When creating your B2B blog post guidelines, one of the most important steps is deciding the length of the blog post. This is an important question, not only for increasing engagement, but also for looking at how online content has been changing in recent years – and where it's heading in the future. Let's just say the answers may surprise you!
History and Expectations
Just how long can you expect readers to pay attention? It's a difficult question, because it changes all the time. Think back to the 1980s where the dominant form of trade communication and engagement were magazines: People were mostly willing to read profiles, interviews and news pieces that ran a few thousand words or more, just to get the inside scoop and keep up with the times.
The internet is typically blamed for changing all that; but what the internet really did was change how information was provided, which meant people didn't have to read only a few sources with lengthy articles to get what they needed. They could bounce between many different, shorter articles, and gain a better perspective. This was augmented even more by social media and the rise of blogs, where people tend to read mini-articles in just a few seconds and collect a vast amount of information by bouncing from site to site.
What this did to our attention spans is largely self-evident: However, there's no sign that this focus on shorter, super-quick content is a permanent change. For several years now, the ideal length of a written blog post has been around 500 to 700 words. From a broader perspective, anything between 0 and 1,000 words is thought to hit the target. It still works, and if you want a general guideline to put on all your posts, this rule still applies. But – if you want to go a little deeper – you may be able to improve your SEO by focusing on how the blog world is changing…because another shift is coming.
Time to Experiment
The first problem with the old 500-700 rule is that it only talks about words. But blog posts aren't just words anymore – they're usually a mix of words and pictures. Sometimes there's a photo gallery to look at, or an infographic to read. Sometimes a blog post is a video or Q&A. So the number of words doesn't really show how long it takes to experience content. This is why many sites and content marketers have switched to a new metric – the time it takes to experience a blog post.
This is almost always measured in minutes, which makes a lot of sense. At a glance, you can tell how quickly the average person can get through a blog post. A longer article may take several minutes to read through. A shorter article may only take a minute or two. Blog posts rarely go below a minute, but if they do you can talk about how many seconds it takes. This is a more universal metric that you may find more useful than counting words – and it yields some interesting data.
The Longer Post
So, what's the best time-length of a B2B blog post, and how does it compare to words? Here's where things are changing. According to research done by Medium and backed up by several different agencies, the current time-length sweet spot for a post is 7 minutes. That's right, a whole 7 minutes spent on a single piece of content, which works out to somewhere between 1,400 and 1,750 words, based on average reading speed. Yes, that's around twice as long as the old 500-700 rule, and those long posts have been shown to win more links, likes, and comments (5 and 6 minute posts did well too, but it was only after 7 minutes that interest started falling).
Why the change? Part of it is Google's fault – the search engine's algorithms have been favoring more longform content lately, because it shows investment in quality writing and detail. However, part of the reason is the changing taste of online readers. Short blog posts have a tendency to fall into cheap clickbait or a lot of empty words. Longer blog posts are more likely to be quality discussion, in-depth examinations of facts or trends, and good advice. Noting that, the internet audience is increasingly giving more attention to longform posts. If you want some of that attention, don't be afraid to work on longer B2B blog posts!