In short, the answer is no, there is not an ideal blog post word count. But there is an ideal number of questions you need to ask yourself before you write.
That magic number is 15. [Give or take a question or two, of course.]
Do you have a highly technical readership?
Longer, nuanced blog posts in the range of 1,000 words or more won’t hurt. If entertainment or celebrity gossip is your thing, brevity is beautiful.
How often do you plan on blogging?
Everyday? Then keep your posts to a minimum. Once a week? Then the 500 to 750 word range is ideal. Once a month? Then pull a Kevin Kelly and write an essay. [And yes, I read every word of what he writes. Why wouldn’t I? I like to read. And his posts are always magical in a weird kind of way.].
What are you reporting on?
The depth of the story will dictate the length. A new product deserves about 200 words. The mysterious murder of someone important requires seven pages. Or longer.
How much time do you have?
If you have less than an hour to write a blog post, then shorter is better.
Do you even like to write?
If you don’t, why are you even blogging. You should follow Gary V’s advice and use the medium you are most comfortable with, in this case audio or video. But say you want to blog, then keep it short. That way you keep your pain to a minimum as well as your readers. [Yes, you can tell when someone does not like to write.]
What are you are trying to accomplish?
Are you trying to convince people to do something? Or are you simply telling them about the latest iPhone app you developed? Persuasion takes a little more time to hit some one’s hot buttons. Informing doesn’t.
Can you summarize your main point in one or two sentences?
If you can’t, then you probably don’t know what you are talking about. And if that’s the case, writing a clear, concise and compelling blog post is going to be tough sledding.
Can you make it shorter?
Only about ten percent of visitors will read an entire article. That’s a fact. But don’t let that bother you. What’s important is that they get the core meaning upfront.
Would you read you own blog post?
If you’re answer is no, then something is wrong, namely it’s just not interesting. Making your point more clear or concise will never overcome a boring topic. Ditch it in favor of something compelling.
Is there someone who can read it over for you?
Second eyes will work wonders on bad spelling, verbal fat and boring topics. Humble youself and ask for help.
Can you even write between 200 and 350 words on the topic?
If you lose steam on a post after the first 50 words, then maybe you don’t have a good story. Or enough research. Leave it alone and hit the books again and let it simmer.
What are the words readers might type in during a search to find your blog post?
This doesn’t impact word count as much as it does the search quality of your post. But it can’t be ignored. You must write with potential readers in mind. This is good advice from Google’s own guidelines. And brings me to my next question.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Compelling, information-rich blogs identify a need, agitate that need and then provide a solution. It’s totally audience centric. And a majestic way to seduce readers.
In the end, it really comes down to this: It doesn’t matter how long or short your blog post is. The question is this: Is it interesting?
See, common wisdom tells us that a blog post should be as long as it takes to get your point across. And of course it should be as short as you can possibly get it given the time you have. In other words, do take the time to omit needless words.
But like all things in life, there is no simple answer. You have to decide given answers to certain questions.
SEO pundits also point out that it needs to be a minimum length. Some agrue for 200 words. Others for 350.
I recommend 350. That’s about one page of copy.
What that meas is you have to be a rutheless editor of your own work. What you don’t want is a run-on blog. Why? Ten years ago Jakob Nielson taught us that people do not have the time.
Your task is to get to your point. And get to it quick.
But there is a way to get to your point quick but also back up your story with depth. That’s the inverted pyramid.
One of the Oldest Tricks in the Books
The inverted pyramid is a journalistic tool in which the main message of your article is in the first sentence or paragraph. The skimmers can read the headline, lead and first paragraph, get the core message of what you are trying to say, then move on.
[See my post “Could This Be the Oldest Web Copywriting Trick in the Book?” to learn more about the inverted pyramid.]
For your deep readers, you argue your case after that, still prioritizing your most important information. Here’s what that looks like in an article from TechCrunch:
VodPod Founders Launch Showyou, A Social Video App For iOS
Online video startup Vodpod is launching a new app today, Showyou, which is essentially a Flipboard for videos. Launched as a free iOS app for the iPad, iPhone and iPad touch; Showyou allows you to access all the videos your friends and contacts share on social neyworks. As you can see, you get the core message in the headline. And in the first sentence, which is a actually a paragraph, expands. You, reader, got the most important fact up front. Now you can decide whether you are interested in reading further or not.
And if you can seduce people with the headline, then half the battle is won. More than likely they are into your article and sharing with their social sphere. Which, if you think about it, is pretty magical. No matter how long your blog post is.
Eric Shinn says
Wonderful answer to the question: How many words should a blog post be. I thought it might be good to speak about structure, but I suppose that’s a different entry. Although it would be nice to have an internal link discussing that. The bit on the inverted pyramid would make a great segue into that.
Demian Farnworth says
Great idea, Eric. Thanks for the suggestion and I think I will pick up from the inverted pyramid. Just so we’re on the same page, when you say structure, do you mean what should come first, second, third, etc. in the proper post via the inverted pyramid? I think that’s what your saying, just wanted to be sure so I can deliver properly. 😉
Eric Shinn says
What should come 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.. Exactly. Sorry I was a little vague in my response. I must have been on my 3rd cup of coffee at midnight ;.p Great read though.
Demian Farnworth says
No problem. Appreciate the feedback. 😉
Demian Farnworth says
By the way, I included a link to an article I did write about the inverted pyramid. Oops. 😉 Let me know if that helps.
Thanks Demian, There are a few good tips to take on board here. The inverted pyramid theory has really struck home with me.