I’m going to start out this blog post by apologizing. As much as I try, I do not practice what I preach. Word count is not something that comes easy to me. To me, hitting the right word count is a thing that I strive for, but never really seem to reach. Once upon a time, I wrote for television news, which meant that every single story I wrote had to be summed up in 20–30 seconds. That’s not a lot of words.
Over the years, I’ve broken myself of that habit and I’ve allowed myself to meander a little as I serve up information, but old habits die hard and I still have a difficult time stretching what I write into more than a thousand words.
I subscribe to the idea that it’s not the length that matters, but the information that you provide.
However, for some writers, word count isn’t something that comes easy. It’s something that they work towards and if they don’t enjoy writing, it’s a finish line of sorts. The real question is, where do you place that finish line?
The Bare Minimum
Let’s start out with this. The absolute bare minimum number of words you can have is 300. This is not some arbitrary rule created by me. This is a rule that was created by the entity we will call “The Algorithm”.
Some process somewhere has decided that in order to provide meaningful information, you need to do it in at least 300 words. If you don’t, then you’re not offering anything that a user can use and you are weeded out by “The Algorithm”.
Once you’ve established that 300-word threshold, you can work up.
We all have our strengths and if writing is one of yours, then, by all means, skip ahead. However, if you struggle to string together enough words for a thank you note, let alone a blog post, then you want to keep reading here.
The trouble with a non-writer is if the blog post gets too long, it starts to get incoherent and thus, unreadable.
The number one most important thing about a blog post is that it’s readable. A reader must be able to follow along from start to finish and learn something along every step of the journey.
If you are a non-writer, I would suggest that you either hire yourself an experienced writer or, stick to shorter posts. In shorter posts, you have less of a chance to zig when you should have zagged and less of a chance to lose the reader.
As the site Yoast points out, 700–800 words is a good goal for inexperienced writers.
The Experienced Writer
In an ideal world, you’re a rock star writer and that means your posts are going to please “The Algorithm”.
According to Search Engine Journal — a website that tries to keep its finger on the pulse of these kinds of things — a 2016 study found that the average length of blog posts on page one of a Google search had a 1,900-word word count. That’s some serious writing.
While the Snap Agency says, “If you can regularly hit 1,000–1,500 words, along with occasional 2,500 words posts, I believe your overall results will be better.”
Yoast is also in that range, saying, “If you’re an experienced writer you could write very lengthy posts containing more than 1000 words.”
And according to Forbes, “…posts which contain more than 1,500 words gained 68.1% more tweets and 22.6% more Facebook likes.”
What everyone agrees on is that quality over quantity should reign supreme.
Quality, in this case, isn’t just what information you cram into your blog post, but also how you present it. Tossing a bunch of facts out as they come to you isn’t going to help your reader, but laying those facts out in an organized fashion will.
Make sure that your blog post doesn’t just provide facts, but that it also outlines them in a way that is understandable and readable.
The Other Consideration
Your ability to write or inability is one of the key things to take into consideration as you determine the proper length of your blog posts. The other thing to think about is your audience.
If you’re writing for the stay-at-home parent that’s looking for a good article to read while he or she hides from the kids in the bathroom, then, by all means, type away. However, if you’re writing for the lawyer that’s reading your blog in the five minutes he or she has between meetings, then you want to make it shorter.
Think about your target read time for your article and then try to hit that time. According to the website Iris, the average person reads 200–250 words per minute. If you’re shooting for a quick read for your readers (less than four minutes), then make sure your blog post is less than 800 words. If you’re looking for a longer read (10 minutes or more), then 2,000 words is a perfectly acceptable goal.
The bottom line, consider your audience and your writing ability before you create a substantial word count plan for your blog. There’s nothing worse than setting an unrealistic goal and then feeling disappointed when you cannot attain it.
Written by Erika Towne