When I first created a blog to compliment my offline consultation business, I struggled greatly with understanding what the right length of a blog post should be. I took data and studies into consideration, how much time I had available, and how long my writing style would be tolerable to the average person.
I’ve received wonderful emails recently that specifically mention the length of my blog posts and have decided to share my process with you detailing exactly how I create long, engaging content with as little fluff as possible.
In less than two months, my email list went from 2 subscribers to nearly 200. That’s growth of roughly 100 subscribers a month from a brand new blogger with no online authority whatsoever. I don’t know if that’s impressive, but it feels right. These subscribers are all readers that have converted directly from my content.
How do I know?
Well, I have less than 400 Twitter followers, I’ve deleted my Instagram & Snapchat, and I have never been successful in another blogger sharing any of my articles to thousands of people. I’ve only guest-blogged once (Thanks, Elizabeth).
But, my list is now growing on average of about 5-8 signups per day, and I’ve booked four new clients in the past two months. All because I developed my own process for blogging.
As the new kid on the block, how did I approach blogging?
After pouring over data collected from digital marketing experts, I learned that they all pretty much agree on one thing — Google loves content over 2,000 words (Neil Patel maintains that Google prefers a blog post to be 3,000+ words). The exception being Medium whose data shows that people generally prefer for a post to be somewhere along 1,600 words (or take 7 minutes to read).
Honestly, I take this data with a grain of salt. I’ve read amazing blog posts with far less than 1,000 words. Immediately, Seth Godin comes to mind. Many of his blog posts are less than even 100 words and yet, they stick with me the way a blog post should. Some of his articles have led me to make significant changes in the way I do business. Similarly, I’ve come across incredibly long posts, backed by data that just bore me to tears.
It was nice to know what Google likes and what readers like, but I vowed not to let this data dictate how I write my own content.
I decided from the start that I wanted to promote posts without all the “feel goods.”
In the business blogosphere (what else am I going to call it?), the competition is somewhat fierce. Before creating my own blog, I delved into the business blogging community, learning as much as I can. I read meta-blog post after blog post, analyzed the websites of the biggest players, and got a feeling for what the average reader expects from a blog.
I wrote down pressing questions that went unanswered in the comments of other blogs. I wrote down my own questions, too.
I reached out to other bloggers, complimented them on their work, and took plenty of notes detailing what I liked and did not like about the community.
One thing I certainly did not like was the repetitiveness of information and how most posts read more like an outline than a life-changing article. If I’m being honest, I also struggled with the fact that posts which seemed obviously subpar were granted many comments along the lines of, “This is so helpful! Thank you so much!”
That terrified me.
I realized that I would face an uphill battle because I refused to fall in line. I just can’t do the fluff, the cute dog pictures, or the overly-hyped language of a bubbly personality. In real life, that’s not me.
I’m a fairly serious person with a relatively dry sense of humor.
I’m a bit prudish, and I like to stay on topic.
I also like digging beneath the surface, beyond common knowledge. I’m curious, I ask questions and I try to find as many answers as I can.
To be fair, I did try it on for size. I wrote short, vague posts, but I felt like I was doing every single visitor a disservice. I felt like an online con-artist.
Look at your own blogging community; whether it’s parenting, fashion, travel, health and fitness, finance, self-development, whatever it may be. Figure out what frustrates you, what you think is missing; fill that void.
I cultivated my own lane in the business blog territory.
I used an exercise that placed a bit of restraint on my writing. I’ll share it with you because I feel like it has also helped lengthen my blog content.
Break your blogging niche into two categories. I can break down mommy blogs as #1 bloggers who talk about how to find fulfillment in life beyond their kids (balancing personal identity and being a mother) and #2 tips for raising kids.
Both categories are related to parenting but from different angles.
From my experience, there are two main types of business blogs: motivational and educational. The motivational blogs are filled with inspiration, ways to boost productivity, how to keep trudging along, ways to find your passions and the like.
The educational business blogs are data-driven with statistics, graphs, and infographics.
Understand that you will have to land in one of the two categories you set, no matter how loosely. This helps your writing to become more focused and intentional — as a result, each blog post will be longer.
When you blog, you begin to establish a community. As the leader, you have to know where you’re going.
Before I continue, I want to say that — for me — this is the most important factor in creating long, high-quality blog posts: understanding your vision.
Yes, it’s clear you want to help people; in fact, that’s what we all want to do. Of course, we want to inspire and motivate others, to bring value into people’s lives and help them become empowered individuals. But, that cannot be your mission because it’s not enough.
It’s too vague, too bland, and too repetitive. And it will spill over into your writing.
The mission must come before the blog.
You don’t decide to create a blog, then come up with a mission. Instead, you start with a goal and use a blog to further that goal.
My consultation business came years before the blog — which I created to reach a wider range of entrepreneurs.
This applies to anyone who blogs, by the way. If you blog about food, don’t change the way you cook to fall in line with other food bloggers. If you blog about holistic health, envision what the world would look like if you gave everyone a transforming experience.
Imagine that every post you write is the one and only time you will interact with a visitor. You have to give them everything you’ve got. Put it all out there.
Bloggers tend to rely heavily on these funnels; assuming that they will continue a relationship with visitors simply because they’ve put these psychological traps in place. Traps like call-to-actions, irresistible subscriber incentives, and sharing buttons. These are only enhancement features that mean nothing without life-changing, transformational content.
My mission is more important than my time — it’s more important than me.
Yes, it would be easier to put together a decent 500-800 word blog post giving a general guideline of what my reader can do. But, I felt it didn’t speak well of my character or my business.
It also did nothing to help my mission of elevating people beyond the basic standards of life as dictated by society. Which leads to the next step of my process…
Every blog post begins with a question.
This makes for easy inspiration and I rarely run out of ideas.
On the few occasions that I can’t come up with topics to write about, I think back to a question I’ve already answered — either from an email I received from a subscriber or a question posed by a client.
I let that question marinate for quite a bit, jotting down thoughts and continuously asking questions until I get to an unanswerable why.
By then, I’ve exhausted all possible questions, I know my reader will be satisfied with the information and the final question I have left makes for a great conclusion.
I tend not to use as many statistics as I should.
I am NOT anti-data, but I am always extremely hesitant to include data in my blog posts. I have this fear that I will link to data which turns out to be horribly denounced or that the data I link to will quickly become obsolete and my entire point falls apart because my source was not solid.
I also dislike the way data is presented online; without the conditions of experiments or demographics unless they’re relevant. They don’t have the circumstances surrounding each study or detailed descriptions of how a study was executed. I don’t know the bias of the experimenter, there are no side notes of how questions were presented or non-verbal reactions.
There are too many unknowns because these studies are done with the intent of showcasing numbers and generalizing the data with broad conclusions all for the sake of content marketing.
This makes it hard for me to evaluate if the data is even relevant to my readers at all.
So, that’s yet another strike against me; a lack of outbound links to credible studies, and a lack of charts and graphs. Most days, I care. I worry that I am wasting my time and that blogging may not be the right medium for me.
But, some days I don’t give a damn and those are the days that keep me fueled, working with my head in the sand, thinking of nothing but pushing my readers further on their entrepreneurial journey.
I take special care to bond with the entrepreneurs who signup for my email list.
Anytime I am notified of a new subscriber, I evaluate every single one. I try to remember their names, I look at how they arrived at my blog, which post they clicked on, and I do my best to understand why they signed up.
Everything I learn from those moments, I use when writing my next blog post. Sometimes, I’ll even email a new subscriber directly (especially the ones that fill out the entire form). I’ll ask them questions, ask about their business, I just talk to them.
My very first subscriber came from a casual conversation on Twitter about business plans. Conversations are more important to me than conversions. In order to wake up every day and do meaningful work, I have to imagine that my readers, my clients, my customers, and my tribe are right here with me.
I have to hear their voices, the specific words that they use, and their immediate frustrations. It’s the only way for me to do them justice.
I look at every subscriber as someone who has made a commitment: to me, my philosophy, my credibility, and my skill set. They expect me to help them, teach them, mold them and if every single post does not achieve that goal, then I am no better than any of the other blogs they could have spent their time reading.
What should you do if your blog post is nowhere near the recommended word count yet, but your brain has deflated?
You might feel like you’ve broken a topic down as far as you could. Truly, there’s nothing left to say about it and you’re struggling to come up with ways to make your content longer.
There are some tips I’ve used to help me when I encounter moments like that:
#1 Start on another blog post.
It could be that another idea is starting to formulate in your mind and you need to release it. This is the best time to work on a complementary article (one you can link to in the article you’re struggling with).
If you’re a health and fitness blogger writing about nutrition tips, you might begin writing an article about Paleo dieting and link it to the original blog post about nutritional tips.
#2 Start deleting paragraphs.
You can’t build a fabulous house on a mound of crap. In your initial draft, you may have expelled all the mediocre thoughts you had on the topic and you’re now ready for excellence to emerge.
The problem is you can’t get there when the foundation of the article is underwhelming. So, just start deleting anything that doesn’t feel right and expand on the parts that do. Edit the remaining sentences to make them more engaging; use descriptive words, ask questions of your readers, mention people you admire to provide examples.
#3 Talk it out.
Having a conversation about your blog post can help you to better explain and defend your ideas. It will also help to spark new ones. You don’t even have to have the conversation with another writer. You can talk it out with family members or close friends.
For example, for this blog post, I could have a conversation with a friend about why they don’t like to read articles online — how long is too long?
I would ask them what blogs they do read and what they hate or love about consuming content online. Throughout the conversation, my own ideas are developing; particularly when we disagree. My friend will also help me see where some of my thoughts don’t even make sense.
If you’re a holistic blogger, you might ask a friend which vitamins they take and why those in particular. This will help you understand what aspect of health the average person is most aware of.
#4 Don’t use the word-count as your finish line.
Instead of looking at a word count of say.. 699 words and feeling like you MUST write more because you haven’t reached the finish line yet — approach the looming word count with a new perspective.
Let your word count be an indicator that you haven’t thoroughly explored your blog post topic as well as you could have. Use the lower word count to ask more questions and find more answers.
I write before I research.
This goes a long way in making my blog posts longer, gives them depth, and naturally they are unique without the influence of other people’s perspectives.
I get out all of my original thoughts, ideas and questions first. I develop them as far as I can in Evernote before I do anything else. An entire article is already completed before I even consider keyword research.
Note: most online marketing experts suggest the opposite.
I just don’t want my content to sound like anyone else and I want to use as much of my uninfluenced brain power as possible before getting to the more advanced side of blogging.
This is how I preserve my art.
As it turns out, there are times when it’s clear that my topic won’t do well in organic searches. I absolutely want to rank on Google, so that does not work for me. Now, I get to work trying to find a closely related topic that has relatively low competition and find a way to make that the focus of my article instead.
My original thoughts and ideas now become the support (backbone) of the article. In the end, this makes for a far longer, well-thought out blog post.
Google is happy, I am happy, and my readers are happy.
When I do research for a blog post, I’ll also look at what other experts have said and how it measures up to my own thoughts. If I feel like someone else did a better job of explaining a point I made, I’ll link to them.
If an expert’s advice is completely different from my own, I’ll still link to them simply to provide both sides of an argument and give my readers fairly balanced information.
Again, this is another way to lengthen your blog post while providing value to your readers.
I use copy writing shortcuts.
#1 Amy Lynn Andrews turned my world upside down when she mentioned in one of her Useletters that the word “that” is often unnecessary.
How had I never noticed this myself? We use “that” far more often than we need to and it completely waters down your writing. I spend a few minutes on each blog post, deleting the word that.
#2 If I repeat myself twice in subsequent sentences, I delete the second sentence and refine the first.
We have a way of saying the same things using different words because we’re trying desperately to get our points across.
We tend to expand through repetition because this is the way we’ve been conditioned to write. It’s redundant and distracts from the reader’s experience.
When you simply create better sentences, it becomes easier to expand on your ideas and make your blog posts longer in a more natural, genuine way.
#3 Make definitive claims.
This is a dangerous tactic, but it does help with creating longer blog posts. The idea is to refrain from framing your content in a way that gives your reader options.
Instead, make strong claims, then explain your reasoning in such a way that the strength of your claim is justified. I just saw this done recently in a magnificent way by popular author, Yann Girard on his piece about why writers shouldn’t blog on Medium. It’s necessary that I tell you I discovered Yann on Medium.
Yann simply could not make such a bold statement without giving comprehensive reasoning as his claim went against his very own behavior.
He delivered with a 2,500 word blog post. He could have skirted around this issue, made the focus something like “better places to write besides Medium.” But, is that 2,500 words worthy (minus the fluff)? Probably not.
#4 Use anecdotes and metaphors.
If you can insert a personal experience or a metaphor that simplifies the message you’re trying to get across… DO IT! It’s okay to make your writing more vibrant and fill it with your personality. That’s not fluff. Fluff adds no value, it holds no weight.
Using short stories, analogies, and metaphors will give your blog post depth in ways that no other writing techniques can.
Finally, wrap it up.
I try to leave every blog post with a conclusion that reminds my readers of the most important parts. I am forced to go back and read my own blog post numerous times to make sure that each point was clear and easy to understand.
So many bloggers end their posts with a short, three-sentence conclusion and for the life of me; I can’t understand why. The end of the post is where it’s your time to shine. It’s the best place to add some last-minute length, and it’s your final opportunity to convert a visitor into a subscriber.
Right now, I’m going to recap the formula I use to write longer blog posts in a way that any blogger can use for any blog niche.
Here’s the rundown:
- Make a conscious decision to rise above the fluff. Re-read your posts over and over again to see where you can trim the fat and make your post both leaner and stronger (no, I didn’t use this analogy earlier but it’s fitting).
- Study other blogs and draw the line between what you absolutely won’t do and what feels right to you.
- The mission comes before the blog. How, exactly, do you want to change the world?
- From your very first subscriber, pour your all into your list. Find ways to build individual connections with them.
- Brainstorm before you do any kind of research.
- Use copywriting shortcuts; quick, easy tweaks to make your writing better. Eventually, these changes become a habit.
- Give your conclusions substance. Try to recap the most important parts of your blog post and expand a little more if you can.
Truth is, now that I’ve hit triple-digit subscribers, I feel exactly the same as when I had two subscribers. I receive far more emails, but I haven’t done anything differently. I cared just as much about the first two as I do about all my new tribe members.
When you look at visitors as humans, rather than numbers, your content will naturally get better. If you’d like to become a part of the Entrepreneur’s Tribe, you’re welcome to signup here.