Google’s ranking factors are a closely guarded secret. They’re the 11 herbs and spices of the digital marketing world. The Bletchley Park of online content. The “does my cat actually like me, or is it actively looking forward to nibbling on my corpse?” of SEO, if you will. But in Backlinko’s list of 200 likely factors, content length is right there in 16th position.
So it’s natural that we get asked this question a lot: how long should my blogs be?
What’s the ideal length for content in 2021?
You’ve probably heard that long-form content is quite literally the bee’s pyjamas in terms of SEO. Time and time again, studies have found that the highest-ranked pages on Google typically have 2000 – 2500 words. But actual word count really has very little to do with it. It’s more that longer content has room to squeeze in the things Google really looks for: keywords, outbound links, internal links, bullet points, numbered lists, and so on.
So, saying 2000 to 2500 words is the ‘optimal’ length for content isn’t really based on anything solid – but it is clear that long-form content can be beneficial in terms of SEO. Does that mean all your blogs really should be 2500 words long? No. Make no mistake – if you want 2500 words, we can do 2500 words. Not a problem. But we’re thinking of your poor readers. It takes around 8-10 minutes to read a 2500 word post, and who’s got time for that sort of commitment these days? Who can even concentrate that lo… oh look, a kitten dressed up as a wizard. Aww!
Having established that, whatever it was, let’s look at sensible lengths for various types of content.
The average blog post should ideally be between 300 and 600 words. Your standard blog isn’t supposed to be an in-depth, comprehensive exploration of a particular topic; it’s supposed to introduce an idea, discuss it, and leave readers with some type of takeaway, so keeping it short and snappy is good.
Listicles should be as long as they need to be to cover each of the points sufficiently. We’re often asked to write something like ‘21 Signs That Your Parrot Is Noticeably More Intelligent Than You’ and have it come in at 400 words. That’s 20 words per item! It’s barely enough to even write the name of the item, never mind talk about it.
‘How to’ guides will differ depending on how difficult the thing you’re describing is. How to put on a pair of trousers? There’s probably no more than four steps involved in that, even if you’re not sure where the trousers actually are, so perhaps 200 words max. How to restore your first Renaissance masterpiece without becoming an international laughing stock? More steps here, and the steps are likely to be somewhat more detailed than the trousers one. What about something in the middle? How to fend off an angry marmot, for example, or how to build an IKEA table without crying. We’d go with 1000 to 1500 words, depending on marmot/table size.
Pillar pages are designed to provide a complete overview of a particular topic, so they’ll need to be lengthy so you can cover it all. About 4000 words is a good rule of thumb, according to HubSpot. Each cluster should be between 500 and 1000 words to make sure you can talk about each aspect in more detail.
White papers are some of the longest pieces of content you should be publishing. HubSpot recommends that they should be between 6 and 50 pages long, but that includes all visual aspects such as charts and graphs. So there’s usually not as much written content as you might think; about 3000 to 5000 words.
Should you break the writing rules?
Now that we’ve looked at how long each piece of content should be, it’s time to forget everything you’ve just learned. These word counts are guidelines. They’re not rules.
Take a look at American author Seth Godin’s blog. Each post is usually under 200 words, and sometimes less than 100. He says what he needs to say. No more, no less. And it works. There’s no waffle. His stuff is direct, concise, to the point, and perfectly proves that there are no rules here.
Does content length actually matter?
Of course it does. But it only matters if the content is good. Publishing a blog that hits that magical spot between 2000 and 2500 words is 100% pointless if it’s a load of futile, wearisome hogwash.
That’s why, although you should definitely be thinking about content length, you also need to make sure you’re creating great content that really drives results. And that’s exactly what we’re here to help with.