What is the Optimal Content Length? – Here’s What the Science Says

What is the optimal content length? How long should your blog posts be? What is the ideal word count for SEO? These are questions many would-be bloggers and marketers ask themselves.

Obviously many things go into successful content marketing. From choosing the right keywords, to learning to write well, to image optimization. All these are factors in the success of your content.

However, content length remains a critical topic, not least because it determines a lot about your overall strategy. Should you write a lot of shorter articles or concentrate on pushing out one massive article per month? Or is the truth somewhere in between? As you can guess, there are a lot of opinions about this out there.

To shine a light on this topic, in this article we will examine the available research on ideal content length. You will learn the findings of the biggest studies out there and the conclusions they have come to. The goal is to enable you to make decisions about your own content strategy and tweak it to make your content more successful.

Ideal Content Length – What the Research Says

Below you will find the synopsis of the most significant pieces of research on optimal content length. Let’s summarize their findings to give you an overview. After that, we can put together the conclusions to draw from this.

OkDork/BuzzSumo – Shoot for 2,000+ Words per Article

Noah Kagan of AppSumo (the makers of SumoMe) teamed up with the good people of BuzzSumo (a tool that often makes it on best of lists for blogging tools). Together they conducted a study on what makes content go viral. After looking at 100 million articles, part of their findings was:

  • The longer the content, the more shares it gets. Posts in the 3,000 to 10,000-word area performed exceptionally well.
  • There were 16 times more blog posts with a word count below 1,000 than content that has more than 2,000 words. Consequently, if you want a chance for your articles to go viral, aim for at least 2,000 words per post.

okdork buzzsumo social shares by content length

Backlinko – Search Results on Google’s Front Page Average 1,890 Words

Brian Dean and his team on Backlinko ran their own analysis of search engine ranking factors. They examined one million Google search results to find out what leads to better rankings. In terms of the optimal length for blog posts, they found the following:

  • Long-form content ranks significantly better than short-form articles. How long is long-form content? Well, the average word count of results on Google’s front page is 1,890 words.

backlinko optimal content length and search ranking

There are also some other important findings such as the effect of page loading speed, images in posts, usage of HTTPS and more. I recommend taking a look.

Moz/BuzzSumo – Go for a Minimum of 1,000 Words

The SEO specialists of Moz also teamed up with BuzzSumo and analyzed over a million websites. Here is what they found regarding optimal content length:

  • Long-form content (over 1,000 words) consistently receives more shares and links than shorter posts. This is especially true for research-backed and opinion-forming pieces.
  • Over 85 percent of online content is less than 1,000 words long. Consequently, if you can surpass that, your chances of performing well in social networks and search engines increase. However, the effects start to wear off past 2,000 words.

Medium – The Perfect Content Length is 7 Minutes

The publishing platform Medium cares a lot about reader engagement. To find out more about how to foster it, they conducted a study about what is the optimal post length to keep readers around. In it, they found the following:

  • The perfect blog post takes seven minutes to read. After that, reader engagement starts to decline. According to Buffer, this translates to about 1600 words, less if you include a lot of visuals.
  • However, Medium advises to only see this as a guide value since they found great variation in their results. In the end, they tell you to write as much as necessary to bring your point across. Quote: “If you put in the effort, so will your audience.”

medium time spent by visitors in relation to post length

SEMrush – Longer Content  Equals Better Search Rankings if It’s Relevant

The popular SEO tool SEMrush also ran a ranking factor study. Their analysis of the top-10 Google pages for 600,000 keywords had this to say about the ideal content length:

  • The pages on results for long-tail search queries (meaning more than two words) contain on average almost 20 percent more content than for shorter queries. That means for broader topics users do not expect long posts. However, if your topic is more narrow, you should provide more in-depth coverage.
  • At the same time, content quality and relevance play a crucial role in page rankings. Solely creating content of a certain length doesn’t help if it’s irrelevant to the user’s query.

SerpIQ – The Average #1 Article in Google is 2,416 Words Long

In 2012 SerpIQ conducted a study to determine the optimal length of blog posts. For that, they examined the average content length on every rank of the first page of Google for more than 20,000 keywords.

serpiq content length search rankings

Unfortunately, the study itself is no longer online, however, it’s findings are. They showed that the average number of words for content in the first place of Google was 2,416 words. On the other hand, articles ranking in tenth place were on average only 2,032 words long. However, it’s important to note that the data in this study included text in sidebars as well, so you can reduce the numbers a bit.

CoSchedule – Top-ranking Content Has at Least 2,000 Words

Besides summarizing the results on ideal content length from different sites in this handy infographic, CoSchedule also published findings from analyzing their ten top-ranking articles:

  • The posts that were shared the most and have a top-3 Google ranking are on average 4,066 words long. The minimum word count is 2000+. However, length alone is not decisive, quality and relevance matter as well, especially for social shares.

coschedule content length top ten performing blog posts

Hubspot – The Optimal Content Length for Traffic, Shares, and Links is 2,250+

Similar to CoSchedule, Hubspot analyzed their own content to find out what factors make it shareable, linkable and bring in traffic. Here are the results from over 6,000 blog posts:

  • Articles with a word count of 2,250-2,500 bring in the most search traffic
  • Content that has over 2,500 words is shared the most on social networks and also earns the most backlinks

hubspot word count vs average organic traffic

Neil Patel – Use Different Content Lengths for Different Industries

Online marketer Neil Patel also looked into the question of how long your blog content should be. In his article on the topic, he states the following:

  • Content length definitely matters and longer content performs better if it goes hand in hand with great quality.
  • Different industries have different optimal word counts (based on his experience and evidence he found online):
    • FinTech: 2,000 – 2,150
    • Finance: 2,100 – 2,500
    • Manufacturing: 1,700 – 1,900
    • Sales: 2,500 – 2,700
    • Retail: 1,500 – 1,700
    • Real estate: 1,800 – 1,900
    • Home and garden: 1,100 – 1,200
    • Tech: 800 – 1,000
    • Gadgets: 300 – 500
    • Marketing/Advertising: 2,500 – 3,000
    • Healthcare: 2,000 – 2,150
    • Fashion: 800 – 950
    • Recruiting: 900 – 1,000
    • Food: 1,400 – 1,900
    • Travel: 1,500 – 1,850
    • Film: 1,500 – 1,700

Team Yoast – Longer Content is Better (If You Have Good Writing Skills)

Team Yoast, makers of Yoast SEO and overall authority on WordPress SEO, have their own article on blog post length. Here are the cliff notes:

  • A blog post should contain at least 300 words in order to rank (that’s also the advice they give in the content checker of their plugin).
  • Longer blog posts of 1,000+ words have a higher chance of ranking well. More content means Google can better understand what your post is about, helping it move up in the search rankings.
  • However, you need the writing skills to sustain longer blog posts and make them valuable. Otherwise, they might scare off your audience rather than draw them in. For that reason, you need to also make your blog posts readable.
  • If you are not the best writer, maybe aim for 700-800 words instead.

BuzzSumo – Investing in Content Volume Over Length is also an Option

An article by Buzzsumo offered another interesting perspective from the realm of online journalism. Many news outlets have adopted a successful content strategy that includes simply posting more (short) content. Of course, you need the labor force to make this happen.

OrbitMedia – Bloggers See Higher ROI in Longer Content

OrbitMedia regularly performs surveys among bloggers to spot trends in the blogging world. Their 2017 edition questioned 1000 bloggers. Here are the findings concerning content length:

  • The average blog post is now 1142 words long, 41 percent more than three years earlier.
  • Half as many bloggers write content with less than 500 words. In contrast to that, the number of bloggers writing 2000+ word posts has increased sixfold. They also report better ROI from longer content.

orbitmedia average blog post length per blogger

What Does All That Mean?

Going through the above, you have probably already identified some patterns. Let’s summarize the key findings.

Long-form Content Rules

One verdict is pretty clear: if your goal is to rank well, get links and social shares, long-form content is the way to go. In pretty much all studies, it greatly outperformed shorter pieces in these areas.

However, what exactly constitutes long-form content is not set in stone. The studies agree that it should be at least a thousand words, however, it’s probably better to shoot for 1,500-2,500 or even above that.

Yet, these numbers also differ by industry and should only be seen as guidelines. In reality, you need to adjust your content length to your particular area, the competition and topic you are covering.

Short-form Content is Also an Option

However, shorter posts should not be completely dismissed. They can also be a viable part of your content strategy, especially if you can produce a lot of them. They can get decent mileage on social networks, however, their SEO value is generally relatively low. There are exceptions for some industries. Again, it’s important what you are writing about.

In Any Case, Concentrate on Quality

While there is an obvious correlation between content length and content success, other factors also matter. Most of the articles and studies above stress the importance of focusing on quality first. That’s something we have also repeatedly stressed, for example, here.

What does that mean?

It means investing in readability, a good structure, layout, and visual aids like images. Also, make sure your pages load fast and that your site is optimized for mobile.

Most of all, however, focus on relevancy. High-quality content means, when somebody clicks on your link in the search results or on a social network, they get what they came for.

This also determines much of your content length. After all, blowing up a topic that you can cover in 200 words to 2,000 won’t increase the value for your audience.

On the other hand, don’t shortchange yourself either just to fit into an artificially defined range. If your goal is to create an uber-useful resource that takes 4,000+ words to cover, by all means, go for it. If it’s worth it, your audience will appreciate it.

So, Is There Such a Thing as Ideal Content Length?

The question of how long a blog post should be is very central to blogging and content marketing. After all, creating content is an investment and it’s only natural to want a return on it.

Looking at the available research in this area, it’s clear that long-form content tends to perform better. That is no wonder, as the average content length has only been increasing over the past years.

Therefore, content creators who want to play in the big leagues need to keep up with the competition. However, short-form content also has its merits and can be part of your content strategy.

In the end, your topic needs to determine how long your content is going to be. Just concentrate on creating the best blog posts you can and let it develop naturally from there.

What’s your experience with content length? How do you handle this topic in your content strategy? Let us know in the comments section below.

Nick Schäferhoff is an entrepreneur, online marketer, and professional blogger from Germany. He found WordPress when he needed a website for his first business and instantly fell in love. When not building websites, creating content or helping his clients improve their online business, he can most often be found at the gym, the dojo or traveling the world with his wife. If you want to get in touch with him, you can do so via Twitter or through his website.

The post What is the Optimal Content Length? – Here’s What the Science Says appeared first on Torque.

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