Ask Google ‘how long should my blog post be?’ and you’ll get 695,000,000 results in 0.42 seconds. I can narrow this down to one.
Your blog should be as long as it needs to be.
We have to forget about the numbers and focus on the words. When did we lose sight of what inspired us to write and get distracted by the slowly rising numbers in the bottom-left corner? Search Engines have a lot to answer for.
"Google, will you be my best friend?"
Sometimes marketers are so desperate to impress Google that using as many relevant words as possible becomes more important than the blog itself. This is the exact opposite of what Google wants.
Its zoo of algorithms are there for the user, to make your content even better for readers rather than alienate them with content written for a machine. Panda, which rolled out initially in 2011, penalises duplicate, irrelevant content and boosts sites that offer unique articles and provide the reader with something valuable they can’t find elsewhere.
Can you count on your words to do this?
The popular theory is that more words give you more chance of ranking. That filling your blog with words specifically related to your chosen subject indicates to Google that this page is bursting with information about your specialist area.
While this may pander to the algorithm, keyword-heavy articles scream ‘look how many keywords are in my blog, Google!’ to real people because they don’t necessarily say anything more than a succinct post and are often awkward to read.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t use keywords. They are, and always will be, important but you need to make every word count. Keywords tell Google what your post is about, so that your readers know what to expect when they click on your post. However, when you create content about your specialist area, relevant keywords should naturally work their way in without seeming spammy or forced.
The idea that successful blog posts are 2000 words or longer is something that marketers just can’t seem to shake. This is understandable when you read the highest-ranking article for ‘how long should my blog be?’ in which Forbes discusses posts that are over 1,000 words. What is worrying is the common answer behind ‘why’ blogs should be this long, where Forbes is not alone in answering: “because it’s good for SEO.”
What about the reader? Forbes rightly covers the importance of keywords, well written content and the fundamentals, but not once does it reference what the people reading your article want.
I know what you’re thinking, Neil Patel wrote a data-driven piece that proved longer posts were more successful, gaining nearly 70% more Tweets and over 20% more Facebook shares than shorter blogs.
Data doesn’t lie, but the reason for these figures isn’t necessarily the length of the blog post, rather the content within it. Writing 2000 words requires a lot more time, research and thought than the typical 200 word blog, which people who are hungry for fresh content often produce without much thought other than ‘we need a new blog’.
A longer blog will typically include data, unique perspectives and opinions from a point of authority to support the overall article. It is this, rather than the specific word count, behind the increased shares and engagement with longer pieces.
However, the school of thought that longer is better could actually have had a negative impact on the quality of writing out there. The little voice in some marketers’ heads insists ‘must…be….2000….words’ as they struggle to scrape together the advised word count for Google and forget their readers.
But that’s exactly what Google doesn’t want. Unfortunately, readers are going to see through your keyword stuffed, overwritten pages and return to a competitor who makes your point with total clarity.
That means higher bounce rates, poor time on page and – you guessed it – worse ranking performance in Google.
Artists streak, blend, smudge and scratch to express their connection with the world and writing should be just as much of an art form. We need to throw out word counts, worry less about Google and write blogs that educate, challenge and excite.
That’s how you build interest and trust in your content. That’s how you keep readers coming back for more, not whether or not you hit a particular word count.
By focusing on what your words say and spending less time counting them, you’ll find they actually add up to a lot more.
Flickr Creative Commons Image: maartmeester