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.
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.
One 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
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.
The 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, one 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
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.
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.
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
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 sentences. Even 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.
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.
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.
Peter B. Giblett is a freelance editor and writer with a background in business and technology management. Former editor for a start-up on-line magazine. He is a non-practising lawyer, an Alumni of City University (London) and University of West London. The majority of his career was spent in business focused writing, creating proposals, financial justification and similar for business change projects. He volunteers some time daily moderating a general writing site.
Entrant and winner of National Novel Writing Month 2015, a work currently under the editor’s knife. Writing a new novel. Peter runs his own blog at called GobbledeGoox, which provides thoughts on writing, blogging, words, and word-craft. English born, now living in Canada.
View all posts by Peter B. Giblett