The Wild Smithy

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A wild smithy of words.
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How long should my blog post be?

What exactly is an ideal length for a blog post?


I’ve been asked this by lots of writers. And in my early days as a blogger, I was likewise unsure about the best number of words for my posts. The internet presents lots of conflicting information about blog lengths, derived from trends and statistics emerging from all over the web, so it’s no wonder writers everywhere struggle to know what’s best.


Too short and maybe your audience won’t take you seriously. Too long and you’ll bore the bum cheeks off them. Is there a standard figure? And does it really matter?


Yes indeedy.


We all want more eyeballs on our work. It’s natural for artists, writers and independent journalists to crave an audience - having others comment on and share our blog posts fulfils our desire to be heard and be recognised for our contributions.


And for the hustlers of the web, it’s a blatant requirement. An article without an audience is like bank without any money in it. Utterly pointless and unable to generate any interest.


How an audience interacts with your online published work depends on its length and structure. In this post, I’ll be explaining why the word count matters, as well as how to compose something that’ll bring traffic to your site (and have them stick around reading your stuff) as well as increase engagement with your audience.

Image: Newton Wildsmith

The Myth of “Short is sweet”


Trendwise, a common word-count among many online publishers is said to be 200-500 words. This sad figure supposedly reflects a society that’s too busy to sit and read anything for long. Social media and other internet evils are said to have dramatically reduced most people’s attention spans. As a result, many writers are advised to appeal to an audience who want to read something in half the time it takes to eat a chocolate biscuit.


Skimming posts between posts is the new normal, right?


Wrong.


So many bloggers buy into the myth that short blog posts lead to more readers. This fallacy has been perpetuated by many professional writers and propped up by claims of an attention-deficit audience. But short posts of 500 words or less tend to be viewed negatively by search engines and are unlikely to increase traffic to your site.


Why?


Because most people are looking for value. Whether they need an answer to a problem, a fresh perspective on a topic or advice they can trust, they aren’t likely to choose an article that looks like somebody’s brain fart.


Worse still, some people might just view your article as clickbait.


The definition of clickbait according to Oxford dictionaries is “content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page”. Merriam-Webster dictionaries add “…especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest”.


Creating a short, cursory blog post crammed with links and ads is not going to rank you highly among search engines, nor is it going to win you a loyal cohort of followers.


Clickbait articles are easy to identify because they offer little value to the reader. Usually, you’ll find no more than sensationalised facts, perhaps ordered into a top ten list or set of bullet points. This type of article is also called a “listicle”, which sounds like something unpleasant growing on a bollock and is probably more appealing to look at.


If you’re opting to write a short article, don’t fall into the clickbait trap. Craft something smart, concise and noteworthy, rather than vacuous, valueless trivia.


Are there any advantages to a shorter post?


Well, shorter posts are more likely to attract comments from readers, so they are something to be considered if you’re seeking more engagement with your followers.


If your desired reader base includes busy, workaholic multitaskers who prefer glimpsing at snippets between espressos, stick to fewer than 600 words (just don’t expect them to stick around on your website).

Image: athree23 - Pixabay.com

Bang the Gong for Long


The truth is, if your audience is after some beneficial content or an enthralling story, they’re bound to appreciate a fuller, longer post of at least 1500 words. According to the online publishing platform Medium, the optimum length for a blog post is 1600 words, which makes for a 7-minute read. And contrary to “experts” who say that the majority are turned off by more than 500 words, figures have shown that many are eager to read a 2000-word article if the author has crafted some compelling, valuable content.


Who are these readers of fabled focussing ability? The demographic is vast. Think older generations born before the advent of the internet, academics in need of reliable, well-researched information, travellers with plenty of time on their hands, to name a select few. These readers want some junk in their blog post trunk. And I’m talking about some seriously good junk.


Search engines such as Google will love your stuff too; traffic to your site will noticeably increase if you have a sizeable article that benefits others.


Just don’t go overboard though – over 3000 words is going to be as appealing as asking someone to proof-read a 90-page manuscript on book-keeping for idiots. Indeed, if a reader comes across a post that seems to go on for miles (evident by the size of the vertical scroll bar on the right of a window), they’ll click off the page in search of something less overwhelming. Disastrous for website traffic statistics, if your goal is to move up the search engine rankings.


Take your pick: “Perfect” blogpost lengths – summarised.


100-500 words

Short blog posts don’t carry much value, but if you frame the subject as a question and post the article to social media, you could get more comments than a longer article. Think of this size as a conversation-starter or idea-sparker.


500-1000 words

This is a journalistic standard sized article, for the kinds of features you’d see on popular news-sites. This number of words will garner more interest from fellow bloggers, and you’ll probably see more social media shares. Be aware: If the word count is at the lower end of the scale, search engines won’t rank the post highly – they’ll opt for longer, more authoritative posts instead.


1000-1700 words

Regarded as an optimum length by online publisher Medium. These 4-7minute reads may be lighter on the comments, but if you’ve answered someone’s question, solved a problem or enlightened them in some way, the search engines will adore you.


1700+ words

Got a lot of useful stuff to say on a subject? Join the big league and type up a prodigious post to be proud of. According to Google rankings, articles up to 2,500 words are in the top spots, which means you’re likely to get scores of new readers per day. Just be sure you cover a topic that people want to bury their nose in!


And Finally


Don’t get so immersed in SEO tactics and web-trends that you lose sight of why you wrote a post in the first place. Compose a length you’re happiest and most comfortable with, rather than worrying about the ideal number of words. If you prefer 200-word morsels, go for it. If you have a book-length article of inspirational tales in you, pour it out.


Your audience will grow if you give them an enjoyable read that adds value to their life.


The most captivating blog posts are the ones that come from the heart; written with authenticity and an obvious love for writing. If your readers can see you’ve made an effort, then they’ll make the effort to stay and read your stuff.


Image: Foundry on Pixabay.com



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Who is Newton Wildsmith?
Freelance content writer.
Author, artist and English teacher.
Perpetual traveller, wannabe minimalist and animal-lover with vague-un (vaguely vegan) tendencies.
 Definitely a tree-hugger.
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