Let’s Talk About Word Count

How long does a blog post need to be to get results? What is the ideal word count for a hefty return of your marketing dollars? Should you write many mini-posts or one long white paper? What are readers even looking for anymore? 

The ideal word count is a moving target that changes over time, and across industries. There is no one right answer for word count. Rather than count words like a high school essay, examine what you want the blog to do. Ask what your readers need from your content marketing.

How Short is Too Short for a Blog Post?

There may not be one target number, but there is a bottom limit to ideal word count. That’s because Google and other search engines ignore “thin content” with less than 200 words. One of the primary ways potential customers find you is through search engines, so you need to cater to the algorithms and give them enough content to register in their searches.

What Word Count is Too Long for Your Readers?

The ideal length of a blog post is more about time than it is about word count. A study in 2014 found that readers tend to stay on a page for an average of 7 minutes. But how many words they can read in that time depends on how dense the writing and how deep the topic.

The “ideal length” of a blog post keeps going up. In 2016, the top ranked search results crested over 2,400 words. Using longer blog posts can create stronger organic search results and drive your search engine traffic up. They also give you more resources to link to using unique social media posts that touch on different parts of the post.

Making Long Blog Posts Accessible

Longer posts may do better on Google, but that doesn’t mean visitors are reading all that content. Remember that 7 minute sweet spot? It’s still true. It’s essential to make your content accessible to your readers so they can find and digest the part of your post that answers their particular questions.

That’s where headings come in. Clear, keyword-focused headings can provide sign posts for readers looking for specific answers. Potential customers will scan your content for the part of your post that relates to them. Headings show them where to look.

Headings also boost SEO. The software code behind the scenes places special emphasis on the words in your headings. Google takes that emphasis to indicate what your post is really all about. By placing your top keywords in your headings, you’ll be helping drive clients to your page, and then showing them where to go once they get there.

Unclear Writing Gets Worse In Long Blog Posts

Unfortunately, many writers see the trend toward higher word counts as a license to ramble. In 2012, when the ideal length was around 500 words, writers were forced to get right to the point. As that number has relaxed, so have many inexperienced writers. And that leads to a lot of wasted space.

Whether your word count is 700 or 2,700, every word should matter. Personal stories and illustrations have their place, as do thorough explanations, but if your blog post wanders off topic, you will lose your readers and their business.

There Is No One Perfect Length for Your Blogs

Some topics only take a few hundred words. Others may take a couple thousand. There is no one perfect length, even within your blog. Your subscribers may come to expect a certain format and time commitment from your posts. But sometimes there are reasons to go deeper.

In 2012, when the industry was writing short, punchy posts on a daily basis, I took the time to write a 2,000+ word summary of a new law, the Revocation of Paternity Act. It wasn’t catchy, but it was informative. And for years after it was on the first page of Google and clients specifically referred to it when they called me. Why? Because it was one of the only sites on the web that actually explained how the statute worked and who qualified for it.

On the other hand, sometimes 400-500 words will do. If you are announcing an upcoming speaking event, or reporting about a recent news item, there is no need to draw your post out unnecessarily, just to hit an arbitrary target word count. Whether you are providing a thorough how-to guide or explaining a new development in your field, each post should be as long as it needs to be to make the point clearly.

Find What Works For You

Most experienced writers I talk to have a length that works best for them. Even without trying, they find themselves writing the same length posts over and over. For me, it’s often around 700 words. Others go longer, or shorter. Don’t let someone else’s “ideal word count” keep you from putting digital pen to paper. As long as you are providing high quality content, do what works for you. You’ll develop your skills as a writer and improve your visibility on the web.

Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist. She provides blogs and web content for law firms and small businesses. If you need high quality web content, contact Legal Linguist today to schedule a meeting.

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