You never want to overstay your welcome. Be it a performance on stage or a dinner party at a friend’s house; you always want to leave your audience wanting more. At the same time, you also don’t want your audience to feel shorted, making it feel as if you haven’t quite given it your all. It’s a very tricky balance to navigate, and the same can be said
A quick Google search reveals a host of theories and recommendations for the ideal blog post length. But what many of these articles fail to recognize is that it’s not just simply a matter of word count but word count in alignment with the goal of your post; or, said differently, with the kind of blog post you’re creating.
From a 40,000-foot view perspective, a recent HubSpot study identified that their top-performing posts in 2019 clocked-in at around 2,000 words. That same study also revealed that several of their top 50 performing posts came in well under the 2,000-word mark. Yoast also issued a recommendation earlier this year that each post should be at least 300 words in order to leverage the most effective SEO practices for greater searchability.
So, somewhere between 300 and 2,000 words is best practice? That’s a pretty wide range, and some might argue not a terribly helpful recommendation.
Remember: So much of content marketing (or any marketing for that matter) comes down to coordinating audience and purpose, and attempting to dial-in the perfect word count for your Inbound Marketing is no different. With that in mind, let’s examine a couple of different kinds of blog posts to better understand how long your blog content should really be to attract and retain visitors and hopefully turn those visitors into customers.
A pillar page is essentially a “kitchen sink”-esque blog post that attempts to be as all-encompassing as possible or, at the very least, provides the reader with a general introduction to a topic, issue, product, or service. These posts are called pillar posts as they often lend themselves to a series of subsequent content pieces that relate to the central topic of the pillar post.
Pillar posts should run around 4,000 words, which might seem excessive, but you have to remember these posts are designed to be extensive, sprawling, and cover quite a bit of ground in one place. Pillar pages should also be well-cited, should use a multitude of sources, and can also contain a variety of examples, brief use cases, customer testimonials, infographics, and other dynamic elements such as links to other posts or content pieces to provide the most in-depth investigation and explanation possible.
Again, the idea of conceptualizing and executing pillar-style blog posts can seem daunting, but the ROI they provide is critical in generating new leads and converting those leads into eventual sales. For example, a recent Curata study indicated longer, in-depth blog articles generate 9x more success in lead generation compared to short blog entries. Plus, pillar pages also provide an added benefit in terms of content creation and management by providing a launchpad for additional blog entries to build on the concepts and discussions you broach in your pillar post.
Also known as “listicles,” list blog posts are easily the most convenient blog format both for the reader and the creator. A recent study by NewsCred suggested the average read time for any given blog entry is about 37 seconds. Given that, it makes sense that list-style blog articles, where the reader can skim for the information they need, would gain perhaps the most traction when compared to the other blog avenues we’ll discuss in this article.
But the trick with list-style blog articles – as with any useful piece of content marketing – really resides in the execution. It’s easy to throw together a quick list with a sentence or two of explanation for each point, but is that going to really drive the traffic you need? Is something so superficial actually going to get people to share your article across their social media platforms? Probably not.
List-style blog posts rely heavily on examples. They need to be leveraged via anecdotes, explanations, statistics, and other pieces of evidence for each bullet point on your list. Links to additional content, embedded videos, and infographics or other pieces of visual data are essential to enhance or supplement your list, which is why the most effective list-style blog posts should usually run right around 2,000 or so words.
Whereas pillar and list-style blog articles allow for tangents, sidebars, and discussions of sub-topics to leave the reader feeling informed and satisfied with your content, how-to and/or instructional blog entries are more cut-and-dry and need to be clear and concise. This style of blog entry is more often than not an answer to a question or a solution to a problem, and as such, the answer or solution needs to be easily digested and actionable on the reader’s behalf.
Of course, the ideal length for this blog entry style depends heavily on how complicated, intricate, or detailed the process you’re discussing and the steps necessary to achieve X or Y goals. This does mean that the optimal word count for this style of content does vary perhaps more than the posts we just discussed. Ideal word count for a how-to-style blog post is right around 1,700 words, though HubSpot analytics indicates posts ranging from 800 to 10,000 words are effective in driving traffic and generating leads.
Whereas list-style blog entries are perhaps the most ubiquitous, how-to blog posts are probably the most difficult to navigate. Too much content and your reader will feel overwhelmed and unable to clearly follow the steps you’re laying out; too little content and the reader will feel lost and in need of additional direction in order to complete the task you’re discussing. Besides, given the often technical or procedural nature of these posts, how-to blog entries need to be tightly structured and maintain a clear internal logic to operate as effectively as possible.
When you boil it down, all Inbound Marketing content is designed to answer a question, but the question and answer style blog post does so perhaps in a more overt way than other blogging styles. If the given with this style of entry is that your audience is searching for a specific answer for a particular question, then it would stand to reason that the best practice for this style of entry in terms of length is quick, clean, and concise.
Where the room to roam in terms of sub-topics or subsequent discussions is somewhat more generous in the previous style of posts we’ve discussed, question and answer style of blog posts are much more restrictive in terms of getting the facts in front of the reader and not bogging them down with additional or tangential content. Who, what, where, when, and why are the keys to creating successful question and answer blog posts, which makes sense given the optimal word count of right around 1,000 words.