How long is a piece of string? That depends what you’re tying up, of course… Ok, this is my odd way of saying there is no one perfect length for a blog, rather, your subject matter and audience will greatly influence how much you can write. Length is still important and so too is how you deliver you message, so in this blog article I’ll provide some helpful observations on average lengths of successful blog posts. Dear reader, please read on…

It’s always about your audience

In 2012 the suggested ideal length for a blog post 500-700 words, according to an article from Snap Agency. Others have since suggested 1000 words is the target. The two most important factors influencing length have always been your subject matter and the appetite your audience has for content. For example, if you are writing quick thoughts for the day and posting daily to an audience of busy professionals then you will probably need to keep your articles short and to the point. Perhaps as short as 300-400 words.

On the other hand, if you are composing educative lessons with lots of information and instructions for application and posting weekly to an online learning audience then your articles should be of substantial length. Say, 1000-1200 words with links and images or diagrams to illustrate key points.

Focus length

Your blog length could be determined by reading time, that is, the average time it takes your audience to read your article. The average adult reading speed is 200 words per minute and even then the reader may only be absorbing around 60% of what they are reading. Based on this figure your 400-word article is an easy 2-minute read, whereas a 1200-word article will require a 6-minute commitment from your readers. So another way to think about length is, ‘does my article have enough value to hold a reader’s attention for 6 solid minutes?’

In terms of getting read, according to studies by Medium.com, 74% of blogs read took less than 3 minutes to read and 94% took less than 6 minutes to read.

Detail on the delivery

It is important to structure your content, to create a logical flow of information that your readers are easily able to comprehend. To do this you need to have a clear understanding of your topic. Where you have significant experience or expertise it is important to remember that you can’t share everything you know all in the one article. You must choose what specific aspect of the broad subject you aim to communicate in your article and stick to just that.

Planning out the story

Once you have narrowed in on your topic, loosely plan an introduction, your body content and a conclusion. Then give yourself a map or list to write to. What I mean by this is write headings for each of your paragraphs. These ‘working titles’ will mostly like be the main points of your message or argument and can serve as a great article construction tool. You can reorder these paragraph headings (even as you write the body text) to form a coherent story that has a beginning, middle and end. Have a look at the image below of how I planned out this article.

Planning a blog article screenshot

Eventually, with the paragraphs now written, you should go back to these headings and revise them to create snappy or witty teaser titles that entice your reader to keep moving from paragraph to paragraph without losing interest and giving up.

The excerpt

The first paragraph is the most important. Along with the title, these two or three sentences are all you have to convince a potential reader that your article is worth their time. You will also turn your opening paragraph into an ‘excerpt’ to be displayed by Google and social platforms as a preview to the article. You should rework your opening paragraph into an excerpt that is optimised for these platforms. More on this later in the series when we tackle publishing.

Plan your opening paragraph first but write the paragraph text last, once you know exactly what your article covers.

Bringing authority

Support and strengthen your argument with validating evidence and opinions from industry authorities. It’s ok to admit that you did research to build your article’s case. It’s better still to credit your sources and benefit from the trust and expertise in their name or brand. When you mention a source remember to include a link to their website, or article.

Making your point

Once you’ve introduced your topic and provided some informative points on the matter it’s time to wrap it up. Give your readers the upshot. Give them the answer they were searching for (if there is an answer). Make your point and begin to close, closing in a way that compels reader response.

The takeaway

Be sure to add real value with your blog article – add something that has helped you along the way. Give your readers a new idea, instruction, caution or virtue to walk away with having read your work. Something they can apply or will inspire life change.

Call to action

Often shortened to CTA, a call to action is an exhortation to your reader for them to do something active with what they’ve read. The CTA might be to have a great week and return back next week to read your next blog post. If your audience is building you might ask them to write a review of your blog and share a link on Twitter or Facebook. Your CTA might be a little more commercial, inviting your audience to click on a link to your online store to purchase your latest resource.

What ever you ask, be sure to clearly explain what the benefit will be to the reader. You can do this by offering an incentive like, ‘10% off in my online store for readers of my blog – just click this link’.

How did I go (are you still reading)?

There you have it. Another blog about blogging, this time with practical tips on article length and structure. I hope you’ve found this helpful and you’re on your way to beginning your own blog. Get in touch with me on the BirdBrain Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, or Facebook page where you can add your comments and ask any questions you might have on writing for the web.

If you’re interested in figures, the lengths of the blogs in this series so far are: Part 1 – 925 words, Part 2 – 1253 words, and Part 3 – 1140 words.

And to round out, here’s a link to an interesting article from Buffer Social on the optimal length for everything online and it has a cute infographic too. Spoiler: they suggest a 7-minute reading length for a blog article is about right.