How long should a blog post be?

The word on the street is that long content is in — the longer and more in-depth the better.

First the SEOs were recommending articles of no less than 500 words. Then 1,000, 2,000, 2,500 words.

Any advance on 2,500 words?

3,500 words from the lady at the front. Going once… twice… sold!

That’s right, according to the latest recommendation I saw, posts should now be no less than 3,500 words. Say what now?!

That’s a lot of words!

If you’re anything like me, you might be wondering where this will end. Will blog posts be the same word count as “War & Peace” before too long?

I can understand Google wants to showcase the best and most comprehensive content on page one. But they seem to have forgotten the reader in all of this. I mean, who do they envision having the time or inclination to sit down and digest 3,500 words of content in one sitting?

Realistically, any blog post should only be as long as it needs to be. Making it longer will compromise the quality.

And to reach these ridiculous word counts, writers will either:

  • Include so much detail that the piece becomes overwhelming
  • Go off course and lose the relevance of the piece
  • Bulk up the content with wordiness and waffle
  • Resort to dodgy practices, like article spinning.

However they do it, it won’t be good — especially for their human readers.

What would be more sensible?

I’m a big believer in proportionate content. This means content that’s an appropriate length for the subject.

Content like this is still good and can still rank well if it answers a specific question succinctly and definitively.

You can create more proportionate content by sticking to more focused questions and narrowing down the topic you want to write about.

Introduce a mixture by supplementing shorter and more focused blog posts with longer and more detailed cornerstone content.

Today, it’s the long, cornerstone content we’re looking at — and how to make it manageable for your readers.

Breaking up long content

There are two main ways to break up long content: You can split it into more than one article, or you can keep it as one long article and split it into sections and sub-sections.

Using more than one article

There are a few options here. The one that’s best for you will depend on the kind of content you have.

Write individual articles

If you find your content goes off on a lot of unrelated tangents from your main subject, you could divide it into several detailed standalone articles.

Each article would fall into the same category on your blog, but they could be wildly different in their content.

Serialise your posts

This may be a good option if you have long content that:

  • Follows a chronological order
  • Is a step by step process
  • Introduces a subject in stages.

When you create a series of posts, each post builds on the knowledge and information that was introduced in the posts before it. So each post should link to the previous posts in the series for anyone who’s late to the party.

To create your series, look at all the content you have and look for ways to divide it up as evenly as you can. For example, you could split it into:

  • Date ranges or time periods
  • Breakpoints in your story
  • Sections of your process
  • Stages of your subject.

Publish each installment of the series in order and devise a unique hashtag when you promote them on social media that will tie them all together.

Create a content hub

If you’re assembling a large, detailed article that focuses on several areas of the same topic, you can break it down into topic clusters and create what’s called a content hub.

What is a content hub?

A content hub is a series of related articles on a given subject.

It consists of a main article that introduces, and lightly covers, each of the topics in the hub, then hyperlinks to a series of sub articles that cover each of those topics in detail.

A simple content hub

A simple content hub might look like this, with the main article linking to a series of more detailed, independent sub articles:

Image created by Jenny Lucas Copywriting

Content hubs are good for SEO as they allow you to focus on lots of different keywords. Google likes them because they’re incredibly comprehensive. And your human audience will enjoy them because they can bookmark your main article and use it to access all the others.

Breaking articles into sub-sections

Maybe your article isn’t long enough to justify splitting it, or you’d prefer to keep it as one and break it into sections.

You can break up long content into short sections and use a relevant and/or intriguing heading to introduce each one.

The benefits of using headings

Most readers tend to skim-read content and jump ahead to the points they’re interested in. Introducing each section with a relevant heading allows them to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily.

Headings are also important for your SEO, so take the time to research them and make sure they’re in line with what your audience is searching for.

Before we look at how to break up long content with headings, you need to understand how the heading hierarchy works.

Using the heading hierarchy

On web pages and blog posts there is a hierarchy of headings you should use. Headings run from H1, which is the largest and most important, to H6.

The smaller the number of the heading, the more important it is for SEO, which means your H1 and H2s carry the most weight.

The most commonly used headings are H1 to H4, so lets’s look at those and how they’re used.

H1: Main title
The H1 is the main title of your article and will be at the very top. There can only be one H1 on each page and it should be optimised so it’s in line with what your audience is searching for.

H2: Main headings
After the main title, all your main headings should be H2s. You can use these to head up each of your main sections.

H3: Subheadings
Use subheadings to break up the content within each section. If a section has several points in it, they should all be introduced with H3 headings.

H4: Sub-subheadings
Use sub-subheadings when your subheadings need subheadings!

There are also H5s and H6s, if you need to break down your points even further.

Now we can talk about the different kinds of headings and structures you can use to break up your article.

Different types of headings

I’m going to show you five different types of headings. Most headings are one of these types and one article might contain all of them.

Statement headings

A statement heading describes what you’ll be talking about in a statement.

Statement heading example: The equipment you’ll need for wallpapering

Topic headings

A topic heading describes each new topic.

Topic heading example: Wallpaper paste

Instruction headings

These are useful if you’re explaining a process and they’re often numbered.

Instruction heading example: Measure the height of your wall

Question headings

A question heading is a question that you will then go on to answer. Ideally it should be a question your audience is asking.

Question heading example: What are this season’s wallpaper trends?

Intriguing headings

If you’ve spent a long time writing content, you want your audience to read it. One way to do that is to make your headings both relevant and intriguing — so your readers want to read what comes next.

Intriguing heading example: The number one wallpapering mistake

Different types of post structure

If you’re looking for a way to structure your post, you could try one of these.

List posts

Break your content down into a numbered list of points.

Human audiences love a list post. From the title alone, they can gauge roughly how long the post will be and how much value it contains. List posts are also easy for them to skim-read and extract the information they’re looking for.

Here are a few examples of what a list post title might look like:

  • 10 Easy ways to…
  • A 15-step guide to…
  • 20 Good reasons to…
  • The top 10…
  • 101 ideas for your…

Style tip: The number in a list post is usually written as a number, whatever the number is.

Question and answer posts

If you’re introducing a lot of new information or ideas to your audience, they could have a lot of questions.

So you could structure your article as a series of questions and answers, with the headings as the questions and the body text as the answer.

You can find out what questions your audience is asking, and how they’re phrasing those questions, using sites like Answer the Public and Quora. Or by visiting forums and comments sections relating to your subject.

Inspiration posts

If your post is designed to inspire your readers with examples, you could divide it up into categories. Depending on what your post is about, some sample categories might be:

  • Seasons
  • Colours
  • Animals
  • Weather
  • Rooms
  • Sizes
  • Product types.

Content formatting tips

As I said previously, many readers tend to skim read content these days. But there are some things you can do to encourage them to read more.

  • Break up dense walls of text into short paragraphs
  • Use lots of white space
  • Display lists in bullet points
  • Use maps for geographical information
  • Show statistical information in easy-to-read charts
  • Use colourful diagrams to show processes
  • Include relevant images to add visual interest
  • Segment information and highlight important points using different coloured boxes
  • Separate quotes from the rest of the text
  • Include GIFs or video to show how things work, rather than just describing them.

About the author

I’m Jenny Lucas, a UK freelance content writer based in Leicester.

I’ve been writing compelling content since 2005 and now work as a freelancer, blogging for clients in a range of different businesses and industries.

If you need content for your blog and you’d like to find out more, please visit my website.