I read an article the other day that said the best length for a blog post these days for all that SEO goodness is about 2,500 words. Other sources say 3,000+ is the sweet spot, the longer the better.
And, as a writer, I was like YESSS at last! How I have longed for this day! Because there is nothing I like more than to just dive into a topic and wallow around in there for a good long while, really beat the thing absolutely to death with my words.
Going on and on? Rambling endlessly? I love it!
And, frankly, it’s easier too! I always think of that famous quote (of dubious attribution) where the letter writer apologizes for writing such a long letter as they did not have time to write a shorter one. Because writing short is HARD. It involves more editing, more forethought, careful word choice, all of which take time than just rambling the first thoughts off the top of your head. So longer blog posts mean faster blog posts, less time blogging overall even though you’re writing more words.
It also jives with my personal writing style. When I blog, I usually start out with one idea, then realize I need to write about this other idea for context so maybe I should write about that first… but then, oh!, I should also discuss this paralleled idea and then do a counter-point to my own point and, before I know it, what was supposed to be one short blog post is now five. But if longer posts are in vogue, now I can just take all those mental tangents and rope ’em all together into one monster of a post.
All good news, right?
But the fact is, it’s one thing to set out to write a short post and get carried away and blow past 2k without breaking a sweat and it’s another altogether to plan to write something of that length from the start. Now you actually need an outline, some kind of roadmap for what you’re going to actually say with all those words. You can’t just sit down at the keyboard and start free-styling (which is how I write 99% of my blog posts). So while you may be saving time on the back end by having to do less editing because you can leave it long, but you’re trading it for more work on the front end with planning.
And perhaps this is me but I CHAFE at being told what to do. When short blog posts were all the SEO rage, I kept overshooting and writing long. But now that long posts are what we’re supposed to shoot for, all I want to do is embrace brevity.
And more than that, writing long for the sake of long is uncomfortable. It’s like slogging through a muddy field miserable and wet and wondering why you have to still do this. Am I still writing about this topic? HOW many more words? UGH. Add the typical keyword flogging you’ve got to do to tempt search engines these days and if writing an SEO friendly blog post at any length is annoying (and it is).. writing one of that length is a nightmare.
Moreover, besides my misgivings as a blog writer, I have some as a blog READER too.
Because 2,500 words is long.
Who the heck wants to read all that? Not me! And then I realized with growing horror THIS is why I have to scroll through someone’s entire life story just to get to the promised recipe for pumpkin pie smoothie or whatever I’m after. Just tell me how much maple to put in my blender I do not CARE how much you loved your Grandma’s pumpkin pie on her farm in Kentucky, MY GOD, woman!
THIS is why I’m seeing blog bloat everywhere I go and everything has become so insufferable to read.
As a reader, I’ve started to skim more than I ever remember doing before, using the find tool to jump down to the keyword I need, scanning headings until I get past all the word padding fluff to the actual content of the dang post that I was looking for in the first place. I’m certainly not enjoying the rise of the Long Ass Blog post and I’m a fairly long form, bookish kind of gal compared to the average reader with the attention span of a gnat, so why are search engines favoring them?
I suspect it’s just an algorithm thing, more words means more chances to use related keywords means you rank higher blah de blah. Maybe all that skimming we need to do to actually find the content we were looking for in that mess of text increases the time spent on the page and that makes them rank us higher too. But I have a pet theory that I think might also be a factor.
What if it’s backlash to micro-blogging? The rise of Twitter et al for a while there had everyone playing the short game and it wasn’t uncommon to get linked to a “blog post” that was just a few sentences but, hey, they got your ad views before you closed the page in a huff. What if this whole mess is the search engines overcompensating for that, instead favoring the longest pieces over the shortest, hoping for better reader satisfaction?
And, in a way, isn’t that the whole point of blogs? The whole advantage they have as a platform over everything else out there that lets you blast your thoughts into the world is that length, the ability to really delve into a topic in depth? I know everyone loves a good tweetstorm but it’s certainly easier to read the same content nicely laid out in a blog. So going even longer just makes sense, right?
Except that our shrinking attention spans mean it’s less likely anyone is going to read a long blog post in full. So does SEO actually favor skimming? Is that why there’s this rise in headings and subheadings in blog posts, splitting up the content into easily digestible chunks? Is it really all about making the posts easier to skim?
And if that’s the case, how does that change how we write them? Are we putting the real meat of the post up-front so the reader can get it and go on their way or are we burying it in the middle of our ramble, trusting the reader to skim and increase that coveted time spent on the page metric for us instead of getting fed up and leaving?
I don’t know but I’ll tell you this: When I started this blog post, I thought I would make it 2,500 words exactly, just to be a little meta about this point but I’m right around the 1,300 word mark and saying, you know, actually, never mind. Because I could just keep rambling long after I said what I needed to say just to get this post closer to the magic number but it’s not my style. It feels artificial and cheap. I’m done… and so’s this blog post.
But as we’re simultaneously being told that people are willing to read less than ever before at the same time that search engines are favoring longer blog posts, I can’t help but wonder what the heck that is all about and what it means for blog readers and writers both. Is it really just a trick of the algorithm, more reflective of the reading habits of the average blog reader, or something else entirely?
So what do you— aw, who am I kidding? Even short of 2,500 words, there’s no way anyone’s actually read this far!