The great American novelist and humorist Mark Twain lived before the advent of blogs, but his view on writing length still resonates today: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter,” he famously said. “So I wrote a long one instead.”

Writing succinctly takes time and skill. That’s why people often write long. It’s easier to just ramble instead of having the discipline to build a framework and distill thoughts into clear points that move the content forward.

Yet a long blog post that’s well-crafted, filled with cogent points and cites solid research can prove Mark Twain wrong and be rewarded with great search engine optimization (SEO) results. The top-ranked content in Google runs at least 2,000 words and up to 2,500 words, according to research from serpIQ.

Aiming for more length doesn’t mean epic paragraphs filled with 50-cent words. You still need to keep readers engaged, which means a longer blog should contain short and pithy sentences within the post. Two or three sentences per paragraph is a good cadence.  

Why is longer better for SEO?

Writing long allows for the possibility for more search keywords to naturally appear, which is good for SEO. Extra length also increases the possibility that link creators will see value in the content and generate the backlinks that make SEO soar. Short posts with banal bullet points won’t be considered of value, nor will long ramblings. That’s why quality content that explains and analyzes a topic for more than 2,000 words can be winning SEO material.

Longer blog posts are also good for going viral on social media. They received an average of 68 percent more engagement on Twitter and 23 percent more on Facebook, according to a study by Neil Patel of Quicksprout. The reason social media likes long blog posts is the same that link creators prefer them. They will link to and share content that is informative, comprehensive and actually says something of value.

Google also rewards long blog posts when it comes to its RankBrain algorithm and something called dwell time. The RankBrain algorithm is considered one of Google’s most important ranking factors. It uses machine learning to better match search queries with results based on what it thinks a user is really looking for. The algorithm likes longer blog posts because it focuses on informative content that will satisfy the needs of a user.

What about dwell time? It measures how long someone views a website. Google puts more value on websites with long dwell times. If people are captivated by longer blog posts, expect a longer dwell time to further elevate SEO.

When short works

A short blog post will always please a reader when written as cleverly as Mark Twain’s prose. And in today’s SEO-obsessed world, there is a time and place for the short post. It may not help with SEO, but it can achieve other objectives. For example, a short post is best for driving lots of comments and discussion if that’s what you need.

Here is a range of word lengths to consider:

  • Up to 300 words — Great for generating comments but bad for SEO.
  • 600 to 750 words — Still a little short for SEO, but a standard length for newspaper OpEds and good for comments and sharing on social media.
  • 1000 to 1500 words — Best length for social media shares.
  • 2000 to 2500 words — Optimal length for SEO and top-rated Google searches.

A lengthy opportunity

Yes, it’s easier to ramble and write long versus distilling thoughts into a compact essay. That’s why crafting a long blog post at 1,500 to 2,000 words can feel daunting — especially when there is a daily drip of content to feed.

But there is much opportunity to get ahead of the competition, considering that only 18 percent of blog posts are longer than 750 words. Creating compelling content is not something that be automated or scaled, which is why 60% of content marketers say they find content creation challenging.

The challenge is writing good content. There won’t be a spike in SEO and social media shares by merely posting 2,000 words of nonsense. The content has to offer quality advice and information based on authoritative sources. The more comprehensive coverage of a topic the better.

That said, no rule in the blogosphere or SEO is absolute. For example, this post is just shy of 1,000 words, which is worthwhile if 2,000 words feels like too much of a stretch. This is especially true if the reader comes away happy and informed. Also, remember to keep in mind your objective: go short if you want lots of comments and go long to enhance your SEO.

The best copy in the world doesn’t always move the SEO needle. A solid social media plan is necessary to promote blog posts, and that won’t happen if you haven’t built an online community of followers. The bottom line is that synergy matters when it comes to blogs, SEO and social media. Everything is connected. But a great first step is to know when to write long.

Further reading

There’s no shortage of views on how long a blog post should be. Compare notes and you’ll find a common theme.

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