Various sources claim that the ideal length of an article/blog post comprises a 7-minute read. Remember that scanning is more important than reading, given that the attention span of an average reader is low, at best.
Simply put, that means a well-performing blog post needs to be informative, feature quality links, and be broken down by a couple of images, or at least just one (see below on virality).
So, how does one calculate how many words each reader can scan in seven minutes?
Good question! Many researchers have been musing about it, and we will hereby present the most conclusive of their findings:
- A study performed by Medium has concluded the ideal post length stands at 1,600 words for content without any images. The count should be sized down to 1,000 words for image-heavy posts.
- Research performed by OkDork has concluded that the longer the post, the more it gets shared. Posts with anywhere between 3,000 and 10,000 words fall into this category. The overall conclusion is that, given that there are 16x more posts with less than 1,000 words than longer ones, a successful post should feature at least 2,000 words.
- Backlinko has discovered that the average Google first page result stands at 1,890 words.
Overall, it would appear that the ideal word count hovers around 2,000 words – the intel that has been circulating around for a while now. Voluminous posts are presumably written by people who actually have something valuable to say, which usually means they are knowledgeable about the target topic. However, depending on where you’ll be posting your content, many popular daily and weekly posting sites suggest that writers submit posts around the 1,000-word mark,
As stated above, insightful posts are more likely to get shared. Nowadays, everything is about sharing and communication. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that some other insights come in handy when plotting the best strategy for blog posts.
Word Count and Virality
Now that we know that in order to be successful and widely shared, a blog post should feature between 1,000 and 2,000 words, and it’s time to couple it with other popular visuals.
Obviously, images are popular, but as to the number of them per post, there’s no general rule. Some people (like the writer of these lines) fair and square give up on any article split by too many images, simply because they appear unprofessional. Why? Attracting readers’ attention by using eye-catching images is too aggressive of a strategy for some. Further out, scrolling down endlessly just to read the next two-sentence-long paragraph is seriously not worth anyone’s time.
Various studies show that posts with at least one image get shared more on Facebook and Twitter, which means a reasonable number of images per post should suffice.
There is the choice of images to consider, too. Judging by social media shares, the posts featuring infographics and lists tend to get more viral than others. When it comes to the latter, lists of 10 appear to be the most popular. And while the reason as to why remains unclear, we’d venture a guess: 10 is a nice, round number that’s easy to memorize.
Blog Post Length Content Adjustments
Now, 2,000-word articles may be the most popular ones, but we’d argue the data is being seriously misinterpreted. Namely, the single most important factor is missing: the blog post topic.
Why does it matter?
The stats may well be true for 2,000-word trivia and how-to articles, which would require seven minutes to be read. But what is the situation with professional, educational, medical, engineering (and so on and so worth, you get the idea) articles?
Does it truly take only seven minutes to read and, more importantly, understand an insightful article on bioengineering? We don’t think so.
Rather, think in terms of the topic, the ideal content length, and the message you are trying to get across. Normally, complex topics require a premeditated approach, similar to university classes. It is a well-known fact that presenting too many pieces of information during a single session is more likely to antagonize than to actually intrigue the student. Plus, we still want content that converts.
The same goes for scientific articles. The ideal length for those should be adjusted in a way that presents relevant information but not dive in too deeply. Seriously, a 7-minute read can spell considerably shorter articles.
Think in terms of popular science videos – Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson – you know the drill. Ever heard them go on for hours about complex topics laymen have no idea about?
If you publish scientific content, the best approach would be to create a series of posts on each given topic so that the interest will not wane with time. In that way, you will be able to cope with the popular 7-minute-read rule.
Content Quality Matters
Finally, it is important to understand that not just any content will do. If you are aiming at a 2,000-word blog post that is poorly researched and written, you may as well abandon the quest.
SEO is a long-term strategy, and quality content always gets a better ranking and more shares. Also, mind the literacy of your posts. Even a simple misspelling may ruin your attempts at building trust with the target audience.
That having been said, contrary to the term, writing blog posts is so much more than just writing, to the woe of many lovers of the written word. Nowadays, it is all about ranking and trapping the attention of the illiterates, unfortunately, but that’s how things stand and are not likely to change any time soon (if ever).
On top of literacy, word count, images to keep the distracted reader occupied, links, and similar, there is also optimization to keep in mind… which means blog writing has suddenly become a whole new hodgepodge of boring by-activities that take a lot of time and have no value in terms of education whatsoever.
Fortunately, there are a couple of tools that help busy writers and rewriters meet the plethora of criteria, including:
- HubSpot’s Website Grader – grades and optimizes the content
- Feedly – helps you track industry-relevant topics
- CoShedule – analyzes blog post headlines and titles and provides feedback on various points of interest (keywords, grammar, length…)
- Grammarly – helps illiterates appear literate and also catches typos
SO, what would the key takeaways be? As always, when it comes to content, mind the quality! No matter what stats say, the quality will always value more than quantity. If you are an expert in rocket science, by all means, adjust the length of your articles so that they will meet readers’ demands, rather than dragging irrelevant points into them just to make the numbers.
If you are a trivia re-writer – by all means, stick to the 2,000-word rule. If you are submitting posts to be published on popular websites, read their guidelines, but expect word counts between 1,000 and 1,200 words. And don’t forget the images to keep the readers engaged.