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
When Are Long Blog Posts Best?
Generally speaking, the less known your brand is, and the less domain authority
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
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
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
). 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 --
, 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
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
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
Save that for your solution guide.