Why Focusing on Blog Word Count Is Stupid

Corey Wainwright
Corey Wainwright



Remember that kid in class who always asked your teacher how long his term paper needed to be? Most teachers (the good ones) responded, “However long it needs to be.” Length as a poor indicator of content quality rings just as true in business blogging as it did in school.

Just compare Brian Solis' latest 1,000-word blog article with Seth Godin's latest 100-word post. They've both been shared hundreds of times on major social media networks; so what gives? Let’s break down the reasons why word count in business blogging is unimportant and talk about the more important things you should be focusing on for your blog instead.

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Word Count Doesn’t Matter, But Mobile Optimization Does

According to mobiThinking, half a billion people worldwide accessed the mobile web in 2009. That number is expected to double by 2014. In fact, in the U.S. alone, 25% of mobile users are mobile-only, meaning they don’t even use a desktop, laptop, or tablet to access the web. It’s unwieldy for mobile readers to browse through content on mobile screens that are too small to display it.

What You Should Focus on Instead: Optimize your blog for a mobile environment. Your blog should load to fit screens on an iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android device so users don’t have to scroll and pinch to make your content fit. Then either write short-form content that can be easily absorbed by professionals on smartphones, or long form content that displays nicely on them.

Word Count Doesn’t Matter, But Effective Formatting Does

People aren’t reading every word on the page. Readers have short attention spans, and they’re scanning your content for its main takeaways. The July Google Analytics Benchmarking Newsletter tells us the average time on site in the U.S. is 6:06 minutes, viewing 4.7 pages per visit. That averages out to people spending a little less than a minute and a half on each page of your site. That doesn’t sound like an in-depth read.

What You Should Focus on Instead: Make it easy for readers to absorb the main takeaways by getting really good at formatting. Include images, break up content with bullet points and numbers (like Godin), and use bolded text to tell the reader where to focus their attention (like Solis). This will make it easier for people to glean the main takeaways, thus more likely they’ll keep reading your content and sharing it with their social networks.

Word Count Doesn't Matter, But Clarity & Depth Do

Some topics take 100 words to explain, some take 1,000 -- and that's okay. Great bloggers are concise in their writing. They recognize that some great points may only take a couple hundred words to get across, and they avoid writing more just for the sake of writing more.

However, if a longer blog post will make communicating your idea more effective, will ultimately help your readers either learn how to do their jobs better, or provide them with valuable content that they can share with their networks to make them look super smart, then let the words flow. Just as belaboring a simple point will increase your bounce rates, trying to squish a complex concept into an arbitrary low word count will disappoint readers who expected a deeper discussion of the topic when they clicked on your blog post.

What You Should Focus on Instead: Before you start writing, put in time up-front to narrow down the scope of your topic and outline the points you want to cover. Completing this exercise will help you understand if your topic is appropriate, or if you're writing about something that is better covered in something like an ebook or whitepaper. And if you refer to other concepts throughout the blog post that require more in-depth discussion, don't be afraid to link to longer form content you've developed around that topic. It not only enhances the reader's experience, but it also helps move them through your site to landing pages that can capture them as leads.

Have you found your shorter blog posts perform better, or do your readers prefer lengthier blog articles?

Image Credit: Maria Reyes-McDavis

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