Have you ever found the most delicious-looking recipe online, only to scroll through endless backstory? You think, that’s lovely that your grandmother served this chocolate cake every Fourth of July, but get to the recipe already!
There’s a reason that food blogs are long, and if you work in content marketing, you already know why: Longer blog posts tend to perform better.
But exactly what is the ideal blog length? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as simple as one word count for all blogs. A quick Google search will give you a few different answers, ranging from 1,500 words to 2,400 words.
Content is king, and long-form is lord…
For almost a decade, Orbit Media has conducted an annual survey that asks more than 1,000 bloggers about their process, promotion and content.
So, how long is a typical blog post? Orbit’s 2021 survey says that the average blog post length was 1,416 words—up from 808 words in 2014! Of bloggers surveyed, 31% write posts between 1,000 and 1,500 words, and 32% write posts between 500 and 1,000 words. Fewer than 6% of bloggers surveyed are writing posts under 500 words.
Orbit’s study isn’t the only data pointing to longer blog posts. HubSpot estimates the ideal blog post length is around 2,500 words. They based this on average reading speed and Medium’s optimal 7-minute read-time, plus research on HubSpot’s own blog traffic. They also shared that the blogs that generated the most leads were over this 2,500-word mark.
Why so long? Generally speaking, the longer a blog post is, the more comprehensive it seems. If you were looking for the best resource on going vegan, you’d probably gravitate toward a thicker book rather than a pocket-sized guide.
And that’s what Google is looking for, too. Comprehensive content that it can trust.
Pssst…Feeling overwhelmed by those numbers above? At WriterGirl, we take content generation off busy healthcare marketers’ plates. Find out how we can create long-form content for you!
…or is it?
Now here’s where things get tricky. Many bloggers find that longer articles rank higher, and most blogs these days are over 1,000 words. But Google has not said that longer blog posts are better. John Mueller is a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google who answered content writers’ burning questions on Twitter in 2020.
When someone asked, “What if I’m covering more information in less words than competitors? What will Google think about word count?” Mueller responded, “Why would a search engine use word count as a metric?”
What Google has officially said they’re looking for is comprehensive content. They give this example: “If you describe your page as a recipe, provide a complete recipe that is easy to follow, rather than just a set of ingredients or a basic description of the dish.”
Does comprehensive content mean that your articles need to be more than 1,500 words? Often, but not always. When it comes to the optimal length for a blog, you’ll have to do some research to determine the right length for you. To help, we’ve compiled the four questions you need to answer to find the magic number for your ideal blog length.
What is the goal of my content?
If you’re asking how long a blog should be, step back and make sure you know why you’re writing blogs in the first place.
Here are some of the most common goals for healthcare organizations’ blogs:
- To reach new patients through ranking highly in search results
- To inform physicians
- To educate patients
- To establish credibility as an organization
- To guide patients to a service line you’re promoting
- To have an organized online space where good news about your organization lives
Your blog may have many of these goals overall, but each individual blog will only have one or two of these goals. And each goal dictates a different blog word length.
If your goal is to share good news about a service line’s recent award, you’ll want to keep your word count on the lower end. If your goal is to solidify your organization as a leader in medical research, you’ll want a word count that’s on the higher end. Spend some time reflecting on what you want people to do after reading your article and how you hope it benefits your organization.
If you are hoping to convert leads or establish authority, blogs over 2,000 words will serve you well. If you need to convey information to an internal audience, you may publish a blog that’s 500 words. If you’re educating a patient audience on a medical condition, 1,000-1,500 words is a good range.
Does this topic need a long-form post?
Let’s say you’re writing two articles about strep throat.
One of those articles is for the average person Googling, “What are the symptoms of strep throat?” so you don’t need a 2,000-word article detailing the illness. You just need to outline the tell-tale signs along with a call-to-action to schedule an appointment with their provider.
The other article is for physicians interested in the various antibiotics used to treat strep throat, so you may write a 3,000-word article. They’re looking for a more robust resource that tells them everything they need to know about each drug and how it works.
Speaking of a robust resource, there’s a name for this kind of blog post that tells a reader everything they need to know about a topic: Pillar Pages. HubSpot defines them as “an all-encompassing guide,” and they’re meant to be exhaustive. These could be upwards of 4,000 words and are usually reserved for your highest priority content categories or service lines. They’ll often link back to shorter blogs on more narrow topics.
To summarize, shorter posts are:
- Announcement-style blogs for re-sharing and documentation
- Succinct, clear answers to patient questions
While longer posts are:
- Education-focused blogs for establishing authority
- Pillar Pages for high-priority content categories
Who is my audience?
The bottom line? Your audience’s needs should dictate your ideal blog length.
When you’re thinking about content length, look at what your audience is searching for. Answer The Public is a great tool that shows you the questions people are asking about a given topic.
In general, articles geared toward consumer or patient audiences will be shorter. They’re likely looking for a quick answer to a medical question. On the flip side, scientific articles geared toward researchers and physicians will be longer.
What’s the competition like?
Type in the keyword you’re hoping to rank for on Google and check how long the top two or three posts are. (Word Counter Plus is an extension that makes this easy!) It’s a best practice to shoot for a word count that’s within 500-750 words as these high-rankers.
Now, your goal is to make your article even better than the ones you found. Go ahead and read some of the articles on the first page of Google. Could the posts be more concise? Could they use more detail? Your blog may have an opportunity to explain a topic or answer the question more clearly.
Am I valuing quality over quantity?
We know, we know: You want us to tell you exactly how long your blogs should be. But here’s the thing: If your content is engaging, useful and answers your audience’s question, there is no “best length for a blog post.”
Remember: Even Google says that a longer piece of content isn’t necessarily better if you have high-quality content. As John Mueller of Google said in another tweet, “More words is not better.”
What matters more than ideal blog length, then?
- Following updated SEO best practices
- Considering the questions and needs of your audience
- Presenting information clearly
- Writing in plain language
- Doing your research
- Organizing your content with headings and subheadings
That means that sometimes, your blog posts will be shorter and sometimes, they’ll be longer. And as long as you consider your audience (and don’t ramble on too much about your grandmother’s Fourth of July traditions) your article will be a success.
Do you need help with your blogs? WriterGirl’s team of healthcare writers partner with your organization to create content that is right for you. Send us a message to learn more about how we can support your content marketing initiatives.