How many words should your blog post contain? This question has been asked a thousand times across various digital marketing message boards. This is critical because most businesses hire external contractors to write their articles and these writers are paid per word. Writing a thousand word article is twice as expensive as a 500 word article. Quite naturally, marketers would prefer to go with a 500 word article if that was adequate.
But ever since Google started penalizing blogs for their ‘quality’, there has been a rising focus on the word count of blog posts. Short blog posts are no longer encouraged and is in fact frowned upon. I have written hundreds of guest blog posts over the years and the ‘minimum word count’ on these third party blogs have steadily risen from 300 words to 500 and now over 1000. Writing a 1000+ word article is a lot of work. Yet, that is exactly what many blogs demand from volunteering third party contributors.
But it is not right to look at an article length solely from what Google wants. As an ROI-focused content marketing firm, Google’s SEO guidelines are secondary to us in favor of customer conversion. If your customer wants a short and crisp article, that is exactly what we would recommend. But it’s important to note that it is not an either-or. The idea word length needs to be arrived at after considering all the various perspectives.
What’s Your Content Strategy
If you are coming here from our homepage, you would know that we follow a ‘trifecta’ model of content marketing. To put this in few words – our content campaigns are targeted at either improving your SEO, or is focused on raising your social media visibility, or generating leads for your business. These are grossly different metrics and there is no one size fits all when it comes to content marketing directed at these different strategies.
There are two ways to look at content creation that is targeted at improving the SEO of your business. One way is to build content that will rank on top of Google for the respective keyword. For this to happen, your content needs to be quite exhaustive. There are over 2 million articles published every single day and among these, a significant chunk of articles are being published in your industry vertical. Writing a short 300 word article is no longer adequate. Articles that rank on top of search listings are unfailingly long-form.
And by the way, did you notice how I linked to a MarketingProfs article in the earlier paragraph while trying to underline the importance of writing exhaustive content? This brings us to the second way to write content targeted at improving SEO. Content publishers routinely link to third party blog posts that add value to their content. This includes statistics, studies or simply detailed reports on industry fundamentals (for example, “what is a mutual fund”). If you were to be writing a 1000 word article on a topic that can be concisely explained in less than 300 words, then you would essentially be adding fluff which distracts the reader from the essence of the article. This reduces the likelihood of this content being linked to from third party blogs and thus fails to meet the core objective of writing the piece in the first place. In short, articles that are written with the sole aim of being linked to from other blogs should contain little to no fluff.
Raising Social Media Visibility
The key difference between a search engine and social media is the way users land on the content. Search engine users “seek” answers to their question and would thus want articles that are exhaustive in nature. On the other hand, social media users “discover” content. The intent here is to not find exhaustive pieces of literature that answers a question, but articles that are interesting and “worth sharing”. Now again, there is no one way to write content that is worth sharing. Content that is targeted at social media users could be in the form of short videos, infographics, short articles or long essays. It essentially depends on what you are writing on.
Generating Leads For Your Business
The third form of content campaigns are targeted at generating leads. This could be a press release that is distributed to the media, or sales pages that is published on your own website. Here at DigitalAuthority, we create a lot of blog posts that serve the purpose of ‘priming’ the reader towards conversion. For instance, when we published this piece on the Hubbion (the free task management tool for small businesses) blog, the objective was to tell our reader that not all free task management tools are built alike. We wanted the reader to know the limits that other task management tool providers place upon their free users and how Hubbion was better. We also wanted this to be short so that the reader is not distracted by the various features we discuss. The result was a short article with adequate number of tables that convey the message that Hubbion was better than its competitors even though they are all free.
The length of your article is also determined by your conversion goals. If your goal is to draw the reader into signing up to your mailing list (where you may further prime them towards a purchase), then it is a good idea to work on a short interesting piece that makes your product or lead magnet (like ebook or other downloadables) stand out. However, if your intent is to make a sale, then a short piece is often inadequate. Such “sales pages” are often several thousand words long and nurture the reader slowly with the help of personal stories, testimonials, and also limited one time offers – all within the content. Converting a customer with just one article is not easy and requires several iterations and is thus not recommended.
Content marketing today is a race between your content and those published by your competitors. Given that search engines look for authority, you stand a chance if and only if your article is more authoritative than what your competitors publish. This goes beyond just the word count to also include the quality of the content being published. Peer benchmarking is an important process that content marketers must carry out in order to ensure that they achieve the objectives that they have set out for.
In general, if you are looking to rank your article on the top of search engines, then you must look at publishing an article that is longer (and also of a higher quality) than what your competitors are up to. For social media and conversion targeted articles, benchmarking your content word length with that of competitors is not required. However, the length of articles published by competition will give you an idea of what works and what doesn’t. For instance, if you are publishing a listicle (like “5 Reasons You Should Hire A Content Marketer”), take a look at similar articles on other websites to see how they have performed on social media. You could base your content upon what is successful. This way, you avoid the mistakes that your competitors committed while publishing their content.
Up until now, we have only been talking about word count from the content strategy perspective. That is, SEO-targeted articles should have high word count while social media focused content may be short and crisp and so on. Industry benchmarking is another way to look at word count. If you are in the financial industry, your readers are likely to be serious investors consuming every single word of what you say. Fluff here is totally out of question. At the same time, because of the kind of competitors in your space, financial readers expect a highly detailed and researched piece. It is not uncommon to find articles that are over 2000 words long.
On the other hand, if you are in tech, your readers are likely to be voracious consumers who read multiple blogs every single day. Long form articles, while appreciated, do not always get you the kind of engagement you are seeking. You will find that a lot of tech news blogs contain short news pieces that are just a couple of paragraphs long. Engagement in this case is measured by the number of articles that a visitor reads and the time they spend. Long form articles can sometimes backfire since these readers tend to get distracted. Of course, this is not always the case and can also vary wildly between the various tech categories. Neil Patel has this article with advice on the word count you should be targeting across every industry. Quick word – the word length provided in this article is a tad on the higher side. You do not always need a 2700 word article to succeed in ‘sales’.