When we speak with new clients about Alaska healthcare marketing, one of the most common questions about blogging for business regards the length of content. How many words should a blog post be?
This might hail back to the days of composition class, when assignments were made by teachers with the specific goal for each book report or an essay to meet a length requirement.
The idea of "word count" is different in today's digital communications, however. The questions is not about "how long" a post should be, but how effective your content is at the word count you choose.
We have touched on the word count in this previous article, "Meet these 4 standards for the best medical blog posts," but let's talk about blog post lengths, why word count matters, and what "the rules" are today.
Is there an ideal word count for a blog post?
Yes and no.
An ideal word count has more to do with the kind of blog content you are creating: the subject matter itself, as well as the expectations your audience has when they open up your page to read what you've written.
An informal blog for stay-home mothers can easily get away with a quick narrative of, say, "the day we waited 4 hours for Santa to show up at the mall." It would be perfectly fine to relate this tale of heroism and tragedy in less than 500 words. It's all the story requires, and it's all the readers are expecting.
However, in a more formal blog, such as one written by a medical practice for the benefit of its patients, a discussion about stress during the holidays will probably need to examine not only the shared observation—that, yes, the holidays can lead to an increase in physical and emotional stress—but also, the underpinnings of that observation (answering questions like, "What are the signs of physical stress?" or "How to know you're emotionally stressed?") and some solutions to help the reader cope with their dilemma.
Why solutions? That is why the reader is visiting your medical practice blog: they need help.
If you can adequately discuss holiday stress sources, symptoms, and solutions in less than 500 words, then go for it.
However, in a blog post of that length, you may not find all the room necessary to give your reader a depth of knowledge on the subject.
If your posts end up only scratching the surface, and only offer what readers already know, they are destined to be disappointed and move on.
The ideal word count for a blog post is whatever it takes to achieve the goal of the post. In the case of a medical practice, a blog that identifies a problem, breaks out the problem into sections that readers understand, and provides solutions, is probably going to run over 1000 words.
Why does word count matter, anyway?
Three reasons: expectations, aesthetics, and optimization.
Word counts reflect reader expectations
As we've just described, a reader encounters a new blog post with a preconceived idea of what that blog post should offer them.
If you underwrite your post, you risk losing their trust and respect because you haven't helped them out with the problem they need to solve.
If you overwrite the post, they may not be patient enough to read it all the way to the end. Or, if the subject is complex, you might lose them by being overly complicated in your approach. Sometimes one long post (2000 words) is better broken down into 2 or 3 self-contained, related posts.
Back in the days when literature was only available in print, the notion of "space" was premium, and word counts mattered because there was only so much paper to commit to the ideas being written about.
Today, space is no longer an issue. But this doesn't mean a medical practice blogger can write 5000-word blog posts daily and expect a following.
Reading online is a different experience than offline. Eye strain and limited time to read are two reasons why shorter posts that get to the point still reign supreme.
Don't forget that the writing you post online must exist and compete inside what has mostly become a visual medium, where images and sounds and animations share equal space (whereas, in the print world, there were only pictures and words). A smart word count rule requires that text content be accompanied by images to "break up" the monotony of the visual page, and that means thinking about word count as a kind of measure of your virtual "square footage." More is not always better.
Finally, every word must count and every idea must be executive with efficiency and clarity. Creating effective content still matters in the world of inbound marketing, no matter what kind of business you run.
Optimization is still the name of the game
In the world of content marketing, what still matters most is "getting found." You could have the most powerful blog post ever, one that will change the lives of everyone who reads it, but if it doesn't rank well by search engines, who will find it so they can read it?
Hence the balancing act that every blogger faces these days. Writers must be able to balance the answer to the question, "How many words will ensure that my post ranks highest in search engines?" with the answer to the question, "How much does my reader want or need to know?"
It will depend entirely on the kind of blog, but there are some rules to consider.
What are "the rules" today?
Every year, certain marketing blogs come out with "the rules" for composing blogs that are the best optimized. Word count is a common area for discussion.
Here are some recent observations:
From DemandWave, November 11: "This may come as a surprise, but a recent study from Backlinko found first page Google search results average 1,890 words, a sharp increase from the standard 400-word blog post... In an era where people want short, concise content, why would longer content rank higher? Studies show that in-depth content that fully answers user questions creates a more positive user experience."
From 1&1, November 23: "Texts comprising of 200–300 words used to be more than enough to gain an adequate ranking position. Now users find themselves having to create longer SEO texts to achieve a good ranking... Search engines like Google use elaborate algorithms to evaluate the information content of a text and determine the value it offers the reader. These show semantic analyses and user metrics such as the average length of a visitor’s stay. Since it is impossible to constrain every topic to the confines of a predetermined minimum word count, the scope of your SEO text needs to be proportional to the complexity of the relevant topic. More content does not automatically mean a better ranking. Instead, search engines honour well-researched content with conclusive arguments and reliable sources."
From Jon Penland, writer and WordPress developer, November 26: "While you should not ever stretch content to fill a larger word count that the content justifies, you also shouldn’t let post length scare you away from writing long form posts. Google likes long-form posts, and as long as you follow guideline number 2 [Write for Your Audience, Not for Google], your readers will get a lot out of high-quality long-form content as well.
From Forbes, "If I Only Knew," November 28: "In general, it's best to shoot for an article length of at least 1,000-1,200 words. While shorter articles can rank, some research suggests that the highest ranking pages are in the 1,200-1,300 word range.
From Quicksprout, December 2: "I was skeptical about longform content at first. 'Nobody wants to read 4,000 words,' I thought... I was dead wrong. Because longform content rocks. It seems intimidating at first, but the benefits are insane. Need proof? Back in 2012, I ran an A/B test on my site Crazy Egg. I tested the regular homepage against a shorter version. And the longer version converted 30% higher than the short version."
From Impact, November 21: "Blog posts that are around 1,200 to 2,000 words are typically considered 'long-form.' However, those numbers are slowly increasing with 3,000 to 10,000 words becoming the new standard. ...That's a lot more than the traditional 350 to 600 words that we were taught was the best practice back in 2013. ...Three years ago when inbound marketing was still young and not as widely-accepted, this practice was effective. ...Today, when you ask Google a question, it will return what it believes is the highest quality post that answers your question, and in almost every case, it's long-form content, over 2,000 words."
So what are "the rules?" It's clear that the notion of an ideal blog post length is going to be a moving target. Digital marketing will constantly change shape as the technology and the way it's applied change.
The rules, then, are truly up to you to decide, with the answer based on what your medical practice blog goals are, what your readers expect from you, and what your resources allow.
Call us at 907-602-3438 and ask for Kevin Asp for further help today.