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How Long Should a Post Be?

reader-questionsmistergin asks – “I notice most of your blog entries are short. I have a habit of not necessarily being long winded, but very detailed. I want to cover all the bases and make the article “full”.

However, I realize that I start running into posts that scroll through 2 sometimes 3 pages. I keep paragraphs short, try to use to accentuate, and bold/color where possible, but I still can’t help but feeling that while my site is great for content, some folks may not want to read all that.

Any suggestions on the length of my articles? I keep thinking that right now I want to build “pillar articles” as I believe you called them, and then link to them later on. It seems to me that long and detailed articles now will help get me indexed and linked, and then shorter articles may keep the feed readers happy.”

Hmmm – one of the longer questions that I’ve been asked (sorry – couldn’t resist).

Let me answer with six points:

1. Both Can Work

I believe a blog can be successful based around both short and long posts. Check out sites like Engadget or Gizmodo for short post sites (often newsy based ones like short posts) or Read Write Web or Steve Pavlina for longer, deep and/or analytical ones.

I think the key is to develop a rhythm in the style and focus of your blogging so that readers come expecting to get what you offer them.

2. You’ll Attract Readers Who Like Your Style

You’ll probably find that the type of post that you write will attract a certain type of reader also. For example I know with Steve Pavlina that I often hear extreme views expressed about his writing. Some don’t have the patience for his long posts – others thrive on it and wouldn’t have him change at all.

3. Consider the Life Stage of Your Blog

One factor to consider is the age and life stage of your blog. One strategy that many bloggers use in the early days of their blogs is to build up a good number of longer ‘pillar‘ or ‘cornerstone‘ posts on a blog. These can help you to build credibility but will also be articles that link to later on as you blog.

4. A Tip for Long Posts

If you are someone who goes with a longer post strategy I would suggest that you do think about making your posts scannable as most people who read content online don’t read every word. Work hard at drawing people’s eye down the page to ensure they get to the end of your posts.

Overall I’d advise bloggers to be yourself, experiment with different styles of blogging until you find something that works for you and then go with it.

5. Post Length and Links

Your comment about longer posts getting more links is an interesting one. To some extent I think you have a point. I’m sure if I did some analysis of the posts that get linked to most on my blogs I’d find that they tend to be on the medium to longer side – however it’s not always the case. In fact some of the smaller posting blogs that I mentioned above get linked to ALOT (check out the first post in my list of suggest reading below on A-Listers).

6. Post Length and SEO

I’m sure there are a few SEO types lurking around that can give better advice on this – but from those I’ve talked to the recommendation has generally been that very long posts can actually hurt your Search Engine ranking and that a better approach is to have posts well focussed upon one topic and of a length somewhere between 400 – 800 words (although there’s lot of variation on what ‘experts’ say). Having said this – I think most good SEO types will tell you to write posts at the length that it takes you to communicate what you want to say.

Are you a long or short post blogger? What works for you best as a blogger and as a reader?

Read more on this topic at:

• Frequent Short Posts – A Secret of A-List Bloggers
• The Long and Short of Blog Posts
• Post Length – How Long Should a Blog Post Be?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. DweezelJazz says:

    Hi Darren,

    I recently started DweezelJazz blog. I discovered your blog yesterday and I’ve already found it very helpful. Thank you for your honest open style.

    Cheers

  2. Rhys says:

    I most definitely ramble with my posts, and I’m getting complaints. It’s my natural style though. Concise is not in my nature ;)

  3. Jeremy says:

    Darren,

    That’s a very good rundown of how to look at post lengths. Thank you very much for the reference to pillar posts – I am planning a redesign that is based around such posts – but seeing articles written about them is just another push in the right direction.

    Thank you for a wonderful website – keep pushing out good content.

  4. Trent says:

    Longer is better if you have a purpose for the length and can drive the readers along through the content. Highlight your main points in bold so readers can skim if they want, and also make sure that it’s easy to print, because I hear from my readers that they print some of my articles.

  5. Desty says:

    I post long posts when it comes to serious content posts (pillar). I usually break the post into 2 parts so it won’t be as long; I get a 2nd post out of it that way, for good or bad.

  6. Pua says:

    great to hear what problogger has to say about length of posts. with not even 1 year of blogging under my belt, i decided for the ‘pillar’ or ‘cornerstone’ posts to build content for my hawaii blog – how else can SE find it?! – still always considering what is of major interest for a visitor to hawaii. expect to be able to switch to shorter posts some time down the blooging road. pua

  7. Lori says:

    I find myself rambling on so much that I get off topic. Because I am still a newbie, I feel like I need to hurry up and get a post out there. Now I am learning to take my time and write a more productive post. Details are my weakness….but my posts are getting much better and have come a long way.

  8. Shane says:

    The length of my posts has varied with the intent of the blog. On my personal blog I have a tendency to write longer posts, even going so far as to break them up over several days because they are so long. On my informational blogs, I try to keep my posts short and to the point.

  9. The title and the first few sentences of each post are much more important than the post’s actual length. If you do a good job with that the readers will want more and more, and people who are new to your blog will get sucked in, at least that’s the way I look at it.

    Just write with your natural style, do you like explaining every little detail of every little thing about every little topic on your blog, or do you like writing short, concise, yet informative posts?

  10. Hey Darren,

    Great post!

    One added, thought…In response to a question about his classic long-format ads, legendary direct-response copywriter, Joe Sugarman, revealed that an ad can never be too lonng, only too boring.

    In my mind, this applies to articles and blogposts, too. I’ve seen three paragraph posts that lost me by the end of the first paragraph and three page posts that I couldn’t stop reading even if I wanted.

    As Sugarman says – the fundamental purpose of each sentence is to get you to read the next. I’ve found that when I keep that principle in the back of my head when I write, whether it be longer-format content for the web or direct-response, it keeps me lubing up the slippery slope and the length part pretty much takes care of itself.

    Much peace,

    Jonathan Fields

    PS – totally recommend Sugarman’s “The Adweek Copywriting Handbook” as an awesome resource if you like to keep your writing on the longer side

  11. I find I’m starting to shrink my posts. Oh, yes, there will be the occassional essay. After all, it’s my blog and if I want to blow then, damnit, I’ll blow. But if I can get my point across in a smaller post, then all the better. Faster for me to write; easier for my visitor to read; everyone wins.

    Cheers!

  12. As Darren indicated, it often depends on the content that you are writing.

    If you are writing about a new video that just came out which shows new and exciting ways to use Twitter (is that even possible?), then you can just say, “I love Twitter, and here’s a link to the video”.

    However, if you are trying to teach someone how to deal with an angst-filled teenager, a lazy spouse, or their boss who acts like a complete jerk, it is usually going to take more than just a few hundred words. :)

    Once again, it boils down to whether or not you are writing content for your readers, or for the search engines.

    - Aaron

  13. 60 in 3 says:

    I’ve found that longer posts broken up with clear headings work for me. Each section of the post has its own descriptive heading which lets people quickly scan through and get to the information they want.

    Gal

  14. cyber_goat says:

    short post is better for me. Beside i am using blogger.
    Writing long post make my blog tooo long.

  15. The length of my post depends on the subject of the post. In some posts I talk about some new drawing technique I’m trying. Those posts usually aren’t very long (200 to 400 words). In other posts I want to tell a story about something. Those posts tend to be much longer (800 to 1000 words).

  16. S. Weasel says:

    I never read the long ones. I have the attention span of a fruitfly.

    When I find my own posts getting long, I start looking for ways to chop them into multiple posts. Generally, the long ones deal with more than one aspect of the same topic, so why not squeeze multiple entries out of it?

    I’m betting I’m not the only fruitfly on the internet.

  17. Chase Roper says:

    Most all of my posts are some sort of commentary. So I try to stick to the journalistic rule of thumb on editorials. That would be about a 200 words/3 paragraph form. I don’t always stick to that but it’s my goal when I write.

    1st paragraph: The issue

    2nd paragraph: my opinion/what this issue implies

    3rd paragraph: my resolution/question

    that’s what I hope for in a best case scenario.

  18. foodette says:

    I have a tendency to be long-winded, so I use my best effort to keep things as concise as possible. I love to write, but I figure that if someone wanted to read a book, he wouldn’t be on the Internet. My restaurant reviews are hard to keep short – there is so much info on the food that I want to put in there. So, I try to break up those posts with posts on food products (cheese curds, anyone?) or posts on the restaurant industry in my area. I am still pretty new to this – hopefully it will work. The only thing I am missing is pictures…I would keep going on this topic, but look how long this comment is already!

  19. At Home Mom says:

    For me, it depends. On my At Home Mom blog, I tend to write longer posts that cover the basics of certain home businesses, but there are a few shorter posts in there, too. On my other two blogs, I tend to keep things shorter and easier to read because I don´t need to add as much information as I do on the wahm blog.

    It´s interesting that most of the people who commented here use longer posts. Does that say something about who is more likely to comment? The short posters don´t seem to be showing up much!

  20. Wei-Yee Chan says:

    I hate being long-winded. My style is to get straight to the point.

  21. Jacqueline says:

    I use a mix of short and long posts on all my blogs, but I like to break up the long ones in the form of lists, bulleted points, or topic headings. I’ve found that it’s also important to use shorter paragraphs when writing for the web (as opposed to print – I’m a freelance writer so I do a mix of projects). I also like to bold or italicize certain phrases – think soundbite – or maybe I should say soundbyte.

  22. terra says:

    I am definitely a rambler. Half of the time, I am even cutting things out of the final product because I just went on waaay too long. Like the person who asked the question… I too like to be detailed.

  23. Adam Snider says:

    I think it depends on a lot of things. The length of a post will vary depending on the topic, how frequently new posts are published, and the writer’s natural style.

    Some topics will warrant longer, more in-depth discussions than others. If you post three or four posts a day, you’ll probably want to keep them on the shorter side so your readers don’t suffer from information overload. If you only publish that many times per week on the other hand, then you’ll probably want to write longer posts.

    Of course, you should always write according to your natural style. It’s good to mix up your style every once in a while, but if you force yourself to write in a way that isn’t natural for you, I think it will come across as being awkward, and your readers will be turned off by that. As Darren said, if you write in your natural style, you will eventually find people who enjoy that style.

  24. John Hewitt says:

    I have a tendency to over discuss topics as well. For my new blog I took a cue from Darren’s recent GWP and started concentrating on fives: Five Poetry Lessons You Can Learn from Star Wars, Five Lessons Freelancers Can Learn From Paris Hilton’s Three Days in Jail, Five Ways to Spend $1000 on your Blog, Five Reasons Blogging is Better than Freelancing. I like it because it keeps my posts down to a reasonable length, between 500 and 700 words mostly, and allows me to break up the text nicely with headings. It doesn’t work for all posts, of course, but I find that it provides a nice framework for a lot of topics.

  25. Adam Snider says:

    Oh, one more thing: if you find that you’re consistently writing extremely long posts, you might want to break them into smaller posts that you can publish as part of a series on a given topic. This is something that Darren (and others) have recommended in the past, and I think it works very well.

  26. I try to be concise and jam pack my thoughts in less than 800 words. If it spills over and the topic warrants, I’ll break it up into multi part posts. It’s a nice way to just have extra content even.

  27. Ed says:

    As so often, the definitive answer is “it depends.”

    It depends on who (or what) is your audience. If it’s plain seo-strategy, you want keyword-rich writing which hammers home your blog’s focus. If on the other hand, you are writing for humans, you might want to put down the hammer and pick up a scalpel.

    Like food, writing is best when the menu varies. Mix it up by giving readers a few handfuls of popcorn, followed by a hearty serving of meat-and-potato originality topped off with some short zingers.

    But in the end, write posts as long as required to fully outline your thought. Don’t mangle an essay by shoe-horning it into an epigram or plod on for pages what could be said with a sentence. It all depends.

  28. steve says:

    From reading my blog to reading some of your blogs here in the comments section I have the feeling that i “just dont get it” in terms of blogging at the moment. However i guess if 400+ words is considered long then most of mine are short posts with a few longer ones dotted inbetween

  29. Travis says:

    I am definitely in the combo camp. How it usually works for me is –

    Short post if I am following up some other’s bloggers post with an extended comment on my site

    Long post if I am writing an original article

  30. jgodsey says:

    i find a screen and a half to be the maximum length of text.
    if the post is loaded with images, three.

  31. I like to switch it up. I will post a series of short posts then a really long post with substance.

    I think it is hard to attract readers to a blog that has a novel every day, or one that is little more than a quip a day.

  32. John Wesley says:

    Longer posts definitely get more links, at least in my experience. I think the success of Engadget et al using short posts is misleading. Unless you’re a Tech/Political news giant breaking dozens of stories a day it’s hard to create value in short form. For the average blogger, long, clear, scan-able posts give the best results.

  33. Ryan says:

    What about breaking up longer posts into separate pages? WordPress, and I assume other blog programs, have a tag that you can insert and create multiple page posts.

    Although I really like the serial posting idea for a longer topic and may have to do that if I come up with a topic that fits the idea.

  34. aries327 says:

    I tend to write long posts. I’m not sure how many people actually finish reading them, but I tend to think that many of the posts are easy to read. Occasionally I’ll throw out a shorter post, just to mix it up, and I think people might like that. However, in my opinion I think the people who return to my blog expect a longer post.

    While a long post can be intimidating, it’s really rewarding and refreshing to find good writing out there. The blogs I return to regularly are well-written and it doesn’t matter to me if they’re long or short. If the writing is only about getting the most hits, I might say a person is missing the point. It’s great to be heard, but writing is as much for the writer as the reader.

  35. George says:

    Great question. I have had people complain that they would like to see longer posts and then others complain that my post was too long. It really does depend on your reader base.

    I think the best thing is to write the length of post you are comfortable writing. If you enjoy writing long posts, write long posts. If you enjoy writing short posts, write short posts. I have tried going out of my comfort zone to write longer posts and it’s really not a lot of fun for me. So most of the time, I stick with shorter posts. I also don’t like reading longer posts.

  36. Roberta says:

    I’m in the habit of writing shorter posts, and that’s primarily because I have ADD. I go to sites with posts that aren’t so long because I have the attention span of a peanut. Even though my posts are short, I’m hoping that the content and my personality will help readers see my points.

  37. Matt Keegan says:

    Most of my blog articles have grown in length, with few being under 300 words, with many approaching 1000 words. It isn’t because I am verbose, rather I prefer to not only explain my point but to give complete answers whenever, wherever possible.

  38. Jay Wilson says:

    My short and mid-sized posts are my money makers. For some reason, my readers don’t respond to my lengthier posts as I think my punchy style doesn’t hold up well over the course of 500+ words.

  39. In my opinion the length of a post should be the one that suits your style, figure what´s your own style and stick to it.

    You should never go against your “nature” and post articles shoter/longer than you can, it will only hurt the article itself.

    Anyway, your article says everything

  40. Bryan says:

    Thanks for the informative post Darren. I’ve been blogging for 3 months now and in the back of my mind I have been wondering about how long my posts should be. I actually just checked the word count of my posts, and they are generally 300-600 words in length, so I’m happy with that. I am keen on trying some longer posts in the future, as a bit of an experiment.

  41. Steven says:

    I definitely agree with the scanable point for longer posts.

  42. Melanie says:

    I try to keep my posts specific and to the point, but I’d say they are medium length.

    I often use lists, however sometimes I wonder if this is the best way to present information. Separating information with headings is also good, as people can scan to find what they want to read.

  43. Jeri says:

    I try to mix it up…

    My posts range from 200 words to 800 words, but I’m trying to break more posts up and get better about being single-topic focused. Over the course of a month, I may have:

    - one series of 3-4 interlinked mid-length posts that together make a very long article
    - 5-6 longer 800 word posts
    - 10-12 mid-length 400-600 word posts
    -8-10 shorter 200-300 word posts.

    I like chunking info so it scans more easily, with lists, tables, headings, blockquotes, etc. I also try to be aware of screen white space, the screen ‘fold’ and whether images would help a particular post.

  44. Sterling says:

    I’m all for weeding out people by following my own style and personality, so I don’t worry to much about how long or short it is.

    I’m less about having the most readers and more about having people that click with me and want what I have to give to them.

    That being said, I find that the longer it is the more comments and links I get. Lucky for Jay and I, we are both pretty long winded.

  45. Another great post Darren.

    For SEO I’ve found that 300 words or more is ideal but to make sure that the post talks about the same topic. If you veer off into a new direction you lose your rankings because the page is too scattered – the keyword density drops too low.

    If I’m writing a long post I like to divide it into parts. I might do one part today and follow up with a second part tomorrow. It keeps it easy on the eyes as well as gives the readers an incentive to come back the next day and check in on the new post.

    Also, I’ve found that if you break up the text with bolded points (just like you have done with this list) it makes it easier to read and your eyes don’t tire as much.

  46. Natasha says:

    The method I find works best is to make certain posts expandable. There are various codes on the net you can find to do this and I’ll link to one that works for me at the bottom of this comment.

    What it means is that you write a summary of what your post will be about in one paragraph and then place a link to the full post beneath it. When users click on the link, the post will expand to include the full content. It’s a neat way to keep the main page of your blog tidy while still offering full content.

    Link to flexible read more for long posts: http://toniradex.blogspot.com/2005/08/flexible-read-more-for-long-post.html

  47. Mistergin:

    At last a question I can contribute to, and succinctly as well. A blog post should be long enough and not longer..

    To think you can make a “full” post on any subject is disingenuous at the least. No one knows all about _anything_ so “full” is never more than you were able to make it “full”. Choose the points you want to make … not everything you know … make them and depart.

  48. For me I am definitely a short post reader. Ive heard in some places that on average, people will hold attention for 30 mins for a speech, movie etc. I reckon it will be much much shorter for blogs posts, I would try 2 minutes..

  49. Ayush T says:

    I run a blog where the authors offer their unadulterated opinions on a variety of relevant issues. I, personally, find that sometimes I have so much to say that a long post is necessary. Then again for topics that I have covered previously, a shorter post suffices, otherwise I would be repeating myself unnecessarily.

    A shorter post doesn’t mean the quality is any worse. Just that a lot of what needs to be said has been said before, in my case anyway.

  50. How long?

    Long enough to make your point; short enough to make your point.

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