Best blog article length: what is the ideal length for a blog post?

Posted by Andy Allerton on 21-Nov-2016 08:01:45

We've written a number of articles on reasons why you should start a blog and how to go about creating one. I've even presented at a number of events, extolling the virtues of reaching your ideal clients through content and blogging.

But one question keeps coming up time and again: just what is the ideal length for a blog post? Well, it's time to find out through research-backed evidence and plain old science! 

Blog header for article whats the ideal length for a blog post

What is the ideal length for a blog post? [Short answer]

The short answer is: there is no ideal length, just as many words as it takes! Or at least, it's determined by too many different factors to nail down completely.

Although it largely comes down to your own audience, for people wanting some kind of guidance, then here are results taken from HubSpot's and Medium's research into their own blogs.

For HubSpot, they found that their ideal post length was between 2,250-2,500 words. 

HubSpot's research graph on word count vs organic blog traffic(Image source: HubSpot)


Medium, on the other hand, discovered that their readers preferred blog posts that took 7 minutes to read (which comes out at the 1600 word mark).

 
Medium's research graph on blog popularity vs. time to read blog post(Image rouce: Medium)


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What is the ideal length for a blog post? [Detailed answer]

HubSpot's and Medium's research is definitely worth sitting up and paying attention to and is drawn from a solid set of data, which is important to note; it's not just going on guess work and looking at what seems to work. But, as with most things in life, it's not all black or white.

To really understand what the best length for your blog posts should be, you have to look at a number of factors. We think the four factors of audience, topic, type, and own research are particularly important.

1. It depends on your audience

Seth Godin, a hugely popular American author and entrepreneur, produces blog articles that are shared 1000's of times on social media and his blog site drives an estimated 650K visitors to it per month (source: GrowthBot). His blog posts are, generally, a few paragraphs in length.

Matt Barby, on the other hand, is head of SEO for HubSpot and produces articles for both HubSpot and his own website that are hugely popular and widely shared. The length of his latest blog post? Around 10,000 words on actionable SEO pointers.

Whilst there is probably some overlap in their audiences, they both offer different things to different people. Seth's posts offer short, powerful business advice and journal-style stories from his personal experiences. Matt's offer longer, actionable guides, industry news, tips and tricks around search optimisation.

The point here is that we have two very popular blogs that live at opposite ends of the blog post length spectrum. Discover what your audience wants and give it to them: shorter, more frequent articles; longer articles less often; or a mixture of the two.

2. It depends on the topic

One business threw up their hands at my last presentation and said that their posts tended to live around 400 words. They didn't feel they'd be able to write bigger articles of 1,600-2,500 and, to be fair, it is a big leap to jump from 400 to at least 4x as many words overnight.

However, when quizzed further about their blog topics and their business industry, it turned out that they ran a drinks and cocktails business and wrote a lot of blogs around recipes.

Now, if you go find some recipes online (we picked 3 random recipe articles from a couple of pages on Google and came out with an average of 295 words) you'll see that they're inherently short. People want to cut to the chase and make the tasty food right now!

So, articles on the best ways to make cocktails will naturally lend themselves to being much shorter in length. Writing about data science, or longer tutorials or product reviews, on the other hand, will see your article length naturally increase as you need more scope to be able to present research, discuss your findings and provide a balanced argument.

3. It depends on the type of article

Blogs used to be all about long, journal-style posts featuring mainly text (a bit like this one really). Nowadays, however, although there are still plenty of long-form articles around, advances in technology have opened a world of different media styles and formats.

Videos, infographics, slide shares, and galleries are just some of the variety of blog post types that you can choose to produce today. Each of them is different from the other and has an effect on the length of blog post.

Infographics, for example, are one of the most popular and widely shared blog post types on the web today. However, even with a body of text supporting the picture-based infographic, these types of blog post will naturally be shorter in length.

4. It depends on your own research

Earlier in the article, we mentioned Medium and HubSpot and how they ran detailed analysis of their own blogs and content to come up with the ideal length for their blog posts.

If you don't have enough data to be able to do this, or are just starting out, then try working to some of the averages, such as 1,600 words for a blog post. If you do have a solid set of your own data to look at, then analyse your past 6-12 months and discover which articles performed best, what types and topics they covered and group your results by most popular vs. content length.

But remember, try not to get too hung up on the results, as nothing is fixed. What works this quarter might change later on. By keeping in touch with your audience and listening to them and their needs, you'll be able to respond to your audience and change your writing habits to suit.

A word on Google's idea of good content length

Another point that was brought up at my latest presentation was about Google's idea of the perfect length of blog post. A couple of audience members remarked about using Yoast's SEO plugin for their WordPress websites and how Yoast themselves recommend content length to be at least 300 words, yet below 700 words.

The theory is that search engines need a decent chunk of content (i.e. the 300 word minimum) to rank the page, but users would be put off by content length over 700 words.

Yoast definitely know their SEO onions, but I found that their advice around the best length of blog post and page content caused people to do one of two things:

  • Panic about trying to nail the ideal length of post, worrying about how much is enough and have they gone over some arbitrary limit
  • Otherwise, aim for the bare minimum recommended word count and leave it at that

The problem with these two situations is that they don't respond to the needs of your audience and aren't backed by research or data. It's important, therefore, to develop your articles around the factors we've already covered and not arbitrary limits.

Summary - start somewhere and refine as you go

If you're new to blogging for your business then take a look at your capabilities and capacity to see what length works for you. Over time, as you produce more articles, you'll be able to take a look at your traffic, ask your audience what works for them, and analyse your data to see if you need to write more or less.

For more experienced bloggers, then you should have a wealth of information available to determine what's working for you and your business. Reader surveys and polls work well, as well as engagement and on-page conversion factors should all help you discover what the best length of blog post for you is.

The best blog article length can be found by combining the following factors:

  • Topic (dig deep data / thought-piece / how-to)
  • Type of article (video / infographic / text-based)
  • Audience (age / interests / competition)
  • Your own findings

 


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Topics: Business Blogging

Written by Andy Allerton

Experienced Graphic Designer with a demonstrated history of working in the marketing and advertising industry. Skilled in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Graphics, Logo Design, Branding & Identity, and Concept Development. Strong entrepreneurship professional with a BA (HONS) focused in Creative Imaging : Graphic Design from University of Huddersfield.
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