Time to Create Longer Articles on your Blog?

Faces of time and longer posts

Do you need to pub­lish longer arti­cles? Most writ­ers have under­stood that short arti­cles are nec­es­sary for read­er­ship. Is this true? Over the last cou­ple of years, blog experts have been re-think­ing the best size for a blog post and longer arti­cles may be best. Here’s why.

In “What Val­ue the Short Post to Your Blog? I talked about the val­ue short posts bring, espe­cial­ly where the lim­its are well-known, con­cepts are clear, and it sat­is­fies spe­cif­ic needs in the tar­get audi­ence. Despite reader’s needs and a title that tan­ta­lizes, not every idea, can be ful­ly explained in a short post. Many, or arguably most, need a deep­er, more mean­ing­ful, expla­na­tion to be pro­vid­ed. The type of expla­na­tion that quench­es the thirst. This is nec­es­sary to bring togeth­er many con­cepts for the fullest under­stand­ing of the sub­ject. Hence, this dis­cus­sion on cre­at­ing longer articles.
 

Perceived Value

 
Writ­ers should cre­ate a sin­gle post, rather than four posts of 300 words each, espe­cial­ly when the longer arti­cles are well struc­tured and gen­er­ates inter­est for the read­er. The rea­son is sim­ple, the read­er can fol­low the log­ic of each argu­ment, trace it through as the arti­cle pro­ceeds, even when there are many threads to fol­low. The small­er posts tend to con­sid­er only an overview, or one small thought. Gen­er­al sub­mis­sion sites, like Hub­Pages, do not per­mit sub­mis­sions to be mul­ti-part, e.g. ‘… part one,” “… part two,” etc. This must not become part of the life of your blog.
 
Longer articles and being individualOne chal­lenge, when there are many parts, is that titles tend to be dupli­cat­ed (except for a cou­ple of words) and we should all know search engines don’t like dupli­cates. Good old fash­ioned SEO advice is that both the title and con­tent should be whol­ly unique. Fur­ther search results will hide what they con­sid­er as dupli­cate mate­r­i­al. Besides, intro­duc­tions or con­clu­sions, are nec­es­sary for every part and are like­ly to be osten­si­bly the same for each. This will neg­a­tive­ly affect the page rank. Poten­tial read­ers will not like to see this either. Con­sid­er for one moment; you see a post in the search results that seems to answer your needs, but it says this is “… Part 4″. What is the per­ceived value?
 
Do you open this post? I don’t. Will you be able to see parts one to three? That is always on my mind. Expe­ri­ence has also shown me that they will not be avail­able. If you have asked sim­i­lar ques­tions, then you will know the best approach is to post all the parts togeth­er as a sin­gle arti­cle.
 

What Generates Readership?

 
The Snap Agency says, “Peo­ple, and giv­ing them the resources to improve their sit­u­a­tion.” They are thus say­ing that the need for improve­ment dri­ves read­er­ship. In a way, this flies in the face of the sug­ges­tion that head­lines dri­ve most read­ers and peo­ple don’t both­er to read the details behind them
 
This dri­ve for per­son­al or pro­fes­sion­al improve­ment may explain why a 38,000-word tech­ni­cal arti­cle would go viral. To be read any arti­cle must offer val­ue, and writ­ers must always think about that val­ue. Is that a rea­son to arti­cles longer arti­cles for all the mate­r­i­al you write? If you think fur­ther about that, then writ­ers need to offer a nugget of val­ue in the open­ing para­graphs and con­tin­ue to do this as the read­er con­tin­ues through the piece. The arti­cle should pro­vide val­ue, edu­cat­ing the read­er, or help them to solve their prob­lems.
 
The val­ue propo­si­tion holds the read­er on the page. Why else would they stay?
 

Conveying the Full Meaning

 
Full meaning?
Full mean­ing?

You can do a lot with 500 to 750 words; this is the nor­mal length of news­pa­per arti­cles. If it can show the news then it can also con­vey great ideas. Per­haps, the answer to how long any arti­cle should be is: as much as is nec­es­sary to explain the full sig­nif­i­cance. Some thoughts are com­plete in a sen­tence or two, oth­ers need much more expla­na­tion, this, and this alone, should dri­ve the need for longer arti­cles. The lev­el of expla­na­tion required. 

 
To explain any idea in 300 words you must ensure the read­er is not left con­fused or hav­ing unan­swered ques­tions. Only then is 300 words is the right length for the piece and not a word more. I am not sug­gest­ing we length­en our works for the sake of it, but I am say­ing that in many cas­es:
  • Ideas must be jus­ti­fied.
  • Explore argu­ments, both for and against.
  • Break the idea down into its com­po­nent parts.
  • Show the details because they matter.
The need for a fuller expla­na­tion dri­ves the length of what we write. Some pieces can be com­plete in a sin­gle para­graph while oth­ers require 50,000 words (e.g. a book). The full descrip­tion is what mat­ters, this deter­mines how long the con­tent becomes.
 

Providing the Information, Accurately and Precisely

 
The aim of writ­ten con­tent is to pro­vide the infor­ma­tion need­ed both accu­rate­ly and pre­cise­ly. Not every idea is easy to explain. Take the con­cept of sta­tis­tics for one moment. Most peo­ple detest them because they lack knowl­edge of how they func­tion. The sta­tis­ti­cian needs lit­tle or no expla­na­tion of how a con­cept works, but the own­er of a small busi­ness is like­ly to need more detail to under­stand the val­ue it can bring to their busi­ness. This is a case where the tar­get audi­ence mat­ters. Give explanations. 
 
full detail, different perspectives, lengthen articlesThe sta­tis­ti­cian will dive into advanced con­cepts with lit­tle expla­na­tion, but the lay­man needs their hand held through each stage of the process. Who is your audi­ence? You must show some read­ers every step in the process in order they under­stand. With­out the detail, sad­ly, they can become very lost, very quick­ly. Often, even with a detailed dis­cus­sion of the con­cepts, they can still fail to grasp the idea. A case where the writer fails to edu­cate the read­er. The need: sim­pli­fy the dis­cus­sion. This in turn may extend the length of the piece. Ulti­mate­ly the read­er needs to under­stand the significance. 
 
A writer must con­sid­er the reader’s lev­el of knowl­edge to pro­vide the right infor­ma­tion to the read­er at the right time. Aim to pro­vide too much infor­ma­tion rather than too lit­tle, the more advanced read­er can always skip a sec­tion.
 

Creating Longer Articles

 
Please under­stand that cre­at­ing longer arti­cles, for the sake of it, is an unwise strat­e­gy to adopt. Not all mate­r­i­al should be 2,450 words in length.
 
If I were to write an arti­cle on the val­ue of sta­tis­ti­cal analy­sis of sales his­to­ry to busi­ness (con­tin­u­ing the theme from the last sec­tion), I would be unable to do much more than intro­duce this com­plex top­ic in 600 words. Hence, the demand for more sec­tions to explain each ele­ment or con­cept, in turn. The detail adds val­ue and should show why it is nec­es­sary. Worse, fail­ure to pro­vide such detail can leave the read­er with­out a way to grasp the val­ue of this vital topic.
 
The detail may be high­ly spe­cialised, but be nec­es­sary. Most peo­ple would agree, for exam­ple that, sta­tis­ti­cal analy­sis can be a com­plex top­ic and has con­cepts that must be dis­cussed in terms a lay­man can under­stand. The detail should always add val­ue to the read­er. Remem­ber, oné of the prin­ci­ple rea­sons why peo­ple read con­tent is for per­son­al or pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment. Read­ers will strive to under­stand even com­plex details when it is essen­tial to the suc­cess of their busi­ness. Con­cepts may be hard to grasp, but once under­stood will bring a sense of achieve­ment and that is what the writer should aim to pro­vide, steps that bring suc­cess.
 
Remem­ber, every time you need to add a fur­ther explana­to­ry para­graph you are like­ly to add a fur­ther 60 to 80 words, or per­haps more. Word count should not dri­ve the need to add more, but the need to pro­vide the right lev­el of detail. The Val­ue propo­si­tion deter­mines whether you have, the right lev­el of detail. This can also impact your approach to the sub­ject, as a writer.
 

Leave a bit of Yourself Behind

 

A bit of yourself in the conversation

The lim­its of the writ­ing is one of the prob­lems of short­er pieces. Longer arti­cles allow you to com­ment about all the options avail­able, per­haps tell the read­ers why one approach is bet­ter than the oth­er choic­es pre­sent­ed. Bring your expe­ri­ence to bear! You audi­ence can learn from your exam­ple and feel they have the knowl­edge of an expert to fol­low. This is also where a video can aug­ment what you write.

 
Leave a bit of your­self behind in your work. This is essen­tial, the writer should make their con­tent  irre­sistible, so the read­er must come back in the future for the next inspired piece. Tac­tics to achieve this may include:
  • Engage the read­er in the conversation.
  • Antic­i­pate ques­tions in the reader’s mind and speak to them.
  • Build author­i­ty and help com­fort the reader.
  • Be pro­fes­sion­al but do not overwhelm.
  • Show how you have learned from your own failures.
  • Paint the pic­ture of the suc­cess­ful outcome.
  • Let your pas­sion shine through.
  • Read­ers must be able to make up their own minds.
  • Be ener­getic and make what you feel contagious.
  • Remain focused.
  • Chal­lenge people’s thought process­es, per­haps take them into the unknown.
  • Make sure the sto­ry you tell is interesting.
  • Occa­sion­al­ly you need to be a rebel. Say ‘No’ when most say ‘Yes’.
  • You should aim to build a rela­tion­ship over time.
 
Notice, the first of these points talks of draw­ing the read­er into the con­ver­sa­tion. Essays are, in part, also con­ver­sa­tion­al, return­ing to an ear­li­er point about the style of your blog.
 

The Google Impact

 
Bring Sherlock in on the SearchSEO Blog tool provider, Yoast, state “we have quite a few arti­cles con­tain­ing more than 2500 words and these real­ly help in the growth of our organ­ic traf­fic.” They believe that blog post length is impor­tant for SEO and there is good rea­son, search engines are try­ing to under­stand what your work is about. There­fore “Google… has more clues to deter­mine what your text is about.” Key­words will be used in the text of long arti­cles more often and will appear as a nat­ur­al part of your writ­ing (with the need for ‘stuff­ing’).
 
The longer arti­cles will have more ref­er­ences, more links, more pic­tures. Each pro­vide oppor­tu­ni­ties to men­tion key­words and strength­en SEO.
 

What is the Perfect Length?

 
In How Long Should Your Blog Post Be? Joe Bunting at The Write Prac­tice says “some of my best-read blog posts have been over 1,500 words long.” He also states that some expert blog­gers wrong­ly state, “blog posts should nev­er be more than 600 words long,” I agree.
 
Bunting has exper­i­ment­ed and believes short posts (under 300 words) that ask ques­tions of the audi­ence and invite feed­back are best for gen­er­at­ing com­ments. Appar­ent­ly medi­um length posts (600 to 1,250 words) will get more shares via social media (espe­cial­ly when com­bined with a pow­er­ful hash­tag). If you want more traf­fic from search engines, like Google, then the arti­cle should be 2,450 words long and there is data to prove this. Neil Patel in Why 3000+ Word Blog Posts Get More Traf­fic inter­prets this as “an aller­gy to short con­tent (unless you’ve a very author­i­ta­tive domain)” and “you have to cre­ate long form con­tent, mean­ing 2000+ words, high-qual­i­ty blog posts.”
 
 
Patel tells peo­ple they stand out by putting an extra 1500 words worth of effort into their sto­ry. How can you do that? Dis­cussed fur­ther in a lat­er section.
 

Driven by the Needs of the Content

 
Fulfil the needs of the content?In gen­er­al, the needs of the con­tent dri­ves post length. The cre­ation of longer con­tent should not mean you crank out irrel­e­vant and repet­i­tive words, the writ­ing should always be rel­e­vant. But the dan­ger of longer works is that irrel­e­vant mate­r­i­al remains, unedit­ed, and is allowed to be pub­lished. You must edit longer woks must and inspect them to ensure cor­rect­ness, arguably they can include a few longer and more flow­ery sen­tencesEven with a long arti­cle extra­ne­ous mate­r­i­al should be expunged, it has no place.
 
Rel­e­vance and how it is asso­ci­at­ed with the sub­ject at hand is vital. In the pri­or arti­cle, I asked “are the words you write rel­e­vant to your title?” This is still a valid ques­tion to ask while edit­ing longer arti­cles. I am not sure there is a per­fect length as the answer is real­ly about pro­vid­ing val­ue to your read­er, rather than word-count.
 

Extra 1,500 Words of Effort

 
The effort of the extra 1,500 words (sug­gest­ed by Patel) should be about:
  •  Research all the ele­ments need­ed in your story.
  • Pro­vide an expla­na­tion to the read­er at the right lev­el of detail.
  • Sim­ple con­cepts may be skimmed over.
  • Com­plex ideas require new sub-sec­tions (some­times more than one).
  • Tell the sto­ry behind the story.
  • Ensure it is com­plete (do not misquote).
 
Patel uses the word “effort” quite delib­er­ate­ly. This does not nec­es­sar­i­ly trans­late into words pro­duced. I have seen peo­ple pub­lish many words with­out say­ing any­thing. The writer who demon­strates a poor lev­el of knowl­edge of their sub­ject, has per­formed no research, repeats well-known asser­tions, adds lit­tle val­ue. The addi­tion of 1,500 words of effort, here, may result in con­tent that has some val­ue, but the orig­i­nal would have to be scrapped. The resul­tant piece may be worth the reader’s time.
 
The “extra” 1,500 words of effort behind this piece start­ed with a broad scope of research and con­tin­ued there­after. Look at ways to ful­ly explain things, you may add a few sec­tions that would oth­er­wise have been trimmed from the short­er piece. With all this effort the first draft exceed­ed 3,700 words and required that I take the knife and cut out many of the addi­tion­al ideas/stories and change some of the sec­tions into bul­let points.
 
One of the ear­ly bul­let points in this arti­cle says, “ideas must be jus­ti­fied” yet there was no room to jus­ti­fy that one. That sec­tion had to be cut, per­haps to be used for anoth­er day. One of the advan­tages of elec­tron­ic notes is that noth­ing is delet­ed; a note avail­able for future use. It may nev­er be used or it may become the intro­duc­tion for future mate­r­i­al. The jury has yet to speak about this. 
 

Sloppy Language

 
One of the chal­lenges of longer arti­cles is the ten­den­cy to use more waste­ful lan­guage, add sen­tences that have no pur­pose oth­er than to pad.
 
Of course, there are times when ideas need repeat­ing (to rein­force them) but not every con­cept needs repeat­ing, just the cen­tral one.

 

Relat­ed Articles:

 

 

 

Buy Peter B. Giblett a cof­fee as thanks for dis­cussing whether the arti­cles you pro­duce should be longer. The images includ­ed here are from roy­al­ty free pub­lic domain image col­lec­tions, pho­tographs from Pix­abay, or from Peter Giblett’s per­son­al collection.

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One Reply to “Time to Create Longer Articles on your Blog?”

  1. […] gloss over the sub­ject, miss­ing the expla­na­tion alto­geth­er. Cur­rent­ly experts believe that the length of a blog post is bet­ter being 2,000 to 2,500 words rather than 500 to 600 words. There should always be ample […]

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