The Age-Old Debate: Does Size Matter?
Ahhh… the age old question. Does size matter?
In certain aspects of life, size does seem to be important. Take height for example. Statistics show that on average, being an inch taller is directly correlated to earning $1000 more per year. It is a cruel fact of life that a six foot man earns $5000 more per year than his five foot seven equivalent.
In other areas, size seems to be less important. Nowhere is this statement more true than in the natural world. While we obsess over the dangers of great white sharks and spotted leopards, minuscule microorganisms are the true bad-boys of nature.
Think it’s impressive that an elephant can drag 20 times their body weight? The neisseria gonorrhoeae bacterium can pull up to 100,000 times its weight. Are you in awe of polar bears, who thrive in harsh subarctic climes? They look like survival amateurs compared to the deinococcus radiodurans bacterium, which can survive a nuclear crisis 1000 times worse than Fukushima.
But when it comes to blog post size, the jury is still out as to whether size matters.
200 Words or 2000 Words. How Do You Choose?
Should you write a 200-word blog post or a 2000-word post? If you’ve ever asked this question before, I’d be willing to bet that the answer you received was “it depends”. What a wholly unsatisfying answer! Yes it depends, but we have access to a wealth of data now. We can create rules of thumb. Forget ambiguity.
Here’s a concrete answer for you, courtesy of Neil Patel, “If you’re looking for numbers, a post that is above 1,500 words seems to be in the zone of ideal length. I’d shoot for that if I were you.” Orbit Media wholeheartedly agrees advocating that blog posts should be 1,500 words, if you’re looking for your content to rank in search engine results pages (“SERPs”).
Why is 1500 Words the Golden Rule for Blog Posts?
You might be thinking that 1500 words is a bit excessive. This outlook may have stemmed from the commonly-held belief that people don’t read online content. Rather, they are said to only scan it. This viewpoint was popularized by Jakob Nielsen, who published an article in 1997 titled “How Users Read on the Web” His conclusion was “They don’t.”
But things have changed. People do read online content now. To a large extent, this has to do with the internet community putting a huge emphasis on readability. Nowadays, it’s best practice to use a lot of subheadings, use short paragraphs and sprinkle in some striking images. In other words, with a bit of formatting wizardry, a 1500 blog post becomes gentle on your reader’s eyes and brain, making it very readable indeed.
With that main concern swept aside, let’s address the 3 main benefits of 1500 word blog posts.
1. Achieve Higher Search Engine Rankings
Let’s start with the statistics. SerpIQ undertook a study which assessed the relationship between content length and search engine rankings. Their findings are below:
Shocking, right? On average, every single page in the top 10 of Google’s rankings contains more than 2000 words. So why am I recommending 1500 words? Well, “content” on this chart actually includes navigation and sidebar content as well as other page elements. Thus, the chart tends to inflate the length of unique content on each page.
More importantly, why does this long-content phenomenon exist? Well, Google is essentially a modern day encyclopedia, and longer pages help it become a more effective encyclopedia for three reasons:
- Longer pages better communicate their subject matter to Google, so Google can feel more confident about categorizing it.
- Google knows that a longer page (generally) has a much better chance of answering the searcher’s question, and thus ranks it more highly.
- A longer post generally touches on more topics, meaning it is relevant to a wider variety of keywords that people search for.
So, if you want to get in the Googlebot’s good books, keep your content thorough. Aim for 1500 words.
2. Get More Social Shares
Nowadays, one of the best ways for corporations to broadcast their message is through social media. Yet, all too often, companies distribute their blog postings through social media and see no traction whatsoever. There are many reasons why this might occur (the headline isn’t compelling, their following is limited, or the quality of the content is poor). But the data tends to suggest that content length plays an important role too.
At QuickSprout, Neil Patel analysed the social media sharing data of his portfolio of blog postings. The results of his analysis are shown below:
Astonishingly, posts that were over 1500+ words received 87% more LinkedIn shares, 66% more Facebook shares and 51% more retweets than comparable posts which were under 400 words.
So, if you want to set the social world abuzz, it appears that longer, richer content is the way forward.
3. Attract More Backlinks and Website Traffic
According to AJ Kumar at entreprenuer.com, “some industry experts estimate backlinks may account for as much as 80 percent of the weight that search engine ranking algorithms give websites.”
Regardless of the actual percentage, backlinks are a very important means of conveying to Google that your post is both popular and credible. Popularity and credibility directly lead to higher search rankings, which in turn, lead to more traffic to your website.
If you’re looking for proof about a positive correlation between content length and number of backlinks received, look no further than Moz.com. In their oft-quoted study about the correlation between links and content length, they reveal a graph which demonstrates this relationship. This graph is shown below. The x-axis shows 500 randomly-picked blog posts, ranked from 1-500 based on content length (where 1 is the longest, 500 is the shortest). The x-axis shows the number of links each of the posts obtained:
The Caveat: Long Isn’t Always Better
The advice I’ve dished out above does have a caveat. It assumes that the main goal of your content is to increase the amount of website traffic that you receive as a result of organic searches and social media shares. If this is not your main aim, then my advice should be taken with a grain of salt.
Your blog post should only be as long as it needs to be in order to get your message across. Its length will depend on the following factors (to name a few):
- Substance: How meaty is your topic? What do you need to say in order to get your message across? If you can say it in 200 words, don’t use 2000.
- Style: Some writing styles lend themselves to content that doesn’t beat around the bush. It’s straight to the point. Other writing styles are more conversational and interactive, and require more words for the same message. Writers like Seth Godin need less than 300 words to get their message across, whereas the Neil Patel’s of the world need thousands of words to deliver their message. It all comes down to style.
- Purpose: What is the purpose of your content piece? You could be looking to convert your reader into a lead or to get them on your e-mail list. Alternatively, you could be seeking to enhance your website’s SEO or to educate your audience. Regardless, the purpose of your piece will heavily influence its length.
- Frequency: If you’re a prolific poster, churning out at least one blog post per day, you’d expect your posts to be a bit briefer, because you have less time to research and write them. However, if you leave your audience waiting a week, they’re likely going to expect a much weightier piece.
Either way, despite my earlier advice, you shouldn’t deliberately pad out your post with fluff just to increase your word count. When in doubt, stick to the rule laid out in the quote below:
What rules of thumb do you use to determine blog post length?