Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Four Reasons to Write Longer Blog Posts

I saw a post today at Writers' Perspective about how long blog posts should be. The author suggested that blog posts shouldn't be more than 300 words long. My first reaction went something like this: "300 words? Holy Truncated Blog Posts, Batman! That's too short!" Then I thought about it a while...and I realized that I agreed with myself. Three hundred words is a bit short. Here are the reasons why I fly in the face of convention and prefer blog posts that ramble.

You give your reader better value. How in-depth can you really be in 300 words? If you're just writing a filler post to get something out there, 300 words is fine. But if you really want to explore a subject or teach your reader something complex, 300 words might be too tight a space. Many readers come to business blogs to learn something--and if you're serving up puny posts on a daily basis, you run the risk of disappointing readers.

Miniscule blog posts make it next-to-impossible to put content first. One of the other pieces of blog dogma out there--one that makes a lot of sense to me--is the commandment to put your content first. You can promote the heck out of your blog, but if your content isn't great, you won't be successful at building an audience. At 300 words, it's extremely difficult to offer in-depth information readers will come back for.

Readers don't necessarily hate longer web writing. I wrote an entire post on this back in this blog's infancy: according to a Poynter eyetrack study, people are actually more willing to read online articles in depth than they are with print articles. This held true with long as well as short articles, which were read to completion online 63% of the time--compared with 40% of stories in broadsheets and 36% in tabloids. This turns on its head the old chestnut about how online articles must be short and sweet to get read.

Other bloggers are doing it. Check out some of the top flagship blogs out there--are they keeping their blog posts to 300 words? Here's a recent example from Problogger. This article is in-depth, interesting, well-written...and 1,080 words long. A quick check around the website shows that many of their blog posts are around this length; while a few are short, a lot are longer. Here's one of today's most popular posts from Copyblogger. It's 931 words long. Taking a look at all the other posts listed under "popular," it looks like only one is under 300 words long.

Speaking from personal experience, many of my favorite bloggers write posts both short and long--but I tend to enjoy, and return more often, to the blogs that have longer and more in-depth posts more often. In the Writers' Perspective article, the writer suggested paring down your language to get to 300 words. I agree that extra adjectives and flowery prose are bad--but I also think that when you edit a substantive post that closely, you can't help but snip off the meat of the subject as well as the fat.


Michele said...

I agree! I've often wondered if I should write shorter posts, but you've confirmed my gut instinct that 300 words or less just isn't enough to digest. :-)

Michele L. Tune

Susan Johnston Taylor said...

It's pretty ballsy to dissent from the editor of Writer's Digest, but you manage to pull it off! I think that interspersing shorter and longer posts is the way to go. Plus, not all topics lend themselves to an in-depth conversation, while others virtually require it.

Jennifer Williamson said...

I figured I'd get some disagreement on this one...but I keep hearing the advice to make things short, and it never made a huge amount of sense to me. You're right, though, some subjects definitely call for longer or shorter posts.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post, Jen!

I'm new to the freelancing world--and I'm even newer to the blogging world.

My first blog entry was around 640 words, and I just knew it'd be too long.

Luckily, I didn't cut any content, and this post gave me all the reassurance that I needed!



Rudy said...

Certain topics require more words. But in general, I have to agree with 300 words rule of thumb. The US reading comprehension is at 5th grade level anyway, so keeping it short will make your post more readable to general public.

Unknown said...

I agree. I think blog posts should be as long as they need to be and no longer. How's that for exact? :))

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post, it is something I have been giving a lot of thought to lately. I always wonder if people are jumping off because my articles are too long.

I have found that length has a lot to do with Google ranking as well. The longer the page, the higher it is usually ranked? Has anyone else found this to be true?

Jennifer Williamson said...

I'm not sure....although I know that on blogs that are maintained just for SEO purposes, short and very frequent posts are favored. It's more because the site needs to be updated frequently for prime SEO than because short is better than long; if they could do long and frequent, they probably would.

Anyone else have insight into this?

As for everyone else's comments, I have one further thought on this: I think Lori had it just right. Your posts should be as long as they need to be, short or long--don't stress about the length as much as the value.

Alien Truther said...

I was a dissenter on the comments for the Writer's Perspective article. When I was getting the most readers on my blog, around 1000 a day, my posts were typically between 500-800 words, and I would sometimes have more and very occasionally have less. I started losing readers when I started giving them less new content - not more.
So yeah - count me down as one of those people that doesn't believe "less is more".

Kathy@TheFlawlessWord said...

I agree with Susan, and I think my blog reflects that. Sometimes I'll have really short posts. Other times, when I get up on my soapbox, I tend to go on and on. But to validate your logic, Jennifer, I think my longer posts generally draw a lot more attention and comments. And on a side note, one of the reasons I like your blog so much is that you don't just scratch the surface of a topic. I always know that a new post will contain something worth reading.