There’s no one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to blog posts. However, it’s impossible to deny that, in most cases, long-form posts tend to perform better. They get more clicks, more shares, and they can make you look more authoritative.
Even so, the idea of an ‘ideal’ length for your blog posts shouldn’t be set in stone. If you have to resort to padding your content just to make it longer and meet some imaginary line, then you’re doing it wrong.
In this article, we’ll run our own study to figure out if there’s a perfect length for your blog posts. Then we’ll break down how to apply that to your projects, so let’s get to it!
Short vs. Long-Form Content
If you poll a group of bloggers, most of them will likely tell you that long-form content is king. Everyone has a different idea of what long-form means, though. For me, it’s anything that goes above the 1,000-1,200 word line.
When you boil it down, that’s not a massive number in terms of length. Even a slow reader could work his or her way through that in less than ten minutes.
The problem is, people read differently online than they do with physical text. With online articles, people tend to skim a lot and they lose attention quickly. That means even a 1,000 words can look like the online equivalent of Ulysses, depending on what you’re writing about.
Short-form posts, on the other hand, come with their own set of disadvantages, including:
- It’s harder to include keywords organically
- You don’t have enough room to dig in on a subject and answer questions
- Search engines tend to favor longer content overall
That last point is what is all boils down to, in the end. The more depth there is to your posts, the easier it should be to rank them in high positions. At least, that’s what the popular wisdom says, so I decided to take a look for myself.
An Analysis of Content Length Among First-Page Search Results
Getting long-form content to rank is much easier. That means you’re going to see a disproportionate number of ‘bulky’ articles within the first page of most search queries.
For this ‘study’, I took a look at four different search terms. For each of them, I visited all the links within the first-page search result and averaged their word count. Here’s a preview of one of my searches:
Keep in mind – for each result, I’m including the averaged word count for the first seven results and a second number that indicates how many of those are short-form articles (clocking in at below 1,000 words):
- How to install a WordPress plugin: 1,027 (4/7)
- Carbonara recipe: 491 (7/7)
- Cheap running shoes: 2,215 (1/7)
- What is a lash lift: 847 (5/7).
There’s a lot of information to unpack there, so let me hit the most important notes one by one:
- The spread between short and long-form content isn’t as broad as you might imagine, when you take multiple types of searches into account.
- That spread becomes much more inclined towards long-form content when you’re looking for products or services.
- Some types of queries favor short-form content almost exclusively (such as recipes). Usually, that content has to do with questions that have simple answers.
- The more competitive a keyword is, the higher the word count becomes on average.
Overall, I chose those keywords because they represent some of the most common types of searches that blogs target. Those are ‘how to’ and ‘what is’ questions, tutorials, product roundups, and more. Whatever type of blog you’re running, chances are those are your bread and butter.
The assumption we came with into the study remains the same – getting longer content to rank is easier. However, that doesn’t hold true across the board, in many cases, users just want easy answers they can skim quickly.
Longer content, on the other hand, performs much better for more complex queries. For example, when it comes to tutorials or product roundups, long articles sweep across the board. That is not a surprise since there’s so much money to be made in competitive niches.
For most blogs, a mix of short and long-form content should do the trick pretty well. If there’s a query you want to target and there’s a lot of meat to it, don’t be afraid to dig in. Look at what your competitors are doing and blow them out of the water with sheer length and actionability.
However, for ‘easier’ queries (recipes, for example), it often pays off to keep things short and simple. You can still get those shorter posts to rank well depending on their structure, which is what we’ll cover next.
How to Format Your Blog Content for Better SEO Results
Length alone won’t get your content to rank in a good position unless you follow best practices when it comes to SEO. For long-form content, that means the following:
- Paying extra attention to subheadings.
- Structuring your article into multiple sections to make it easier for readers to find the exact information they need.
- Using plenty of visual aids, including images, lists, tables, etc.
Chances are that not everyone who visits your mammoth posts will read through the entire things. Rather, they’ll look for the exact information they need, which is why structure becomes more important the longer your posts are.
Short posts, on the other hand, are all about delivering information in a way that’s easy to understand. For me, that means, once again, using plenty of visual aids to get information across more effectively.
To sum it up, walls of text are never a good idea. Not only do they make it more difficult for readers to follow along, but you also waste an opportunity to use images, lists, titles, and tables to give search engines more information about your content.
When it comes to your blog, the quality of content matters more than its length. During our tests, we found that short-length content can remain competitive as long as it’s relevant.
However, if you run into a topic you can really sink your teeth into and people care about, then by all means go nuts when it comes to the word count. Just keep in mind, the longer your articles are, the more important structure becomes, so keep subheadings and readability in mind at all times.
Do you have any questions about writing long-form content for your blog? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!
Image credit: Pixabay.