Blogging Basics for Aspiring Authors: Lesson 3
Over and over again I get asked the same question: How long should my blog posts be?
Typically, I answer, “Between 300-500 words.” Today, however, I’d like to answer this question in greater detail because blog post length can, indeed, affect your readership. It’s also an important thing to consider when you are blogging a book.
In fact, your blog posts could be 300 words long or 1,500 words long. Just the other day I wrote a post that was over 1,600 words long, breaking my own rule of staying under 750 words.
So, how do you determine the correct length for a post?
Let the Subject Determine the Length
You might simply allow your subject matter to determine the length of your blog post. In this case, if you can cover your material in 300 words, great! You are done. If it takes you 900 words instead, so be it.
This approach is akin to writing a book. It’s difficult to say how long a novel or a nonfiction book should be. (I’m also asked this question often as well.) There really is no set length for a manuscript. You write as many words as necessary to tell the story or to cover the topic thoroughly. That said, sometimes publishers have requirements. I proposed that my next book be just 40,000 words in length; my publisher said it had to be at least 50,000 words.
This tact works great when you are just blogging. It isn’t always the best approach when blogging a book. Read on to find out why.
Let the Book Blogging Period Determine the Length
If you are blogging a book, you want to keep readers coming back over the course of at least 9-12 months so you can create a following, or author platform. If you blog whole chapters, which is not blogging a book but serializing it, or if you blog half a chapter at a time, you’ll be done blogging your book in no time flat. And if that happens, you won’t have built a large and loyal blog readership in the process—which is the point of blogging a book.
That’s why I suggest short blog posts for book bloggers (somewhere between 300-500 words). This will be particularly important if your manuscript is short. If you have a long manuscript, you may find you can write some longer posts as well.
To help you determine the length of blogged book posts, try this: Estimate then number of words your manuscript will have. Then decide the period of time during which you will blog your book. For example, how many months you plan to blog your book. Then determine how many posts you will write during that time. Divide that number of posts into your book’s word count, and you will arrive at an average post length. You can also take your word count and divide it by a random average post length you decide upon (for example, 350 words); this will give you the number of blog posts you need to write. Divide that number by how many days per week you plan to blog, and you can determine how many weeks or months it will take you to blog your book.
Let Your Readers Determine the Length
Keep in mind that the average reader has very little time or interest in reading long posts. That’s why the online content creator’s rule of thumb is one computer screen’s worth of copy, or 250 words.
That said, maybe you don’t blog frequently and your audience likes long, in-depth blog posts. Great! Go for it. Write 1,200-word posts once a week. (This is not the greatest strategy, as I said, for blogging books, however.)
If you don’t know what your readers like, ask. It’s easy enough to put a poll on your blog and find out.
I believe that for the first 6-12 month of a blog’s life, you need to write often and consistently–2-7 times per week. Shorter posts will help you do this and gain the interest of your readers. Shorter posts published frequently will gain you an author platform and later help you sell books.
Let Google Determine the Length
Google has all kinds of complicated algorithms that determine what content gets indexed, helps or hurts your site and drives your blog up in the search engines. These change periodically. That’s why you hear about Panda and Penguin updates, for instance.
It used to be that Google was happy with 150-word-long blog posts. Then it was 250 words. I recently heard it had to be 300 words. Keep you ears and eyes open for news about new updates or information related to this.
I currently make certain all my posts are at least 300 words long to bow to the Google gods. I would encourage you to do the same. No sense posting content that doesn’t get indexed or doesn’t benefit the SEO of your site. I still try to keep my posts 300-500 words and attempt to not go over 750 words. I do, however, write to the topic most days.
(This post is 869 words long.)
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