You might have any number of reasons for asking how long should a blog post be for SEO. Maybe you had a website which was hit by Panda. Maybe you want to get off the link building treadmill, and you’re looking for ways to get more search traffic. Maybe you’re new to blogging and just plain don’t know how long to make your posts.
No matter your reason for asking, longer blog posts are better. I explain why in this post. I also offer tips for improving the quality and the quantity of the content on your site.
Shorter Isn’t Always Better (but Neither Is Longer)
When I got started in Internet marketing, the most common advice was to update my site with at least one new page per day. In fact, I started by following the approach outlined by Brett Tabke, in which he claimed you could have a successful site in Google (15,000 per day) in 12 months by following 26 steps. He suggested including between 200 and 500 words of content per page.
I thought myself as an over-achiever, so I set 500 words per page as my minimum. And I launched way more than 1 page per day.
That strategy worked well for a long time, but I soon realized that I could over-achieve even more by upping my minimum to 750 words. Eventually I started shooting for 1000 words per page.
I also realized I could hire writers to increase the number of pages even more.
I thought I was on fire.
Little did I know.
The most colorful advice on the subject? An article should be like a woman’s skirt–long enough to cover the important stuff, but short enough to be interesting.
My approach was to laser-target relatively non-competitive keyword phrases of 4 to 8 words in length in my title tags. I cranked out dozens of pages, and the writers I hired cranked out even more.
Soon I was making $20,000 a month via Google Adsense.
Then came the Google Panda update, and my approach no longer worked. My revenue dropped 90% overnight.
I had plenty of company. Content farms like eHow.com also suffered in Panda’s aftermath.
It wasn’t just short content that this update targeted. It was also the laser-targeting of keyword phrases. Presentation had a lot to do with it, too–all my sites had a massive number of links in the sitewide navigation structure.
I was providing a lousy experience for my users, and I suffered as a result.
Since then, I’ve changed my approach. I now focus on publishing fewer pages, but the pages I publish now are thorough, detailed, and useful.
Some of my sites only see a new blog post once a month. And that’s okay. In fact, it might even be optimal.
How I Met Michael Martinez
I have a partner, Michael Martinez. I found him via his blog at SEO Theory. I don’t remember how I stumbled across it, but I enjoyed reading it. He didn’t seem to fall for a lot of the SEO myths that other search engine optimization bloggers promoted.
I noticed that his blog posts were longer than what I was used to reading. He didn’t seem to rely on the short, bulleted-list style of blogging that was popular with other Web writers at the time. I was curious about how he was doing things. (I still didn’t know him.)
So I took 10 of his blog posts and copied them into Word, where I could get a quick word count.
His average blog post ran between 1500 and 2000 words.
And I thought I was an over-achiever because I was writing 1000 words!
Like I said, little did I know.
Michael and I eventually met and became business partners. We met (in large part) because of the length of his blog posts.
Content Length and Panda
Google’s Panda algorithm didn’t just affect my sites and sites like eHow.com. It destroyed the content farm as a business model–at least the content farm as we knew it. Gone are the days when you could create a 1000 page site with $10 articles purchased via TextBroker.com.
I’m not suggesting that the Panda update targeted pages with low word counts. It’s not that simple an algorithm.
But I’m convinced that page length is at least one piece of the algorithm.
Google provides advice about Panda downgrades by offering you 23 questions to ask yourself about your site.
Some of them have nothing to do with the number of words on your pages. For example, one of the question is “Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?” That has nothing to do with word count. You either have errors, or you don’t. In fact, shorter posts probably have fewer errors just by virtue of being shorter.
But many of the questions allude, at least indirectly, to the depth of your content. For example, the first question on their list is “Would you trust the information presented in this article?”
When did you last see a page on the Internet with 200 words on it? Did the page seem trustworthy to you?
Question #2: “Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?”
Do experts write short blog posts? Some of them might, but writers who are enthusiastic about their subject often have more to say.
Here’s my thought process regarding search engine algorithms:
I ask myself, “All other things being equal, is a 2500 word article more likely to have been written by an expert/enthusiast than a 500 word article?”
Here are a few more questions from that blog post that imply that longer blog posts and Web pages were a factor in the Panda algorithm:
- Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- Does the article describe both sides of a story?
- Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
- Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic? (emphasis mine)
- Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics? (again, emphasis mine)
Finally, this question: “Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?”
I start looking at printed magazines, encyclopedias, and books to see what average article lengths are.
Newspaper articles average 600 to 1500 words, but magazine articles average between 1500 and 3500 words. Detailed research reports average between 4000 and 5000 words. (You can take a look at the latest edition of Writer’s Market to see specific examples.)
Google obviously loves the Wikipedia, too. It’s not my favorite site, but a quick look at the word counts there might not be a bad idea. Take a competitive keyword phrase like “online poker” as an example–Wikipedia ranks on the front page for that phrase, which is arguably one of the most competitive phrases on the Internet.
When I copy and paste the text of that article into Word, I get a word count of 5000ish. That’s a good deal longer than what you’ll find on most affiliate sites.
Is it a coincidence that this page ranks so well?
I think not.
Longer Posts Perform Better on Every Level
According to Neil Patel, longer blog posts perform better in every metric you could possibly care about. Longer posts get more search traffic for 2 reasons:
- They rank higher in Google.
- With more words on the page, you have more potential keyword phrase matches.
Neil cites a 2012 study from SerpIQ finding that the average page in position 1, 2, or 3 (at least for the phrases they looked at) has about 2500 words on them. Michael questions the science behind that study, but I think it’s a significant metric.
This could just be a secondary effect. Longer, more thorough blog posts attract more links. Since Google’s algorithm uses links as a ranking factor, this explains (in part, maybe) why the study saw longer posts at the top of the results. Neil cites his own analtyics, which seem to indicate that 1500+ words results in significantly more shares and links.
Brian Dean’s “Skyscraper Technique” is another case where a top notch SEO recommends longer posts. Here’s what he says about trying to outrank a competitor:
In some cases, publishing an article that’s simply longer or includes more items will do the trick.
My own case study about the Mega Guide Method recommends the same approach.
Darren Rowse of ProBlogger.net offers a list of the pros and cons of short-form and long-form content, too.
So far it probably seems that I’m advocating rambling as much as you can just for the sake of SEO.
That’s not my intention, and that shouldn’t be your goal.
Shakespeare said that brevity is the soul of wit. And he was right.
How do you reconcile that attitude? How do you write thorough, comprehensive blog posts without rambling?
I’d suggest that if you’re rambling, you’ve missed the point entirely. One of your goals should be to answer your reader’s questions.
All of them.
Or at least most of them.
Or at least all of the questions she has related to the topic you’re writing about.
For example, a short post about Christian symbolism in the movie Unforgiven is fine, but a more detailed post about the movie is better. For example, you could include information about Marxist interpretations of the film, or analysis of Unforgiven as an example of “high parody” of the Western genre.
Remember that the question I’m answering is how long should a blog post be for SEO. You might not be interested in expanding your little essay about Christ figures in Unforgiven to cover additional interpretations of the movie.
But if you’re interested in getting more search engine traffic from Google, being more comprehensive is the way to go.
But blog posts should be written almost as if they were poems.
Every word should be integral to the meaning of the post.
As William Strunk wrote in The Elements of Style, you should “omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise”.
You want to be concise AND comprehensive at the same time.
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Five W’s and One H
Some writers have trouble expanding their posts to be more comprehensive. One easy trick from old-school journalism can help you writer longer blog posts. Answer the following questions:
Darren DeMatas suggests combining these questions with your keyword research to increase the number of longtail phrases you rank for. Here’s how to do that.
Step 1 – Go to the Google Keyword Planner. If you’re not already familiar with this tool, familiarize yourself. It’s what advertisers on Google use to find new keyword phrases to advertise under. SEOs use this tool to get keyword and topic ideas for their sites, too. It’s especially handy for estimating the potential traffic for a given phrase
Step 2 – Click on “Search for new keyword and ad group ideas”
Step 3 – Type the title of your blog post into the box under “Enter one or more of the following > Your product or service”. This triggers which keyword ideas Google thinks is relevant to your topic. That’s cool, but we’re going to narrow it down even further.
Step 4 – Add the words “what”, “who”, “why”, “when”, “where”, and “how” into the “Keywords to Include” box. This step narrows down your topics to questions you can (and probably should) answer from within your blog post.
Step 5 – Click “Get Ideas”
Step 6 – Click on the “Keyword Ideas” tab. This is optional. You could just surf through the suggested Ad Groups that Google suggests, but I prefer getting a raw list of phrases.
Step 7 – Click on “Average Monthly Searches” to order your results by volume. The default view is to order the phrases by relevance, but I like to look at the keyword phrases that are likely to send me the most traffic. Both views are useful.
Step 8 – Look for opportunities to include some of those questions and their answers into your post.
(You should check out Daren’s case study about how he used this method to increase search traffic on a site by 1780%.)
Here’s an example of what I found, sorted by relevance:
Remember, keyword STUFFING isn’t your goal. I found 115 phrases, but I’m not going to answer all 115 of those questions here.
Instead, I’m going to look for ideas for how to make my post more comprehensive and more useful for the user.
I won’t answer questions I’m not interested in.
And I won’t answer questions I think my readers aren’t interested in, either.
How to Start Blogging
Most people reading this already have a blog, but if you don’t already have one on your small business website, you should start blogging right away. It’s as easy as installing WordPress into a folder on your main site in a subfolder or subdomain. You could also launch a blog on a separate domain.
Then starting writing.
Okay, maybe that’s not as simple as it sounds. Your goal starting a blog is to attract search engine traffic to your website for a wide variety of keyword phrases, some short and some long.
Some of the following resources can help with starting a blog:
- How to Start a Successful Blog Today
- Where to Register Your Domain and Host Your Blog
- How to Get Ideas for Blog Posts
Learning how to start a blog is something we can help you with. Click here to schedule a confidential consultation with me and Michael, and we’ll help you get started.
Setting Goals for Your Blog and Your Posts
Set goals for your blog and for each blog post. Your goal might be to rank on the first page of Google for the phrase “how long should a blog post be for SEO”. Your goal might be to attract a single business lead. Your goal might be to convince your reader to submit her email address to build your list of subscribers.
Your post might have multiple goals. One of my goals with this post is to showcase a new content creation and promotion service we’re offering.
It turns out that a lot of website owners have trouble getting search engine traffic. After consulting with dozens (if not hundreds) of small businesses about their SEO, I’ve noticed that they usually have the same problems:
- Not enough content.
- Low quality content.
- Insufficient promotion of their content.
Solving those 3 problems for as many small business owners as possible has become my new goal for our company.
Consider this a small stepping stone toward achieving that goal.
The length of each blog post should contribute toward achieving these goals.
How long should a blog post be for SEO? Long enough to cover the subject you’re writing about in a comprehensive manner. I suggest you set a minimum of 1500 words per post, but 2500 words per post is probably better.
Longer blog posts achieve most of your goals better than shorter posts.
Do you write long posts or short posts? What kinds of results are you seeing? Let me know in the comments.
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