There are many topics in content marketing open for debate, but few have been as elusive to evidentiary proof as the length of the “perfect” blog post. To some, the longer a blog post the better, and there’s a clear argumentative case for it; more words in an article mean more “guts” for web crawlers and readers, and indicate that an article is thorough and in-depth. On the other hand, constantly shooting for super-high word counts can leave you with fluff, or can alienate the vast portions of your audience who are interested in a quick read.
Shooting for shorter content, such as 200-300 word “tidbits,” means you can produce more articles in the same amount of time, catering to the quick-digest crowd. On the other hand, short content is necessarily brief, and has few deep points to attract links or build authority.
So what’s the answer? The evidence suggests the reality of an “ideal” blog length is much more complicated than a simple answer of “long” or “short.” A survey by Moz and BuzzSumo delved into a number of important content topics, including what makes a “good” article.
Before I go into detail about the findings of the survey regarding ideal content length, it’s important to acknowledge one of the study’s most important conclusions: most content on the web is completely ignored. The vast majority of articles you write or produce will receive zero shares and zero links. It’s only a fraction of articles—less than 25 percent—that ever get picked up in a meaningful way.
Obviously, you want as many of your articles as possible to fall into that 25 percent category. Blindly producing content en masse is liable to set you up for that 75 percent pit, no matter how long your articles are. But by learning from the articles in that 25 percent “successful” pool, you can properly organize your content efforts and only produce content with a chance of getting shares and links.
There’s no simple answer for the “ideal” length of a blog post, but there are some interesting trends when it comes to length. According to this recent analysis, about 85 percent of the articles in this golden 25 percent contained fewer than 1,000 words. About 12 percent of articles shared had between 1,000 and 2,000 words, and less than 2.7 percent contained more than 2,000 words. According to this information, the shorter your article is, the better.
However, when it comes to the number of shares an article gets, the longer an article is, the better. Articles of under 1,000 words tended to get an average of 3.47 shares and links, with 1,000-2,000 word articles getting an average of 6.92, and articles of 3,000 words or more getting a massive 11.07! According to this information, the longer your article is, the better.
This leads to a tricky conundrum, but let me try and simplify it: shorter articles have a higher likelihood of getting shares, but they also tend to attract a fewer number of shares. Longer articles have a lower likelihood of getting shares, but when they do, they attract large numbers of shares.
If you have a niche that specializes in one type of content over another, the answer is pretty simple. Both long-form and short-form content have advantages and disadvantages, so you might as well keep focusing on the type that works best for your brand. However, if you’re in that position, you’re probably not reading this article since you’ve already made up your mind about what type of content works best.
For the average brand, the best strategy is to capitalize on the advantages of both ends of the spectrum. Write short-form articles to maximize your chances of getting shares, with the understanding that those shares will be few in number, and write long-form articles to get a chance at a high number of shares, with the understanding that the chance is low. Use both as complementary means of getting more links and shares overall.
Though this article mostly focuses on length, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention one other feature of this recent survey: an analysis of the types of content that get shared and linked to the most. Out of all the articles the analysis explored, the types that generated the greatest number of shares and links were:
And when it comes to longer form content on more reputable sources, research-backed content and opinion-forming articles tended to get the greatest amount of attention. Varying the length of your content can help your content strategy, but be sure to focus on these sub-types of content as well.
If you’re out to maximize the number of shares and links your content can get, the best thing to do is focus on the types of content I listed in the section above, with varying links to maximize the potential reach of your material. For example, you could produce two short-form listicles (of less than 1,000) words and one long-form research-based article (of more than 1,000 words) per week. This will give you the “best of both worlds,” giving you lots of chances at a small number of shares and a few chances at a large number of shares.
Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.