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How Long Should a Blog Post Be to Win the SEO Game

How Long Should a Blog Post Be to Win the SEO Game

Inside this article:

How long should blog posts be?

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, I’m about to disappoint you. The brutal truth is: the universal ideal word count doesn’t exist.

As with all things SEO, nothing’s fixed in stone. Each case is individual.

There’s only one way to determine the ideal length of a blog post: crunching some solid, real-time data!

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

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

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

Read on and get that top SERP position you deserve!

How many words should a blog post be?

SEO specialists, content marketers, and bloggers have been asking this question for a long time. Some even 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 spew the average 2,000 words of blog content, post it, and patiently 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 you can compare ourselves to.

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

A question of "how long should a blog post be" cannot be answered without a careful analysis of the SERP for a given keyword.

And one more thing: 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 considered to be more popular on social media.

But as SERPs are the major traffic source, you shouldn't ignore them. In online marketing, it's always best to kill at least two birds with one stone.

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

Before we go any further, 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 an epically long article that leaves the competition in the dust?

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

Some still follow his advice. But the formula for ranking high is not that simple.

Every keyword is an individual case that demands research. It might turn out that to rank high, you don’t need a bombastic pillar page at all. Sometimes, the right thing to do is not expanding your article, but… cutting it.

Matthew Woodward, an online marketing specialist, has a story to prove it. 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 around 20,000 words from the body. Matthew followed the advice.

And the very next day, his article was ranking number one.

Here’s the thing.

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 a long history of American currency?

Some search intents can be satisfied with the 300 words, like in the example above. Some might require 600 words or 1,000 words, like when you're only looking for a quick definition of a given term.

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

Below, I will tell you how to do it.

How to find the ideal blog post length and boost your SEO ranking

So, if there’s no fixed formula, how long should a blog post be? To find out, you have to carefully analyze your competition.

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?

There are a few ways to do it.

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

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

Here’s what you have to do:

  • Type the keyword you want to rank for into Google Search.
  • Now it's time to analyze your competition. Make sure you don't compare yourself to the pieces of content that don't match the user intent you're after. 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 articles.

    Beware: if you notice your SERP of choice is full of content that doesn't match your intended user intent, maybe it's time to drop it?

    We wrote a detailed piece on how to pick the right organic SEO competitors for your analysis with Surfer, so check it out before you proceed!
  • Copy and paste the first relevant piece of content into Google Docs or another text editor to check its length. In Google Docs, you can do it by selecting the text and pressing Shift + Ctrl + C. You can also use free online word-counting apps like LetterCount.
  • Remember to include the comment section. Google perceives comments as part of your blog post content, too!
  • Repeat the process for the top-ranking blog posts that match your user intent.
  • Draw the average word count.

And there you have it!

2. Use Keyword Surfer and save yourself some time

But what if you’re a content marketing strategist or an SEO professional that has to perform a couple of such analyses every day? Copying and pasting the articles one-by-one is not only tiresome but also takes away a big chunk of your precious time.

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

With the plugin installed, the relevant data pop right up next to the Google results. Take a look:

word count in the keyword surfer chrome extension

See the little book icon next to every result? That’s 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 also 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 (a feature of SERP Analyzer) to check your existing blog posts and find out how to improve their performance.

In addition to helping you determine your perfect blog post length, it will help you optimize your existing pages for quick and long-term SERP wins.

The Analyzer automatically loads the first 5 search engine results pages (which equals 50 different sites) for your keyword. If your content is ranking lower, don’t worry—you can add it to the analysis manually.

adding your website to the surfer seo audit

You also don’t have to compare yourself to all 50 results. In fact, you shouldn’t. Choosing the right competition is crucial.

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 as well, 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. And why compare yourself to low-quality pages?
  • Be careful of the posts that are much longer than the average. It might be best to exclude them as well. Just like I mentioned before, there’s no point in writing a long-form piece of content just to hit an arbitrary “perfect” length. At best, it will be a waste of your time. At worst, Google will punish your post for being an outlier and your position will drop.

For example, when preparing an audit for the “ideal blog post length” keyword, the top 10 looks like this:

top 5 competitors in surfer serp analyzer
top 10 competitors in surfer serp analyzer

It consists exclusively of educational blog posts, so I don’t have to exclude anything on account of search intent.

However, all competitors but number 8 have a relatively low Content Score.

I don’t want to compare myself to sites with poorly optimized on-page, so I will exclude the blog posts scoring below 60 (pages ranking 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10).

excluding a url from surfer audit

Then, it’s just the matter of clicking the “audit” button next to your link.

In the audit, you can see how your post’s length compares to the competition. And it’s not just the length—you can also check for other SEO factors, like keyword density, missing backlinks, and more. Then, it’s just a matter of fixing the shortcomings.

surfer audit: missing backlings, word count, true density

Talk about a quick win!

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 will come in handy.

It allows you to type your keyword in and get information about the top ten search engine results right away. The average blog content length is obviously among them.

Just like with Surfer Audit, it’s best to choose the best competition for your Content Editor guidelines. You can follow the same rules.

choosing compeitors in surfer content editor

On top of that, you get an insight into the posts’ structure, keyword density, referring domains, and more. 

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

Content Editor will help you optimize your posts for all the ranking factors while you’re working. You can just start writing without worrying about SEO!

Here’s a video on how it works:

How to 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. But I promise: you can always extend the blog length in a way that will increase its quality and delight your readers.

Here are a few ways to achieve it.

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 you.

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

people also ask in google

Examine them. If you haven’t answered all of these questions in your article—choose the most fitting ones and do it!

And if you have, all is not lost. You can quickly jump to search results for one of the proposed queries and see a whole new “People also ask” list.

Click away, and something’s bound to inspire your new high-quality, long-form blog post!

2. Use Content Editor for an instant flow of ideas

Our Content Editor provides lots of keyword suggestions on how to write SEO content. Apart from being a source of inspiration, it will also help your text get that extra boost for SERPs. 

keyword suggestions in content editor

See the red and green buttons? You can see how many times a given keyword should appear in your post for optimal results. Write away to turn them all green.

Too many red boxes might mean that 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" even once while your competitors did, you need to fix it.

If you manage to turn all the boxes green but you still need to write a few additional words, Content Editor has one extra card up its sleeve.

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!

And the “People also ask” feature mentioned above? You can access it from Content Editor too, without ever losing sight of the content you’re writing.

people also ask section in surfer content editor


3. Use True Density to remove the content gap

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

One of its features, the True Density category in the audit, will come to your rescue.

Stack your piece up against the top ten pages and compare your keyword density.

true density in surfer serp analyzer

You can easily check which keywords you’re missing and write something more about them. Or even better—you can check out which keywords the competition is missing, and be the first one to give the readers the blog posts they want. The length increases and the value rises!

SERP Analyzer will also show 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, but trust me, this is not the case.

Think about it: how many times have you just skimmed through an article and only read the headings or the main points from the conclusion? My guess is a lot.

And you're not the only one! This is especially crucial if your content is meant for professionals and not just for leisure.

The readers are busy and oftentimes, they don’t want to be entertained with your flawless writing style. They just want the meat. And a comprehensive summary will provide it for them.

Repeat all the main points in a brief, concise way. This is a great opportunity to use your keywords a few more times. And just like that, you have a lot of extra words without adding new information!

5. Include quotes from industry experts

This is a great way to increase both your blog post length and your relevance without breaking a sweat.

Collecting quotes from industry experts doesn’t require you to come up with and write new content. But it adds legitimacy to your articles and positions you as a true expert in your field—one that is familiar with their landscape and can back up their words with proof. There’s no downside to this tactic.

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 somehow run out of inspiration before hitting the perfect length—although the chances of that happening are incredibly slim—never resolve to fluff and fillers. No amount of SEO success can make up for losing credibility in the eyes of your audience. Make sure you always put high quality over quantity.

6. Share original data

This point is not applicable to every post. After all, not every topic requires hard data and a scientific approach.

But if you're after a competitive keyword—and on top of that, you want to attract industry professionals—including original data is a must.

Oftentimes, we can access data easily and just present it in a relevant and attractive way.

Here at Surfer, we drown in SEO data and we always use it to back up our theses. But 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 even ask industry experts at your company!

Just be honest about your methods. Even a few answers gathered among the senior staff of your company might be valuable for your readers in the right context. Just don't call it a "cross-industry report" and present it as a small case study instead. Remember, we're after quality here, not just adding a few extra words at all costs!

Final thoughts

So, how long should a blog post be? I hope that after reading this guide, you'll now be able to find the perfect blog post length for you.

SEO is all about data. No arbitrary “perfect” word count can beat solid keyword research. The question of "how long should a blog post be" doesn't have just one answer.

Longer blog posts are not always better than shorter posts. It all depends on the topic at hand.

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 at.

There are a few 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!