How Long is the Ideal Blog Post? 16 May, 2007 — 26 comments — Stuart Brown
On word counts and writing for entertainment
The internet is changing the way we read information. No longer are we constrained by a physical medium - we don't have a fixed number of pages to fill, nor a certain column inch quotient to meet.
It's liberating for the writer, but intimidating at the same time - how do you know when to stop?
Too little and readers will be finished in the blink of an eye - and too many words could mean your audience is gone before the reach the final paragraph.
So how long is ideal?
Learning by example
Different blogs on different topics all call for a variety of post lengths, but this variance aside, the typical reader of blogs has a fixed (and unfortunately short) attention span. What we can do is look at the trends prevalent in the top of the Blogosphere - as I did with my previous post on Top Blog Trends.
Taking the Technorati Top 100 as my sample, eliminating those which aren't in the English language, and those which aren't identifiable as conventional blogs, I took an average word count of the 10 most recent posts on each blog.
The graph above shows the distribution of the average word count - the shortest average was a terse 77 words, and the longest a snooze-inducing 1,449. The vast majority of posts were over 100 words and under 500.
If we group the posts into distinct strata, we can see a clearer indication of the distribution:
Essentially, the distribution is a normal curve with positive skew - with half of all blogs having an average of 100-249 words per post.
Consistently shorter posts are rare - usually limited to blogs devoted to non-written content (pictures, videos, audio etc.), and with celebrity gossip blogs having a tendency to be more concise - Perez Hilton, for example.
On the other end of the spectrum, there's a distinct jump in word length for some blogs - in these cases it's usually a transition between writing for entertainment to writing for reference. With the transition comes the ability to post much longer articles, without the fear of losing interest. The articles over at A List Apart are a good example of this.
Writing to a limit
So, this begs the question - should a blog post be written to fill a specific length to be considered 'ideal'?
Absolutely not. The lack of any kind of imposed limit in a blog post means that your point can be made in as many words as you could wish for - but there's a lot to be said for terse copywriting.
If your topic befits it, write in-depth 5,000 word articles. If you're aiming for a more leisurely (and entertaining) read, it may be worthwhile considering that most popular blogs have an average of 100-250 words per article.
If you can express your point in fewer words, your readers might just thank you for it.