For a long time marketers believed that when it came to online content, the more in-depth it was, the more organic visitors it brought to your website.
While this is still true – longer blogs do generally appear higher up on search engine result pages (SERPS) – it’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Here, we’ll discuss the ideal blog post length for SEO, and why this isn’t the only thing you need to consider.
What is the ideal length for a blog?
So, how long should a blog be? This is a tough ol’ question as there are many things to consider. In a nutshell, blogs should only ever be as long as they need to be.
But how long do blogs need to be?
Well, this depends on the subject, and the intent of the person reading it. If you’re writing a blog on something fairly straightforward – say, the price of a pint of milk – which has a single proposition, and all the person reading your blog wants is a quick answer, you could probably get away with a shorter article, or even a simple one-liner in your website’s FAQ section.
So, is long form content not important anymore?
Far from it. Rich and in-depth website content is more important than ever. In fact, in a 2016 research project, Brian Dean found that the average word count of one-million articles which ranked on Google’s first page was 1,890.
But that doesn’t mean if you write an 1,800-word blog you’re guaranteed a spot on Google’s first page, or that everything your write needs to be at least 1,800 words.
What, I’m confused - how many words should a blog post be?
While longer form content does stand a better chance of ranking on Google, this is largely due to how engaging its readers find it. Let us explain: in another research project, Dean found that much of the reason that longer blogs generally appeared early on in search results was that they attracted more backlinks – another huge ranking signal for Google.
Backlinks are simply links to your blog from websites, including blogging platforms or news sites like the BBC, Reddit or Fark. If respected websites link to your web page (preferably using one of the keywords you’re optimising for in that blog as the link text), that’s a thumbs-up signal to Google that this blog is good-quality content that’s worth promoting.
Now, if you’ve written a single-proposition blog (like our price of milk example) and managed to drag 1800 words out of it, chances are your audience won’t be linking to it anytime soon. In fact, it’s very likely that they’ll just bounce off your blog as soon as they’ve found the answer (by the way, a high bounce rate affects search rankings as well).
By all means, write a long blog post but make sure your subject warrants it and your audience wants it.
How to structure a long blog post?
We love arranging our longer-form blog posts in much the same way as this article has been structured:
Title – featuring your main keyword
Introduction – featuring the main message/answer to the title question.
Sub-headers – made up of any associated keywords.
Conclusion – surmising your main points.
It’s not rocket science, but it’s amazing to see how few websites stick to this pretty standard format. Now there’s an even greater incentive to structure longer-form content, and this is to do with passage-based indexing.
What is passage-based indexing for SEO?
Passage-based indexing has been introduced to help users find what they’re looking for faster.
Google introduced this update to improve its approach to highly-specific searches. They found that often when its users googled a specific question and clicked on the most relevant search result, they’d still have to wade through the entire length of an article before finding their answer.
Passage-based indexing solves this problem. Now, when you search for a question or phrase and click on a result, Google will automatically take you to the part of the page that’s most relevant to your search.
As Google puts it, “we can find that needle-in-a-haystack information you’re looking for.”
Let’s look at an example of passage-based indexing in action:
When I google “types of Spartans” (because, you know, when don’t you need to know about ancient civilizations), the first result I see is from history.com. When I click on this result, rather than be taken to the top of the page, I’m immediately shown the following passage which Google believes is the most relevant to my search. It’s even highlighted yellow so I can’t miss it.
According to Google, this update will only affect 7% of searches worldwide. Nevertheless, it’s worth bearing in mind that when you devote valuable resources to writing a longer blog, there’s now an even better chance that it’ll rank for a selection of different searches, not just the ones to do with the title of your blog.
So, in the case of our Spartan article above, although the main title was simply “Sparta”, thanks to the inclusion of some clever sub-headings to do with the women of Sparta, Spartan society, its military, and its decline, this single blog stands a good chance of appearing on Google’s first page for any and all searches related to these topics. Plus, there’s less chance their visitor will “bounce off” the page when they can’t find what they’re looking for since Google has already taken them to the exact passage they need.
How do I make the most of passage-based indexing?
In your keyword research, once you’ve settled on what your main keywords are, hunt around for some extra keywords that are associated with this.
For instance, when researching keywords for this blog, although “how long does a blog have to be” was a firm favourite for the main keyword, I made a list of lots of other “associated keywords” which I believed people who would like my article would also be searching for, including “passage-based indexing for SEO” and “is long content important”.
As you can see, these became my sub-headers which, thanks to passage-based indexing, may bring the people who’ve searched for these to this blog – and keep them here.
At a glance: how long should a blog post be?Long blog posts are generally better than shorter but your title has to warrant it – don’t drone on for 1,800 words about the price of milk.
The average word count for blogs on Google’s first page was 1,890 – longer blog posts offer more opportunities to include your keywords.
Long form content is usually linked to more – satisfying yet another ranking signal from Google.
Passage-based indexing makes it more important than ever to structure your content - include lots of bitesize sections based on topics around your main core subject.
For help with creating a content strategy for your business, get in touch with the FINALLY team.