Blog posts: how long should they be? No sh*t?

As you know there is quite a lot about blogging here on HTWB (this is article-about-blogging #232); but if you scroll through all of them you won’t find a miracle word count figure anywhere.

Blog posts: how long should they be? No sh*t?

People browsing leisure blogs in their coffee break probably will not want to read a 3,000 word long-form blog post

If I received a pound (or even a US dollar) each time someone has asked me what is the ideal length for a blog post, I’d be rich enough to pay all my utility bills on time. The short answer, is that there is no short answer.

For a list of the top 10 most helpful articles on blogging for business as chosen by our readers, click here

All depends on what you do and more to the point, who your audience is and where they’re coming from.

How long your blog posts should be depends on:

1.What you do. Common sense dictates that some business areas need more in-depth discussion than others. Areas like fashion, cosmetics, handicrafts, clothing etc. do not require a lot of description and in any case are better to suited to visual, not just verbal blogging. Topics like those also are instantly recognisable, so allowing you to get your message over quite fast. At the other end of the spectrum, business areas like high tech or heavy industry require more words if only because the products, processes and services involved need more detailed explanation.

2.What your customers want – and have time for. This is probably the most important consideration. Because you know your customer base very well (and you do, of course, don’t you?) you will know the approximate length of their attention spans. People browsing leisure blogs in their coffee break probably will not want to read a 3,000 word long-form blog post covering a topic in great depth. Conversely, someone checking out the latest developments in engineering software will feel a bit short-changed if your blog consists merely of 250 words plus 7 or 8 jaunty images.

3.How often your blog posts appear. If you only blog once or twice a month, you really need to offer your readers a reasonable amount of depth and detailed substance, if you want to retain their interest and recall so they check back to your site for the next post. If you blog every day, in general shorter is better so you feed information in more easily digested chunks to your readers. I (and my wonderful contributors, sometimes) blog 3 times per week plus some funnies as our #SundaySmile, and hardly ever exceed the 1,000 word mark unless it’s a tutorial.

How about those very long blog posts?

Especially in North America there has been a keen fashion in the last 2 years or so for “long-form blog posts” of anything up to 3,000 words in length – or more. These are not so much blog posts in the traditional form as they are short white papers or tutorials.

In this article, leading US entrepreneur Neil Patel says, “Long-form isn’t new. It was used widely by magazines. But Columbia Journal Review puts it aptly, “long-form has gone digital.” Darren from Problogger believes that one long-form article is better than a series of short posts.”

“In fact, the list of blogs that believe in long-form content is huge – Tim Ferriss, WordStream, MarketingProfs, Scripted, QuickSprout, WaitButWhy and many more. So don’t worry about our shrinking attention spans. People like reading insightful long-form content (even on mobile).”

Certainly, Neil’s article shares not only convincing evidence but also a very clear set of “how-to” guidelines if you want to try your hand at a hefty post.

So after all that, how long should a blog post be?

Much as I have to respect Neil Patel and others like him who encourage the long-form blog post, I have a feeling they are referring mainly to their North American marketplaces – whereas readers here on HTWB come from all the English language markets and quite a few countries where English is the main second language.

To me, then, it makes sense to take the long-form frenzy with a pinch of salt. Preferences vary from continent to continent, country to country and culture to culture.

My own feeling is that we should judge how long our blogs should be not so much based on a current fashion – even backed up by statistics – as on the three criteria I have shared above. And of those three, number 2 – what your customers want and have time for – should be our strongest guiding light.

How long do you think blog posts should be??

What do you think? What length of read works for you, and in what business or activity area? Please share your views!