350, 500, 1,000, 1,500, 2,000... all of these numbers have been thrown at us when it comes to creating blog content. Some sources say shorter blogs are better because your audience doesn't have time to read. Other sources say longer blogs are ideal because they build credibility, authority and SERPs. Finally, there are still more sources that claim shorter is better because it does everything a long blog does in a short, sweet package. So, which is it?
OK, so lately I've seen "shorter is better" circulating around on the Internet. While we DO have only 33 seconds to grab attention on a home page, a long-form blog over 2,000 words will actually get you noticed in search engine rankings. If you have a really good, poignant message in 100 words, but Google never ranks it-good luck Charley! Getting found is most important, and you can't get found with a blog less than 500 words.
Ideal Blog Length: Short Content versus Long Content
Since Google dropped the Hummingbird patch, there's been a new secret ingredient to getting noticed on the Internet: longer content equals higher rankings. Google indicated that content totaling 2,000 words versus 500 or less will rank higher on search engines. We here at Express Writers were skeptical at first. After all, up until this tidbit of information was released the rule of thumb was "less is more."
We conducted our own case study in an effort to test this new secret ingredient out. We switched from writing 300 to 600 word blogs to publishing 1,500 to 2,000 word blogs. We made the switch in mid-November 2013. We posted our new lengthier blogs daily. Each post included at least one, sometimes two, stock images. We followed our usual search engine optimization techniques and shared each post socially. By mid-December 2013, we watched in excitement as our rankings took a huge leap upwards! Before switching to lengthier blogs, we had 7 keywords in the top 3 rankings on Goggle. After switching, we had 35 top keywords in the top 3 rankings on Google!
So, is shorter content better for blogging? Based on our study, we say this belief is a myth.
Myths about Content Length
When it comes to content length, we receive tons of input from all sorts of sources. Unfortunately, some of what we hear may sound great, but is really a myth waiting to be debunked. Let's consider three:
- Reputation trumps content length. Tell me if you're heard this: "He can write 100 words and get 100+ shares on it. Why? He's been blogging for more than 10 years, and he reportedly blogged every day for that time. Today's, he's the "top blogger in the world." Sometimes it takes that long to consistently build up a name." Awesome! He built a name for himself. But the second his blogs lack value, his audience is likely to jump ship.
- Status means more than content. Consider Google's Webspam Robot-Man. We like him. But really. Since he LEADS Google's Webspam team, he can also write100 words and the entire world (well, Internet, well most of it...) listens. The rest of us can't depend on our status to carry our content.
- Shorter content equates to more sales. When's the last time you bought a product or service from a sales page that amounted to 500 words or less? In all likelihood, you haven't. Potential customers want to know why they should buy from you. They don't want hype and sales fluff, and they absolutely don't want to be pressured. They want to be educated consumers, the sort who understand their purchase and clearly see how it will benefit them today and in the future. You can't accurately convey this type of quality information in short content and expect to appear credible.
What Truly Matters, Content-Wise
QuickSprout.com published an article about long copy effects on rankings and the truths of content. They covered three truths that are inescapable when it comes to blog content:
- Quality content is king. According to a serpIQ analysis, Google doesn't prefer lengthy content simply because it feels more valuable. Google also prefers it because the data indicates that audiences like longer, meatier content. The average length that scored as "most liked" was 2,416 to 2,494 words long.
- Sites rich with content get more links. The trend is that people feel more content offers more value. If your website is rich with well-written, longer content, it will attract more people and result in more links.
- Social media prefers lengthier content. A writer for Quick Sprout took the 327 blog posts they had written for Quick Sprout and sorted them into two categories. The first category held posts of less than 1,500 words. The second held posts greater than 1,500 words. The writer discovered that the posts with a length greater than 1,500 words received 22.6 percent more Facebook likes and 68.1 percent more tweets than posts that were less than 1,500 words.
Lengthy content is also on the rise due to a notable change in user search engine queries. According to Hitwise, 8-word search queries have increased in use by 34,000 percent. People are far less likely to enter a keyword of 2 to 3 words into a search engine query. More and more users are using long tail keywords, or keywords that are anywhere from 4 to 8 words in length. The longer your content is, the more words you use and the more likely you are to rank when a person uses a long tail keyword.
Does Short Advertising Sell More?
Over the years, we have been conditioned to think that less is more and shorter ads sell more. While this might well have been true twenty years ago, today we live in a customer driven time where the customer's want for knowledge outweighs our want to keep things short, sweet and simple.
BusinessInsider.com published an article covering just why short copy doesn't sell more. They gave five "most common" reasons to support the notion that shorter blog content sells more; let's take a look at how easy it is to debunk these five anti-truths:
- People don't like to read. Granted, not all of us enjoy reading. But there is something we all do: we skim. We quickly look at titles and headings, pick out the tidbits of information that interests or applies to us and suddenly... we don't mind reading at all-in fact, we LIKE it-because there's something in it for us!
- People have short attention spans. True, most of us are forced to have short attention spans because we're so insanely busy. But let's face it: if something is important to us, or a topic catches our attention and speaks to something we're trying to solve, then short attention span, "be gone!" We'll read the content without hesitation and probably follow a link for further intelligence.
- People are in the habit of reading short messages. We're texting in shorthand all of the time. We're used to bursts of little information... when it comes to our social lives. When it comes to relevant topics, we're ready for meatier info. We want to be educated consumers, not impulse buyers.
- People are too distracted by multiple media channels. How many social media accounts are feeding into your phone? At last count, I had 7. A friend of mine has every social media app available running on her phone. Yes, that's a lot of channels, but most of us aren't distracted by them. Those channels are our portals to thought provoking and attention grabbing topics that we'll take time to read about, especially if the content is inviting, relevant and entertaining.
- People have their noses buried in their mobile devices. You better believe we do! That little handheld device is our window to the world. We can research anything from the palm of our hand. And guess what? We'll READ the content we find if it's relevant, beneficial and clearly has something in it for us.
While these five reasons could be used to support the argument that shorter content is better, they can just as easily be used to show how people are willing and eager to read longer, meatier content. The truth is people want quality. They want to know what's in it for them. They want solutions to the problems they face today. And they aren't afraid to tackle some moderate reading if it will benefit them.
So, is shorter better for blog content? Based on what readers and research are saying, no. This is a myth, not a truth. Your audience is interested in lengthier content, and lengthier content will get you noticed in all the right ways. A 1,500 to 2,000 word blog is more of a challenge to create, but it's worth every ounce of blood and sweat. It'll get your noticed, build your credibility, reflect your authority and accomplish the ultimate business goal: increasing sales conversions.