Writing One Post for a Whole Week: Are Long Articles Best?
Okay so I’ve been blogging for a long time now. I’ve sold a few blogs for around $20,000 and manage to work full time from home.
But there is something (read: a lot of things) I’m still not sure about. Something still bugging me.
Long vs short posts.
In this article I want to do a bit of an analysis on long vs short blog posts and which is a better idea and why. I’d really like your own opinion on this one to see what has worked for you.
What is long and what is short?
Let’s start off by taking a look at what constitutes a long article and what is a short article.
Long article: Anything over 2,000 words
Short article: Anything below 2,000 but usually under 1,000
Now, your definition of long and short might be totally different depending on your style and your blog. So, please don’t shy away from participating in the discussion if you are doing a lot more or a lot less. I’d still like to know how it works for you.
An analysis of Blog Tyrant’s most enormous articles
I guess the best way to do this is to look at a few of my longer articles and see if we can make any inferences about success. This could be a little bit embarrassing.
- How I Sold a Blog for $20,000 in 8 Months
Word count: 4,653
Comment Count: 102
Notes: This post also hit the front page of Delicious in the first week and brought in several thousand visitors.
- 12 of the Best About Us Pages on the Internet
Word count: 2,645
Comment Count: 105
Notes: This post got mentioned by Brian Clark and a few other big bloggers and has since brought in more SEO traffic to Blog Tyrant than any other post. It seems a lot of people want to know about About Us Pages.
- How Stay-at-Home-Moms Can Make Good Money Blogging
Word count: 3,185
Comment Count: 153
Notes: Not as popular from a social media point of view but this post brings a large amount of Google traffic and generates more subscribers than most posts thus deeming it popular.
- How to Blog
Word count: 7,809
Comment count: 45
Notes: My longest post (broken down into two parts) which generated a fair bit of feedback but did no where near as well as I had hoped.
The results? Well, there doesn’t seem to be any correlation between long posts and huge success. In fact, some of my more successful articles were around the 1000 word mark.
The ideal post length
So is it really worth sitting around and writing a post for a whole week? What is the point? Well, I think there are a few considerations to make when looking at an ideal post length. Here are a few:
- Google’s algorithm
I don’t care what any SEO expert tells you, long posts rank better than short ones. Google is all about delivering quality content to its readers and, over the years, I have noticed that more more in depth and comprehensive articles rank a heck of a lot easier than short ones.
- Reader expectation
One of the things I notice here on Blog Tyrant is that if I change anything or do something even slightly different I get rage emails from my most loyal readers trying to oust me like I’m Gaddafi or something (I still love all of you). But that is a failing of mine (not the love part); I’m far too easy going. Your readers come to expect that you will write in a certain way and at a certain time and that is really important to them.
Part of the reader expectation thing is producing content that looks consistently like YOUR content. Take a look around Blog Tyrant or Viper Chill and you will see all the same image types, paragraph structures, etc.
- Exhausting the topic, almost
I wrote about this on my Problogger Guest Post on how to get more comments – you should write articles that exhaust the topic… almost. I find the posts that do the best are ones with heaps of resources, references, ideas but where the ideas aren’t totally rounded off. It encourages user participation and sharing and sometimes means a shorter length.
It also depends on how you define a successful post. Is it something that ranks well on Google and brings you lots of traffic? Is it something that gets lots of comments and reader interaction? Is it something that does well on social media? Is it something that gets a lot of subscribers? Or is it some totally different measurement like the amount you help a person?
We need to understand these personal goals before we know what we are going to do with our post length.
The immeasurable X-Factor quality
Something that I really wanted to touch on but didn’t know how to approach is the fact that some posts just NEED to be huge. They call for it.
They demand it.
I’m not sure why but it seems as though there are topics and titles that you come up with occasionally that just “feel” like they need to be totally exhausted and done to death. Anything less would feel like cheating your readers. This is especially true of topics where you have a unique angle or are writing something that is more instructional.
For example, in my post entitled How to Blog I felt like I had to write extensively or call it something different.
What are the big guys doing?
I thought I would take a look at a few of the most popular posts from the most popular blogs around the block and see what lessons we can learn.
Word count: 47!
Comment Count: 504
Notes: Classic Brian Clark. Just repeat one word and get famous. Obviously nothing to do with the word count here but more about the idea. Many of Brian’s posts were like this in the old days but now the site is mainly guest posts of medium length.
Word count: 950
Comment Count: 301
Notes: Most of Glen’s posts are really long and in depth. He writes only when he has something to say and, like me, tries to totally exhaust the topic without giving everything away such that the reader feels muted. This blog is quality and quantity. On average you would find most posts are over the 1,500 word mark.
Jerry’s final thought
I think the lesson might be that the successful posts are the ones that provide a huge amount of value and that often to provide that value you need to write a lot of words and cover a lot of points. So, its more like length is a by-product of the actual formula for success and not the formula itself.
What has your experience been with post length? Have long or short posts worked better for you? Do you find that schedule and predictability are more important and which post seems to work better for you on Google and social networks? I’d be really interested to hear this one.