For years we’ve accepted blog posts need to be short—grab attention immediately and get the message across quickly, because, well, people are pressed for time, have short (8 second) attention spans and have a lot of other choices (aka clutter) of things to read. BUT, lately, I’ve noticed more and more blog posts that are long—thousands of words long—and provide a lot of detailed information on a specific topic. Why the change?
As it turns out, it has a lot to do with Google. Well, with search results anyway. A recent article on Copypress, 4 Statistics Every Blogger Should Know About Content Word Count, stated that the average word count of top ranked search results contain 2,416 words. Secondly, it noted that Google punishes pages with less than 200 words, labeling it “thin” content. And that 8 second attention span idea, Copypress said that’s a myth. But wait, there’s more—beyond pleasing the bots, there are also people reasons for increasing the length of your posts.
I admit it, when I first began blogging in 2009, I advised contributors that the posts need not be lengthy—it was a good way to encourage the timid to contribute their viewpoints and expertise. I guided numerous clients launching blogs on the short, bite-size information strategy.
That wasn’t wrong then. But times, they are a changin’. Marketing is never static. And I’m changing with them.
Why write longer posts?
There are several reasons to write a longer post:
- Improve SEO—John Stevens wrote in a wordtracker article, How much does length really count in SEO, that word length alone wouldn’t really improve SEO, but the other factors that come along with increased length help Google rank your post favorably.
- Provide Detailed Information—there are topics that really need substance to make them valuable. If you’re writing about new technologies or complex ideas, the detail in describing them will be critical.
- Keywords—a longer post gives you more room to use keywords in your blog without overwhelming the reader and risking a negative rating from Google by cramming them all into a short post.
- Increase Engagement—studies have shown that longer posts can garner more shares, backlinks and comments than shorter posts. Ayaz Nanji reported on Marketing Profs, The Most Shared Brand Blog Posts: Length, Language, and Title Trends, that research showed blog posts with 1,200-1,400 words received the most shares on social media (428 on average). Plus, if it takes longer to read the post, that’s more time a visitor is spending on your website.
- Reap Higher Conversion Rates—many sites who have tested long versus short form content, such as Neil Patel, have tracked higher customer conversion rates.
So how long should your blog posts be?
Length can certainly vary—I don’t think every blog post needs to be 2,000 words, but somewhere in the range of 750-2,000 sounds about right to me. PR Daily says 1,000 words in the article, Study: The perfect blog post length—and how long it should take to write. Rather than worrying about hitting a certain word count, it’s important to make sure your posts are well-researched, thought-through and provide clear value to your audience. Some topics may offer quick tips or idea starters and don’t need to go into extensive detail. Other topics—those that might provide your audience with the most information about your product or industry—might require much more detail that would be welcomed by your audience.
How do you write a long form blog post?
Start by considering what topics in your industry or organization can be evergreen. In his post, Why 3000+ Word Blog Posts Get More Traffic (A Data Driven Answer), Neil Patel wrote that evergreen content is a great tool for long form bloggers. He advises creating how-to articles, resource lists, unchanging stances on industry issues, frequently asked questions and industry definitions. Because honestly, why spend the time and effort on a topic that will be here today and gone tomorrow?
Get ready to spend some time. PR Daily notes that the average long form blogger spends just over three hours writing each post.
Find back up. Likely, you’re not the first person to write on your topic (if you are, a blog might not be the right platform). Research and link to previous articles that support your points. Obviously, choosing posts or articles by publications or authors with strong reputations in your field is an additional benefit.
Develop a reader-pleasing format. It’s one thing to write 2,000 words; it’s another to read them on a screen, perhaps even a small one like your phone. Make sure to present your content in a visually pleasing way. For each blog post consider:
- Subheads that break up the content into shorter, digestible ideas
- Bulleted lists
- Graphics, images and charts
- Videos that illustrate your points
- Prewritten tweets to make social sharing easy
Incorporating these visual elements will help readers scan through the post and also quickly refer back to previous points.
How do you sustain a long form content strategy?
Picking topics that lend themselves to long articles and devoting the time to create such posts is a large undertaking. Unless you’re a full time blogger, you’re probably already struggling to keep up with a regular timeline and think of compelling topics. So how do you keep up with this strategy?
The key to using this tactic is to start small. Rather than attempt to make every post a lengthy read, add one or two to your mix each month. There is still value to short posts about tips and best practices on current issues—topics that may not have an evergreen nature and therefore don’t require the same level of detail or research.
Bloggers are posting less often as well. In 2014 and 2015, most bloggers posted two to six posts per week. In 2016, that changed to one post per week. The focus on creating more detailed content required a decrease in the number of posts bloggers can churn out.
In my mind, it’s better to start slow and take on what you can manage and do that effectively than commit yourself to a 180-degree change and burnout trying.
One additional benefit of creating longer, evergreen posts is that you can repurpose or reshare that content over and over so the benefit of the effort you put into writing it lasts longer.
The days of whipping out a bunch of 500-word or less blog posts are over! Adding long form posts to your blogging strategy is critical to improving your SEO, audience engagement and customer conversions. Writing long form posts requires more time and research, but can be implemented on a reasonable basis—don’t bite off more than you can chew! Don’t worry about reaching a specific number, but add the appropriate amount of detail. Make sure to use a visually pleasing format for your post.
And congratulations on getting to the end of this post. If you’ve read this far, you’ve proven that long form blog posts can engage readers that find them valuable. Leave your thoughts on this blogging strategy in the comments or share this post with your social media connections.
And, if you need help sustaining a long form blog post strategy, contact glee for support!