This is a question I get asked a lot, and to be honest I don’t think there is one ‘right’ answer, but I certainly have my own. Sort of.
If I’m talking to YOU about post length I would say this:
+ Write your posts the length that you want them to be. It’s much better to write from the heart in the way that comes naturally than to try to adhere to a set length. Often a post will just pour out of you and decide its own length. Go with that. No need to pad things out for the sake of it, in fact it’s often a good idea to whittle things down to remove any rambling sentences one you are done. Write from the heart and then trim if need be. Unless…
+ Sometimes the original post is more a series of collected points about something you care quite deeply about. If you’re feeling that this post has the potential to be something bigger, don’t hit publish! Use each paragraph or sentence as a starting point for some deeper diving. Google around, do some research, find some quotes and studies to support/refute your views. Write that bigger piece.
+ If you find yourself digging so deep that your post is threatening to be 5000 words long, then consider that this might be more than a post. Maybe it’s a series of posts? Perhaps you can split this up into a series of five and create something amazing for your readers to follow along with? It’s definitely worth thinking about this because your commitment and usefulness will not go unnoticed.
How I do it
If I’m writing for myself, there are no rules. Sometimes I’ll only write a few words. Other times I will prattle on a bit. I am not very ‘professional’ on my own blog because it’s a fun place for me and I don’t want to be tied into perceived rules when I am having fun.
If I’m writing for someone else, I do have rules. Years working as an editor have given me a very clear view of what’s permissible and welcomed when writing for another site. I like to write longer posts for others, because I am being paid for my writing and I want to deliver good value. My posts will be between 700 and 1000 words.
On my own blog, I rarely publish lengthy posts, because I know how busy people are and how hard it is to make time to read 1000 words, especially if you read a lot of blogs. If I do publish something lengthy you can be guaranteed that it’s something I feel strongly about, so I save the long-form for important stuff.
There’s a definite trend to long-form blogging, illustrated by the success of sites like Medium (which seems to have been built for long-form, although there are shorter pieces too). Medium goes as far as to offer readers an estimated ‘read time’ for each post, confirming again that readers are busy and also that they like to know just what to expect before they get started.
There are various descriptions of just how long long-form posts are, but really, anything over 1500 words is going to seem long compared to most posts.
Count by count
The Write Practice (a great site for bloggers and writers who want to improve their work) has a great run-down here. You should read the full piece, but here’s a brief synopsis:
- 75-300 words. Super-short posts are best for generating discussion.
- 300-600 words. The standard blogging length, recommended by many “expert” bloggers.
- 750 words. This is the standard length for professional journalism, especially newspapers.
- 1000-1500 words. You’ll get fewer comments at this length but a lot more shares on social media.
- 2,450 words. The highest ranking articles on Google are most often 2,450 words.
So how long should my blog posts be?!
When it comes to ideal post length, there really is no straight answer. My feeling is that there’s a better question behind this often asked one.
How many words do I need to best tell my story?
That’s what really matters.