Today I plan on discussing a hotly debated topic that seems to be rather popular among internet marketing circles around the web as of late; are there significant advantages to writing longer blog posts?
Many internet marketers insist on doing the bare minimum in order to scrape by, creating posts that are relatively short. If you ask any freelance article writer, they will likely tell you that the most frequently asked for content is between 500-700 words in length. Why 500 words? Is this ideal?
The easy answer is NO. Short pieces often don’t provide enough value or in depth information that readers crave. The most experienced marketers always preach the importance of creating content that people WANT to read. The phrase “content is king” has been parroted to death, but so few are actually following the advice.
I’ve done an extensive amount of research and what I found was rather intriguing. Instead of providing you with some sage “guru” advice that is based on personal opinion, I am going to present you with numerous sources of data so that you may form your own conclusions as to whether or not word count actually makes a difference.
In order to truly gain insight into the topic at hand, we need to prove that word count actually influences a number of important factors. These factors being;
If in fact the overall length of a blog does affect these factors, then we can conclusively determine whether or not longer posts are more beneficial.
The first important factor we need to examine is whether or not longer posts rank higher than shorter posts. Of course, this is no easy feat as there are literally millions, if not billions of active blog posts indexed in the major search engines.
Obviously, neither you nor I have the means to actually examine each and every blog post, but what we can do, is take a large sample size and determine the average word count per post and where it’s current standings are within the Google SERP’s.
Luckily for us, SerpIQ has already done this. Below is a graph that measures the average word count of websites in the top 10 positions on Google.
As you can see, not only do the top 10 posts contain over 2,000 words, but it’s fairly evident that the longer posts rank higher as well. On average, 10th position pages have 400 less words on the page than first position pages. Based on the information provided, we can assume that Google prefers longer blog posts.
It’s hard to say, but we do know that Google’s entire algorithm is geared towards providing the best user experience. Longer posts are likely chosen to rank higher because they allow for more information to be passed along.
It’s hard to provide the in-depth detail that people want within the confines of 500 words. We’ll chalk this up as a win for the “long post enthusiasts” out there.
The number of backlinks not only indicates the popularity of a post, but is also extremely influential in how a page will rank.
Since we’ve already determined that longer posts do tend to rank higher, it would only make sense that they also receive more backlinks as well. Let’s see if our hypothesis is correct…
In 2012, the popular analytics website, Moz, analyzed over 500 of their previous blog posts. Take a look at the graphs below.
Moz analyzed all of the content on their site to find out whether there was a relationship between the overall length of their posts and the amount of backlinks they received.
The graph shows the amount of posts vs the amount of content. As you can see, Moz creates some insanely long posts (one apparently is 35k!). Now take a look at the graph below. It shows the amount of links that point to those posts in graph above.
Notice any similarities? There’s clearly a trend between the amount of backlinks posts receive and the overall length of the post.
You don’t need to be Stephen Hawking to see that there is an obvious correlation between post length and total number of backlinks received. I mean, come on, they’re practically identical!
Let’s take a look at our next factor…
This is an interesting measure because social signals are integral in showing the overall popularity of a blog post. If people are sharing the content on social media, then they obviously gained something from the content.
Even though the last 2 factors are important, a blog post doesn’t NEED to rank within the SERP’s or have ANY backlinks at all to receive traffic. Once a piece of content goes viral on social media, an avalanche of traffic is sure to follow, making social signals quite possibly the most important metric to measure.
Fellow marketer and owner of the popular website, Quicksprout, Neil Patel, decided to categorize all of his 327 blog posts. The first category was for blog posts that were fewer than 1,500 words, while the second category contained all of the blog posts that were 1,500 words in length or longer.
He then analyzed how many Tweets and Facebook likes each category received on average.
Longer posts triumphed yet again! Posts that were under 1,500, on average received 174.6 tweets and 59.3 Facebook likes. Posts that were over 1,500 words, on average received 293.5 tweets and 72.7 Facebook likes.
Statistically, blog posts that contained 1,500 words or more received 68.1% more Tweets and 22.6% more Facebook Likes on average. That’s not too shabby!
The amount of comments on a blog post is a sign that a certain piece resonates with the audience. It also encourages other readers to view the author as a potential authority.
Since longer posts have the ability to pack in more information than shorter posts, it allows the reader more room to agree or disagree with the message of the post. If the message is strong enough, then it will likely lead to more comments, right?
In order to determine whether content length influences the amount of comments a post receives, we are going to take a look at a case study performed by Neil Napier at the Online Marketing Laboratory.
For this case study, Neil took 80 different blog posts from 8 well known IM blogs. All of the blogs chosen have around the same power ranking, just to ensure that it didn’t throw the results off.
Here are the posts that Neil chose…
The url’s that are highlighted in red are what neil refers to as “outliers”. Outliers are data samples that are numerically distant from the rest. Outliers are usually thrown away when gathering statistical data so as not to skew the results too heavily one way or the other.
On average, the posts analyzed were 1,340 words in length and accrued an average of 83 comments each. Neil then takes it a step further…
After getting rid of the outliers, Neil splits the remaining 70 blog posts into 2 groups;
Group 1 – averaged under 608 words.
Group 2 – averaged over 2066 words.
He then found the average amount of comments per group.
Group 1 – 72 comments
Group 2 – a whopping 93 comments (21 more comments on average)
From the case study supplied by Neil Napier, it’s fair to say that longer posts do in fact tend to receive more comments than shorter posts.
Not Every Site is the Same
Based on everything we’ve read so far, it’s obvious that longer, more detailed posts are evidently treated much differently than those with a lesser word count.
Rankings, backlinks received, social engagement, and comments all seem to be positively influenced by longer posts.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. Based on Alexa rankings, I analyzed the top 15 most popular English speaking blogs in the world. Of those 15, I found that 6 of contain a vast majority of blog posts with less than 500 words. These blog were.
It’s important to realize that these are “news” sites with massive marketing budgets that thrive on publishing dozens of posts a day in hopes that one will gain enough attention to go viral via social media.
For the rest of us that don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on content creation and advertising, it’s far more advisable to work on building a brand based on quality information.
If you’ve learned anything from this post at all, you know that content that is packed full of good stuff will have far more success than the shorter, less informative posts.
So, go ahead and ditch the rinky dink 500 word posts and start creating some REAL content.