How Long Should a Blog Post Be for SEO in 2021?

Marta Szyndlar
July 30, 2020

Inside this article:

If you’ve at least dabbled in marketing, you must have asked yourself this question.

Content length is one of the key SEO ranking factors. If your post misses the sweet spot, your SERP position will plummet. And even the best blog post isn’t worth much if nobody can find it.

But if you’ve come here to find an exact number of words you should hit to rank number one in search engines, sorry to disappoint. The truth is: the ideal word count doesn’t exist, which makes it a bit hard to estimate the effort to post articles with ideal frequency.

With SEO, nothing’s ever permanent.

There’s only one way to determine the best length of blog post: data!

In this article, I won’t waste your time with  statistics and the so-called “good practices.”

I’ll tell you how to perform the right SEO research to find your own perfect blog post length.

If it turns out your post could use a few extra words, but you’re out of inspiration, I also threw in a few  tips on how to write longer blog posts without sacrificing quality.

How many words should a blog post be?

Search engine optimization specialists, content marketers, and bloggers have been asking this question for ages. Some  attempted to answer it:

  • The inbound marketing guru, Hubspot, wants us to believe that ideal blog posts should have 2,100–2,400 words.
  • Neil Patel claims the optimal length depends on our industry and his estimates vary between 1,100 and 2,700.
  • Backlinko analyzed 11.8 million search results and came back with a definitive answer: “the average Google first page result contains 1,447 words.”

So, does it mean that you can write the average 2,000 words of blog content, post it, and wait for that number one spot?

Well... no.

At Surfer, we believe that the “ideal length” assumptions are worthless.

All the “foolproof” analyses above assume that there is a fixed blog word count preferred by Google. It might vary depending on the industry or post type, but there’s always an optimal average.

Search engines prefer different lengths for different keywords. And within these keywords, it prefers different SEO word count for different user intents.

In this article, we're talking about the content length that the search engines prefer. If SEO is not your primary traffic source, and you rely mostly on your social media channels, you don't have to blindly follow all of my advice. For example, long-form content is more popular on social media.

In online marketing, SERPs are the major website traffic source, don't ignore them.

Size doesn’t always matter—long posts vs. short posts

Let’s explain once and for all why bigger doesn’t always mean better.

After all, since the numbers above show that Google generally favors longer posts, why not just go wild and write a long article that beats the competition ?

In 2015, Brian Dean coined the term “Skyscraper Technique” and it took the SEO world by storm. It says: check what your competition wrote, write bigger and better long-form content, and reach out for backlinks.

The formula for Google ranking high is not that simple.

Every keyword requires research. It might be that to rank high, you don’t need a pillar page. Sometimes, it's best to cut your  article down.

Matthew Woodward, an online marketing specialist, has a story. Using Surfer SEO Audit, he discovered that one of his articles, currently ranking number seven on the first page of search engine results, is much longer than its competition. Surfer recommended removing 20,000 words. Matthew did it.

The day after, his article was ranking number one.

Readers don’t always want “ultimate guides” and “bibles of.” Sometimes, they’re just looking for quick answers or brief explanations.

Longer content isn’t always better than short posts! Just think about it: when you google “dollar rate,” do you want to see the current exchange rates, or the history of American currency?

Some search intents can be satisfied with the 300 words when you want  a quick definition like in the example above. Some might require 600 words or 1,000 words.

There are two things you must do to find the ideal blog post length for you: analyze the competition and determine the user intent behind your keyword.

How to find the ideal blog post length for SEO

You have to analyze your competition to find out. Ideal word count for blog post that fits all keywords do not exist.

The one thing you absolutely need to do is check the average word count of the top-ranking posts for your keyword. Your blog post should be longer than the average, but shorter than the longest post in the top ten.

But how to go about this research?

5 practical ways to boost your SEO Ranking

1. Do it manually: copy, paste, and find the average

If you’re a casual blogger, or copywriter you can try this. It might take a long, but if you’re not in a rush, it pays off.

What to do:

  • Type the keyword you want to rank higher into Google Search.
  • Now it's time to analyze your competition. Make sure you don't compare to the content that doesn't match the user intent. For example, if you want to write an educational blog post and the top 10 in SERP includes 9 similar pieces and a Wikipedia article, don't treat the outlier as your competitor. Compare yourself only to other relevant articles.
  • Beware: if you notice your SERP of choice is full of high quality content that doesn't match your intended user intent, drop it.
  • We wrote a detailed piece on how to pick the right organic SEO competitors for your analysis with Surfer.
  • Copy and paste the first relevant piece of content into Google Docs to check its length. In Google Docs. You can also use free online word-counting apps like LetterCount.
  • Remember to include the comment section. Google sees comments as part of your blog post content!
  • Repeat the process for the top-ranking blog posts that match your user intent.
  • Draw the target word count.

2. Use Keyword Surfer and save time

What if you’re a content marketing strategist, or an SEO professional that has to perform analyses every day? Copying and pasting the articles one-by-one is tiresome.

Our free SEO extension for Google Chrome, Keyword Surfer, will help.

With the plugin installed, the relevant data pops right up next to the Google results. See:

word count in the keyword surfer chrome extension

The icon next to the results is the number of words for each post. Now, you can easily draw the average from your competitors. To choose the right competition, follow the instructions from point 1!

As a bonus, Keyword Surfer will show you data on the organic traffic, exact keyword usage, monthly search volume, or information on the related searches.

3. Use SEO Audit to optimize existing posts.

You can use Surfer SEO Audit to check your existing blog posts and find out how to improve their performance.

It will help you determine your ideal blog post length and optimize your existing pages.

Click the Audit tool from Surfer's nav bar, and type in your main keyword(s) and URL. You can pick between an SEO analysis for Mobile or Desktop.

Surfer Audit main menu

When your audit is ready (you will see a green tick next to Audit). Click it.

a ready query in Surfer Audit

You can see how your post’s length compares to the competition. Next, optimize your text.

Word count feature in Surfer Audit

It’s not just the length—you can check other SEO factors, like keyword density, and missing backlinks. Then, it’s just a matter of fixing the shortcomings.

Talk about a quick solution!

The guidelines are based on your SERP competition. The tool chooses the best competitors , but if you want more control, you can change the picks.  Click the "Select competitors."

Picking competitors in Surfer Audit

Here are some tips on how to choose the optimal competition for the Audit:

  • Compare yourself with posts that match your user intent and content type. You want to write a blog post and 9 out of 10 search results for your keyword are blog posts, but you can spot a product page? Exclude it from the audit!
  • Choose competition with the highest Content Score. The higher the score, the better optimized a given piece of content is. Generally speaking, all the sites that are above 67 can be considered high-quality.  Why compare yourself with low-quality pages anyway?
  • Careful of the posts that are longer than the average. Just like I mentioned before, there’s no point in writing a long-form piece of content just to hit the “perfect” length.  Google may punish your post for being an outlier and your position will drop.

4. Use Content Editor for writing new blog posts

If you’re a copywriter in need of writing a brand new, high-quality piece of content, Surfer Content Editor is it!

Type your keyword  and see the top ten search engine results and the  average blog content length.

With Surfer Audit, it’s best to choose the best competition for your Content Editor guidelines.

choosing compeitors in surfer content editor

You also get insight into the posts’ structure and keyword density.

content structure suggestions in surfer content editor
keyword suggestions in surfer content editor

Content Editor will optimize your posts for  the ranking factors. Start writing without worrying about SEO!

Here’s a video on how it works:

Increase the word count of your post without reducing its quality

What if your SEO analysis reveals that your blog post should be above 5,000 words, but you feel like 2,000 words exhaust the topic?

Sometimes, it feels like everything you could add to your post is low-quality fluff. You can always extend the blog length for SEO to increase its quality and delight your readers.

1. Use 'People Also Ask' in Google as inspiration

If you’re in charge of writing an epic piece of content but your mind is blank, Google can help.

When you search for a keyword, Google shows a “People also ask” section on the first page. These are  questions  strongly connected to your query.

people also ask in google

Choose the most fitting ones for your article!

Also, jump to search results for one of the proposed queries and see a  new “People also ask” list.

Be inspired to a write quality, long-form blog post!

2. Use Content Editor for ideas

Our Content Editor provides lots of keyword suggestions on how to write SEO content. It inspires, and  helps your text get a boost for SERPs.

keyword suggestions in content editor

See the red and green buttons? It shows many times a given keyword should appear in your post for optimal results. Write to turn them all green.

Too many red boxes might mean you have a content gap to fill. For example, if you’re writing a review for the newest MacBook, but you haven’t mentioned the phrase “keyboard" and your competitors have, fix it.

If you turn all the boxes green, but still need to write more words, Content Editor helps!

You can check out how other bloggers used the keyword in a sentence:

examples of keyword usages in content editor

Find a point of view you haven’t discussed yet, and weigh in!

Access the “People also ask” feature from Content Editor, without  losing the content you’re writing.

people also ask section in surfer content editor

3. True Density to remove the content gap

When an SEO audit reveals that your  existing blog post should be longer, trust SERP Analyzer.

Compare the top ten pages and keyword density using the True Density category.

true density in surfer serp analyzer

Check which keywords you’re missing and write more about them. Or check out which keywords the competition is missing, and give the readers the blog posts they want. The length  and  value increase!

SERP Analyzer shows you in which context your keyword was used by the competition:

examples of keyword usage in surfer serp analyzer

4. Write a solid summary with key takeaways

When writing a long summary, you might feel like you’re repeating yourself.

Ever skimmed through an article and only read the headings or the main points ?

This is especially true if your content is meant for professionals.

The readers are busy and don’t care about your writing style. They want the meat.

Summarize. Repeat all the main points in a concise way. Use your keywords a bit more. And you'll have  extra words without adding new information!

5. Include quotes from industry experts

Here's a great way to increase both your blog post length and relevance without breaking a sweat.

Collecting quotes from industry experts doesn’t require you to write new content.  It does add legitimacy to your articles  since you can back up your words with proof.

I agree 100%. Adding expert quotes to your content is an easy way to increase the word count AND the overall value of your blog posts!

Michał Suski, SEO expert and Surfer co-founder

There’s one more thing to remember before you start adding content to your blog post. If you  run out of inspiration before the perfect length, never resolve to fillers. No amount of SEO success can make up for losing credibility in the eyes of your audience.  Put high quality over quantity.

Share original data

This point is not applicable to every post.  Not every topic requires hard data.

If you're after a competitive keyword, original data is a must.

We can access data easily and just present it in a relevant way.

At Surfer, we study SEO data to back up our theses.  Even if your company doesn't have a lot of non-confidential data lying around, there are still ways to acquire original insights—send a poll to your customers, or ask experts at your company!

Be honest about your methods. Even a few answers gathered among the staff of your company might be valuable for your readers in the right context. Just present it as a small case study instead. We're after quality here, not just adding a few extra words !

Final thoughts

I hope that after reading this guide, you'll find the perfect blog post length for you.

SEO is about data. No “perfect” word count can beat  keyword research. How long should a blog article be doesn't have one answer.

SEO Blog length varies, but longer blog posts are not always better than shorter posts. It all depends on the topic at hand. A lengthy blog post doesn't guarantee better results, just like shorter blog posts aren't a guaranteed failure.

Analyzing your competition and determining user intent will allow you to check if the content length is a ranking factor for your keyword at all. And if it is—which length you should aim for.

There are ways to perform this research. If you’re pressed for time and looking for more efficient methods than manual counting. Surfer is here to help you!

Don’t pick a blog post length at random and hope you get it right. Instead, always trust the data.

Good luck with your content journey!

See also