Writing One Post for a Whole Week: Are Long Articles Best?

45 Intelligent Opinions, Leave Yours.

A Case of The Rainy Day Blahs
Creative Commons License photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography

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

Pride and Joy
Creative Commons License photo credit: country_boy_shane

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
    Shares: 2,545
    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
    Shares: 2,316
    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
    Shares: 339
    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
    Shares: 165
    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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Readability
    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.
  4. 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.

Copyblogger – Ten Steps to Becoming a Better Writer

Word count: 47!
Comment Count: 504
Shares: 1200+
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.

Viper Chill – The Highest Converting Facebook Page Ever Seen

Word count: 950
Comment Count: 301
Shares: 600+
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.



Ramsay WROTE THIS

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45 Comments... Leave yours.

  • Glen Allsopp

    Thanks for the mention!

    I guess my average would be around 3,000 which is a little scary ;)


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Dude, I’m pretty sure you posted this comment before I even published the article! Ha ha.

      How long do you spend writing 3k words?


      1. Joe Burnett

        Seriously? I spend 1-3 hours writing one thousand word articles, but triple that? That is kind of scary!


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          Ha ha. Nice one.


  • Brian Clark

    Ha, nice choice! That was an extreme aberration from my style at the time, but as you point out, it was the novel expression of an idea. Luckily, it resonated with people.

    Funny thing, back when I started Copyblogger, the “experts” all said a blog post should never be over 250 words. So naturally I started writing 1,000 word articles, and the blog took off fast.

    Generally, I think people want more meat, not less, despite short attention spans. If you make it valuable, interesting, and formatted for easy reading, people will stick with you.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Aberration would be a good name for a marketing company.

      I’m pretty sure you had another one from around that time that just said “read” over and over again? Love it.

      You are totally right about the meat – you don’t win friends with salad (I’m a vegetarian). There is something to be said for people’s short attentions spans mixed with the absolute entitlement mentality that comes along with the huge amounts of free content going around.

      I often think the success of a post comes down to what people want to be seen to be reading (Tweeting) by their friends.


  • Rachelle

    I think it depends on your blog and your readership. If you have a blog about celebrity pictures that invites those low impulse control clicks, then 50 words is fine.

    But if your goal is to teach and develop readers or explain a concept then, you have to go more in depth.

    For instance a lot has been said about the quality of stumbleupon traffic, people just click and click without doing anything or even reading.

    However if your target market is someone who actually wants more than a surface chatter about a subject and who will view you as an authority, then a short post won’t cut it.

    My most popular posts are ones about basement apartments and how to analyse cash flow.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Great point. More and more I think it’s about expectations.


    2. Tushar@BloggersEthics

      I am amazed people write these much long articles. for me, 500-600 words is more than enough because i believe after certain extent, people start getting bored out of that


      1. the Blog Tyrant

        You are right Tushar. However, I think that sometimes a super long article can really change things up. Especially if you don’t post very often.

        Check out Viper Chill as a good example.


  • janis meredith

    I am no pro, by any means, but I know what I like to read, and if the post is long it had better be about something I really want to learn about. When I find a long post that really grabs my attention I save it and come back to read it when I can really concentrate. However, I also love short pithy posts. Posts that grab, deliver something worthwhile, and leave the reader feeling they got something good out of it. That’s my style of writing for my blog. I keep them 500-700 words usually. My readers mostly are parents of younger kids and I know they will be less likely to read long posts. They want to-the-point uncluttered writing that gives them something to chew over. That’s my style. When I come across a subject that demands more verbage to really communicate what I’m trying to say, I will deliver it.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Hi Janis.

      Excellent point. Managing reader expectations with what the topic calls for.

      Perfect.


  • Jamie - The Modern Tog

    I can’t write a short article for the life of me, but I’m doing a lot of tutorials and How-to posts, so yeah, it makes sense to me.

    It seems to be more about quality and less about quantity, honestly, so I think it’s a moot point.

    But hold the horses…Jerry? Are you giving away your identity now?


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Ha ha – Jerry’s final thought… Springer!


      1. Jamie - The Modern Tog

        That’s what I get for being totally oblivious to pop culture. ;)


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          Ha ha. You’re better for it.


  • Anne R. Allen

    Timely post for me. I have a once-a-week blog and try to keep posts under 1500 words. Each post gets about 1500-3000 hits with an average of 50 comments. But my guest posts get much lower numbers, even when they’re written by superstars in my field. So your comment about “reader expectation” is certainly true for me. Readers seem to come by for my voice and they’re disappointed by others, even if they’re famous. (Go figure.)

    Also, this week I wrote my longest-ever post. Close to 3000 words. I didn’t have time to cut and posted as-is. I got over 1000 hits within 12 hours. So: bigger is better. Who knew?


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      I like it!

      Seems there are two groups to think about: existing readers and new ones. How well does your blog convert?


  • Michael Robinson

    It’s rare that I can find more than 600 words to say about something. The hard part is getting enough people to look at something to determine whether or not it’s the right length. :)


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Hi Michael. Is it a new blog?


      1. Michael Robinson

        I’ve tried a few blogs and gave each about 6 months to starts showing signs of life. The current one is the first to see more than random traffic from StumbleUpon.


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          Keep focusing on email subscription conversions. Best way to go.


          1. Michael Robinson

            I’ve got forms tastefully visible in all the right places and no signups. But I get about 15-20 pageviews a day. Either that’s not enough traffic to get signups on realistic timescales, or I’m doing something wrong.


  • Marcus

    To paraphrase a quote by a movie critic, “There’s no such thing as a good blog post that’s too long, and a bad blog post is never short enough.”

    The previous commenters have done such a great job of expanding on this topic, it’s hard for me to think of anything original to add.

    One point Blog Tyrant talked about was that the title “How to Blog” demanded a long, authoritative article. I think there’s something in that.

    If you see a headline like, “3 Quick Ways Get More Traffic,” you’re not expecting to read the War and Peace of blog posts.

    In contrast, take an example from Glenn at Viperchill:
    “WordPress SEO: The Only Guide You Need.”

    With a title like that, your expectations as a reader are way higher. This article better have everything I want to know, or I’ll be dissatisfied. Fortunately, Glenn always delivers.

    The choice of topic can be a guide to length. The headline is what really sets it.

    As for search engine optimization (SEO), I’ve noticed more writing services in Internet marketing forums touting the benefits of “LSI content.”

    LSI stands for Latent Semantic Indexing. What does that mean? Don’t ask me, I’m just a blogger. :) You can check out the Wikipedia entry on it, if you really crave a headache.

    But seriously, I think it’s being used as a buzzword to describe the trend of search engines favoring in-depth, relevant content. In other words, what we should all be writing anyway.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      It’s like when I see the title “Marcus” I expect a brilliant comment! Ha ha.

      You’re right about Google; they want value.

      Good stuff as always.


  • the Blog Tyrant

    Michael you should be able to convert at least 2% of traffic.


    1. Michael Robinson

      I’ve only gotten a little traffic since launch, so I’m probably just expecting too much too soon. I’ll start promoting more. Thanks for the tips. :)


      1. the Blog Tyrant

        If you want more in depth feedback I have one free slot for a Skype consult this week. Shoot me an email if you want my eyes on it.


  • Shaun @ Money Cactus

    Long for me is anything over 1,000 words and I tend to write most articles at that length. I think that is about the minimum for me to convey my message and make it as useful as possible. The tricky part is doing this more than once or twice a week. Many others in my area (personal finance) write shorter posts more often, which appear to be working well. I think it really depends on the audience you want to attract and what you want from them.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Hey bro.

      I remember there was a finance blog that sold for $30 million to a bank a few years ago. That was lots of medium length posts but also lots of long guides on personal finance, etc.

      Can you imagine – $30 million?


  • Hilary

    Long time reader, first time comment-er.

    I simply write what needs to be written and don’t look at the word count at all too much. I simply try to cover the topic at hand, so if it is “10 ways how to do something” I make sure to write 10 ways.

    From personal perspective, I can’t read blog posts that are super short, and I can’t read ones that go on and on and on. So I try to find a middle ground, and give bold subject lines for the scanners.

    Some of my posts have 2 lines and are just images. Some I can’t even find a good image for and are just a lot of words. Just depends on the top (I have multiple blogs on multiple subjects)


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Thanks for finally stopping by Hilary! Appreciate it.


  • Nick Parkin

    I just had a look & by far and away my most popular blog is 600 words. Personally I rarely read blogs beyond the 300 – 500 word point.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Oh you must hate it around here Nick. Ha ha


      1. Nick Parkin

        No – I just scan, pick up the points & move on. Quite often with SEO & IM type blogs reading the Headings is enough. Of course you have to be right and I have to be wrong, because you don’t read my blog, and I’m here reading yours, but your wrote 1253 words & I would have done it in 415 words like this http://flats.posterous.com/blogging-are-long-articles-best


        1. the Blog Tyrant

          Ha ha. I like your logic!


  • Phil Stephens

    I agree with Hillary.

    A post needs to be long enough to say what needs to be said, and no longer.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Agreed.


  • TJ

    These comments are fascinating (and surprising) to me BT!

    Lately I’ve been trying to keep my posts around 500 words, and they often take me 2 hours to write.

    Maybe artists are able to interact with less text because we often post our own images which are the visual focus of the whole post. (Instead of writers who hunt for images to illustrate their points).

    Personally I think journal pages (images with handwriting) and even some photography can stand alone and still be a good posts!

    Just my .02
    Best wishes, tj


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Absolutely. Posts with lots of photos are great!


  • Scott Kindred | SafeHouse Web

    First off, love the imagery correlation between your subtitle about enormous posts and the picture of the ginormous 1950’s Chevy. Nice.

    Secondly, I am glad somebody else checked you on the “Jerry [Springer]” reference in your closing remarks, but somehow… Jerry Maguire seems more appropriate when I think about BlogTyrant: “Show me the money!”

    Best week to you! Enjoyed and learned from your post, as always.


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Ah, Scott. You are the only one who gets me. Great to see you commenting again!

      Tyrant


  • Profoundtigger

    I believe the length of a post does not matter as long as you fully covered your topic. Cheating readers are more like giving vague answers. As long as you’ve done your job of describing what topic is going to be about I really don’t see any harm. “they need to be totally exhausted and done to death” That part really caught my attention and it also got me thinking. What do you actually mean by done to the death.
    Let’s say your title is about reviewing that brand new Mercedes S-class. You’ve covered all the new features and specs of that car, the pros/cons, and compared it with its successor but you’ve only got a total of 500 words from it. Not too much, but topic was fully cover. Now would you go on and talk about its rival? And how much inferior or superior this car is compared to that one? It would probably be a good idea, to give your readers a better insight. But I don’t believe that’s necessary.

    Sorry i got a bit carried away lol


    1. the Blog Tyrant

      Hey there.

      By done to death I mean like totally completed.

      If 500 words is all you need to produce then that is great. Top Gear would be a great example of how the content is expanded on though – talks about the emotions the car gives you, the basic features, how the features evolved, how the features compare to other similar price range cars, etc.


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