When you’re blogging regularly, you may wonder if it matters how long your posts are or if there is such a thing as an ideal blog post length. Does blog post length boost traffic and leads that convert into customers?
Just last week I wrote that the ideal blog post length was whatever the topic called for – essentially, that quality was more important than quantity of words. But is it? There’s evidence that post length also matters. So, if you tend to be an exhaustive writer – that’s different from a wordy writer, mind you – you may have a leg up on concise bloggers.
With Google’s most recent Hummingbird algorithm update, it is trying to make their search results more contextual, which means the way real people talk, write and search for results. And when real people search for results, they often ask questions or look for results using long search terms. For example, instead of searching for “smart phone,” a user is more likely to search for “which smart phone has the best camera?” or “how to extend battery life in smart phone.”
Google in-depth articles
However, Google’s research has shown that, in about 10 percent of daily searches, users turn to Google for a broad topic. To satisfy these searches, in August 2013 Google released a new feature called “in-depth” articles. According to Google, these articles provide high-quality content to help you learn about a subject. The articles are included in Google
in-depth articles based on its proprietary algorithmic signals, but Google says you can increase your chances of appearing in this section by optimizing your articles for the “in-depth articles” feature by doing the following:
- Including schema.org article markup is a collaboration by Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo! to improve the web by creating a structured data markup schema supported by major search engines. You should include:
- A headline
- Alternative headline
- Image (be sure to add alt text so that it is crawlable and indexable)
- Date published
- Article body
- Authorship markup: Google Authorship helps Google’s algorithm find and present authors and experts in search engine results. It’s what allows the author’s photo to appear by the blog post when a search term is entered in Google, drawing more attention to the post.
- Pagination and cononicalization: For multiple pages, they must be marked up correctly. See links for more information.
- Logos: Include your logo to help users quickly recognize the source. The best way to do this may be to create a Google+ page and link it to your website. Any time you can activate a Google feature, you are going to help your online marketing efforts.
- Restricted content and “First Click Free”: Google requests that you allow all users to see the full text of all documents on your site, even if they have not registered or subscribed to see them until they click a link on the original page. At that point, the user will have to register to read further. This will allow Google to successfully crawl your site so that you can get “credit” for the most relevant, valuable content on your site.
There’s no guarantee that your content will be included in this coveted section even if you follow these rules to the T. Google seems to favor big brands, according to research by Content Marketing Institute. Most of the articles Google selects are in the 2,000-5,000-word length, and appeared in major publications, such as the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone and Washington Post. This doesn’t square with Google’s promise, “In addition to well-known publishers, you’ll also find some great articles from lesser-known publications and blogs,” but perhaps they will loosen up as they build the section.
Neil Patel of QuickSprout and KISSmetrics says he increased his traffic by 13.15 percent in 30 days by getting his articles included in Google’s in-depth section. Patel made some interesting observations about what he learned regarding the Google in-depth articles:
- The articles on his site that received more search traffic from the in-depth articles section tended to be the ones that were already popular.
- The ones that had hundreds of natural backlinks and social shares tended to be the ones that got listed in the “in-depth articles ” section.
- The blog posts that weren’t very popular didn’t get any extra Google love.
- Extra traffic came from broad keywords instead of long-tail keywords.
- The average length of the articles in the in-depth section was 2,183 words.
Patel says that while it’s helpful to follow Google’s rules about using schema.org markup (there’s a free WordPress plug-in to do it all for you if you use that format), and getting social proof in the form of likes and +1s is also great, the most important determinant for inclusion in the section is length. Google is looking for in-depth, text-based content on broader topics — just the opposite of what many of us have been coached to do in the past when we go after long-tail keywords that are easier to rank for.
Need leads? Write long. Unless you need to write short.
So should you write short or long? In another post, Patel talks about running an A/B test on his homepage between one version with 1,292 words with a contest form way below the fold, and another version with only 488 words with form fields higher on the page. Surprisingly, the longer version converted 7.6 percent better than the shorter version, and the leads were superior to the leads that came from the shorter version.
Patel points out that serpIQ analyzed the top 10 search results for 20,000 keywords and found that the first result typically has 2,416 words and the word count gradually declines to 10th place, which has 2,032 words. Patel noted that longer blog posts get more links, according to SEOmoz and they get shared more on social media.
Most importantly, longer posts got more leads than short copy in Patel’s test, though he pointed out that this may not always be the case, and he recommends A/B testing to make sure. Sometimes, short copy may convert better on a website for a specific purpose, so don’t just assume this is always true.
The ideal blog post length
From its research, SerpIQ concluded that the ideal blog post length is approximately 1,500 words, but that is not a rule. Some posts should be longer, and not all need to be quite that long. But regardless of the length, all must be high quality, original content. No schlock!
If you need leads from your website or blog and writing is not your strong suit, you should find a professional content marketer or writer. Your investment will pay off big time down the road in the form of increased traffic and leads.