Short blog posts can be good. Really – but let’s start with an anecdote:
Legend has it that Hemingway, while being at a bar with friends, bet everyone at the table 10 Dollars that he would be able to craft a complete and compelling storyline in 6 words. Once the money was on the table, he took a napkin and wrote:
“For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”
Then he collected his winnings.
I’m no Hemingway, but I believe there is are a lot of good things to be said about short blog posts – as long as they bring value to the reader.
Why Short Blog Posts Are Cool
This goes against a lot of common advice. Neil Patel, for instance, claims that longer blogposts (above 2,000 words!) drive more traffic. And from an SEO perspective, this is true.
I’m buying into that advice myself: On this blog, we try to write at least 1,300 words per post. My writing software allows me to set writing goals per post, and I usually set it to 1,500 words. We usually don’t accept guest posts under 1,000 words.
But: Short pieces of content have their place in blogging and content production in general. The cornerstone of blogging success is value – not wordcount. And while in general longer posts may drive more traffic, this is not always true!
With this piece I want to prove a point: I just set my writing software to 800 words – and once I finish my first draft, I’m going to cut it down to a maximum of 700.
Why? Because short form also has a lot of advantages:
- Good short posts get to the point faster
- Short pieces are easier to consume – this is blogging, not scientific research
- Short pieces (with value!) often work better on social media
- Do you need to blog more often? Short posts take less time.
Can I Back This With Data?
In this case, the data is so openly available that I am surprised this doesn’t get mentioned in the blogosphere more often:
Take clickbait sites – let’s go for Upworthy and Buzzfeed:
These sites drive incredible amounts of traffic through social media. Their content is optimized for social. Take this Upworthy post for instance: https://www.upworthy.com/republicans-and-democrats-should-never-forget-what-paul-ryan-just-said-about-the-poor?c=pop
This is long for Upworthy… 700 words. It was in Upworthy’s most shared posts this week, over 7,000 shares. (Contrary to popular belief clickbait sites are bringing value in their posts – that is exactly why they are getting so much traffic!)
Want more data? Here are the Alexa ranks for Upworthy and Buzzfeed:
The Problem: Value per Word
This is not an excuse for creating many short posts that bring little value.
Here is an example of what not to do: I could easily start a blog about cars. I would pull information from car manufacturers and write a post per car with no additional info. Value per post: Zero. Traffic to be expected: Zero.
Instead, focus on value per word.
Creating short posts that still bring loads of value to readers is a craft – an it needs to be practiced. Which is why so few recommend short posts.
Value per word is harder to achieve than increasing your wordcount. You will have to write slower than usual – you will have to think about how to best get your point across, how to shorten your sentences while not losing meaning.
No More Long Posts?
There is a place for both long and short blog posts. Some topics are complicated and shouldn’t get dumbed down.
Which leads us to an important aspect of the whole topic: What does your audience want? For Buzzfeed and Upworthy this question is easy to answer: They want a quick distraction – if the post is too long, it’s not right for the audience.
If your audience is only interested in technical manuals for complex machines – they don’t come short.
But most audiences will accept short and long-form content. The real question is how much value you are giving. And value per word is actually harder to produce in a long post. Producing very long posts with very little information won’t help you.
On the other hand: Long posts with tremendous value are great too!