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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. “The greatest writer is one who can help the reader the most in the least amount of time.” -someone probably smarter and richer than me.

    Personally, though, I like making long posts with useless content. “Bore ‘em till they hurt.” That’s my motto.

  2. Keeping posts to the point works for me. If they start getting too long then I happily accept I have another post for another day!

  3. Erin Fogarty says:

    My theory is that long posts don’t get read. They may have fabulous content, but people get bored too easily and they don’t want to dedicate more than 10 minutes to read a single post. I’ve found that splitting a long post into a series is a good way to keep people coming back. They read the first part, and then realize there’s more to come. That gets them excited to come back and hear the rest of it.

  4. glenn-a says:

    Mixing long, medium and short items always seems to work in any publishing situation. Great item, but I’d take another look at that headline! Proofreading also a priority item!

  5. TheLocoMono says:

    My question in regards to short and long posts is how does posts directly affect the amount of server space and bandwith?

    I am curious as to when to upgrade to more space for my blogs in the future. Does posts even take up bytes? Because it sounds like when adding up over the long run, a zillion long posts may take up more space than it is worth in expenses.

  6. S. Weasel says:

    Ha! Nice catch, glenn-a. I’ve read that most typos published happen in headlines. When you’re proofing, you tend to skip the headlines and go right to the copy.

    So your mistakes come out in big, bold type…

  7. Talal says:

    It depends for the topic. Some topics might be long and have lots of details; on the other hand, there are some topics could be short such as sports posts :)

  8. When long posts are broken up (like this original article above), it is easier for the eye to follow and you can get away with being wordy. When I began blogging, I used MSWord (btw, bad idea- formatting doesn’t convey) and wouldn’t let it go over one page long. That’s just how I roll! :)

  9. Jim Walton says:

    I tend to be long winded as well and have to work hard to narrow down my post sometimes. I think we, in general, have a short attention span and I know I often don’t finish long posts, I just move on, so I think I shouldn’t expect my readers to stick it out on any of my extra-long posts.

    I’m trying to learn to focus my writing because I tend to chase different tangents in a single post that I never intended to address. I’ve heard it said that as a writer, you should create an outline on your topic. I’m not there yet but I try to identify the point I’m trying to make and stick to that point.

    Enough said, I could go on but won’t. :)

  10. Leo says:

    I wish I had a little bit of his problem, almost all of my posts are very short, and I have to really work at lengthening them.

  11. Nahush says:

    I think both types of posts should work. We have before us two live examples. First is this very blog (for shorter posts) by Darren, and second is that of Steve Pavlina(for longer posts). I am a fan of both.

    Besides, it also depends upon the purpose of the blog. For example my purpose in starting this blog http://www.caselaws.blogspot.com is to provide to the reader succintly and in just one paragraph the point which the particular court case decides. On the other hand I have this blog http://www.successmantras.blogspot.com containing little longer posts

  12. Jeremy Hobbs says:

    I write the way I read…. I run a review blog, and unless it’s a music review, things start getting a little long winded around 300-350 words. I suppose it all depends on what your content is; a new style of potato chips really only needs 200 or so words; an essay on European economics may require a few more….

  13. Anne Wayman says:

    It seems like I always or almost always write short… which are the types of blogs I like to read best… bite sized.

    Anne Wayman
    http://www.thegoldenpencil.com