly on Google.

Organic traffic is the golden goose for bloggers. After all, a highly-ranked post can drive thousands of free, engaged readers to your blog for months or years to come. When you consider how valuable this is, it’s no surprise organic traffic is the main focus behind content writing for many bloggers.

So, how do long vs short blog posts fair in terms of their chances on Google?

Well, once again, it seems like long posts are triumphant!

There have been multiple studies on this involving an insane amount of data. Here are some of the findings on what length is best:

You might look at this list and decide to make every post you write 2,000 words and to call it quits.

And really, this isn’t the worst strategy.

However, as we’re about to find out, finding the right length for a blog post is sometimes a bit trickier than just relying on a bunch of marketing studies.

How to Decide on Blog Post Length

Generally speaking, long content outperforms short content because it’s more informative, includes more keywords to make Google happy, and gets more backlinks and shares.

However, you don’t want to always write more than you have to. Time is money, and you don’t want to bore readers either.

So, before you commit to writing multi-thousand word posts, consider the following tips for how to find the best length for a blog post.

1. Peep the Competition

If you’re writing a blog post that focuses on a certain keyword, your first step should be to spy on what’s ranking on the first page of Google. This is a great way to get inspired. Plus, it’s also the easiest way to see how long top blog posts are for that particular keyword.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to copy-paste each blog post into a word document to find the word count. You can actually use the Word Counter Plus plugin to quickly count chunks of highlighted text within your browser. 

This will just take a minute or two for the top posts and it’s an easy way to get an idea of the word count you should aim for.

2. Write a Blog Outline

Writing a blog outline is another easy way to gauge how long a post is going to be. Plus, having an outline also keeps you on track and prevents you from babbling for thousands of words and actually hurting your chances to rank.

Again, this outline should be based on your SEO and competitor research. You don’t have to follow your outline to a tee, but it should help you decide how long your blog post will end up being.

Lay out your main points with a few supporting points under each main point. Each section should be 200 -300 words. So if you are going for a 2,000 word article you'll need about 10 individual sections. Maybe a bit less to account for the intro and conclusion.

I go into depth on how to plan your articles in my course, Hit Publish.

3. Consider Quality vs Quantity & Your Niche

An interesting study from Neil Patel found that the best length for a blog post actually depends on your niche and that there isn’t a magic number. According to Neil, the ideal post length can be anywhere from 300 to 3,000 words! That’s an insane difference!

This is ultimately why you need to use your judgement when deciding on a long or short blog post.

I mean, your word count goal would be different if you’re writing a kitchen knife review than if you were writing the complete guide to Facebook advertising. In other words, the complexity of your post topic has a massive influence on how long or short your post should be.

You also need to remember that content quality is what influencers if a blog post ranks, not sheer length.

Yes, longer blog posts are, on average, more likely to rank well. However, you need to fill your posts with value and to do everything in your power to prove your article is the best.

Related: Trouble Ranking? Here's the Part of SEO You're Missing

Tips for Writing Longer Blog Posts

If you’re currently writing 500 word blog posts and are feeling sick to your stomach, don’t panic!

Again, long blog posts aren’t everything. Plus, you can always go back and update old blog posts now that you know how to find the right length, which can have a massive SEO benefit.

If you’re struggling to reach a higher word count, there are also several easy tips you can try.

1. Help the Reader Take Action

A lot of bloggers tell their personal story, or give straight information, without actually telling the reader how to take action. Help them implement the advice you've just given. Think about things like:

  • mini reviews of any tools that will help the reader take action
  • mini reviews of any books or websites that are good resources
  • an action plan for the reader (maybe even a free download)
  • evidence that what you are saying is true

Let's look at an example. Say you are writing an article on the perfect morning routine. You've gone over the morning routine which is to meditate, exercise, then journal. With that, your article is at 500 words.

There are lots of places here where we can add in resources to help the reader take action. You could add in:

  • a 200 word review on a free meditation app that is good for beginners
  • 100 words on your favorite meditation cushion
  • 300 words on the benefits of meditation and a recommendation for a good book
  • 100 words about a website or app that specializes in quick workouts
  • 300 words on the benefits of working out in the morning
  • 200 words in a list of journal prompts
  • 100 words about your favorite journaling notebook

Just those suggestions total 1,300 words. Add that to the original 500 and is your article now 1,800 words. Plus, it's a lot more helpful to your reader.

Related: How and Why You Should Update Old Blog Posts

2. Research More Keywords

If you've added in all the actionable advice you can and you're still short of word count goals? Never fear; keyword research will show you the way!

Here’s a great example: let’s say you’re writing a recipe post focusing on the keyword “easy chocolate brownie recipe.” 

According to Google Keyword Planner, the keyword has decent volume and a low competition score. Plus, you’ve nailed the recipe, so you’re getting excited to write this blog post and watch it rank.

But…when it comes time to edit, your post feels a bit flat. The word count is also lower than you’d like, and something is missing.

Well, with more keyword research, you’ll find that the keyword “brownie recipe without cocoa powder” also has some awesome volume! 

All of a sudden, you can add a snippet about a cocoa-free alternative option at the end of your recipe. This gives readers more choice, extends your post, and includes more juicy keywords you can rank for.

Even if this isn’t the greatest example, you get the idea. You could add a section to that post about how to make the recipe with kids, a gluten-free or keto option, or a budget-friendly alternative.

Long story short, if you’re struggling to write long blog posts, take things back to square one with keyword research.

Related: How to Use Your Keyword – An On Page SEO Checklist

3. Add Interviews

Another easy way to extend your blog post and add more credibility is to interview subject matter experts.

There are several ways to find potential interviewees besides your own network. Niche-related Facebook groups are great, and you can always try forums like Reddit. If that doesn’t work, you can use Help A Reporter Out, also known as HARO, to find industry experts and bloggers to interview.

Scheduling an interview and finding candidates takes time, so factor this into your publishing schedule. It might seem like a lot of extra work, but the boost in authority is often worth the effort.

Summary

The bottom line is to use your keyword to guide your word count. Aim to match or exceed the articles that are currently ranking for your target keyword.

Create content that is more helpful and complete than what is currently out there and this will naturally be a longer article.

If you are stuck for ways to increase the word count on an article dig deep. How can you roll out the red carpet for your reader and give them more tools and resources to help them follow your suggestions. You can also incorporate other related keywords to expand your topic.

Your true goal should be to write the best piece of content on the internet whenever you start a post. If you aim for this goal and follow some SEO basics, you’re bound to develop traffic and a loyalty readership that serves you for years to come.

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