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Blogging Tips – Post Length

Posted by on Jul 6, 2012

In a post last week, when addressing blog posting frequency, I said I was going to have a series on blogging tips this month. This is the first in the series, and I’ve decided to not only post a bunch of these tips, but also decided to go after the search term “blogging tips”. No, I’m not expecting to get to number one, but being found somewhere on the search engine for that phrase wouldn’t depress me. Right now I’m nowhere; let’s see if this bit of SEO works, as I’ll mainly have it only in the title.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program.


by Antony Mayfield via Flickr

You often see conversations talking about the proper length of blog posts. In my last post, at #8, I stated that there’s nothing wrong with long posts as long as you’re still saying something with all those extra words. I’m here to tell you today that there’s no magic number of words for blog posts.

You as the writer do have to consider what’s long for you and your particular audience. For instance, if you’re telling a story of some kind, then length doesn’t matter because a story is a story; people love stories. If you’re instructing someone on how to do something they might find important, length doesn’t matter.

But what if you were talking about something that could be better told in multiple posts than trying to get it all into one post? For instance, maybe you’re going to talk about how to write code for specialized software? It would probably be best to write something like that in multiple posts rather than cramming it all into one.

Let’s look at the other side of the coin. One line as a post doesn’t make a blog. Two paragraphs all the time probably doesn’t make a real blog post either. Very short posts makes it seem like either you have no idea what you want to write about or you don’t know enough about your topic to be able to convey whatever your topic is. They feel incomplete if they’re too short.

I’ve seen very short posts with quotations from famous people; once in awhile that might be interesting, but over and over… I’m not coming back. However, writing a quote, then writing your opinion on what that post means carries way more weight, both for your readers and your blog in general.

The idea about blogging is to make sure you hit one of 3 things: educate, entertain, or inform. However many words it takes to do one of those things is how many words it takes. Only you can decide how many words it takes to do it, but at the same time keeping in mind whether you’ve written enough for one post or enough for multiple posts.
 

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18 Comments »

Hey Mitch!

As you know, I tend to post on the longer side, but not with great frequency, so I would hope the readers aren’t overwhelmed.

What I don’t get is, what does it matter if the post is 1,000 words or 3,000 words or even more? So what if you break it up into 2 or more parts? Can’t the reader decide that if it’s too much for them at the moment they can just come back to that one post and finish it later?

That’s certainly what I do. Maybe paginate the post if you must, although I still don’t see what the problem is with scrolling down. (Pagination is horribly abused sometimes, though…)

When I’m searching around for something and I get to a post where *most* of the answer is there, and then I see “Click here for part 2” I’m always mildly annoyed because when I get there I then have to quick scan through a (hopefully brief) recap of the piece I just read until I can continue on and maybe find what I’m looking for.

But I guess that’s not the reality of the situation. If people feel like the post is too much for them at the time, they probably bail and don’t come back.

On the flipside -when I was doing my Monday Comics series, I kept asking people would they rather have me break the comic into pages, or make a long comic and just have them scroll. From the comments and emails I got it was pretty obvious people did not want to click for the next page, they would rather just keep scrolling down. So as you saw, those comics just kept getting longer and longer lol.

I suppose all you can do is keep an eye on your stats and maybe poll your audience from time to time. Not everyone’s audience will be interchangeable so it’s on each blogger to determine the best procedure for themselves.
John Garrett recently posted…3D with Blender, Daz and The Man Called NovaMy Profile

July 6th, 2012 | 12:42 PM

Great comment John. You know, there are times when I come across something really long and have to made a decision as to whether I’m going to read it now, read it later, or read it at all. Because I can also speed read it’s easy for me to make those determinations. Overall I don’t care about the length of a post, but sometimes I will gripe about posts that are maybe a paragraph and that being a consistent thing on someone’s blog. I’m not sure if that little bit is better than nothing at all, if you know what I mean.

Still, I can understand why some people don’t like long posts. There’s a whole generation of “non-readers” if you will, the type that don’t want to read a book more than 100 pages and even then want pictures. That’s why I was so surprised and happy at how well the last few Harry Potter books sold because those weren’t short books at all, and that was the generation that wouldn’t dare pick up a copy of Atlas Shrugged unless it was in comic book form (hey, maybe you should do that one lol). You see all the recommendations about blogging and websites these days; catch their eye in the first 10 seconds or they’re gone. But I’m with you, if the content is good, at some point it will rise to the surface and people will read it.

At least I hope so, since I can’t see me going “short” for significant periods of time. lol

July 6th, 2012 | 3:54 PM

Google used to announce recommended post length, but I haven’t read anything about that recently around the year 2008, recommended post length was 350 character, after that in the middle of 2010 Google reduced this to 250. From personal experience and especially for business website, I don’t think that people read more than 300 characters and usually spend more time on pages with quality photographs and videos. Right now search engines doesn’t talk about post length, but mostly about page speed and pagination.
Carl recently posted…How to Choose an SEO ResellerMy Profile

July 8th, 2012 | 10:25 PM

That can’t be right Carl. Maybe 350 words, but characters includes spaces and there wouldn’t be much content there at all. And it had to be a minimum, which would make a lot of sense because it’s one of the things I’ve often said. Posts that are only one paragraph long can’t be informative all that often, and search engines wouldn’t have much to do with the as they’d either have problems interpreting them or think they were spam.

July 9th, 2012 | 1:34 AM

Ops, I guess that I have been still sleepy, yeah I meant words. I guess you are right about paragraph posts, but this is apply more about blogging and not for other websites – for example most business or e-commerce website have several pages with a paragraph and list of services or products. As well some blogs use static first page with a paragraph and links. Algorithms are not so complicated in terms of length of articles, that’s why I’ve mentioned pagination. A large number of blogs use summary for displaying latest topics. There is a recent video at some of the official Google channels which was targeting this topic a bit complicated in terms of web development, I think WordPress, Joomla and Drupal can handle easy with those recommendation.
Carl recently posted…Plastic Surgeons in Tampa FLMy Profile

July 9th, 2012 | 3:26 AM

Carl, I still believe there’s a minimum number of words one needs to get to more often than not, whether that figure is 250 or 350, although I’ve always believed 250 should be the minimum.

July 9th, 2012 | 9:42 AM

You know me Mitch, I’m a man of few words so my post tend to be more on the shorter side although there have been a few longer ones. It all depends on when I’m happy that I’ve gotten my point across.
Sire recently posted…Spam Alert! How Many Emails Does It Take?My Profile

July 9th, 2012 | 5:25 AM

Sire, your posts aren’t as short as you think they are, especially lately with all the things you’ve been showing off. lol

July 9th, 2012 | 9:43 AM

They are when compared to the likes of you and John Dilbeck 😉
Sire recently posted…Using Images To Make Your Posts Stand OutMy Profile

July 9th, 2012 | 9:44 PM

Goodness Sire, compared to John and myself 98% of the rest of the bloggers are slackers. lol That’s why comparisons aren’t always the best way to go, because we all have different ways of presenting our ideas.

July 10th, 2012 | 12:51 PM
John Dilbeck:

Good morning, Mitch.

I bet you knew I’d weigh in on this one. (grin)

I’ve been told that I tend to be on the verbose side of writing. I write many long posts. I try to get all the information about the point I’m making into the post so nobody has to go to other posts for background, but sometimes that isn’t possible with complex ideas.

I’ve had people tell me that they won’t read my blog anymore, because of the length of the posts. That’s perfectly okay with me.

I write for my target market. If people outside of that market don’t want to read it, then I call that good targeting.

I’d rather have 100 people who read the entire post and think about it than have thousands who skim and do nothing.

Perhaps I’m fooling myself, but I don’t think so.

Long posts or short, however, blogging is more of a hobby for me. It adds less than 5% to my bottom line profits.

Act on your dream!

JD

July 9th, 2012 | 11:34 AM

Hey John,

Actually I wasn’t sure if you’d comment or not since these days you’ve got other things on your mind.

I’m with you on long or short posts. You know I always read your posts and you put out good information when you write. If you didn’t include it all you’d be short changing people. That’s how I feel, because I read so much where people are trying to keep their posts so short that they leave a lot out that could help someone. That’s why when I write a technical piece I dot all the I’s. And when I write other posts, for the most part, I say everything I want to say, no matter how long it takes, and then I’m done.

Sometimes, that’s just how the story flows. 🙂

July 9th, 2012 | 5:58 PM

Hi Mitch,

I think that aiming for a post length that resonates with your audiences’ objectives is key, as you mentioned in your article.

If your audience is reading a post as a technical tutorial to learn something, I would bet that they want it as short as possible while still getting enough information to make it easy to understand. On the other hand, if the audience is expecting a conversational tone the post can be longer.

Also, if a post is really long, but not possible to break up into multiple posts, headings and lists could help break up content and allow visitors the ability to scan through the post.
Keith recently posted…5 Things Web Designers Need To Think AboutMy Profile

July 9th, 2012 | 4:46 PM

Hey Keith! I tend to believe that if you’re writing on a short point then you can write a short post. What you do, for instance, lends itself well to short posts. But years ago, when I wrote a post telling people how to set up Twitter Tools, it was as long as it had to be because there was no way to legitimately break it into more than one post, and it was over 850 words. Now, I could have decided not to write that post at all but that wouldn’t have helped anyone.

Sometimes when you’re writing for your audience, you have to force the audience to come along for their own best interest.

July 9th, 2012 | 6:03 PM

It depends on what type of blog you have to write. Blogs that presents information need to go straight to the point. Shorter posts that don’t beat around the bush gives just that. But I can also tell you that I’ve seen 40-word posts that were a waste of time and some 300-word reads that were worth it.

July 10th, 2012 | 1:47 AM

Hi Sarah, and welcome to the space. I like to think that style has a lot to do with how people present their information. Even on posts where I’m detailing something, I usually give a preamble as to the problem I was having or the issue I’m sharing and why. True, some visitors might not want to see that but the way I see it, I cater to both myself and my regular readers, of whom I hope that they continue being regular readers because they like both my style and what I have to say.

July 10th, 2012 | 12:54 PM

400 words is ‘said to be’ the length criteria for Google to consider a post seriously for indexing. My posts vary from 300 to 1200 words where as 90% of them are around 450 words. If I have any blog post that’s more than 1000 words long, I split them across pages. So far so good 🙂
Ajith Edassery recently posted…Ethical AutobloggingMy Profile

July 11th, 2012 | 1:17 PM

Ajith, I tried that, but it didn’t quite work all that well in getting people to follow from one post to the other when they knew they were somehow connected as one article. Still, I think I’ve only had 4 posts over 2,000 words on this blog over the years, and two of those were stories; not so bad.

July 12th, 2012 | 12:07 AM