In this post, I’ll show you an actual formula for the ideal blog post length.
Not only that, I’ll also teach you to use this formula to produce high-ranking content.
First, let’s talk about why focusing on blog post length is important.
Why Word Count Matters
“How long should my next post be?”
That’s something every blogger asked at one point.
Eventually, they settle for a minimum word count requirement after reading numerous SEO case studies and guides.
They then put the question in the back burner and proceed to write articles that probably won’t rank well.
Believe it or not, the problem lies in asking that question in the first place.
It’s not the bloggers’ fault. After all, there are tons of SEO tutorials out there that expressly recommend writing long-form content.
What they and thousands of SEO gurus miss is WHY long articles tend to rank better than short posts.
The SEO side of blog post length
You probably heard or read somewhere that writing long articles will help you reach Google’s first page.
The longer your content is, the higher it will rank in search engine results pages or SERPs.
What you need to realize, however, is that the above statement isn’t always true.
Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller actually verified that blog post length itself isn’t a ranking factor.
There you have it — clear as day.
Word count, as of 2020, is officially not a ranking factor as far as Google is concerned.
There’s just one problem: that doesn’t explain why longer posts consistently outrank short posts.
Just take a look at this data from Backlinko — an SEO blog trusted by experts worldwide.
Numbers don’t lie, but they also don’t necessarily paint the whole picture.
You see, long articles ignite certain user behaviors that increase your content’s rank-worthiness in the eyes of Google.
Allow me to elaborate.
1. Long, high-quality articles lead to longer dwell time
Make no mistake that Google only cares about one thing: user experience.
Dwell time or session duration is a great indicator of this.
Picture the following scenarios:
- A user visits Website A and leaves within three seconds.
- A user visits Website B and stays for several minutes before leaving.
Which website do you think did a better job of engaging the user and providing great experience?
You see where I’m going with this?
It’s simple, really.
The longer your posts are, the more time users will spend reading them.
However, they must have a high density of actionable, informative, and valuable information.
Your long-form content must also be scannable to help readers find the exact information they need quick.
To put things in perspective, let’s take a look at the top results for the keyword “how to get website traffic.”
One of the top results is this post from WordStream:
In case you’re wondering, it has a total word count of 2,604.
Other than that, WordStream’s post also utilizes clear headings and images to make the content more scannable.
We can observe this trend to continue with the rest of the first-page results for our keyword.
They also use a “Table of Contents” to allow readers to jump to specific sections.
Feel free to check out all three posts yourself.
Apart from their length, notice the tools utilized to improve scannability and readability. Other factors include:
- Content layout
- Content type (listicle, “how-to” guide, etc.)
- Website theme
2. In-depth articles can attract more quality backlinks
Longer articles aren’t only naturally better at maximizing dwell time.
With the right tactics, they can also help you build more natural backlinks from authoritative sources.
Keep in mind that there are many factors that affect a blog post’s link-worthiness.
One such factor is the inclusion of outbound links. This can pertain to brand mentions and citations.
Mentioning or referring to other brands in your content can get their attention.
If you cover them in a positive light, they might share your content with their audience.
Most posts that do this are classified as “Ego Bait” content, such as:
- Expert roundup posts
- “Top” listicles
The longer your content is, the more outbound links you can add without being spammy.
Just remember to have an outreach strategy to notify the brands you link to.
3. Massive posts get shared the most
Another reason why longer posts get more backlinks is that they get shared more.
BuzzSumo, a media tracking tool, did an analysis of over 100 million articles within eight months.
Articles with a hefty word count of 8,000-10,000 got the most shares on social media.
More social shares lead to more traffic.
Furthermore, it can make your blog more discoverable to influencers like bloggers, thought leaders, and industry experts.
If they like it, you can bet that they’ll add fuel to the fire by sharing your post themselves. Better yet, they may even link to your content in their next blog post.
4. Longer posts have more room for internal links
Aside from inbound and outbound links, there’s another type of link that every SEO-friendly blog must have.
We’re talking about internal links.
As you may have guessed, these are simply links that point to another post within the same website.
I’m a huge fan of internal links myself, as you may have noticed in my previous posts.
In fact, here’s an internal link to an article where I talk about internal links.
There are three good reasons why you need to start planning your blog’s internal link structure:
- Search engines discover and index pages through links — Internal links help search engine crawlers discover and index more pages from your website. This means you can leverage the popularity of a single post to improve the searchability of others with internal links.
- Internal links can result in higher pageviews per visit — Pageviews per visit measures the number of pages a user opens in one session. Naturally, having internal links that point to relevant, inner pages will help boost this metric.
- Present product landing pages at the right time — Internal links can also be used to bring organic traffic to your landing pages. Just be sure your offer is relevant to the reader’s journey if you want to generate conversions.
5. Comprehensive posts help readers accomplish tasks
Remember when I told you that asking “how long should my next post be” is a problem?
Here’s a slice of truth that a lot of SEO professionals don’t want to admit:
People get caught up in the “optimization” aspect of SEO.
Rather than prioritizing the goals of users, they get tunnel-visioned on metrics.
They’re so hungry for success that they focus too much on traffic, referring domains, word count, and so on.
As a result, they forget why search engines like Google rank pages in the first place.
It’s all about Searcher Task Accomplishment
That’s why content like this one from Entrepreneur is winning, and the majority of the internet is losing:
With the keyword “how to start a dropshipping business,” Google knows exactly what the users want to do.
They want to get their own dropshipping business up and running.
Right off the bat, Entrepreneur’s article clearly outlines the steps needed to make this goal a reality. You will also notice that the post is peppered with internal links that point to related posts.
Writing actionable steps and adding internal links to relevant posts are just two ways to encourage user action.
We will discuss more strategies shortly.
The bottom line is, you shouldn’t ask whether or not your content is long enough.
You should ask if your content will help readers accomplish their tasks.
Experts in the SEO sphere refer to this as “searcher task accomplishment” or STA. It’s a concept that takes into account key SEO metrics like dwell time, traffic, and pageviews per visit.
To sum it all up, writing long, STA-optimized posts is linked to the following user behaviors:
- Sticking on your website for an extended amount of time
- Linking to your post in a user’s own website
- Sharing your post on social media
- Clicking on internal links
- Actually taking action
My Formula for STA-Optimized Blog Post Length
Based on what you read thus far, one thing should be clear:
Blog post length is just a small part of a winning content strategy.
My formula for an STA-optimized blog post length isn’t just about determining the number of words you need to write.
It also focuses on how you’ll make each word count.
1. Start with a baseline
I don’t want you to focus too much on the number of words when writing blog posts.
However, it’s still a good idea to establish a minimum limit in terms of blog post length.
For this, you need to determine the average word count of the top 10 results for your target keyword.
Let’s say you want to create a post using the focus keyword “how to remove eye bags.”
As expected, the top 10 results consist of listicles and guides that help searchers accomplish their goal.
Pro tip: if the top 10 results include videos from YouTube, just add “-youtube” to your search query.
That should tell Google that you don’t want anything with the word “YouTube” on the SERP.
The next step is to calculate the average word count for all these pages.
To start, use a tool like this free word counter from KeywordTool.io.
Just copy the blog content from the original website and paste it into the main text field.
The word counter will instantly show you the number of words, sentences, paragraphs, and characters on the page.
Take note that the total word count displayed by the tool probably isn’t 100% accurate.
That’s because blog posts on the web may contain image captions, in-line advertisements, and other extra text-based elements.
You can go out of your way to remove unnecessary text, but I don’t recommend it. The initial value should be enough for what we’re trying to do.
Getting the average with Google Sheets
Repeat the steps above to get the individual word count values for the remaining nine pages.
We can then use a spreadsheet app like Google Sheets to easily grab the average.
First, enter the word count values under one column.
Next, click on an empty cell and select ‘Average’ from the “Functions” menu.
Lastly, select all of the word count values you added earlier.
To do this, drag a selection box from the top cell down to the bottom.
Press “Enter/Return” on your keyboard to get the average word count.
Why should we establish the length of these posts as a baseline?
Think about it. If there’s one company that can show you what works and what doesn’t SEO-wise, it’s Google.
There’s a reason why the results on Google’s first page are there. Looking at the average word count makes sure you don’t rule out anything when figuring that out.
If your draft is below the baseline word count, chances are the top 10 pages offer something you don’t have. But don’t overthink it.
Trust me, if you focus on STA, you’ll exceed this limit before you know it.
The key to success in SEO isn’t to copy the best.
Your goal should be to surpass the best — whoever you are and whatever your niche.
Making your post 20 to 50 percent longer than the baseline word count is a step in the right direction.
It should be easy to calculate the number of words you need to add. Just multiply the average word count by 0.2-0.5 and you’ll have your answer.
What do the values above tell us?
Ideally, our next blog post should be 1,691 or 2,113 words long.
3. Increase reader retention
After getting the ideal word count, remind yourself this:
Your post should be dense with valuable information.
Don’t make it your goal to reach 2,113 words. Focus instead on writing 2,113 words’ worth of practical and actionable advice.
There are a handful of surefire strategies that will help you write longer posts without making them “fluffier.”
Adding a Table of Contents
One concern that comes with writing long posts is the attention span of readers.
According to the 15-second rule, you only have 15 seconds to show visitors that you have what they need.
If they don’t find the exact information they want by then, they’ll leave. Simple as that.
Adding a table of contents can fix this by letting visitors know what to expect.
There are many ways to add a clickable table of contents to your blog posts.
I personally use custom code for Master Blogging.
If you use Elementor, you can also use the pre-built “Table of Contents” element. Otherwise, the easiest approach is to use a plugin like LuckyWP Table of Contents.
Embedding YouTube videos
Each year, more and more first-page results are featuring videos in their content.
That’s no accident.
Videos are particularly effective in holding the attention of web visitors.
The good news is, you don’t need to produce your own videos to use them on your blog.
YouTube makes it easy to embed video content in your posts even if you don’t own them.
Publish related content
Ever notice how Google suggests related topics on SERPs?
It all revolves around searcher task accomplishment.
Apart from accomplishing the user’s original goal, Google also wants them to receive useful information that’s relevant to their query. In return, the searcher will have a good reason to keep using the search engine.
That’s something you can replicate on your website.
After publishing a post, get to planning a series of follow-up posts that are relevant to the current topic.
Don’t know any related topic to talk about?
When done, plan an internal link structure that ties these related pieces of content together.
An easy strategy is to list down related posts at the end of each article.
Here’s what I do:
4. Ensure that the reader’s needs are met
I always believe that keyword research should come first in content development.
Because it allows you to grasp the user’s motivation from the get-go.
I dug deep on search intent in this guide.
Basically, users can only have one out of three possible search intents:
To write STA-optimized content, you need to keep search intent in mind before, during, and after writing.
If your post’s title is “how to build a WordPress blog,” readers should have a working blog by the end.
If they’re doing research on a product, give them all the information they need to make a solid purchase decision.
Remember all that. And when writing your post, try to do it as persuasively as possible to ensure information turns to action.
With all that said, there’s one last thing I need you to remember:
Unless you guide readers to their end goal, don’t you dare write a conclusion yet.
Take this post, for instance.
At this point, you already learned the following takeaways:
- Get the average word count of the top 10 Google results and use it as your baseline.
- Overreach by beefing it up by 20-50%.
- Use content strategies that increase reader retention, like embedding YouTube videos and publishing related content.
- Make sure that information turns to action.
There you go — the blog post length formula I promised.
Now that I know you got what you wanted, I can confidently end this post right here.