How often should you blog? How long should your blogs be? What’s the sweet spot for your industry/audience/niche? Do people actually read blog posts today, or have consumers become victims of content fatigue?
These are all common, valid questions that pop into my inbox or get asked of me when I’m guzzling down coffee at a networking event. Business owners want to know because their current content marketing efforts aren’t bringing in results.
And it’s frustrating.
The point of marketing is to bring in business. If you’re investing in hours (or hiring content writers) on your blog, you better see some payback for that time (or money) spent.
So, how often should you post? How long should your blog posts be? The only way to answer those and other questions is with cold, hard data.
A Sobering Look at Blogging and Engagement
But first, let’s saddle up to the reality that people are overwhelmed with all that’s out there. Brands are producing more, more, more and seeing fewer shares than ever before. 89% fewer shares than before to be specific, despite the fact that brands are now publishing an average of over 60 blog posts per month, according to data by TrackMaven.
Before you throw in the blogging towel…
There’s more to this data than meets the eye. Yes, shares are down and the amount of noise in the content marketing world is up, but people are still engaging with content.
TrackMaven knew this, which is why they continued digging into their data by analyzing over 65,000 blog posts from a variety of industries and businesses. The findings are the answers to your burning questions about content length.
In their 2017 Blogging Report (click the link to get the full version of the report, instead of the cliff note version here), they uncovered a few important trends about which blog posts get the most shares.
First, let’s talk word counts. I’ve worked with clients who publish their own 200 word blog posts and get frustrated when they don’t see results. I’ve also worked with clients who publish 2,000+ word blog posts and still don’t see the type of results they’re after.
So what is it? Longer? Shorter? Somewhere in the middle?
It’s not quite as Goldilocks of a rule (too much, too little, just right) as you might think. Data shows that erring on the longer side means more shares. More specifically, writing blog posts with 1,200 to 1,400 words are most likely to get more shares. Second most likely? Writing blog posts with over 1,400 words.
Longer is better. And it makes sense when you think about it.
Content marketing is all about providing value. Although a few bloggers can pack a ton of value in a short amount of time (Seth Godin is a prime example of this), most people arrive on blogs looking for answers. Your audience has questions and they’re looking to you for answers. Dilute your answer and you’ll leave your reader scratching her head thinking, “but I’m still confused.”
That’s not the type of content that gets shared.
What gets the most interest is the type of content that goes above and beyond in the answer. It’s the type of content that answers the core question, but then keeps digging to provide insight into the answer.
That takes words to accomplish.
It also takes your expertise and insight. The more you can put your brains on display, the more your audience will trust you and want to share their findings with others in their niche.
So, longer posts = more shares.
Don’t Neglect Readability
It’s tempting to watch the word count grow as you type and think you’re doing enough to get more shares, but that’s not the only factor in this equation. What you write and how you convey your thoughts is just as important.
It’s easy to fluff up posts to 1,000+ words. What isn’t easy is to fluff up posts with value where every word matters. What isn’t easy is to fluff up posts and keep them easy to read.
But beware. Oversimplification isn’t attractive either.
TrackMaven kept digging in their data and analyzed posts readability compared to the number of shares it received. Turns out, shares happen on a bell curve of readability.
When aiming for shares, you want to also aim for value. We got that.
But what’s more important is the way you’re conveying your value because perception is reality. If your post is too easy to read, your audience might think you’re not giving them enough value. If the message is bare bones, your reader might learn something new but not click away from your post feeling refreshed and as if she just found a gem in the mountain of content online these days.
TrackMaven used the Flesch formula to analyze readability, but there’s an easier tool for you to use to check the readability of your blog posts. It’s one of my favorites, called the Hemingway App.
If you’re not sure where your content falls on this bell curve, copy and paste your blog post into the Hemingway App tool (available online or for download, and all for free). Your blog post will receive a grade. Aim for anywhere between 5 and 10 for the ideal readability. This is complex enough to be compelling and simple enough to avoid confusion.
As a bonus, this tool will also check your grammar. You can improve your writing, making your brand look better and increasing the likelihood of getting your posts shared. Not bad, eh?
The key to writing more and writing better? Know who you’re targeting.
The takeaways aren’t revolutionary. Providing more value in a way that’s enjoyable to consume is the key to engaging your readers.
Still, it’s easy to get confused with all that’s out there today. To write better blog posts, you need to have a laser focus on who your audience is and what your readers want from you.
To get this, you need to understand your reader’s worldview. What matters to your audience beyond your business? What moves your reader? What gets her excited?
Knowing this will help you craft longer, better content that gets shared.
I’m giving you this worksheet to understand the worldview of your reader for free here.
And, I also encourage you to download the report from TrackMaven. In it, there are many more details about which headlines work the best, the role of images and videos, the best days to publish posts, and more.
What is your biggest takeaway from all of this? Will you be writing more, more often, or better? Let me know what you’ve decided in the comments below.