Ideal Length Blog Posts

How Long Should a Blog Post Be For SEO? (Nuanced Analysis)

As new bloggers we all want to get as much content up on our sites as possible, but exactly how long should our blog posts be? Is there a specific length in terms of word count we need to be aiming for for our blog posts to rank well on Google?

As with so many topics, there is not a simple, one-size fits all answer. It depends on what you are writing about and who you are competing against for rankings.

Blog posts should be as long as is needed to completely cover a topic from all possible angles, whilst staying directly on point. This could mean anything from 1000 words or less, to 4000 words or more depending on the topic. A good average length is around 2000 words.

As a rule of thumb, try to get all blog posts at least over 1000 words, unless the topic is really small and can fully be answered in less than this. For bigger topics, longer is better, as long as your content is staying relevant to the post title. Aim to match or beat what the competition is doing for the search term you are targeting with your post.

Let’s look at the issue of blog post length in more detail, including what length is best in which circumstances, and pitfalls to avoid in terms of producing content.

Google is penalizing you if you stray too far off point…..


Match The Post Length to the Size of the Topic Being Covered

The reason we can’t give a single figure answer as to what the ideal length of a blog post should be is simply because different search terms and topics require different length articles in order to answer them properly. There isn’t a one size fits all answer since there are several factors that go into it.

In this sense, bloggers have to use some common sense to match the length of the content they produce to the breadth and depth of the topic they are dealing with in each article. Some topics are tiny and very specific; others are very broad and could be taken in many different directions. Others still are too large for a blog post and are better off produced as an eBook!

As a blogger, you also need to produce content which is guided by what the competition is doing in terms of length and topics covered, but also aim to out-do it and produce a resource which is ultimately better than anything else currently out there that ranks for that search term.

Here are some basic steps on how to get an idea of the suitable length of each piece of content:

  • Do some keyword research and see what the current top ranking results are writing for that search term.
  • How long are the top ranking articles? Are they pretty thorough, or are they leaving a lot on the table in terms of fully answering the question? This gives you a rough guide for the content length to aim for – as long or longer than the competition.
  • Aim to fully answer the question from an many different angles as possible, without straying off point – see below for more on this.
  • The Income School guys break down their posts in 3 broad categories, according to the article length required to fully cover the topic:
      • Response Posts – Short, sharp posts of 1000-1500 words, often for longer, very specific search terms. Low competition. A short, smallish topic that can be fully answered in a relatively short article. No need to write any more.
      • Mid Length Posts – 2000-2500 words – a little more in depth, covering more bases and a more competitive search term in terms of the results already out there. Needs more depth and length to compete.
      • Cornerstone Content – Big long articles, 3000-4000 words. Really in depth with lots of subsections. Shorter, very competitive 3-5 word search terms, need serious length to compete with the current results.
  • In general, try and aim for at least 1000 words minimum.

However, for some really small topics, bloggers even find it difficult to get up to 1000 words. They may get to 700 or 800 words and be out of any more ideas without really straying off point.

In reality this is quite rare, but if it does happen, it’s fine. It is best to get posts over 1000 words if possible, but if 800 words thoroughly answers the question, there are no more bases you can cover, and the competition is also writing 800 words or less, then you shouldn’t have a problem ranking. Articles of even a few hundred words can still rank number one if no one else has got in there and produced a better piece of content.

Longer Posts Tend to Draw in More Traffic

Having said all this, it is also true that longer content does tend to draw in the bigger numbers in terms of traffic. Many bloggers will tell you there is a strong correlation between the length of their articles and the pageviews it gets. Longer blog posts tend to get more traffic to them.

This is also confirmed by SEO studies by Backlinko and others mentioned in the above video. The Backlinko study found that the average length of a first page Google result was 1890 words.

This is generally because the longer posts are targeted at the shorter tail keyword searches which are very competitive and require long, meaty articles to really compete with the current results for that search.

If all the top results for a search are 3000 words or more, then it is pretty strong indication that’s what you need to produce as well to compete and get the traffic.

So should we fill our sites only with 3000 words or longer articles? Not necessarily, simply because not every topic warrants huge long articles of 3000-4000 words.

Some can be fully answered in 1500 words or less, and that’s fine. It’s just that these posts are not likely to bring in the really huge traffic that the longer pillar posts of 3000-4000 words can (there are some exceptions).

This is why it is important to have a good mix of content on a new site, between short, medium length and longer posts, as we covered in the above section.

Even more importantly, on new sites it is very important to write the content in the correct order, starting off with the smaller, shorter articles and building up to progressively longer posts for more shorter, more competitive search phrases.

See our article on this. This allows the site to slowly build up trust and authority on Google, and is another reason why having a good content mix is important.

Longer blog posts tend to rank better and drawn in more traffic, provided you can stay on point

Create a (Much) Better Resource Than The Competition

Having mentioned the importance of a content mix, there is also a particular case when content length more clearly correlates with SEO.

This is when you produce a blog post that is clearly much, much longer, in depth, relevant and just overall better than your competition. Not just a little bit better, but a lot better.

I have seen this personally on a couple of my blogs. If you find a low or medium competition search term, where the existing top ranking content is pretty thin, or average, perhaps 1000 words or so, but you know you have the knowledge to write a post that is much longer and more in depth, perhaps 2500-3000+ words,  then I have seen that these posts tend to land on the first page of Google much quicker than other posts.

Common sense would suggest that this simply because the Google alogrithm can see by the content length and depth that it is a much more helpful and definitive resource than anything else that currently ranks for that search term.

Let’s demonstrate this with two general examples, which I have seen several times in my personal experience with blogging and SEO.

Example #1 – You find a search term where the top ranking article is a 1000 word blog post. You write a 1350 blog post for that keyword that is a little longer, and a little better, answering the question in slightly more detail. But that’s all you can write without straying off topic. There’s nothing more to write on that particular query.

Common Outcome – These type of posts can rank well, but tend to take more time, since your content is only a slight improvement on the current content for that search term. It takes the alogrithm longer to fully test your content against the other content and decide that yours is better, if only by a little bit, in terms of user experience and helpfulness.

Example #2 – You find another search term where the top ranking article is 1000 words. This time, you know that you can do a much better job, writing a 3000 word blog post that really covers the topic in much more detail, from many more angles, than the current competition.

Common Outcome – These posts tend to hit the first page of Google much quicker than the first type of post, because it becomes clear to Google very early on in their user testing that your content is much better than what currently ranks for that term. They can see your post is several steps more advanced in terms of quality and usefulness to the reader.

What conclusion can we drawn from all this? It is simply that if you can go much longer and better than your competition, whilst staying on point, then absolutely aim to do so, because the Google alogrithm will pick up that the improvement in quality from the existing ranking content to your new content is so big, in terms of depth, detail and relevance.

You’ve gone not just one step further in quality, but several steps further than the competition. Google likes to rank this sort of content quickly in my experience.

Here are some suggestions to create content that is several steps better than the competition:

  • Make it long, detailed and well written.
  • Aim to go the extra mile in terms of helpfulness to the reader. Aim to give them everything they came for, plus some extra bonus information or suggestions.
  • Ue H3 subheadings throughout, to break your content into distinct, readable sections.
  • Cover the topic from all possible relevant angles (think about searcher intent – why might different people be searching this term?)
  • Format the content well, with short paragraphs, bulleted lists, images, videos, and tables.
  • Add original research if you can, in table or infographic form.
  • Do whatever else you can to make it interesting, engaging and distinct from the competition.
  • Challenging conventional wisdom and debunking commonly repeated myths are good ways to stand out, as long as you can back up your position well.
  • Answer any directly related follow up questions the reader may have, or link off to other resources. Try to anticipate what information the reader may want next once you’ve answered their main question.

The “whilst staying on point” caveat is also important though. Let’s turn now to this issue of relevance and blog post length in more detail.

Relavance is the number 1 ranking factor for SEO today. Keep your content long enough to be useful, but short enough to stay relevant

Don’t Stray Off Topic in Your Blog Posts Just to Add Length

This is where the entire issue of content creation has more nuance to it, since it is important to answer queries as fully as possible, but it is also important not to stray too far off topic. You have to find that balance between word count and relevance.

Google is aware that some content creators have tried to game their alogrithm in the hope that simply making their content as long as possible will increase ranking. To account for this, it now tests to see whether articles are staying directly on point throughout in terms of relevance to the main topic of the blog post.

If it finds the writer has strayed off point, writing about unrelated or only tangientially related topics just to add length to a post for the sake of it, then Google has started truncating articles, reading and ranking only the parts it considers relevant to the main title and topic of the post.

See the excellent video above for more on this. In practical terms, this means bloggers could be spending hours producing massive long blog posts, but if they are not staying on point, Google is only reading and ranking a small portion of it. A 3000 word post could be classed as as 300 word one by Google if you don’t stay directly on topic.

Here are some ways to write (and go back and modify) your content to make sure Google reads and ranks the whole lot as relevant:

  • Make sure each H3 subheading within your article is still directly related to the original topic of the blog post, and contains the relevant keywords when possible.
  • Each H3 subsection should still be still directly answering the original question, maybe from different angles, but still directly related to the main topic of the post.
  • In this sense, you can anticipate follow up questions your readers may have (this is good practice), but only follow up questions still directly related to the main topic.
  • If some follow up questions lead off into whole other topics, then don’t make them H3 subheadings; mention them in brief and link off to another article.
  • Get a feel for the intangible dividing line of relevance between whether something should be included within that blog post, or mentioned in passing and linked off to in a separate blog post. It just takes time and practice to learn this skill.

Google has modified their alogrithm to penalize content that is long but not relevant to the main search query

Content Length is Important, But Not Everything

So in summary, length is an important aspect of how content is ranked, but it isn’t the be-all-and-end-all. Blog posts need to be as long as possible, whilst staying within the parameters we have mentioned about relevance and conciseness.

The Google ranking alogrithm is a very complex weighted average of over 200 separate factors, of which post length is only one. It does play an important part, but is not the only factor. See our article on exactly how Google ranks content.

Some bloggers have started adding unnecessary length to blog posts, just to get the word count up in the belief that this alone will allow them to rank well. In the process they have added “waffle” to their content and/or strayed off topic, and the Google ranking alogrithm has been modified to account for this.

A shorter article can still outrank a longer one if the shorter one more efficiently and definitively answers the topic of the post and does not waffle or stray off point.

In this sense, it is important to match the article length to the size of the topic you are writing about, as we have already said, and present the information in a concise and easily digestible form.

If you do this, you will create a good user experience, and the Google alogrithms will capture this by seeing how users behave on the page. You will be rewarded in the rankings as a result.

A 1200 word article can rank number one, whilst a 4000 word article can go nowhere in the rankings if you do not keep your content relevant and contained to the topic the title covers.

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