Author Blogging 101: How Long Should Your Blog Posts Be?

by Joel Friedlander on June 12, 2013 · 43 comments

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How long should a blog post be? I get asked this question all the time, mostly by people who are concerned with “doing it properly.”

What can you say in response? Most books and courses on blogging will suggest that 250 to 500 words will do, depending on your subject. That doesn’t work for me, or for lots of other bloggers.

When I got started, I noticed most of my instructional posts seemed to reach the end right around the 1,000 word mark. I didn’t choose that, but it seemed like that’s where my “meter” was set.

Your results will vary.

Look at these three highly successful bloggers who can act like case studies in how long your blog post should be, and see what you think.

Seth Godin

author blogging

Seth Godin is a marketing and branding expert with a huge following that has helped to propel many of his books onto the bestseller lists.

Even more than that, Godin is a true thought leader, with people in many places picking up on his ideas and being inspired by them.

His post today is Polishing Perfect, a classic Godin piece on how to stop deviating and get your project moving forward. Classic line: “Stop polishing and ship instead.”

Total word count of this post: 104 words.

Glen Allsop

author blogging

Not quite as famous as Seth Godin, but Allsop is only 26, so give him time. He writes long, deep posts about the essentials of online commerce.

Allsop’s writings have had quite an effect on the online marketing world, and he built a highly popular site very quickly. Many of his articles get hundreds of comments from his rabid fans.

His most recent post is Case Study: Have Your Best Product Launch Ever (Without a Single Affiliate), an article that goes into remarkable detail about a product launch while, at the same time, whetting the appetite of thousands of readers for the product being launched. Classic line: “Selling is not about getting a customer once, but having them look forward to receiving more things from you in the future as well.”

Total word count of this post: 7,925

“The Passive Guy”

author blogging

Yes, I know his name is David Vandagriff, and he writes the highly popular Passive Voice blog. An intellectual property attorney, Vandagriff has a different style. Instead of writing a lot of blog articles, he curates content, posting excerpts from articles he finds online.

Sometimes he’ll post the excerpt and link with no commentary, sometimes he’ll add a sentence or a paragraph, and once in a while he’ll let loose and write a few hundred words on a subject.

Today, Passive Guy published 6 blog posts, with a total of 150 words in copy. That’s for all 6 posts.

What Did We Learn?

Okay, the 3 very popular bloggers in our case studies had word counts that ranged from none (Vandagriff) or few (about 25 words per post for Vandagriff if you average it out) to almost 8,000. Allsop’s post is 76 times longer than Godin’s. Essentially, these numbers are meaningless.

The question, “How long should my blog posts be?” is unanswerable. Your blog posts should be long enough to do the job, whatever that job is.

What’s your offer to your readers? Godin, Allsop, and Vandagriff inspire amazing passion in their followers, and keep them coming back for more.

When your passions intersect with your readers’ needs, the question itself will cease to exist.

So blog on.

“When your passions intersect with your readers’ needs, you won’t have to worry about how long your blog post is.”—Click to tweet

Photo: bigstockphoto.com

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    { 33 comments… read them below or add one }

    Andrew Mooers August 3, 2014 at 11:35 am

    The platforms you blog on all have different purpose, audience segment and tone, reach. Even frequency depending on the subject matter blog post rotation. We find the images, video put into the blog broth all help the look and feel, flow of the white space, the hunt and peck black fonts. Great read and points to illustrate it depends on the premise, the approach of the blog and your own time to weed, feed, water the media stream.

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    namy December 18, 2013 at 12:54 am

    It quite depends. I think the number of words is not as important as the content. Whatever you write, it must give value to readers

    Reply

    Ben Furfie December 12, 2013 at 10:35 am

    For me, a blog post is no more than 600 words. Anything longer – such as a case study or in-depth analysis – is a feature. It’s as simple as that.

    Why?

    The reality is that most people –– especially decision makers at businesses –– are time poor. They simply don’t have the time to read a blog post that they’ve just come across if it is more than 600 words.

    They will do one of two things. They will either look at its length and plan to look at it later (which invariably, they won’t), or start reading it then abandon it half way through.

    So how long does it take the average person to read 600 words? About four minutes. Longer if it is technical or requires the reader to think about something.

    Four minutes is a long time for a decision maker to spend reading anything that they’ve just come across.

    That’s something I’ve learnt from a variety of sources over ten years; both from primary sources, as well as in house and third-party research. We’re talking feedback from literally thousands of decision makers.

    If you want a decision maker to read something longer, that will require them to put aside time. You have to persuade them it is worth their time.

    Unless you do that, or they’re really already interested in your or service, they probably won’t come back. Worse still, they may already be in the buying process and found you as an ‘alternative’.

    That’s a lost opportunity to control the narrative.
    That’s a lost opportunity to understand more about their business, their goals and their problems.

    That is – put simply – a lost opportunity. It isn’t doing its job.

    Best practice is to start with shorter intro articles – what we refer to as blogs – that give people an oversight of a topic. We then have relevant calls to actions to featured content, such as case studies or ebooks.

    That is why people are recommended to write blog posts between 300 words (Google’s best practice) and 600 words. They are not some random numbers picked out the ether.

    My background is in journalism and I have worked in almost every position you can think of, from staff writer to group editor. I have also managed marketing and communications for a number of small and medium sized companies, both in house and as an agency.

    I believe the best practices developed in journalism and the media are the secret to writing and managing a successful blog, be it your own or a client’s.

    If there should be one thing you take away from reading this, it is to not see journalism and blogging as two separate disciplines.

    Rather they are part of the wider communications and marketing mix. This is just one of the best practices bloggers and professional marketers can learn.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 13, 2013 at 10:19 am

    Ben,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. It seems to me that the most important thing for a blogger to know is the expectations of his or her audience. Your advice seems quite good for bloggers who are aiming at business executives, and it’s well thought out. Bloggers writing for other audiences are under the same obligation to know what their readers want, and that’s why in my opinion there is no guideline that can be given t bloggers that will work equally well for all of them.

    And that’s why I encourage people to experiment and keep getting feedback from their readers. I know on my site that the most popular articles are around 1,000 words, but that word count alone is an insufficient metric to explain why one post is more or less popular than another. Good food for thought.

    Reply

    Robb Gorringe November 30, 2013 at 4:06 am

    Joel,

    This topic seems to baffle us all. I’ve read thru posts where I’m praying for the thing to end. But then others are like that one Oreo cookie in the mouth— perfect. I love your straight-to-the-point summation: “Your blog posts should be long enough to do the job.” Really, it’s quite liberating. I’ve been blogging since 2007, but just recently starting something new. And “Freedom!” is what your post is about for me.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander December 12, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Good luck with your new blog, Robb, and enjoy all that new-found freedom!

    Reply

    Shane October 22, 2013 at 7:27 am

    Good post on the subject. The bottom line is that there is no specific word count for a good post. The post should however fit between a range and depending on the topic. I would say a minimum of 250 words regardless of the subject. Some post can be in the thousands if that’s what it takes to cover the subject. The end goal should be quality not quantity.

    Shane
    Earning a passive income online
    http://www.dassb.com

    Reply

    Ryan Gu August 15, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    I actually found it interesting on how one of the most popular bloggers use much less words than others slightly below him. This makes some sense because people generally don’t want to read a blog that takes such a long time, but instead short and consistent blogs that they can read while in the elevator and such.
    Thank you so much for the stats, i will hopefully be more conscious of how many words that i use in my blogs :)

    Reply

    Enstine Muki July 30, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Hey Joel,
    Your conclusion makes a lot of sense on this. I have blogs I read constantly and will question the author if I ever see anything less than 1500 words.

    I think your readers take it the way you’ve been giving them

    Reply

    Susan Neal July 30, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Hi Joel,

    Thanks very much for this article, which I came across while researching my own post on this topic. I started writing mine in response to another blogger’s post suggesting that longer content is the way to go. Although I’ve written some long posts myself, I don’t think it’s the kind of thing for which we can draw up any hard and fast rules – so I agree with your point that the question is unanswerable.

    I particularly like your inspiring quote at the end, which I have indeed tweeted – I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve also referenced and linked back to this post from my own.

    Sue

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 30, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Hi Susan,

    Thanks for your comment. I’m delighted you referenced and linked back to the article, those links are valuable and most appreciated.

    Reply

    ziyamarshal July 15, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    Hi Joel, My blog sometimes reach near about 2000 words so my point arise here that your short blog is more prefer then long blog.
    my blog name is blog.enukesoftware.com .Any suggestions for me please put some words.

    Reply

    Bob Tamasy July 8, 2013 at 6:27 am

    When I started writing my blog nearly five years ago, I decided to keep each post to 300 words. It was good discipline, and forced me to keep my thoughts concise. However, over time my ideas got broader and required more. Today, my posts range from 500 to 800 words. I try to allow enough words for my thoughts to be complete, yet to realize that my readers (and potential readers) only have so much time and I desire to honor that. So if they stop by a couple times a week to see what I’ve got to say, I try to reward them with something of substance to read – while remaining sensitive to their time restraints.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander July 8, 2013 at 11:08 am

    Nice, organic approach, Bob, I’m sure your readers appreciate it.

    Reply

    Alison Wren June 20, 2013 at 8:38 am

    Really interesting. I do tend to advise my blogging clients 350 – 750 words on average. But these are small businesses, usually just starting out with blogging, who want some structure to work to. Personally, if I’m browsing I prefer reading short posts with just a snippet of info I can act on now – my coffee break reading. But if I’m searching for a serious instructional piece I want depth and detail.

    Reply

    Jana Botkin June 16, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    One of the most enjoyable writing teachers I had answered the question of “How long?” with “Just write until you are finished”. What a relief to know I could simply say what I had to say and not fill the paper with sawdust and fog.

    If a blog post hits about 600 words and can be easily divided, I use it as 2 entries. This helps me be able to post 5 days a week.

    There is a new acronym out there – TLDR. Too Long Didn’t Read. I’d hate for my handful of followers to say that!

    Reply

    Cathi Stevenson June 16, 2013 at 11:06 am

    I agree that there is no real “limit.” I think it’s important to break the content up to be web-friendly, so readers don’t become fatigued or lose their places. No one likes a sea of black. Headings, highlighted words, short paragraphs and Plain English style will help make a long article seem like a faster and more interesting read.

    It also depends on the subject matter and the style of the writer. If it’s a long-winded writer who drones on and is adjective-addicted, then I tend to bail before I reach the end of the article.

    I want the facts, just the fact.

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus June 14, 2013 at 3:24 am

    Allegedly Abraham Lincoln (a tall guy) was once asked how long legs should be.

    His response: “long enough to reach the ground.”

    Any piece of writing should be long enough to do the job properly.

    Ogden Nash wrote a four-word poem: The Bronx? No thonx.

    Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” has 22 chapters.

    Reply

    Widdershins June 12, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Yep. As long as it needs to be, and not a word longer.

    Reply

    Dan Thompson June 12, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    I tend to come in around 1000 words, and almost never below 700, but I try not to let them go on past 1200 or so. Instead, if I have a subject that really needs several thousand words to properly stretch its legs, I break it up into chunks and turn it into a series. It does a better job at holding my readers’ attention, and it gives four or five entries instead of just one.

    Reply

    James Moushon June 12, 2013 at 8:35 am

    I have been blogging in the eBook industry for over 3 years now, maintaining 3 unique blogs, and I have never posted an article less than 1000 words.
    My background of writing articles for magazines in the computer industry carries over, I guess. I need to make my point but give my readers the reasons for my conclusions.
    I’m not as popular as your guests but I think you need to write until you get the job done no matter how many words it takes. It is like writing a novel: is the story over when you reach a magic number of words or when the story has been told.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander June 12, 2013 at 11:59 am

    James, you are quite prolific, and I enjoy your long posts where you’re able to go to the length you need to adequately make your point. And that’s one of the reasons I link to them so frequently, so don’t stop now!

    Reply

    Deborah H. Bateman June 12, 2013 at 6:38 am

    Thanks for sharing this post. I am glad to know there is no rule set in stone. I too have tried to limit my posts to 500 words, but that doesn’t work for me all the time. I have decided to let it be what it is and not worry about it. Dividing the posts into two posts is sometimes feasible and sometimes not. So I don’t worry about it anymore I just do what seems to fit the post.
    Blessings,
    Deborah H. Bateman – Author

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander June 12, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Deborah, I think that’s the best approach—don’t worry about it, write what needs to be written, and stop when it’s done.

    Reply

    Dan Erickson June 12, 2013 at 6:03 am

    I keep posts short. I love to experiment and right now I just started a series called “Monday Morning Shorts.” These posts are only one or two short paragraphs, get right to the point, and leave room for discussion.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander June 12, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Sounds like a great idea, Dan. Having regular content features on specific days of the week will help readers find the content that they are most interested in, too.

    Reply

    Dan Erickson June 12, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    I’ve noticed that series’s work well. Right now I have Monday Morning Shorts, Songs for Saturdays, and a series on public speaking on Tuesdays. I just finished a series of excerpts on Fridays. Some of these others will end this summer, but I have something new in the planning for the Fall. I think it’s going to be good.

    Reply

    Belinda Pollard / @Belinda_Pollard June 12, 2013 at 4:19 am

    Hi Joel, great post. I read so much that says you shouldn’t blog longer than 500 words, and I used to try to stick with that, as a paranoid little wannabe blogger.

    But my posts now are often longer than that, and that’s because I’ve made the decision that I’m not so much “blogging” as trying to build a content site, full of timeless information. I publish a weekly article, and my readers seem to cope OK with them being a bit longer.

    I think my post this week was too long, however — should have divided it into two! The hazards of being in a hurry…

    I do however feel a bit better knowing someone else is writing 8000 word posts. ;-)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander June 12, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Belinda, I’ve read that same advice, and also disregarded it. It’s like saying, how long should my book be? There’s really no answer, is there? Glad to hear you’ve found your own “sweet spot” because when the writer is comfortable, I think that translates to your readers, too.

    Reply

    JoAnne Simson September 27, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    My meter also usually goes longer than 500 words (I wrote primarily short stories in the past). So I divide them up, but that can be confusing for folks who just drop in on part two or three. Still, the blog is largely a tool for self-expression and craft-honing, so it’s all good, right?

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus June 12, 2013 at 2:10 am

    TV scriptwriters, advertising copywriters and journalists usually write to fit a specific space (e.g., two pages, one column, 30 column inches) or length (e.g., 18 minutes, 30 seconds, 2,000 words).

    Blogs, websites and ebooks have no space or time limit. Writers should emulate the producers on NPR who are told to take as much time as is necessary to tell the story properly — but no more.

    Michael N. Marcus
    http://www.BookMakingBlog.com
    http://www.CreateBetterBooks.com

    Reply

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