Jewel Marketing
Taiwan Content Marketing

What's The Optimal Blog Length?

By Jason Patterson

Founder of Jewel Content Marketing Agency
This is one of the content writing questions I get asked most often. And despite what an SEO tool might tell you, there is no one right answer. Because it's not going to be the same for everyone or in all circumstances.

But before we begin, let's clear something up about blog length or word count. Five minutes of reading time (about 1,100 words) is the border between a short and medium-length blog article, and nine minutes (about 2,000 words) is the border between a medium-length post and long one.

While current SEO best practice seems to indicate a wordcount in the low-to-mid 2000's (10-12 minutes) is the optimal length for a blog post, this seems to be a function of how common or commonly-searched the topic is. I've seen SEO tools indicate anywhere from 700 to 1,500 words to be optimal for articles on relatively obscure subjects with few commonly-queried keywords.

When Are Long Blog Posts Best?

Generally speaking, the less known your brand is, and the less domain authority you have, the more you might need a fat blog word count for it to rank well in the SERPs (search engine results pages). I don't know why exactly. But I do know that long articles make it easier to disguise certain SEO "best practices," such as keyword repetition and variation, or loading the blog up with visuals.

Long blogs also make it easier to disguise the pedantic and blocky style that SEO tools seem to indicate search engines prefer. You know, the style with lots of titles, section heads, subtitles, and bullet points that makes an article look like its own outline (some call this style "scannable").

Some marketers say long articles seem more authoritative to search engines. I'm not prepared to back that up by getting into how an article "seems" to a machine. But I will say that long articles seem to have legs in a way that short articles less often seem to, so I consider this a possibility.

However, just because long blog articles tend to rank better doesn't mean you should go full "director's cut" with every post. The best candidates are often-searched evergreen topics that are always true and always useful to know, and that you'll probably be linking back to frequently in future content. Such content tends to fall into two buckets -- pillar content and deep dives.

Despite the name, pillar content is "mile-wide inch-deep" content that covers a wide variety of aspects on a certain topic, and links to secondary articles that go into those individual aspects in more detail. Your prototypical piece of pillar content is "The Ultimate Guide to XYZ" or "Everything You Need To Know About ABC."

Deep dives are often the secondary articles that a piece of pillar content links to (aka cluster content). They're "inch-wide mile-deep" content pieces that wring every last drop of useful information from a particular topic, which is why they generally don't lead to secondary articles in the same way that pillar content does.

And if you're still not clear on the differences between these two, here's a piece on the content marketing funnel from our own blog that I consider a good example of pillar content. And here are links to three secondary articles on the different segments of that funnel -- awareness, consideration, and lead-gen -- that I consider good examples of deep dives.

When Can You Go Short With Blog Posts?

Content doesn't have to be long to be authoritative or to rank well with search engines. I see a lot of articles that are basically stubs on page one of the SERPs, even when the keywords involved are fairly common. What are they doing right? Well, they could be black-hatting it (I'd be suspicious of any SEO or marketing person who refuses to consider that possibility). Or those sites could just have good old-fashioned domain authority.

And when you have that (or if your blog otherwise has strong readership or subscribership and therefore doesn't need to be on page one of Google to get seen), your content only needs to be as long as it needs to be. And shorter blogs will often be better (since you don't want them looking like homework).

And if you're having a hard time getting your head around this, let's think for a moment about what makes content authoritative. Some content is authoritative because it's sensible and thorough and well thought out, while some content is authoritative simply because of who it comes from.

When Warren Buffet gives financial advice, he has little need to explain himself. He just needs to give the advice and that's it, because people trust him. But you, who nobody has heard of? Well, you might need additional context for that advice to prove why it's right.

And if you're wondering if you should make your blog articles long anyway as a way to "futureproof" your SEO positioning, even though your website has strong domain authority already, my answer would be, "Relax. SEO best practices help, but what matters most to an article's long-term SERP ranking are things like backlinks. Do you think making a blog post 2,000-words-long when 700 words will do will help with either?"

And you also want to make sure that if an article's title implies something short, it's actually short. For example, this title of this article asks a simple question, and answers to simple questions that run longer than about five minutes don't look very simple.

Also, if your website publishes blog articles that could be called "industry news" with a lot of just-the-facts relaying of information, keep those posts short, too. Don't ramble in hopes of better SEO. Short is likely to get more views, since our brains have already been trained to take our written news in bite-sized chunks, and you can't reinvent the wheel here.

When Are Medium-Length Blog Articles Best?

There's very little SEO argument to be made for writing a medium-length blog. But SEO isn't everything. And so medium-length articles are good for topics that are highly unlikely to be found via search. This is usually thought leadership (i.e., opinion) pieces or education regarding very geeky topics that only a few people in the world will want to read.

And if you're wondering why such content pieces shouldn't be longer, I've got different answers for each category. For opinion pieces, you could go longer if the blog is personal, under your name. But if it's a branded blog, it's risky. Long branded reads look like homework, and you're depending on word of mouth more than SEO to get this thing read, so don't push your luck. For geeky topics, you don't want these articles too long because long geek-outs shouldn't be blogs, they should be whitepapers.

Another type of blog content that's better in medium-length form (or at least not long) is consideration blogs focused on something specific that you sell. For instance, "Seven Oil & Gas Problems Solved By The XYZ." This content can't be too short, because you need to make your case. But it can't be too long either, as it'll start looking like homework, and you really don't want a blog meant to educate prospects about what you sell looking like homework.

Save that for your solution guide.

Jewel Marketing Jewel Marketing Jewel Marketing Jewel Marketing Jewel Marketing