Blog Post Length: The Long and Short of It

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This afternoon I was reading a new blog post from KISSmetrics.  Neil Patel and his team (I assume there is a team) delivered a well presented Long Blog Postand valuable post with 30 blogging tips.  It’s definitely worth the read, if you can get through it all.  Therein lies the question.  Can a blog post ever be too long? It’s a constant debate.  Is 4500+ words too long for a blog post?

The post from KISSmetrics included “Write Long Posts” as one its top 30 blogging tips.

The reasons included:

Search engines know better what the post is about because of the length

The disappointment of the reader when attracted to a great headline, only to be disappointed by the length of the post

 

Liabilities of a Long Post

The time to create the post – I wouldn’t be surprised if the KISSmetrics post took 10+ man hours to complete.  The writing and research for this type of post would be painstaking for most of us.  The links, images, and photographs all have to be placed on the backend.  It is a labor intensive effort when 4500+ words are involved.

I just couldn’t put that Blog Post down - Do you ever find yourself saying this with blog posts that resemble e-books? I’m guessing not so much. Hold on, someone just liked my cat picture on Facebook, I have to go thank them.  I know, I’ll bookmark and read later.

Off to the Bookmark Black Hole – Let’s face it, all things being equal, longer posts generally head to that crowded place we call bookmarks.  Sadly, most posts will not see the light of day once they land in bookmarkville.  We really mean to get back to them, because they are overflowing with value, but it just doesn’t happen.

Blog Post or “War and Peace” – The internet and the content created resembles a fast food environment.  We want it short and sweet.  Is it any surprise that Twitter is so popular? Cozying up with a nice 4500 word piece doesn’t play for the majority. Photos, quotes, and images get more love than posts.  We’re visual.  Those are the facts.  No need for an empirical study, we live it every day online.

Efficiency – Are 4-5 800 word posts more valuable to you, the writer, than one 4500 word post?  This is something to think about before embarking on mega post.  If you’re looking for the highest percentage of readers to finish the piece keep it short.

Long doesn’t mean Good – Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that just because your post is long that it’s going to be good and well received.  The KISSmetrics piece is solid, but there are no guarantees for any writer.  A lot more can go wrong with a long post.

 

The KISSmetrics post could have been an e-book.  One page for every tip detailed, and you have a 30 page e-book.  If you have 4000+ words in you, think about putting together an e-book.  The people that request an e-book expect it to be much longer than your typical blog post.  While getting you point of view out there is important, keep it tight and think about your readers.

Have you ever composed a 4000-5000 word blog post?

Have you composed a 1500 word post?

What were the results?

When is the last time you read a 4000 word post verbatim?

 

I welcome and look forward to your comments on this one.  Don’t be shy.  If you enjoyed this 573 word post, please share.

53 comments
AndyNathan
AndyNathan

I composed a few articles close to 1500 words. Generally they get a lot of traffic, because I spend a little bit more time promoting them, because I put so much effort into the original post I want more people to see the post. However, those are challenging enough to do. At 4500 words, I would make an ebook sign-up.

patriciagozlan
patriciagozlan

Because we are writing for a specific market of people we care about and we want to serve, because time is money I believe that posts over 1200 words are too long.

 Personally I like posts that are chunked in short pieces, easy to digest with useful practical tips.

Thanks for exploring the pros and cons of long vs short posts.

 My challenge is to give the maximum in 500 words.

graywolfsurvival
graywolfsurvival

My philosophy is to build the site based on topic and those topics determine the possible keywords. From the popularity of the keywords vs competition, I derive a large master post of a fairly broad topic. From that topic, I then derive more specific keywords and subtopics to write several shorter topics which are interlinked to the master one. Even some of those subtopics will have a few articles pulled out of it, which will drill down to rare or longtail keywords and feed the whole machine.

 

Currently my site averages about 2,200 words/post with the shortest being about 500 and the longest just shy of 7,000.

 

Kumar Gauraw
Kumar Gauraw

I think it depends on the topic. For example, the Neil Patel's post you have mentioned about in this article, helps the readers to learn on one subject in detail. I am sure it could even be an e-Book, but I enjoyed reading that post and learning from it without worrying about wasting my time in downloading an eBook, signing up for something etc. It was a nice step by step instructions and I didn't feel overwhelmed.

 

On the other hand, if there is a general topic of thought process sharing, sales training or general article that could be shorter, sometimes 500- 600 words worth is more than enough.

 

I would prefer to think in terms of the context of the article than really trying to battle about SEO versus readers or any other thing. What you feel great about while writing, is generally received well by the readers as well as by the search engines (me thinks :-) )

Thanks,

Kumar

13lake
13lake

The Declaration of Independence is 1337 words long.  Any blog post longer than that should be more important than that. 

Neil Patt
Neil Patt

Writing a blog article at the right length is also very important for optimizing it for search engines. But a user always prefer to read 500-600 words blog post rather than whole thesis.

MaryEHaight
MaryEHaight

Unless you're a well-known (as in world famous) and talented writer, I'd leave the tomes of 4000 and 5000 words alone. 1500 is pushing people's patience and time. Funny thing, people don't care what search engines might or might not want, and if you're not writing for your readers why are you bothering?

 

I've found people want quick bites, 300 to 500 words depending on if  the subject is a breeze in breeze out post  , with links or something requiring four paragraphs and significant links for more information - IF they find they *want* more information :) Perspective should be inventive, not dog-earred,. No need to flog people with too much detail and risk boring them when another writer has covered the topic or sub-topic well. You're not giving your readers to another writer, you're giving them what they want and that is why they come back. I liked your 573 word post!

Yourinda
Yourinda

Hi Steven,

It is good to read about the pros and cons for long blog post.

 

The first question that comes to mind: Who are we writing for? People or search engines?

 

Are there really many people who spend the time reading long posts?

 

To be honest, I would find and 800 word post too long.

We can supply links to more information (either our own or others) for those who want to read more.

 

Some people like apples others like bananas.

 

Thank you for shining a light on this issue.

 

To Success!

Yorinda

CarolLynnRivera
CarolLynnRivera

The ongoing debate! I admit to being a long-poster. Once I start writing on a topic I want to write EVERYTHING. Sometimes I have to split up posts into multiples in a series. I think long posts are best when they're compelling to read. A 4500 word post of "tips" is too much (and sort of defies the snappy nature of a "tip"). But a 4500 word post that's a well-written opinion piece or even a tutorial type of post can be a relatively quick read. The bookmark kiss of death... now that's something that's a blessing and curse. How nice that someone found your post worth bookmarking! But if my own behavior is anything to judge from, that post is going into the bookmark ether until such time as I stumble across it as I'm cleaning out my bookmarks. I guess at the end of the day there's only such a thing as too long for the topic. Long can work and short can work, when done well. Personally I'd rather read a longer post than a short one because I actually do feel kind of cheated. Clicking a link and getting focused on a blog takes longer than reading some posts. And that's no fun no matter what.

justincutroni
justincutroni

Interesting post. I would suggest that this issue is about emasuring and testing blog post lengths.

 

I've developed <a href="http://cutroni.com/blog/2012/07/27/rethinking-blog-metrics/">an advanced way to measure content using Google Analytics</a>. As a result my entire understanding of content has changed. For example, most blogs have an average time on site about 2 minutes and a 72% bounce rate.

 

But after changing the way that I measure blogs I found that most blogs have an average time on site of about 9 minutes and a 23% bounce rate.

 

The first thing you need is reliable, quantitative data. Then you can start to understand if people read long posts.

 

Best,

 

Justin Cutroni

wonderoftech
wonderoftech

Great points. I find this article fascinating, both as a reader and as a writer. My longest post this year was 2800 words. It reviewed four digital textbook alternatives for college students and I wanted to explain each one thoroughly. 

 

People may get lost in long articles. I find that readers often miss key points, even in shorter articles, so it's tough to please everyone.

 

Like you and other commenters, I believe that the topic dictates the length of the article. I want a reader to come away from reading my articles with a full understanding of the topic. I break up my articles with headings and images to keep it interesting.

 

As a reader, I will stick with a long blog post as long as it is informative and formatted well. But I don't like long-winded articles that could have made the point in several hundred words.

cendrinemedia
cendrinemedia

As long as an article is solid, length does not really matter. The problem is that bloggers who tend to be long-winded forget to add images and lay out the posts in a way that is appealing visually. 

blondishnet
blondishnet

I believe 4500 words is way too long for a single blog posts. I think my longest is a little over 1300. I think breaking that post up will attract those who want to learn more. It is also a method of conversion to do post series and reduce bounce rate.

RyanKBiddulph
RyanKBiddulph

I have written a few whoppers Steve but short and sweet vibes with me. Thanks for sharing!

gonzogonzo
gonzogonzo

I have read many of the comments and I have to agree there is no "one size fits all" in terms of length. Funny enough, I was just writing up by end-of-year retrospective for my blog and I came up with the top 5 most popular posts. While I tend to write between 700-100 words per post, my #1 and #3 were both shy of that threshold, at roughly 600 words. But the kicker? My #2 most popular post this year was also my longest, at 1,500 words.

 

Probably resonated with more folks, as it was about setting up a proper social media strategy and the seven drivers for such an endeavor. You just can't address that kind of material in 250 words!

 

Anyway, excellent post! Cheers,

Frederic

AnnettaPowell
AnnettaPowell

Hi Steve,

 

I found some of the comments in Triberr very interesting. Their is always a love and hate to Google and SEO ;)

 

Well, I have never written a 4500 word blog post and I think my longest was about 2500-3000 words. It all depends on the content. If it adds more value to the reader, it is fine. Most of my longer posts are reviews. It is almost impossible to limit a review post in 500 words. My regular blog posts are about 500 words tho.

 

I think the KISSmetrics  team is right about the length of the post with regards to SEO. I can get some views through social media with my short articles but my longer posts are better placed in the SERP and still bringing in organic traffic. People still share those content as they found them valuable. I am not forcing anyone to share them through social media but they are "organically shared". 

 

So my point is, it worth investing some time to write longer and useful posts and get favored by search engins and continuous "Organic Sharing".  

 

isabelladelcarpio
isabelladelcarpio

I think that it depends on the format and the content. For example, if you are interested on how to rebuild your car engine from the ground up, you might want a lengthier blog. If you're trying to distract yourself at work (I know that nobody ever does that!), you may be more interested in something shorter. Also, when something is broken up and has titles, it is much easier to get through than one long, endless post. I imagine that different lengths attract different readers.

SteveBorgman
SteveBorgman

If one has the talent and time to write long, quality blog posts, more power to them.  That's how Glen Allsop from ViperChill.com rolls.  But I agree with you: I simply don't have the time.  I much prefer anything from 700 to 1000 words, and shorter is better, especially if I can say the same things with less words.

Celestes
Celestes

Hi Steve...I might start off reading a 4500 word post w/good intentions about finishing it...however I doubt if I ever would. However had no problem reading through your much shorter and informative post.  Makes more sense to me to break a big long post into a series of smaller ones or just discrete posts.

marquita.herald
marquita.herald

Love the "blog post or war and peace!" Okay, here's my two cents - I think the length of a post should have more to do with the subject and your intent for the article (what you want the reader to get out of the content) than efficiency for the blogger.  For example, I write about personal growth issues relating to self-determination. I did a lot of research when I first started blogging and learned that one of the biggest reader complaints is when bloggers gloss over topics. It's tough to give anyone meaningful advice on changing their life in 3 paragraphs. After a lot of testing, I came up with 1,000 words as my optimal length - long enough to get to the meat of a subject, but not so long that it becomes "war and peace." Works for me, but I think we each need to find our own forumula.

mfcompany1
mfcompany1

It's a shame that Internet usage as become so influenced by social media usage. On Facebook, I just want a quick hit from a friend or colleague. But on the Internet, via blogs, articles, videos and web pages, I prefer to get deeper information. Some ideas take time - and therefore many words, images and other content - to develop. Breaking them up into smaller posts often loses the train of thought for the reader, too. I frequently compose 900-1500 word postseason and often longer, because that's what it takes to be helpful to my audience, and to explore complex and important issues together. And it has absolutely nothing to do with SEO, marketing or any such. I write to contribute, not to attract. Many things should be short and sweet. But thinking and writing isn't the same as tweeting. Haiku is only one form of poetry; Milton is another. Sometimes, you have to be long winded to get the job done.

haroldgardner
haroldgardner

I find that five hundredish words is about right most of the time.  I am irritated if I get to a post that caught my eye and it is only a sentence or two.  I seldom finish anything more than a couple of screenfuls.  You mentioned an e-book to deliver lengthy material.  Another option is to create a series of posts.  

 

I would challenge the length assertion as it relates to SEO.  Ten posts of 500 words are more likely to have impact than one 5,000 word post.  They seem to want to compare ten 500 word posts to ten 5,000 word posts; obviously not a fair comparison.

Wouterblom
Wouterblom

When you create a long blogpost, you better make sure the first few hundred words are marketing the rest of the blogpost. Explain why it is so long and what the reader gets back from reading it.

 

The reader must never have the idea that the writer wrote a long blogpost because he did not have the time to write a short one.

ellalaverne
ellalaverne

Hi, @tedrubin.  How are you?  I liked this and really had to think about your question.  I even went to the post to see how it felt to me.  It took me maybe 10 minutes to read.  I scanned a little; learned some things.  

 

Another reader had your concern and the author posted: 

Sean WorkDec 13, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Thanks for the detailed response Steve :)

Yeah – from our experience, longer posts do much better for us.

 

I think that this is true.  If you build a good readership and have different content types (how to's vs. personal stories of triumph let's say) then there will be the occasional 1500 word post that will be read and passed along.  I believe whole-heartedly that variety is important, too, and varying your content lengths makes you more attractive to more people.

 

Thanks for pointing out the article.  It has me thinking now.  Dangerous way to be so late at night.

NeilSilverthorn
NeilSilverthorn

I agree with you that the "30 Blogging Tips" post by Kissmetrics was too long.  When a blog topic is too long, the reader just can't retain all the key messages the post provides.  This post could have been cut down or broken up into a series of two or three posts and would be a much easier read. Additionally, they could have also broken up the text with relevant images, charts and graphs to emphasize key points too.

Ian Wright
Ian Wright

If it's a good enough post people will read it, though I suppose it depends on the attention span of the readership! Good article :-)

GeeklessTech
GeeklessTech moderator

 @MaryEHaight Hi Mary - I know where you stand :) - You make some valid points, and I tend to agree with your logic.  Short posts just seem to be a better fit for most audiences, and bloggers need to be cognitive of that fact.

Latest blog post: Pinterest and Holiday Giving

GeeklessTech
GeeklessTech moderator

 @Yourinda Hi Yourinda - Your first question is a good one.  While there isn't a clear answer, I think we both agree that a shorter post will find more readers completing the last sentence.

 

I'm a bigger fan of bananas.  Thanks for sharing your thoughts Yourinda.

 

 

Regards,

Steve

Latest blog post: Pinterest and Holiday Giving

GeeklessTech
GeeklessTech moderator

 @CarolLynnRivera  Hi Carol Lynn -A long-poster here a shorter-poster there...:) Yes, "Tips" in long form.  The bookmark, yes I think most share our issues never getting back to those little gems.  If those gems are short we can get through most them, well at least the odds are better than their longer friends. 

Latest blog post: Pinterest and Holiday Giving

GeeklessTech
GeeklessTech moderator

 @justincutroni Hi Justin - Thanks for sharing your post (and code) that brings a fresh view to the data.  I definitely want to take a closer look at your post to see if I can duplicate your measurement techniques.  Site time of 9 minutes and a 23% bounce rate sounds a lot better.

Latest blog post: Pinterest and Holiday Giving

GeeklessTech
GeeklessTech moderator

 @wonderoftech Hi Carolyn - Doing a review of 4 books would have been tough to complete in 600-700 words, so the long post definitely has its place.  Breaking up a long post that is formatted well is a complete must if you have any shot of your readers hanging in there to the end.  Long waves of text are a recipe for the X.  

 

Thanks for adding to the conversation Carolyn, and have a great week.

Latest blog post: Pinterest and Holiday Giving

GeeklessTech
GeeklessTech moderator

 @gonzogonzo Thanks for sharing your experience Frederic.  I like that 700-1000 spread the best.  Enough to give some detail, a layer deeper, without overwhelming the reader.  Yes, some topic/areas are going to take a 1000+ words no matter how tight you try to keep it...

Latest blog post: Pinterest and Holiday Giving

GeeklessTech
GeeklessTech moderator

 @AnnettaPowell Hi Annetta - Yes, I see that a lot.  For some SEO is everything, while others pay zero attention.  

 

I agree that a much longer post has SEO value, but I question the percentage of readers that actually complete the article versus say a 500-800 word article.  If they're just doing a quick skim, is that worth the time and effort needed to create a longer post?

 

So you think an occasional long post is worth the time and effort.  Perhaps one every now and then wouldn't hurt.

GeeklessTech
GeeklessTech moderator

 @isabelladelcarpio Hi Isabella - All good points.  There is definitely times where the topic of said article demands a lengthy post.  I agree if you do go the long route, its important segment by subtopic, otherwise most readers will run.

GeeklessTech
GeeklessTech moderator

 @SteveBorgman Hi Steve, I've heard ViperChill.com mentioned twice now in regards to this piece.  Thanks, have to take a closer look at him.  The "same things with less words" is classic.  I guess we can all tighten it up on some level.  Have a great weekend Steve.

GeeklessTech
GeeklessTech moderator

 @Celestes Hi there Celeste - I've seen that response from a few now, break long posts down to a series of smaller ones.  KISSmetrics actually said in there post, that the long post generated better results, although they weren't specific what type of results.

 

Celeste I'm curious to learn more about the blog platform you're using.  How is that working out for you?

GeeklessTech
GeeklessTech moderator

 @marquita.herald Hi Marquita - I definitely agree with intent, and sometimes articles will run +1000 plus words to get your point across.  I just remain skeptical if a higher percentage of readers complete the longer posts, not matter how awesome the writer thinks of his/her piece.  It's two-fold, not just the efficiency for the blogger, but more importantly the reader.  Maybe I'll together a 4000 word blog to compare and contrast.  Thanks Marquita.

GeeklessTech
GeeklessTech moderator

 @mfcompany1 Thanks for the comment Matthew, and I always smile when I see Haiku. :) 

Let me throw a question at you.  "I write to contribute, not to attract." If 80% of your dedicated readers came to you and said, "Matthew we want shorter posts and more of them", would you oblige? I also think 900-1500 words is in a more than acceptable range, and if it's good people can stick with it and complete.  

GeeklessTech
GeeklessTech moderator

 @haroldgardner Hi Harold - Oh, a sentence or two is the other extreme and far worse than any long post.  That's my point, I think you and I are in the majority that for whatever reason aren't going to get through 4000 words in one shot.  If that's the case, is it worth the time and effort to create that long of a post?  I agree, I think more smaller posts or more valuable than one monster post.

GeeklessTech
GeeklessTech moderator

 @Wouterblom Thanks for stopping by Wouter.  I think the opening is key when someone is telling a story.  When you have a Top 30 list, that becomes a little less important as each tip is its own little story.  I think a longer post that is a story has a better shot of being read and digested than a list.  We pick and choose on a list, but don't retain all of it generally. Have a good weekend Wouter.

GeeklessTech
GeeklessTech moderator

 @ellalaverne Hi Ella - Yes, definitely something to think about.  I agree that variety can be a positive along with a mix of content types.  "Longer posts do much better for us" is vague needless to say.  What is better? Would it be "better" than 4 800 word posts collectively? I have my doubts.  Something to think about.  Thanks Ella.

GeeklessTech
GeeklessTech moderator

 @NeilSilverthorn Thanks Neil.  Actually they mentioned that they've had better luck with long posts versus breaking it up into a series of posts from their own experience.  Have a great weekend Neil.

GeeklessTech
GeeklessTech moderator

 @BajaByBus Thanks for the comment BBB, I tried to track down your name, but no luck.  Anyway, yes that's what's in question.  What percentage of readers across the board would read a 4000+ word blog post? I'm guessing it's on the low side.  Thanks for taking a minute to comment, much appreciated.

mfcompany1
mfcompany1

 @GeeklessTech  Thanks for the reply - I appreciate it and this conversation. Here are a few thoughts. First, if my readers gave me feedback that they wanted shorter, I'd be inclined to write shorter posts, but I'd take a preliminary step: I'd determine "which" of my readers were giving me the feedback. If they were hiring target clients, past clients or strong supporters who comment and share my content, I'd chop my posts down. However, blog readership can be tricky to assess, and since my blog has a purpose - which is to spread ideas AND create revenue opportunities - I'd be careful to react to the "right" feedback. But overall, I concede the point. 

 

Having said that, a caveat: I have heard "write shorter blogs!" from people dispensing advice about blogs forever. I'm often surprised that they offer very little "reason" other than the typical "we live in a fast-paced world, people don't read any more, people skim, headline news, etc." And while most of this is true, it doesn't mean that the same people who *skim Facebook or Twitter* also don't read a multi-page article on the Wall Street Journal site or Harvard Business Review blog. (I refer mostly to myself, in this example). Or watch 17-minute videos from TEDTalks. One can hold attention spans easily if you contribute value.

 

I tend to construct content like an architect builds a building: The form must follow the purpose. If I'm selling "quick fixes" then I'd blog in "tid bits" - for example, Seth Godin's blog is perfectly short, well suited to his perfectly short books. On the other hand, If I'm tackling complex problems (of which my audience has an interest) I might need a longer form. The "trick" remains writing purposefully, clearly and concisely. But concise doesn't necessarily mean "short" - as long as you can add value.

 

All of which now seems even more interesting to me, since **this answer* itself has run over 325 words; hopefully none of which is superflous, but necessary for me to clarify my thoughts and offer value to our conversation. Could I have written back "sure" to your question? Certainly. It would have been a Twittereque answer (in fact it would have been quite funny to do so). But it would not have honored your question with a thoughtful response.

 

That's my line of thought; hope it helps.

 

- MF

NeilSilverthorn
NeilSilverthorn

 @GeeklessTech  The long post style does work well if presented properly. I think my problem with that post was that it needed to be broken up a little more with images and examples.  I'm a fan of long posts and guilty of posting several long ones myself.  Favorite examples are @SocialMediaExaminer and @SocialFresh who both provide incredible detailed examples in very long posts.

GeeklessTech
GeeklessTech moderator

 @mfcompany1 Hi Matthew - I was thinking you almost had a blog post here with your comment.  :) My takeaway is "writing purposefully, clearly and concisely".  That's very important, and I'm glad you would adjust your process if your readers demanded such.  I have to believe too many writers would react differently. Have a great evening and thanks for your valuable input.

 

Regards,

Steve