Write longer blog posts.

That’s the advice of experts who study the behavior of online readers.

Coming from a writer, that may sound self-serving. But it also is supported by evidence.

A recent article from veteran corporate communications trainer and editor Ann Wylie confirms that:

  • Longer posts rank higher in searches.
  • Longer posts boost backlinks.
  • Longer posts get more shares on social media.
  • People spend more time reading longer posts.

Just how long should your blog posts be?

Ideal Blog Post Length

For the four metrics—search, links, shares and reading time—the ideal blog post length ranges from 1,400 to 2,500 words. This jibes with findings from search engine optimization specialist Yoast. Its own articles of more than 2,500 words do best on Google search rankings. And Hubspot says its sweet spot for blog post length is 2,250 to 2,500 words.

Here’s the breakdown from Wylie of the metrics and ideal lengths:

  • Search: 2,000-2,500 words
  • Backlinks: 1,800-3,000 words
  • Social sharing: 1,500 words or more
  • Reading: About 1,400 words

If you don’t have the skills or time to write longer posts, never go below 300, Yoast advises. Below that threshold, posts don’t have enough words to merit a search engine ranking. Google brushes off posts of fewer than 200 words, according to Wiley.

Longer posts get higher search rankings

Research shows that lengthier blog posts rank higher in search engine page results, or SERPs. One SEO consultant, serpIQ, found that pages that contained more than 2,000 words ranked in the top 10 of searches. The highest ranking went to pages with more than 2,450 words.

Pages with more than 2,000 words ranked highest in Google searches. Source: serpIQ

Pages with more than 2,000 words ranked highest in Google searches. Source: serpIQ

Longer posts get shared more

A funny thing about longer posts is that they get shared more. My guess is that has to do with editorial quality. When you read a really interesting article, do you get excited and want to share it with a friend or associate immediately? I do. Other times, I’ll save it on Pocket and then share it later with contacts I’m nurturing. I’ll also link to the article in my newsletter or my blog post.

Longer posts earn more backlinks

Getting more social shares drives more backlinks. It makes sense: If your post lands higher in search results, it will get more visits. Then, if readers love your post, they’ll be more likely to link to it on their social media updates and content. Those backlinks kindle SEO, which in turn drives more visitors and then begets more links.

It’s a virtuous feedback loop.

Longer posts drive deeper reading

The optimal reading time for a blog post is seven minutes, according to Medium. That equals about 1,400 words. After that, interest wanes. I love Medium’s nuanced conclusion: Don’t force your posts to be read in seven minutes. Rather, focus on writing great posts, length be damned. In other words, let the content dictate the length. If you have a lot to say, by all means, take the space to say it. “If you put in the effort, so will your audience,” Medium says.

The optimal blog post read is seven minutes long. Source: Medium

The optimal blog post read is seven minutes long. Source: Medium

Why lengthier blog posts rank higher

It has a lot to do with keywords. Longer posts naturally provide more opportunities to use your keywords. Keywords will show up in body copy, headlines, subheads, links and meta descriptions. You’ll also have more longtail keywords—those three- and four-keyword phrases that are very specific to what your potential customers are searching for. The more words your piece has, the more search terms, including longtail keywords, it will have. The more search terms it has, the greater the likelihood it will rank higher in search engine results pages.

Mind you, it’s not about keyword stuffing. This is the notion that the more keywords per page—the greater the keyword density—the better. Moz, the SEO consultancy, cautions that this persistent myth is a spammy practice to avoid. If it looks like, reads like and tastes like spam, it is spam. And search engines gag on spam the way I gagged on liver when I was a kid.

You’re going for quality, not quantity. “The value from an extra 10 instances of your keyword on the page is far less than earning one good editorial link from a source that doesn't think you're a search spammer,” says Moz in this post on search engine myths and misperceptions.

How to write longer blog posts

Writing longer blog posts takes skill. But the point is not to lard your posts will fat and filler. Instead, Wyle advises, go deep, not shallow. I advise also going narrow, not wide. In other words, pick a specific, narrowly focused topic that your readers care about and that will give them intelligence they can use. Then go deeply into that topic. Make it “How to use artificial intelligence to automate utility demand response programs,” not “How to use artificial intelligence.”

The secret to writing longer blog posts is taking a specific topic and exploring it deeply. Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Or take one element from a list and expand on it. Start with an overview (as I’m doing here) and then write a series of posts that explore each element. For example, you could take any one of the four metrics about longer blog posts and focus on that. This, by the way, is a great way to flesh out your blog editorial calendar.

Make it easy to read, too. Just because it’s long doesn’t mean it has to be dense. Rather than a news release, just-the-facts style, use a feature style more akin to magazine articles or features made famous by the Wall St. Journal. I’ll write about this style in a later post. Also, help your reader walk through the journey of the story with helpful signposts and resting places in the form of headlines, subheads, lists and graphics.

Let common sense be your guide

The minute you take the long-post notion as a rule, you’re on the wrong track. Online marketer Neil Patel cautions that length is only one factor to consider. Among other considerations, the top one is substance. In other words, what are you trying to say? If you can say it in 100 words, do it. Don’t waste your readers’ time. But if it needs 2,000 or 2,500 words—and your audience cares that deeply about what you have to say—go for it.

In other words, make your post as long—or as short—as it needs to be.

Longer posts get better results

Writing well-researched longer posts dripping with great content requires more thought in choosing a topic, more time researching and more time writing and editing. (That said, one of the most difficult writing tasks is writing short headlines, captions and blurbs.) As long as you have something useful to say, investing that time will repay itself many times over with higher search rankings, more backlinks to your post from other websites and blogs, more shares on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media, and more time spent reading your posts.

But as you compose and edit your post, always remember to value your reader's time. As the author Robert Heinlein said, "The most important lesson in the writing trade is that any manuscript is improved if you cut away the fat.”