When I started blogging in 2008, there was a (roughly) agreed-on standard for blog posts: you should post around 500 words every weekday.
Now that I look back on that, it seems pretty silly. Some topics can be adequately covered in 300 words, while others might need 5,000. And some bloggers have a naturally terse writing style, whereas others like to dig deep and give lots of examples.
Around the end of 2013, long-form content became much more popular in the blogging world. (Here’s Darren’s post about ProBlogger’s own experiments with writing longer posts.) Then, as now, it seemed clear that Google had a preference for in-depth content.
But during the past few years, short pieces of content have become increasingly popular as well. Twitter, for instance, is often described as a “microblogging” platform. While plenty of people use it for general conversations or promotional tweets, others do use it in a blog-style way. Take a look at James Breakwell (@XplodingUnicorn)’s brilliant tweets about family life, for instance.
Lots of blogs also carry relatively short posts. Gizmodo is a good example, with very frequent news / time-sensitive posts. For instance, eBay is Knocking 15% Off Everything Just for Today was 168 words.
So should you write short posts, long posts, or something in between?
The answer is, as you might have guessed, it depends. You need to find a post length that suits your content, your readers, and (perhaps most importantly) you as a blogger.
But before we dig into those considerations, let’s take a quick look at length vs frequency.
Blog Post Length vs Frequency
While it’s not a rule, blogs that publish short posts usually publish them more frequently than blogs that publish long posts.
You can see why this makes sense for both the blogger and the reader. You might publish a 400-word post every weekday, or a 2000-word post once a week.
If you want to increase the length of your blog posts, you might also want to decrease how often you publish them. Otherwise you’ll burn out, and your readers will get overwhelmed.
(Sidenote: I’ve never unsubscribed from a blog because they posted less frequently than I wanted. However, I have unsubscribed from blogs that posted too frequently, especially if the quality of posts wasn’t consistent.)
So, with the caveat that changing the length of your content will likely mean changing the frequency too, here are some key considerations when thinking about how long your blog posts should be.
What Suits Your Content?
Some topics pretty much demand in-depth posts. If you’re writing about something that involves lots of different steps, such as “How to start a blog”, it’s probably not going to be short.
But other topics work best with short content. This is particularly the case for blogs that aim to entertain rather than inform. Readers may delight in reading lots of short anecdotes about your kids, but be put off by a rambling story.
Of course, you probably have a bit of flexibility on how exactly you approach your topic. So if you feel you want to write short posts rather than in-depth ones, come up with post ideas that would work for that. Instead of “How to start a blog”, you might write “How to register a domain name” or even “What is a domain name?”
What Suits Your Readers?
The next key consideration is whether your readers would prefer shorter or longer posts. If you already have a reasonable number of readers, you could survey them to find out. You could also take a look at your most popular posts in Google Analytics, or the posts that get the most comments or shares. Does short or long content seem to resonate better with your audience?
You might potentially find that your readers like a mix of posts. Maybe they want fairly short and to-the-point posts most of the time, with a much longer piece of content occasionally thrown in.
What Suits You?
Last, but certainly not least, comes… you. Are you the sort of writer who naturally produces concise, impactful posts like Seth Godin does? Or do you love to dig into a topic and write a post that covers every angle?
If you’ve been trying to write long posts but struggling to stay motivated and productive, it could be a sign you’re better suited to sharing short, succinct pieces of content instead. On the other hand, if you’ve been writing three or more short pieces every week and it feels like you’re on a content treadmill, writing one long piece every week or even every couple of weeks might work better for you.
The great thing about blogging is there are no “rules” on how a blog post should look. You’re free to write 10,000-word epic guides (such as Neil Patel’s Online Marketing Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide), or posts with only a few words and mostly pictures or embedded tweets (such as Buzzfeed’s 19 Hilarious Back-To-School Tweets From Parents Who Have Been There), or anything in between.
Quick note: If you’re concerned about the SEO benefits of short vs long content, it’s worth knowing that many experts believe longer content does better on Google. However, if you and your existing readers prefer short posts, don’t force yourself to create long content. It will only rank well if it’s really good (and gets backlinks).
So what sort of content will you create: short or long? It’s completely up to you. Have a look around and see what others are doing, experiment with different lengths yourself, or come and discuss short vs long in the ProBlogger Community.
Image Credit: Markus Spiske