Balancing Blog Post Length With Burdening Readers
Nearly every week, I see someone suggest the blog post length edict that one should always split up longer posts into shorter ones and create a series. Is this a good strategy?
Blogging offers many unique challenges to those determined enough to produce a blog. One of them involves trying to find the “perfect” post length.
I offer the word perfect in quotes because of a basic fact I hope you already know: there’s no such thing as one perfect length that applies to all kinds of content on all kinds of blogs for all kinds of audiences.
SEO experts (including Yoast, a plugin used on this blog) suggest that a 300-word count should be the minimum for a blog post to do well. But once you hit that 300-word mark, which isn’t that difficult for me, how long is too long to keep going? And when do you decide to split that long post into a series of posts?
There’s a compelling argument to be made for creating a series when you can.
First, there’s the issue of additional content. No matter whether you use an Editorial Calendar, a post that you can get three posts from gives you three days’ worth of posts. Whether you post one day a week, three days a week, every day, or on a schedule that involves certain topics on certain days, multiple posts can take the pressure off of a blogger who’s constantly trying to invent new, fresh, useful content for his readers.
On this blog, Monday is the day I post content about blogging. If a major development in the world of blogging occurs on, say, Wednesday, then I’ll post something about blogging on Wednesday, too. But every Monday, my goal is to post something useful or interesting that relates to that topic.
So if I had a post about blogging that was long enough to split into four posts, I’d immediately have a month of Mondays covered. That would allow me to focus on other daily topics, like Grammar (Tuesdays), or Faith (Friday), for instance, and hopefully get ahead of schedule on them as well.
Second, there’s the issue of making long content more digestible for your readers. Sometimes, complex topics are more easily understood when they’re broken down into bits and pieces. It only takes remembering our own days in school to know that. As long as each individual piece of the bigger picture is well-explained and there’s something to be learned or something of value within those pieces individually, your readers may appreciate the smaller bits rather than one long complicated post.
There’s also a compelling argument to be made against being a burden by requiring a reader’s return.
Here at Patrick’s Place, I rarely do posts in a series format. I’ve done series a handful of times. The one that occurs to me off the top of my head came two years ago when I did a collection of posts on 5 Things I’ve Learned After 20 Years in TV.
I could have done the series as one long post. But I had enough to say about each of the five — or, at least I felt I had enough — that one post would have been a ridiculously long post. So I broke it up into five. What I made it a point to do was to link backward to previous posts. So by the time you reached the fifth and final post, it began with links to the previous four.
Why? The answer is simple: I’m grateful that a reader would come here once. It feels arrogant and presumptuous to me to expect them to come back post after post to get the “whole” story represented in the series. Sure, I always hope that you’ll come back just because you’re here now. But it feels very different when I change it from hoping you’ll be back to expecting you to be back. And even more strange when I change it requiring you to come back just to get my little remaining pearls of wisdom on a given subject I decided I didn’t want to hand you all at once.
It feels to me, in that case, that I’m asking you to solve, with your time and patience, a “problem” that I created. To me, that feels like I’m being unfair to you.
How do you feel about blog post length? Is there a certain word count you shoot for? Is there a certain cutoff that makes you either re-edit or split a post into parts? How often do you return to a blog to intentionally read the next post of a series?