There’s a lot of drivel going around the internet that 2,000 word or longer posts rank better on search engines and get shared more on social media.
Before you gulp down the kool-aid take a moment to consider what’s really going on.
While there are a lot or impressive articles backed up by seemingly genuine stats and simple charts they are all missing some essential truths.
Like most things on the web there’s an element of truth at the heart of it, but like most things in digital marketing it gets turned into a dumb process that completely misses the point.
Originally this idea came from Viperchiil who noticed that his long form posts were performing really well.
However, and this is a key point: Viperchill’s posts are good because they are packed with really useful and actionable information.
Every post is a virtual goldmine of ideas, so much so that you can’t take it all in in one reading. So you keep returning to it multiple times.
The distinction here is , is it good because it’s long, or is it long because it’s good?
And the same goes for sharing it on social media. Is it being shared because it’s long or shared because it’s good?
So consider if Google is ranking it because it’s long or because it’s good.
So that’s the first consideration.
Neil Patel, who has written some monster posts himself, says...
There is no single, standard length threshold that shows a consistent and conclusive correlation with better ranking, higher ratings, more shares, longer dwell time, lower bounce rates, etc.
That’s why I’m not stressing about 2k words, and why you shouldn’t either.
Why You Shouldn’t Write 2,000 Words-plus Articles
When people say long form content ranks better and gets more shares and engagement, they conveniently forget the last part of that equation - shares and engagement.
Over the years Google has increasingly put engagement ahead of other ranking factors when assessing the quality of a page.
It has all sorts of ways to measure this: how much time you spend on the page, how often you bookmark it or go back to it, how often it’s shared, how quickly you “bounced” off the page and more.
The actual length of the page is not really a consideration.
"Google doesn’t prefer long-form content simply because it is longer." - Coshedule.
You may spend more time on a page if it is long, but only if it is good. Nobody stays long on a boring page.
Google’s artificial intelligence “Rankbrain” measures all this activity, keeps learning and improving how it measures page quality and relevance.
The point of all this is to make you realise you should not be writing 2,000 word plus articles just to game the search engines and social media channels.
That tactic will come back to bite you later on.
“You cannot BORE people into buying.” - David Ogilvy
But How Do You Really Write a 2000 Word-plus Post?
You have to be a good writer, a really good writer with at least five years professional writing experience.
In the publishing and media world nobody gets allowed to write feature articles (1,000 words plus) until they’ve had at least five years experience. And that’s usually on top of a three year writing degree.
There are also of course naturally talented people, but even they have usually been practising and honing their craft for many years.
Then there are people who start off lousy but stick with it and eventually get good. Many famous bloggers started this way and openly admit their blogs went nowhere for the first few years.
Next are those who write information that is so useful or valuable, that people will read it anyway and tolerate your lousy writing style.
If you don’t fall into one of those categories, then you shouldn’t be writing long form content.
Otherwise no one will read it, and then you’ve wasted your time, energy and money.
And that’s not very smart marketing.
Don't Rely on Writing Tools and Robots
Tools like Grammarly, Hemmingway and any of the other automated grammar checkers are designed for two types of people.
1: People who don’t know how to write and need a guiding hand when starting out.
2: Professional writers who know the limitations of these programs and when these tools are wrong, which they frequently are.
These tools serve as a useful first check, but you do need to be smarter than these programs to use them effectively.
Algorithmic Headline Writers
Then there are the apps that tell you which are the most shared headlines and how to write yours to match. Such as using:”How to..” and a number in the headline.
Again useful to a point, but if everybody’s using them eventually all the headlines are going to start looking the same.
As Barack Obama says, algorithms reinforce a monoculture.
There’s no growth there, nothing to distinguish you from the crowd.
What you can do with these tools is look at the results and then ask yourself: “How can I say something different that will still attract attention?”
Google Will Eventually Bite You – Hard
The problem with long form content right now is that everybody is doing it. Several billion pieces of new content are added to the internet every day.
We don’t need any more poorly written pointless pieces of pap. Neither Google nor your audience wants that.
Plus Google will eventually penalize you for it.
It’s not like we haven’t been down this road before.
We’re Repeating the Mistakes of the Past
Over 10 years ago when people first realised that lots of content helped search engine performance, some people developed “content mills” and started churning out hundreds of slight variations of the same article and distributing it all over the web.
It worked for awhile, and then Google came down on it hard, wiping out the practice overnight and in the process many leading businesses search traffic.
Unfortunately the digital industry has a track record of not learning from its past mistakes, and the 2,000 word post option has now become a stupid and dangerous mantra.
As I said earlier, Google’s Rankbrain will eventually learn what’s good and what’s not, and penalise those that don’t measure up.
Google has been saying for 20 years that it wants content that people read and engage with.
That’s big clue. You should always and only write content for the people in your audience.
These are the people who will engage with your content and ultimately the ones you want to do business with.
Writing content to game the search engines and social media channels is the wrong strategy on so many levels.
I think we’ve lost our way. Marketing today has become more about gaming the system and get rich quick schemes.
Write for the Five Percent That Will Make You Rich
Copywriting and advertising legend Drayton Bird said that while we know that only five percent of people will read to the end of your copy (content), that 5% will make you rich.
These are the people you should be writing for. Not the people who will just read the headline or scan the first para, but those who are interested enough to read all the way through.
Identifying these readers is of course another topic, but then again, if you haven’t identified who they are what on earth are you doing writing 2,000 word plus blog posts?
So who are these 5%?
They will be in several groups and in order of priority...
1. Your existing customers and your existing network. These are the people most likely to read your content
2. Their networks. The people group one shares with
3. Those who come from inbound lead generation
The bottom-line of all this is...
1. Length doesn’t matter
2. Always write for people not machines
3. Only write for the people who you want as customers
4. If you’re serious, hire a professional to create your content