Are longer posts better? It depends.

I may be a writer who specializes in biometrics, but I write about other things also.

Perhaps you didn’t know this, but my favorite record album of all time is The Beatles, more commonly known as The White Album. Side 3 of that album concludes with a George Harrison song, “Long, Long, Long.”

Harrison was NOT talking about blogging when he wrote “Long, Long, Long.” Heck, we didn’t even have Usenet back in 1968. But if “Long, Long, Long” had been about blogging, most people would think that Harrison lived in a crackerbox palace.

Ain’t She Sweet, when sweet is a blog post?

For years, I’ve subscribed to the theory that blog posts need to be short and sweet, and have corrected myself when I thought that my blog posts were getting too long. After all, my first blog post in October 2003 was only two paragraphs long. My second consisted of a single sentence.

However, the vast majority of my subsequent posts were much longer, which finally led me to try to embrace succinct writing. Or try to, anyway.

Even Bredemarket’s business tactics are geared toward shorter blog posts. The reason that Bredemarket 400 is called Bredemarket 400 is because the target minimum length is 400 words. I’d certainly be open to writing a 2800 word blog post—after all, it provides me with more revenue—but so far my blog post customers have preferred the shorter length.

And the shorter length seems to fit the consumption preferences of some people. When seeking information, many people prefer a few minutes of reading to an hour of reading. Even if something is broken up into a series of posts, do you really want to read a 27-part series?

But what if posts aren’t read by people?

Which brings me to a comment that I made toward the end of a recent, short blog post.

Perhaps you’ve seen my post “Rhonda Salvestrini and her secret salesperson.” As I concluded that post, I inserted the following:

And yes, Rhonda, this blog post has far fewer than 3,000 words…

Most of the people who read the post may not have had any idea why I said that. But Rhonda certainly knew, because in the interview that formed the basis for my post, Salvestrini briefly referred to a preferred blog post length of 3,000 words or more. She didn’t really go into detail about WHY longer blog posts are better, since this was outside of the scope of the interview.

So I looked up the topic.

One of the items that came up in my search was a Neil Patel post entitled “Why 3,000+ Word Blog Posts Get More Traffic (A Data-Driven Answer).”

Yes, friends, the reason that longer blog posts are better is derived from…science. (No, I won’t post the song. You can find it yourself.)

By dm4244 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63061280

You see, short blog posts can be great if a human is reading them. (Or perhaps not. We’ll come back to this later, when I give you 70 reasons why longer posts can be better in some cases.)

But in many cases, HUMANS AREN’T THE ONES READING BLOG POSTS. At least not directly.

Perhaps I’m going out on a limb here, but I suspect that most of you don’t wake up every morning and say to yourselves, “I’d better go check the Bredemarket web site and see if there’s a new blog post.” That’s NOT how this website, or many websites, get the majority of their traffic. In many cases, people visit a particular blog post because they’re searching for an answer to a question.

A question that they asked a search engine.

As a result, the people aren’t reading the blog posts. THE SEARCH ENGINE is reading them.

And how do search engines find content? Patel’s post links to another post that discusses long-tail search engine optimization. In brief, this post asserts (and Patel agrees) that more descriptive phrases are more beneficial than single words.

Let’s use an example, and say that you’re looking for a writer who specializes in biometrics. If you search for “biometrics,” you will get a lot of results that don’t really pertain to what you’re seeking. Perhaps “biometric writing” might be better, but, as I found out (iguana food, you know), that presented a number of results about a particular biometric modality. “A writer who specializes in biometrics,” while not yielding perfect results (yet), appears to provide results that are much closer to what you’re seeking.

Back to Neil Patel. His post includes a graphic (I don’t have permission to reproduce it here, so you’ll have to find it) that asserts that 70% of search traffic is long-tail traffic. And it stands to reason that longer posts will tend to have more of those longer phrases that are search engine gold. (Don’t try shorter posts that use keyword stuffing; Google’s on to that.)

In summary, posts often AREN’T read by people, but by search engines that are seeking the phrases for which searchers desire the answers to questions.

Why not go to seventy different sites to answer your question?

But Patel asserts that there are other advantages to longer posts. One of these is the fact that a comprehensive post on a particular topic will serve the reader better, since it can answer all of his or her questions.

How many of you groaned when you saw my question above about visiting seventy different sites? If you want a comprehensive answer to your question, I’m sure that most people would prefer to read one comprehensive well-written post instead of reading seventy different posts.

Here’s part of what Patel said on this particular topic:

You’re perceived as an authority in your industry. Your audience appreciates comprehensive posts that delve into intricacies of their pain points. They won’t need to jump on 10 different websites to get the same information.

Yeah, Patel referenced ten sites while I referenced seventy. My pain points are truly painful.

A few moments ago, I made the statement that “short blog posts can be great if a human is reading them.” This is sometimes true, and sometimes not true, depending upon what the human wants to know.

  • If the human’s question is fairly simple—for example, “When did the Cuban Missile Crisis occur?”—then a short post with a single sentence may be sufficient.
  • But what if the human asks a more complex question—for example, “WHY did the Cuban Missile Crisis occur?”—many people aren’t going to be satisfied with a one-sentence answer. This article devotes over 2,500 words to the topic.

So, who’s right on blog post length?

If you’ve come to this post to find the definitive answer on blog post length, I’m going to have to disappoint you.

Blog posts are designed to do one of the following three things:

Regardless of attention span, SEO, or anything else, a blog post will be as long as it needs to be to satisfy its purpose. (Yes, I’m channeling Abraham Lincoln here.)

This particular post is roughly 1,200 words long, which is too long for a “succinct” blog post and too short for a Patel-optimized blog post. But I don’t feel like padding it to get to an optimum word length, and I don’t feel like cutting anything.

I especially don’t want to cut the George Harrison song.

Rhonda Salvestrini and her secret salesperson

I just listened to an interview of Rhonda Salvestrini, conducted by Sumair Abro. During the interview, Salvestrini made the following point:

Content for your business is one of the best ways to drive organic traffic. It’s your secret salesperson because it’s out there working for you 24/7. And it’s evergreen, so not only is it working…day in and day out…it’s available years down the road.

Rhonda Salvestrini
By Luke Rauscher – James Bond (Daniel Craig) figure at Madame Tussauds London, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=86705881

Excellent point. In my 17 years of online writing, I’m consistently surprised when someone contacts me about something that I wrote years ago. The Internet, for better or worse, never forgets.

So if you’re reading this quote in 2029, and the quote inspires you, let Rhonda know.

And if you’re reading this in 2020 or 2021 and are looking for a writing coach to give your enterprise a voice, Rhonda is available to assist you.

(If you’d prefer to outsource the writing rather than doing it yourself, Bredemarket can help.)

Finally, if you want to hear the rest of the conversation between Salvestrini and Abro, here it is. Both the interviewee and the interviewer share many other insights on content creation.

And yes, Rhonda, this blog post has far fewer than 3,000 words, which kinda sorta limits its repurposing.

Or maybe not.