- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On January 29, 2016
A few weeks ago I was sitting at my desk writing one of these blog posts when I received an email from one of our editors. He said he had several new blog posts ready to go and I should review them before they were sent to the client.
So I stopped writing my post and hopped over to review the client’s posts (clients come first!). What I saw was not what I expected. In fact what I saw put me in such a state of uncertainty that I could not even start writing my blog post again.
Instead, I ended up conducting a few hours of research on the Internet. Finally, I gathered together enough data to shake me out of my writing paralysis. In fact, it inspired me to write an additional post—this one! Here’s what I found.
What I saw in my editor’s email were several very short blog posts. At least, “very short” from my preconceived idea of how long a post should be.
The posts I write here average something like 700 words, but when I looked at the posts from my editor some of them were only 150 words. Egads! How would any client accept? Those posts were clearly too short…or were they?
This engineer needed to know. He needed data. And so off I went scouring the Internet for data.
1. Everyone likes long posts
Score one for me! I found some great data that supported my instincts. Long posts definitely are better.
Google likes long posts
Data from that extra long blog post writer, Neil Patel, proves that Google likes long posts. In fact, Google has so much time on its hands it just sits around all day reading posts that would make Tolstoy proud.
See the data below from SERPIQ. It’s the long posts that get the top ranking on Google search results pages. In fact the best post length is around 2,400 words. Yikes! I never write 2,400 words. Now I was sorry I took this side of the argument.
Social media people like long posts
It seems that people who hang out on social media sites also like long posts. The data from Buzzsumo and OKDork for the number of shares by length of content is even worse–the longer the content the more shares it gets. Now we’re talking about 3,000-10,000 word posts!
So the long stuff definitely wins. In fact the data says “long” is really long compared to my initial thoughts. We’re talking thousands of words.
The thinking goes that people and search engines like this stuff because it’s thorough and covers topics in depth. Google pushes this kind of content up the rankings so searchers can find this “good stuff,” and our friends share it on social media so we don’t miss out.
2. Short posts make more sense
The obvious negative against long content is the time and cost of making it.
I’d say our average 500-750 word blog post for this blog takes about 2-3 hours of work. If we use a rate of $75/hour for those resources that’s $150–$225 per post, and that does not really capture overhead costs, etc. If we use a rate of $100/hour that’s $200–$300, again not capturing overhead costs. These are only ballpark numbers. The numbers that make sense for you will vary based on your organization.
I’ve even seen some email recently that claimed the cost of developing a post is as high as $900. Our cost structure is clearly not as high as that, so I’m guessing the email was about larger organizations.
If we were to start writing 1,500 or 2,500 word posts our time and cost investment would go up significantly.
Seth Godin is a purple cow
It’s hard to tell if this works just because it’s Seth Godin writing them or because his writing is just so darn good. I’d go with the latter.
Thewritepractice has found that shorter posts actually get more comments, at least when they are written in such a way as to prompt discussion. So short posts actually work better when you are trying to maximize user engagement.
You don’t read that stuff you tweet
Research from Pocket found that people save long posts the most. But do they really read these posts? Or do they just save them and forget them? After all Pocket is a tool for saving content and does not know if you actually went back and read it.
Chartbeat’s research shows that we share articles that we’ve only half read! If we’re OK brazenly sharing long posts with our friends without actually reading them, then we’re probably fine sticking them in our files without reading them as well.
So maybe short posts are read and long posts are saved.
3. Standing in the middle of the road is dangerous
The data I found does not say much about writing “medium length” posts–the kind we’ve been writing here for a long time. So maybe the middle of this road is a place to get run down when it comes to blogging.
As with so much of this discipline of content marketing, the data does not really pinpoint the exact answer.
Maybe we need some cornerstones
I am intrigued by all the data showing long (extra long) posts are popular. One potential answer may be “cornerstone content” as Copyblogger calls it.
This approach entails building out some of the pages on your website so they contain long form content (2,000 words plus) but not necessarily sitting down to write all these words in one sitting. Instead you create this long form content from 4 or 5 of your existing posts. I think we may try some experiments in this direction.
If you’d like to learn more about hospital blogging best practices and see some examples, check out our ebook here.