Are Long Blog Posts Really A Good Idea?

Wherever I turn these days I find suggestions that long blog posts are the way to go.

Need more search engine traffic? Write longer blog posts. How about more social media shares? Write even longer blog posts. Cure for cancer? Well maybe not but you get the idea.

But is it really great advice?

The answer is…. it depends – at least from my perspective as a blogger and as a reader.

Attention Spans Aren’t What They Were

We live in a fast-paced world in which we’re bombarded with information 24 hours a day.

Time isn’t always on our side. Yet every free moment we’re drawn to our mobile phones for more information.

People make up their mind in seconds whether something’s worth reading. When faced with a huge block of text they may choose not to read.

They’ll either find the information they’re seeking elsewhere or they’ll move on.

If you’re lucky they may scan your post first to see if it’s worth their while.

But then if you haven’t structured it well they probably won’t.

Info

The average attention span of the modern human being is about half as long as whatever you’re trying to tell them.

Meg Rosoff

Blog Posts Shouldn’t Waffle On

Nobody wants to read 6,000 words of waffle when 500 well written words would have done.

Enhance posts with things like infographics and click to Tweets instead. They can add value without increasing reading time too much.

It’s also good to write in a conversational tone. If you have a tendency to waffle though, you should cull any extra words that creep in.

Something I use to help with that is the Hemingway app.

It can’t tell you if you’re waffling; there’s no waffleometer. Though it can point out text that’s difficult to read or if you’re over-using adverbs.

Are You Writing For People Or Search Engines?

Since Google introduced “In-depth Articles” long blog posts are the way to go.

Yet, as someone who reads a lot online, I don’t read many posts that are longer than 1,500 words.

Not because I can’t but because I’m busy. My interest often wanes after that amount of text.

I’m also less inclined to read a blog post if it appears to be a list post. I’m fed up with them.

If you share 500 ways to do something because it builds on another post you’ve read, go ahead.

But ask yourself who you’re actually writing that stuff for. Are you adding value or just trying to leapfrog them in the search engine rankings?

Is Your Blog Post Length Driven By Ego?

Frog Prince

If you write a long blog post do you think it shows off your writing ability? Or is it a case of “mine’s longer than yours”?

Blog posts should be as long as it takes to get your point across and no longer.

Writing posts of two thousand or more words might seem like a good idea but I can’t imagine readers wanting to absorb those long blog posts week in week out.

Longer blog posts intermingled with shorter more concise thoughts work well.

It will also depend on the type of material you’re writing about though.

So Writing Long Blog Posts Is Bad Then?

As I said at the beginning, it depends. For the reasons I’ve mentioned, I think it can be.

Writing long blog posts isn’t wrong and writing short blog posts isn’t wrong.

Maintaining a reader’s interest through the first paragraph and beyond is the key. Simple as that.

Perhaps the thing to do is to sleep on what you’ve written and go back refreshed the next day.

I find that works when it comes to editing. I’m much more ruthless with cutting out filler content.

Don’t forget to break up text with sub-headings, images and bullet points.

It all helps with making a blog post easier to read.

Long Blog Posts Can Work

There are occasions where long blog posts do work. By that I mean anything over 1,500 words.

“How To” posts and case studies tend to be longer in format because they need to cover all bases.

You’d feel short changed if someone showed you how to do something but left out key points.

Some people prefer videos to long blog posts when it comes to these things. For me it depends on what it’s about.

If I want to follow along on my PC, then video is usually no good to me as I don’t want to keep pausing the video.

That’s where a long blog post works with plenty of screenshots and bite-sized tips.

Some Interesting Thoughts From Around The Web

What Do You Think?

Do you prefer long blog posts or short ones? Is that different when you’re writing a blog post to when you’re the reader?

How does blog post length correlate with comments, social shares and search engine traffic?

  • Thank you so much Tim for the shout out!

    Neil Patel is correct that longer posts give the search engines something more to chew on. Jon Morrow is correct that a long post is only readable if it has been properly edited. And Ramsey Taplin is correct that you can’t say everything you need to in a shorter post.

    I am honoured to be grouped with such blogging heros!

    There are plenty of other gurus who have gained success with short posts, notably Seth Godin. But then he doesn’t need to worry about SEO, already has a ginormous following, is well known for his bite-sized pieces of wisdom and is an expert at captivating writing.

    • You’re welcome Alice!

      I think it’s a balancing act when it comes to writing longer blog posts. Keeping people’s attention over wanting any SEO benefits can be tricky.

      Sometimes even the likes of Neil Patel etc don’t keep my attention because they’ve overdone it on the post length. Then again sometimes with Seth Godin I want more!

      I’m a tricky customer :-).

      I was only too happy to include you in my recommended reading from around the web. Your post is a very useful read.

      • Thank you Tim. I like to cover all tastes and situations by offering an Infographic for those with short attention spans and a lengthy description for those who expect a bit more. That way everyone is happy.

    • That makes perfect sense Alice.

      I will try that in the future.

  • Hey Tim spot on mate, absolutely spot on.

    As a consumer of online content, I hate reading long blog posts, unless it’s been formatted in a way that makes reading it easy.

    I’m guilty. I put my hands up and admit I’ve been writing some seriously long posts for the past year. But I’m making some changes and will introduce shorter posts in the new year.

    For a long time I’ve admired bloggers who are able to write short blog posts, yet still make a HUGE impact. Jim Connolly and Seth Godin to name a few, however these folks have established themselves.

    I think once a blogger has made a name for themselves, have gotten the attention of their audience and have a decent following behind them, they no longer need to write mammoth sized blog posts.

    Great post dude. Have a great weekend.

    • Thanks Fabrizio.

      I’ve been away in the Lake District this last week and didn’t take a laptop with me so apologies I’m only just responding to your comment.

      I decided long ago now that I’ll only make a blog post as long as it needs to be to get my point across. I read a post by Ramsay Taplin which suggests that he adds many extra things after finalising a draft post.

      Personally I would say I do the opposite. I remove things to make it easier to read. Still, he’s a much more successful blogger than me so what do I know! 🙂

  • Hi Tim, nice to see you back blogging 🙂 I prefer shorter posts as a reader. There are some long ones I do read, if they are instructional and I need a step by step guide. Other than that, I don’t think longer posts are necessary except for good old Google 🙂 Great topic Tim!

    • Thanks Lisa. I’m glad to be back!

      I’m exactly the same as you on the length of blog posts. If they’re too long I get bored and move on. I don’t even bother skimming through posts any more!

      I’ve been so busy with the day to day family stuff that I don’t read as many blogs as I used to or should. So keeping things to the point and without extra padding gets my thumbs up every day.

  • Hi Tim

    You know this topic has been a debate. For me it depends but as a reader too, I also lose interest if it is too long.

    So I believe that what matters is the quality of the post and like you brilliantly shared, we should think about our readers when creating content

    Thanks for sharing. Take care

    • I don’t read quite a few blogs as often as I did because they’re overdoing the post length. I guess they have their reasons and maybe I’m not their target market.

      Still, it is a fine balance between writing for your audience and trying to achieve SEO results. I’ve got to the stage where I don’t worry so much about any of that and just write until I have nothing more to say!

  • Ashley Faulkes

    A complex discussion indeed Tim. I think my medium-length posts do best (and just checked analytics seems to be the case. But then the question is – what is your goal?

    You also have to be very careful with the – I don’t like…

    You blog is not written for you (mostly, although a little therapy helps).

    A few clients of mine say similar things – I don’t like…xyz
    Wrong answer.
    What is important is what your readers, customers want.
    And to test it.

    So, my challenge to you is to back up your claim with data :> That is something I have been thinking more about of late.

    What does your analytics say?

    And even then, is it that simple? longer posts – less time on page – means people hate long posts?

    Maybe

    or perhaps the post sucked or the topic does not match the expectation.

    Oh, so many things to consider.

    But I wrote a little bit on this in a (long) post I did on SEO content (which was designed to rank and get me links – and impress Rand Fishkin! haha) and Rand’s quote in there is key – its not about pleasing people or search engines (with your long or short content) – its about pleasing people who use search engines.

    So the answer is the post should be as complete and helpful as necessary. Not long for longs sake. Or short for it’s own sake either.

    • It’s a conundrum I guess you could say, Ash? You rightly point out it does all depend on what other people want to see from you.

      Not everyone wants the same thing either. I stopped following a lot of blogs because their posts were too long for me to spend time reading them. Whilst others really like to get engrossed in stuff I’m sure.

      I’ll check out the post you wrote on SEO content. I think I remember reading it but it’s always worth checking these things out again. I’m sure it isn’t/wasn’t too too long :-).

      I may be going against the grain here but I actually do write my blog for me.

      I also don’t worry too much about analytics etc these days. I almost gave up blogging altogether because of those sorts of things.

      So now I just treat it as an exercise to keep my mind busy and to talk about things I’m interested in. If others are interested too, great but I’ll still keep writing if they’re not.

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