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There are any number of reasons why your business should be blogging. But don’t take our word for it. Kevin O’Keefe’s Real Lawyers Have Blogs makes several compelling reasons why all businesses should have a blog post. Two statistics from this post, courtesy of HubSpot’s 2013 State of Inbound Marketing Report, should underscore the importance of blogging:

  • 79: Percentage of companies with a blog that reported a positive return on investment this year for inbound marketing. That compares to 20 percent of companies that do not operate a blog.
  • 82: Percentage of marketers who blog daily who picked up a customer using their blog. That compares to 57 percent of marketers who blog monthly.

So, how long should your blog posts be?

The short answer: Don’t focus on the length. Instead, focus on the quality of  your posts.

Forget Industry Standards

Ask around or check out some blog posts, and you’ll see a common theme: most posts are between 250 to 600 words. Sure, you’ll find a smattering of posts that are shorter and some that are much longer, including some that are more than 1,000 words.

But generally speaking, industry standard puts the length at around the 250- to 600-word range. However, don’t mistake that for a one-size-fits-all solution to story length. Glen Allsop, a Singapore-based professional blogger and a marketing and branding expert, has put in some research on story length. You can read the full post here.

When Allsop talks, people tend to listen. Check out his blog, Viper Chill, and you’ll notice a theme with his posts: Allsop tends to write long. Very long. One of his recent posts, “How to Really Build Backlinks and Dominate Google,” comes in at more than 2,800 words.

But that length is just fine with his readers. That post, in spite of its length, has drawn 553 comments as of writing this. Yes, that’s comments, not page views.

So if Allsop has taught us anything, it’s this: if your content is good enough, people will read it – regardless of the length.

Breaking Down the Numbers

Allsop has done a little research on the topic of story length. He actually went to the trouble of analyzing the most tweeted blog posts, and the results may surprise you. According to his research, Twitter users preferred posts that were about 1,100 words. In a different analysis, Allsop found that the average length of popular blog posts was roughly 1,600 words long.

He then wanted to take a look at blog post lengths for different industries, so he analyzed three posts from five blogs in eight different niches. A sampling of his results includes:

  • Gadget: 181 words (average blog word count)
  • Gossip: 183 words
  • Web news: 329 words
  • Politics: 465 words
  • Health: 666 words
  • Marketing: 1,085 words
  • Finance: 1,225 words
  • Personal development 1,470

This covers a variety of industries, but if yours isn’t one of them, Allsop has a suggestion: Check out other successful sites from your respective industry, then research the story length for their blog posts. “Don’t think that you have to stick to a specific length,” he said in his post.

He also offered up the below data for anyone to use. It’s a nice snapshot of average blog lengths.

 graphic

Short Attention Spans

So, why all the fuss about story lengths? And why can’t you just write a blog post and not worry about the length?

Well, you can – and still operate a highly successful blog. As Allsop noted, some sites will have posts that are 1,000-plus words along with posts that are in the 300-word range.

But generally speaking, most experts caution against going over the 1,000-word range. The reason? We have short attention spans.

Rob Weatherhead, who oversees the digital operations at MediaCom, wrote about the attention span of Internet users in a 2012 article for The Guardian. In that article, Weatherhead points to a 2011 AOP website usage study on UK Internet habits. In that study, he writes, a UK web user visited 2,518 pages that spanned 81 domains and 53 sessions in November 2011.

Let that sink in for a moment – and before you say, “Wow, that’s a lot,” think about how many pages you’ve visited today alone. It’s probably more than you realize.

The reasons we spend so little time on each web page varies. For one, there’s a lot to look at. Open up something interesting, scan through it, then click on the back button and move on to the next page.

But the proliferation of smartphones and tablets has also further shortened our attention spans. Now, we can view even more content at an even greater rate, because we take our cell phones with us everywhere.

Just Make Sure the Content is Top-Notch

So, the logical thinking, then, is that shorter is better when it comes to blog posts – especially when dealing with mobile users. After all, Google’s analytics seem to support that thinking. According to Google research, the average time U.S. users spend on a site is 6:06 minutes, with 4.7 pages per visit. That comes out to about a minute and a half per page.

But a recent story by HubSpot scoffs at the notion of focusing on word count, even when dealing with mobile users. Instead, writers should focus on making the important points of a post stand out. “Include images, break up content with bullet points and numbers … and use bolded text to tell the reader where to focus their attention,” the article says. This makes it easier for your readers to know what they should focus on. This is true whether you’re writing a 300-word post or a 3,000-word post.

As the article explains, write the story in as concise a manner as possible. Maybe it will take 100 words to explain your point, maybe it’ll take more than a 1,000 words. And, as HubSpot explains, if you have a concept that needs more in-depth discussion, link to other content. Doing so, “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.”