Competing in today’s online world means not only putting out good content and understanding SEO but also learning how to optimize that content. Google is better than ever at delivering the type of blog post that a searcher wants to see.
There was a time when publishing massive 10,000 or 20,000 word blog posts was practiced by some because the longtail traffic was so good to make it worth it. No one I know still thinks that is the best option.
Then again the days of 500 word thin content spammed by backlinks being an effective strategy are also over.
How long should a blog post be in the modern Google-led ecosystem? How can we know what length of a post to shoot for?
Let’s look at the data to get the answer!
Does the Word Count of a Blog Matter?
The short answer is that the word count of a blog matters to some extent, but not because of the pure number of words.
Adding content that is useful, helpful, and related to the main topic will make a blog post stronger, and a detailed blog post full of longtail keywords is likely to make for a strong piece of content. But spamming a bunch of sentences that add no value or new information won’t bring any extra traffic or buy higher rankings.
Because of Google’s advances, search intent is crucial in a post, but that doesn’t change the fact that a one-sentence blog post is not going to rank first in Google no matter how directly it answers a question.
Having content that is long enough to provide in-depth information and value is crucial, but Google no longer equates pure word count with value. They can parse other statistics and compare the content to what’s online to see if it adds any new value or not.
How long should a blog post be?
- Long enough to give in-depth relevant information on a topic
- Long enough to answer any specific question
- Long enough to give supporting information surrounding the topic
For some topics, this might be 5,000 words. For others, a mere 700 or 800 words can be enough to cover it all thoroughly.
Despite these changes, there’s still a reason to like what good long-form content brings to the table.
Benefits Of In-Depth Long-Form Blog Posts
There’s no denying that long-form blog posts have multiple benefits. There’s a reason so many bloggers and successful niche website builders have sworn by long-form content for years.
Let’s look at four of the major benefits that longer blog posts can provide.
More On-Page Time
Time on-page is extremely important for a variety of reasons. We know this is a major metric that Google uses to decide how helpful a post is and will shift first page rankings to move pages with high engagement towards the top.
This also adds to the EAT score that a site gets from Google as that post is clearly delivering value and so will get rewarded with even more traffic.
A Neil Patel study looked into long-form content and their investigation showed that on the long-form guides visitors stayed an average of 40% longer. Those visitors were so 25% more likely to visit other pages on the site – another excellent SEO metric that Google and other search engines like to see.
Longer content should have more longtail keywords, which means the page should bring in more traffic. More traffic means more profit from ads and more potential revenue from affiliate sales, selling a class, or getting an email signup to sell them something later.
Focusing on good long-form content is like throwing a wider fishing net out into the water. You’re likely to get more visitors and thus more ad revenue, more sales, and all the other good things that come with more traffic.
More Social Shares
A Backlinko study looked at blog post length versus the number of social shares, and it turned out that longer content was more likely to get shared on social media. Long form listicles or studies in particular seemed to do well, but posts below 1,000 words struggled compared to blog posts of other sizes.
2,000 words was a sweet spot for seeing a sharp uptick in social shares. Posts even bigger than that also did well, but the jump wasn’t as sharp or the “shares per thousand words” was at its highest at just above 2,000 words, then there were diminishing returns after that jump from 1,000 to 2,000 words.
That same Backlinko study showed that longer pieces of content tended to get more backlinks than shorter content. Links are still one of the most important ranking factors for SEO. Writing content that can attract links is a huge boon to a site.
Good long-form content that goes in-depth on a topic will provide:
- More backlinks from other sites
- More time spent on-page by readers
- Less of a bounce rate (since you answered their questions in-depth)
- More social proof from social shares/mentions
- More traffic from longtail queries
A long carefully crafted piece of content delivers a wide range of SEO benefits that boost not only that blog post but the entire site as a result.
Long-Form Content Doesn’t Warrant Depth of Content
The problem with the current beliefs on long-form content being superior is that there isn’t enough digging into why that often is the case. Long-form content isn’t better just because there is a higher word count.
The content needs to
- Provide quality information
- Answer search intent of most common queries on the topic
- Go in-depth into the topic
- Provide all necessary supporting information
- Add value
Content that is longer as a result of doing those five things will do well. Content that is full of fluff and pointless words that add no value isn’t going to do well.
The quality and depth of the content matter above all else. If longer content is the natural result (which usually is the case) then all the better.
Word count in and of itself doesn’t mean anything.
Steer Away From Filler Content
The problem with the blanket statement of “long-form content is better” is that there’s a huge difference between an in-depth 2,000 words that covers everything there is to know on a topic versus an article of 4,000 words of fluff.
The first article is likely to rank and pull in traffic. The second one might not deserve a single visitor.
Filler content doesn’t serve any purpose. It doesn’t rank for longtail keywords, it doesn’t provide value, and it doesn’t give a good user experience.
Those are all strikes against the content and not what Google wants to see. Filler content also tends to result in lower read times and a high bounce rate, none of which are positive for SEO.
Better a short blog post that goes in-depth on a topic than adding 1,000 words or more of fluff just to push up the word count.
Figuring Out How Many Words A Post Should Be
The good news for bloggers who like or need some level of guidance is that there are ways to get an idea of how long a blog post for an individual topic should likely be. Here are four factors to look at to determine the best range of lengths for any individual blog post.
Before You Start – Analyze Your Competition
Google will give you hints on what they think is a good length for a keyword topic. Look at the top ten search results that a Google search returns. Using a tool like SurferSEO or other content optimization tool, look at the length of each listing.
You can see what the average of the top 10 results are, exclude any oddball ones, and see if there is a big difference in length between those in the top three versus the bottom of the page results.
This information tells you what Google already sees as the best length to cover the topic in-depth, or at least the best available to that point.
Start By Determining Blog Topic & Expected Comprehensiveness
When you know the blog topic you can look at the top ten results. Check out each one. How thoroughly do they cover a topic? What parts do they skim over? Where is there room for improvement?
If every single result on page one covers a certain aspect of the blog topic, Google will want to see it on your blog, too. If there is a topic only the top three results cover but the others on page one don’t, that’s a clear sign that Google finds it important.
Look at how comprehensive the articles are and use that information on what’s ranking to outline everything to cover in your blog post.
Who Are The Readers?
Figuring out the most likely audience helps to write authoritative content and to cater it to the people looking for a topic. An example would be an article in the video games niche.
If the topic is a question casual gamers would ask, you will cover it in a much different way than a technical topic a programmer might ask for game design.
How far you tackle a topic, and the angle you take to answer it, changes based on the audience and can have a direct effect on how long the blog post should be.
Make Sure You Answer All Concerns of Your Potential Reader
Addressing concerns, hold-ups, or common problems or issues is a great way to add quality content to a post. When your blog post answers all the natural questions on a topic that a reader is going to have, that’s providing the type of great resource that Google wants to see.
Remember, the top goal with content should be to provide the reader with the best possible resource that covers a topic thoroughly.
Is There an Ideal Blog Post Length?
There isn’t going to be a set word length for the perfect blog post length. Every niche or search term has indicators that can give a hint as to a good length.
Pay attention to the average length of results on the first page of any keyword you Google. If they all fall in a very narrow range of length, that’s a good indication of what Google thinks an article needs to properly cover a topic.
While a really unscientific-based rule of thumb is to shoot for around 2,000 words because of multiple studies done in the past about the length of articles in the top 10 spots, each niche and each keyword is different.
Trust your research on the length of results given by Google for a keyword term as opposed to any general rule of thumb.
Focus On Depth & Quality, Not On Word Count
While longer content does well, it’s not about the word count. A long content piece that is bad won’t game the system and get ahead just because it’s longer than the competition.
Good quality content that goes in-depth on a topic, and is naturally longer as a result, that content will do well with readers and search engines alike.
- While long-form content does well it’s quality not quantity that matters
- Go in-depth on a topic versus surface level
- Don’t use filler to bloat word count
- Good long-form content has many SEO & social benefits
- There isn’t an “ideal” length for a blog post, it depends on the topic and research
- If a subject can be thoroughly covered in 2,000-3,000 words that is often enough to get Google’s attention
Longer content pieces are great, when they are done correctly. When the focus is on providing in-depth research, offering accurate information, and providing an exceptional resource then a longer post is likely to do well in Google.
When it’s unhelpful, rehashed content that doesn’t add any value or help the reader out, then it doesn’t matter how long it is, it won’t do well.
A blog post should be as long as it takes to deliver a thorough in-depth answer to a topic whether that’s 700 words or 3,000. Create useful exceptional long-form content and the rest will follow.