This is a very common problem for newer bloggers especially – we might literally think of a few hundred words worth of content, and after that we’re spent for ideas. How do we come come up with more ideas to make a blog post long enough to really be properly called a blog post?
It is true that you do generally need to make blog content longer and more complete, relevant and useful than the currently top ranking content in order for search engines even to index and pay attention to it. If it’s really thin, short content, Google may not even index it at all and it won’t even appear in any searches. You need to add unique value to rank well in search today.
Therefore it’s a constant challenge between getting the right length for blog post content, but also staying relevant and on topic to the point where search engines don’t actually start penalizing you for drifting off topic just to add length.
In this article, we’ll offer tips for adding length to blog, both for those who’ve already started but can’t think of more to write, and those who are stuck even before starting and can’t even think of what to write beforehand to get any sort of decent length to their post.
Here they are in summary form:
- Look at other blog posts on the same topic
- Write your subheadings first
- Just start writing and let more ideas flow
- Cover different aspects of the main topic
- Discuss caveats and exceptions to rules
- Anticipate and answer follow up questions
- Add personal anecdotes and experience if relevant
Let’s run through each point in more detail, and then also add some important qualifiers on relevance and blog post length to make sure content stays applicable to the main topic.
1. See What The Competition Is Doing (But Don’t Copy & Paste)
This is a simple first step – if you are looking to answer specific queries being searched on Google, then just check the current top ranking articles for that search query and scan over their posts.
This can give you a good general idea of what to cover in your blog post, but with the huge caveat that you aren’t just looking to copy and paste over what the competition is doing, perhaps just re-wording a few bits. This is duplicate content and while Google’s approach this is quite complicated and copycat content isn’t always penalized, it still won’t allow you to consistently rank well and stand out if you’re just copying other content and shuffling it round a little bit.
Instead, look to add real, unique value, adding your own insights and extra knowledge and information, challenging conventional wisdom if appropriate, and just generally adding more depth and breadth to an article than the competition. Make it stand out as being a more comprehensive resource.
In this way, checking out the competition can be a good way to get the ideas flowing, but also to set yourself a good benchmark for what you need to write to outrank them.
2. Lay Out Your Subheadings First
This is another little tip that’s always helped me when I’m on a bit of a writer’s block. Before I start, I sometimes only think I can write 300 words before I’m tapped out for ideas, but often just laying out a few subheadings first gets the ideas flowing, and then a few more subheadings come.
You then often find you’ve got an outline of an article already, and you just need to fill in the sections and you’ve got a perfectly decent blog post with lots of good information in it.
3. Just Make a Start Writing (More Ideas Flow)
Related to the last point, just getting started often gets the mind flowing, and more ideas come that weren’t there before you started. It’s just the way writing works for so many people. Something gets kick-started just by starting the process rather than staying stuck in over-thinking and analysis paralysis.
Just writing your intro section and perhaps the first main section often gets your mind thinking about the topic, and then related ideas, information and questions come up, and before you know it you’ve got a few more sections you can write, and it goes from there.
“To begin, begin”
In other words, even if you think you can’t write all that much for a blog post as you’re thinking about it before you start, you will see so often that just by starting the process, more ideas will flow and you’ll get more subheadings to add to get the length you want out of a piece of content. Starting to write about a topic gets the mind flowing, and related, connected topics and concepts start to come to you.
4. Cover Different Aspects of The Main Topic
This is really another aspect of which subheadings to use in your article. It is often true that the main answer for the query of an article can be answered in a short section, but most topics also have different aspects and angles to them that really need to be drawn out in more subheadings.
Here are some examples:
- Main article topic – how much does X cost – You answer the main question, so you then follow up with “the factors that go into the cost of X”, “why X costs so much/little”, “average cost of X”, “Accessories and Add Ons” etc. Where something also varies across a range, you can also include a table with high, low and average examples for complete clarity.
- When the answer to something simply varies, create subheading for each of the different scenarios where the answer is different. eg. “X is expensive in…..”, “X is not so expensive in …..”
- For solutions/problem solving/fixing articles, be sure to provide subsections to cover different scenarios. (eg. “fixing X if Y”, “fixing X if Z”), to make sure the readers gets what they need no matter their specific situation. Will help with ranking if your content is more helpful to more people.
See the excellent video below from the guys at Income School, where they cover exactly this process of creating blog content that has the depth required to rank well, and how to add length if you feel you’ve answered the main question very quickly and can’t think of anything else to write.
The second half of the video is especially useful and directly covers the issue of not being able to think of anything else to write.
5. Include Caveats and Exceptions To The General Rule
This is a huge one that ensures the completeness of your content to make it as useful as possible to readers. Many blog posts are direct answers to questions, and while there often is a direct answer (eg. X is good for Y) that holds true most of the time, there are still often exceptions and caveats.
When might X NOT be good for Y? When does X NOT mean Y? What are the caveats, qualifiers and exception to general rules, principles and statements that need to be given to the reader to fully inform them. This can be especially true for product recommendations – when might something NOT work or NOT be useful or good value to buy? Give the reader a detailed, nuanced picture of a topic or product.
Similarly, if you’re covering “how to” guides, be sure to cover all the possible scenarios where the general rules don’t apply, or extra steps need to be taken. There’s nothing more frustrating than a reader getting to a certain step that doesn’t apply to them because of some unique aspect to their situation or product or model, and the blog post doesn’t cover it, so they’re stuck and can’t proceed any further.
Being a real expert in the topic, with real life experience, will put you at an advantage here, as you’ll already know about these little qualifiers and nuances to topics and questions that someone just churning out blog posts by researching and copying other people’s content won’t be able to match.
6. Anticipate & Answer Follow Up Questions
This is another great way of adding meat to your articles. OK, so you’ve answered the main question of the article in a few hundred words, now what? This is when you need to get inside the head of the readers and answer the next two or three questions you know the reader will have, so they don’t need to go elsewhere to get that information.
Here are some examples of this:
- Say you’re covering an “Is X good for Y” topic, and the general answer is yes, then list some good models of X (a good chance to add affiliate links as well).
- Say you’re covering an “Is X good for Y” topic, and the general answer is no. Once you’ve answered this, plus any caveats and qualifiers as covered above, you are then well advised to do a section on what IS good for Y, as you can be sure the readers wants to know this.
- If you’re covering a “Can a X do/be Y” sort of query (eg. “can you jump-start a dirtbike?”), then if the answer is yes, follow up with a section on how do this, as obviously the reader wants to know this.
Again being an expert in the topic helps here, as you’ll often just know what these follow up questions will be, so you’ll be all set with a few more subheadings to really provide the reader with everything they came for.
Just aim to give the best possible user experience, as this is what keeps users on your page for longer, without bouncing to other search results and signals to Google that your content is thorough and useful, which helps with ranking and the overall authority of your site.
However, be sure to balance this with keeping all your content fully relevant to the main topic of the blog post – see the section further below where we cover this.
7. Add Personal Anecdotes & Experience
This is another excellent way to add length to content, especially in hobby based topics. Adding your own personal experience and stories to back up points is a great way of adding credibility (you can’t beat real life personal experience), as well as adding more personality and soul to your content, so the reader knows it’s a real person writing and not auto-generated robot content.
So whenever you have real experience doing or using something that backs up a point being made, be sure to include it to make sure readers know you have hands on experience in the topic. Obviously, this isn’t appropriate in all cases – you can’t really apply personal experience to a mathematical formula – but whenever it makes sense, adding in your own experience and anecdotes is a great way to make content richer.
Keep Content in Blog Posts Relevant To The Topic
Again, see this excellent video from the guys at Income School which covers this topic of relevance in blog posts, and balancing the need to have a long enough article, but also staying enough on point that search engines don’t start to penalize you for lack of relevance to the main topic.
Here are some key takeaways from the video:
- Absolutely add plenty of subheadings to your post, but keep each subheading directly relevant to the main topic of the article
- As we covered above, answer follow up questions, but only those relevant to the main topic. Don’t drift off too far and learn to make the distinction between something that needs explaining right there and then in that post, and what needs linking off to in another article.
- Before you publish, scan the whole article, including all the subheadings, and ask yourself “is all this content still directly relevant to the main search query/article topic?”. If not, cut out some sections and link off to other posts instead.
- Adding length to a blog post is definitely preferable, but only as long as you can stay on topic.
- Don’t unnecessarily add irrelevant “fluff” to a blog post just to make the work count higher in the hope this improves ranking.
Perhaps the most comical examples of just adding length for the sake of length to try and make a blog post rank higher can be found on recipe sites. Since the niche has become so competitive, there are bloggers here who will post a recipe, and then add hundreds more words of “backstory” nonsense, not relevant to what the searcher came for, just to add length in the hope this helps them rank higher against the competition.
Whilst we mentioned that personal experience and anecdotes can be useful, that’s only if they’re adding to the usefulness of the content and not just as “fluff” or filler to get the word count up.
Avoid this trap and stay on topic in your blog posts, while providing as much depth and usefulness as you can.
The Ideal Length For Blog Posts
Even giving readers some useful tips on adding length to their blog posts, many will still be asking the question so many bloggers want to know – just how long should my blog post be? Is there an ideal length for a blog post to rank well?
We’ll cover over our summary answer from our main article on the “ideal” blog post length for SEO:
Blog posts should be as long as is necessary to completely answer a query from all possible angles, whilst staying directly on point and not drifting off into tangential or unrelated topics. This could mean anything from 1000 words or less, to 4000 words or more depending on the topic of the blog post. A good average length is around 2000 words.
In other words, as with so many questions, there isn’t a one size-fits all answer – it depends on the depth and broadness of a topic and the competition, how much you should write.
You should aim to write as much as is needed to fully and completely cover a topic or question, providing the reader with everything they came for, whilst staying relevant. This includes adding the things we mentioned, like follow up questions, anecdotes, qualifiers, exceptions etc, but not straying off point just to add length for the sake of it.
Here are the main things to take into account:
- Competition – Should aim to write more than the competition to outrank them, as long as you are actually adding real value and not just waffling.
- Depth of Topic – Some topics aren’t in depth and don’t need massive blog posts. You can answer them thoroughly in 1000-1500 words, and that’s fine. Other really do need the ultimate resource for that topic, covering it from all different angles, and this can take 3000-4000 words or even longer. Adjust the length to the size of the topic.
- Information Needed – Some topics are actually best answered in pictures and diagrams more than in words. In this case, you word count could be quite low, but your content can still be useful if well illustrated.
In summary, just be thorough in your content – write until you can’t write any more on that topic, giving the reader as much value as possible. Use our ideas in this article to brainstorm if you are stuck to cover topics from all possible angles, but don’t add length just for the sake of it. When you’re done, you’re done!