Trying to narrow down your approach for 2021's digital marketing campaign? Any meaningful SEO effort is sure to include content creation, and the most optimisable content seems to be the blog post.
Creating a great blog post for optimisation can be tricky, though. To produce content that brings in organic traffic, you have to address issues of keyword volume, research, and length.
On top of all of that, you have to make sure that the content you do create is meaningful for users. Google's AI is great at determining how useful a piece of content is likely to be.
Let's take a look at one of those questions today: how long should a blog post be for SEO?
A brief guide: how long should a blog post be for SEO?
Each component of a blog post has the potential to be optimised. That's because everything about any post is examined by Google and used to determine whether or not you'll rank.
Everything from your title tag, meta description, H1s-H6s and image alt tags is screened by Google before the algorithm decides whether or not to act in your favour!
When you think too hard about it all, it becomes a pretty stressful process.
Not only do you have to make something that's topical, relevant, and useful, but you have to make sure that it ticks all of the SEO boxes that we know the algorithm prefers.
The tricky part about those algorithm preferences is that they're always changing - Google changes its algorithm about 500 times throughout the year!
As user interests and behaviour change, so does Google. Google's main goal is to provide a service that's as useful to users as possible so that they don't opt for another search engine.
Now, research shows that the length of the highest-ranking posts are usually upwards of 1500 words, depending on industry.
We’ll get into the ideal lengths for blog post content across industries a little later, but a brief comparison of the 1,600-word post and a 300-word one will give you an idea of the difference in depth and character of those two options.
People are looking for longer, more in-depth content these days. It used to be that the 300-word blog post was the most effective option in terms of SEO content, but that just isn't the case anymore.
The psychology of long-form content
Not only does long-form content cover the breadth and depth of a topic that’s just not possible with a shorter post, it also indicates higher quality.
Despite the fact that your audience will never fully read every word of your 4,367 word article, the sheer fact that it exists paints you as the expert in your industry.
And if a reader does get to the end of it, they’ll leave mind-blown and feel like they’ve just had an epiphany!
Not only this, longer content is perfect for scanning. As mentioned, most people don’t read content word for word.
They simply scan.
In fact, Nielsen concludes that “the average webpage browser has time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.”
Instead, they scan headings, sub-headings, bullet points and images.
Why do longer posts rank higher?
The unfortunate thing about Google is that they don't just tell us what they're ranking for and how things are changing. We have to use contextual clues to figure out what the algorithm values in most cases.
A lot of times, that just means working with trial and error, looking at high-ranking posts, and waiting to see how things change.
We can assume a number of things about why certain optimisation methods are working, though:
- We know now that Google's AI is getting better at identifying value in relation to the user search. It might use context clues and language to do this, and a longer post could give it a better indication of what you're trying to explain.
- If that long post is well-optimised, your keyword phrase will be present more often, but not overwhelmingly. This means it's more likely to give a well-rounded explanation of your topic, ticking off point 1.
- Google is so advanced that it can now understand semantics - another one of its ranking factors. Longer posts are more likely to include words and phrases that are similar to the target keyword phrase, picking up points for semantics.
- Google dislikes keyword stuffing! A longer piece of content is more likely to find success in search results for similar terms since related phrases and synonyms will fit naturally into your content.
- Finally, research has shown that longer posts have proven to gain more social shares. Since this is a contributing factor to domain authority, it impacts on Google rankings. More shares = higher DA = higher ranking.
Using numerous terms that fit into the bank of keywords that your target audience is searching will give your content a better chance of ranking well on Google.
These variant searches are very close to the original keyword phrase. A shorter piece of content is bound to be tied directly to the original keyword phrase, not branching off enough to rank in many others.
On the other hand, the longer piece of content has to explore more territory around the general idea of the topic. For example, a 2,000-word post about roses will look at the symbolic meaning, the roses geographic history, how the flower is grown, and what different cultures think about roses.
The 300-word post about roses might just discuss their connection to the idea of love and where you can find them.
You can see, then, that the long post branches off and gets into the running for dozens of other searches.
The danger of fluff
Now, just because a longer post is technically more viable for rankings doesn't mean that you should stuff all of your content to make it as long as possible. At the end of the day, a meaningful post that addresses user concerns is more valuable than a long post that doesn't.
If you're going to work a long blog post into your SEO campaign, you have to make sure that it's a meaningful one, otherwise, you could get docked a few spots in the rankings.
Aim to prioritise value over everything else when it comes to optimisation. Users will engage more with your content when it's meaningful, and Google tracks those interactions.
From how long a person remains on a page to how much they explore your website, those indicators are all in play when it comes to getting rankings.
So, how long should your content be for your industry?
Multiple factors impact how much content is expected in certain industries.
First and foremost, the type of content.
Some industries lend themselves to short, bullet-pointed information (like recipes) and others lend themselves to video content (like gadget reviews).
Research has shown a whole variety of expected content lengths, from just 300 words (yes, that’s right!) to 2,500+ words.
Let’s take it from the top to see the highest to the lowest expectations of word counts across industries.
1. Marketing & Advertising Blog Content Length
Let’s start at the top.
This industry sees the highest average word count of 2,500-3,000 words.
Since we’re right at the heart of this industry, we can vouch that long-form content is the way to go for us.
One of HubSpot’s featured articles is touching 5,000 words - more than many students write in a whole end-of-topic essay!
At Beyond, we strive to hit 2,500 words - this article is approximately 2,700.
Virtually everyone in marketing engages in content marketing, which means a hell of a lot of content!
Out-contenting competitors is a popular tactic amongst us marketers, providing value through higher-than-average word counts.
2. Average Sales Blog Content Length
There’s a lot of content competition in the sales industry.
2,500-2,700 words would put you in good stead to be ranking on Google.
Typically, there tends to be a high volume of white papers and thorough PDF downloads that tackle subjects in depth.
The longer the word count the better in the sales industry.
3. Finance Blog Content Length
2,100 – 2,500 words is a solid number to aim for if you’re in the finance industry.
JP Morgan does exactly that with their latest 2,206 word article: The Future is Electric.
Just like the FinTech industry, the Finance sector has lots of complexities that require thorough analysis.
4. Healthcare Blog Content Length
Like marketing, healthcare is a competitive industry, with self-help guides and home remedies by the bucket-load.
For those blogging on health-related topics, you have some big competition. So, in order to get your content ranking, you want to create top-level articles that are jam-packed with valuable data.
As a result, a 2,000-2,150 word count range is suggested.
5. FinTech Blog Content Length
The FinTech (Financial technology) industry is growing rapidly.
It’s a complex industry and its topics need exploring and explaining in-depth.
For this reason, the average blog post is around 2,000 words. This is about perfect for covering topics in just enough detail.
Quickbooks’ recent article: 5 Ways For Accountants In Dealing With Difficult Customers is 2,003 words - they’ve hit that sweet spot!
Also notice how the author has broken up walls of text with headings and bullet points.
6. Manufacturing Blog Content Length
1,700-1,900 words is a safe amount to aim for in this industry.
Why is this slightly lower than some others?
Simply because the manufacturing industry is not heavy on content marketing!
7. Travel Blog Content Length
This one’s similar to the food industry in that it’s seen recent growth and is all about those instagram-worthy shots of sunsets, beaches and city skylines.
The typical travel blog sees 1,500-2,000 words, peppered with beautiful photos that make every reader hop on Skyscanner and book a flight!
Nomadic Matt is a popular travel blogger, averaging anywhere between 1,000 and 3,000 words per blog.
8. Retail Blog Content Length
Online retailing in particular has seen massive growth in recent years, more so in 2020 than any other, for obvious reasons (covid, if you’ve been living under a rock!)
Retail is a far-reaching industry and can involve a lot of different types of content, typically more visual than written.
For this reason, 1,500 – 1,700 words is a good number to aim for, with content interspersed frequently with videos and images to highlight the benefits of a product.
9. Food & Hospitality Blog Content Length
Another huge industry that’s growing every day.
A lot of people share their thoughts about food - who’d have thought 50 years ago that a profession could be made out of ‘sexy’ food photos and ‘instagrammable’ meals!?
The number of ‘foodie’ blogs has skyrocketed, too.
To make your mark in this industry, you’ll need to be averaging 1,400-1,900 words.
10. Average DIY Blog Content Length
Home and garden blogs tend to be one of the lowest word counts out there, with anything from 1,000-1,200 words.
These types of posts tend to rely heavily on video content rather than written.
Imagine searching ‘how to change a light bulb’. What’s better - a long-winded article with step-by-step instructions or a 60 second video talking you through the process? I’m guessing it’s the latter.
11. Average Technology Blog Content Length
Lower yet at just 800 – 1,000 words.
The technology industry is like the DIY industry - video content performs much better.
Think of all the Youtubers who make a living out of product reviews!
Much of the top tech blogs are news sites, offering fairly short commentaries on products, technology developments or events.
12. Gadgets Blog Content Length
Just 300-500 words. And no, we haven’t jumped back in our time machine to 2008!
Why so low?
Because gadgets, like tech, home and garden, lend themselves to video content.
A 2,000 word article around the iPhone 12 just isn’t necessary. All browsers want is an overview of key features, some cool images and reviews.
So, how do you produce great long-form content?
The unfortunate part about this change in Google's algorithm is that it means businesses will have to start diverting more time to their content creation.
Let's take a look at the baseline factors that go into a great, long-form blog post.
1. Keyword research
Good keyword research is the cornerstone of an excellent blog post. The keyword you choose, for starters, situates you in the competition pool.
Try to choose keywords that are popular but don't have competition that's far more popular than you. For example, your used car dealership might want to rank for the term "second hand cars," but Autotrader might have the top-ranked spots for that term.
It would be nearly impossible for any small business to compete with such a corporation for search rankings, not to mention a whopping 3.04 billion results!
The alternative is to find a less-popular term and optimise for this instead. The example below is still around the topic of used cars but it has signifiacntly less competition: this time 'just' 689 million.
Additionally, the longtail keyword gives you a template for the subject matter you'd like to address. You should choose something that includes the keyword but doesn't just focus on that term.
To go with the used car example, the blog post topic allows you to branch into different areas of automotive subject matter that will fill out space in your 2,000-word article. It also lends itself to a 'top 5 tips' approach which is perfect for bullet pointed information.
2. Quality writing
Things like grammar, punctuation, and flow of the blog post all come into play when you're trying to rank. Additionally, it's important to consider things like how you will break up chunks of text, where you're going to place the keyword, and how you'd like to incorporate links to the content.
You can try to work with a software editor programme like Grammarly or something else that examines your writing as you type and gives you suggestions. Additionally, it's smart to take a look at some resources that help you find the SEO best-practices for writing long blog posts.
One of those practises is to avoid massive walls of text. The human brain is better at digesting small chunks of information that are separated by space.
Even if you have the wall of text simply separated with spaces, that will be better-optimised because user preferences indicate the need for that space.
It's also important not to try and work the keyword in too forcefully. The keyword should be used naturally and at appropriate times. Keyword placement and volume are difficult to pin down sometimes, but the best approach is to include it in a few key places and wherever else it fits naturally.
For example, the keyword can fit into one main header, the introduction and conclusion. It should then fall into place whenever it can be used naturally.
Making time for SEO content
The difficult thing for a lot of business owners is that writing content isn't their area of expertise. Even though they know all there is to know about the subject matter, they simply don't have the time to figure out how to write a blog post and optimise it to compete for rankings.
As you start the process of writing, you find that it might be a little more time-consuming than you'd imagined. In order to create regular, long-form posts that are well-optimised, you'd almost need to dedicate a quarter of your workday to figuring it out and making sure everything was right.
Fortunately, that's where we come in.
Need a little help with content creation?
So, how long should a blog post be for SEO? You might not even have to answer that question yourself. If you're pressed for time and still want to knock your digital marketing campaign out of the park, it may be a good idea to have an agency think about the content creation for you.
We're here to help. Book your free strategy call for personalised website and digital marketing ideas and options for you to get professional help on your next campaign.