Thursday, July 20, 2017

What is the ideal length of a blog post?

As marketers, we are fortunate to live in an era of big data like no one who came before us. We have actual numbers to back up best practices, from how often to post on social media for optimal engagement to the ideal length of a blog post, and everything in between. These strategies previously relied on gut feelings and educated guesses.

Today, we are digging into the data to explore exactly how long a blog should be for SEO. From clients, we often hear out-dated ideologies about the right length for a blog post in 2017. About a decade ago, the experts cited 250-500 words as an optimal length for blog articles to accommodate readers' short attention spans.
Man and woman reading on tablet

Internet browsing habits + SEO

So much has changed in the digital marketing realm since that original advice was first shared with marketers. Online shoppers now spend hours (Nielsen) scouring the Internet for information, reviews, and product comparisons before making a purchase. As a result, content creators adapted to write longer, more informative articles with plenty of keywords, bullet points, and links to sources.

With the rising trends of online shopping, search engines have also grown smarter and more discerning about the content that best matches search queries. In fact, search engines are now programmed to respond to more colloquial phrasing than in previous years. Optimizing long-tail keywords to mimic speech patterns is a more recent trend for content writers that has seen big returns (HitTail).

But how long should a blog post be?

According to a recent study by serpIQ, "on average, the top 10 results for most Google searches are between 2,032 and 2,416 words" (HubSpot). The length of a post itself is not the single qualifier for success when it comes to content creation. A number of factors determine what makes a 'good' blog article, but based on the data we can see that there is an ideal length for a blog post in 2017 after all — 2,032 to 2,416 words.
Based on data, there is an ideal length for a blog post after all — 2,032 to 2,416 words.Tweet this

Anatomy of a successful blog post

In order to craft a 2,000+ word blog article, you will need to do your research, know your audience, and add value to the existing conversation online related to your topic. Use the following checklist to reach the ideal blog length and write a perfect blog post.

Use keywords in the title + description

Keywords are used by both users and search engines to determine the relevance of your article to the information they are searching for. Use a tool like Google's Keyword Planner to determine the volume of search traffic for your topic and target keywords, as well as the competition for those terms. Select a set of terms and long-tail keywords that will help potential readers find your article when they are searching.

As important as the article title is the article description that will accompany your post in search results. Keep the description to 156 characters or less and be sure to front-load the description with keywords to optimize for search.
#ProTip — Long gone are the days when a string of unrelated, incoherent keywords was rewarded by search engines. Incorporate keywords organically within the text of your post for maximum impact. 

Strategically choose article topics

Another important factor in determining blog article's success is the topic itself. The topic should be something that your target audience will find useful and a topic you can add value to. Consider your industry and all of the information you have gathered behind-the-scenes. Something that seems like common knowledge to you may be a new concept for your potential customers. Pair keyword research with topic exploration to see what others are saying about the topic, how many people are searching for it, and if there's a specific hole or niche that you can fill with your own expertise and understanding.

Dig deep + produce rich content

As Entrepreneur describes it, "rich media is any form of content that deviates from normal text and static images and engages with the end user." This content will enrich the user experience, providing them with solutions or perspectives they hadn't considered before. Contrary to some of the blogging advice out there, you simply can't product rich content in 250 words or less.

In our industry—digital marketing—there are a number of articles written about this specific topic, "how long should a blog post be in 2017". To prepare this article, we needed to research what information was out there but also consider what our own team had to offer to create that user-rich experience we've been discussing here. The result is to blend some of the best practices with our own blogging experience and how all of these pieces tie together, including the blog post length, to help our readers (that's you!) write better blog articles.

Ready to write better blog articles? Check out these resources to get started:

In addition to writing articles with substance, one of the pillars of inbound marketing and content creation is to provide solutions for your potential customers. It is very likely that users who find your content via search engine will be hunting for a solution to a problem. Provide a solution and you're one step closer to building a trusting relationship that could develop into a new customer down the line.

Include internal + external linked resources

When you provide readers with links to additional resources, you are improving their user experience. This is good! Using internal links can also improve a different metric of blog success — bounce rate. By sharing internal links to related blog posts or other content on your website, you can keep a user engaged with your content and reduce your bounce rate.

Once you have written your post and provided links to related resources, it is very important that you test each link before publishing. It also pays to be consistent with how you treat internal vs. external links. For example, on this blog we open external links in a new window and internal links in the same window. Every time. This is one more detail that continues to build that trust with your users that we mentioned in the above section.

Use Calls to Action in every post

A Call to Action, or CTA, is a not-so-gentle nudge that you give to readers about the next step you would like them to take. On a blog article, this might be a call to subscribe for future blog posts or directions for how to download a related content offer such as an ebook. Consider that you only have the reader's attention for a short time, so what do you want them to do? The CTA should make sense for your reader and the value should be directly correlated with what you're asking for. A quick email address to subscribe to your blog is a much smaller ask than asking for Name, Phone Number, and Location in order to subscribe to your blog.

Ex. This is a CTA (but we don't mind if you subscribe anyway!)
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Promote your posts

Once you have crafted a keyword-friendly title and description, a rich post with lots of information for your readers, links to additional resources, a CTA for next steps, and have reached about 2,000 words, your blog post is ready to go out into the world! But your work doesn't stop there. The simple act of publishing a new blog post does not ensure it will be seen or read.

Be sure to promote your post on social media, to your blog subscribers, and on any industry-specific community boards or forums as appropriate. Use a tool like HootSuite to set up an automated RSS feed reader that can automatically share your blog posts to your different networks each time you publish an article.
#ProTip — Use an RSS tool that feeds your new blog articles into your various social channels automatically so you'll never forget to share new content with your followers.

Track your blog performance

While it is a good idea to start your blog strategy by analyzing competitors and boning up on industry standards, the next step is to analyze your own blog traffic. You can track blog performance for free in Google Analytics with a variety of factors, such as

Create (or invest in) quality images

When it comes to engagement, images reign supreme. Imagery can be used to make a point more visually, to break up large blocks of text, or to simply please your reader's eye as they scroll through your articles. As with any content, original images are best but only if they are are high resolution, high quality photos. If hiring a photographer isn't in your near-future business strategy, you can also use a stock photo service to supplement your image library.
Professional photo editing

Assign a blog owner on your team

As you can see, optimizing your business blog takes quite a bit of strategy and forethought. Choose someone on your team to take ownership of the blog or, if you're working solo, prioritize time in your weekly schedule to devote to blog management and strategy. If it simply isn't feasible for you to manage your company blog internally, it might be time to consider a partner agency to ensure your blog is adding value and helping you reach your goals.

Putting all the pieces together

As you can see, optimizing your blog for business isn't rocket science but it is a lot of work. How long your posts should be is just one factor when it comes to optimizing your blogging efforts. One of the hallmarks of content marketing, including blogging, is the ability to see passive returns long after a post has been published. A well-crafted post can continue to show in search results and drive website traffic for months, if not years, after it has posted.

Many of the tasks discussed in this post are accomplished through daily blog management, and can come to feel like busy work. Don't be put off! The results are tangible and have been proven by research again and again. Recent numbers show that "B2B marketers that use blogs get 67% more leads than those that do not" (HubSpot). Start investing the effort into your blog today to see more website traffic, better search rankings, and higher quality leads down the line.

Optimizing blog content to drive traffic to an outdated website isn't ideal.
At TBH Creative, we offer the whole package to optimize your entire digital marketing strategy, from blog to website design and everything in between.

Ready to optimize your digital strategy? Start here
Sarah

About the author | Sarah Matlock

Sarah is a digital marketing assistant at TBH Creative, specializing in social media management and data analysis. She likes to blog about social media strategy, the latest trends in the industry, and how to engage the online community more effectively.

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