Should Your Blogs be Long or Short?
When our clients think about blogs, they tend to believe that blog writing should follow the general writing rules of communication. That means that they usually start out asking us to create short, punchy sales pitches that will convince customers to buy their products or services.
Sure, that is sometimes a valid way to use blogs. After all, most companies want to talk about products and services. They like to go deep into features and benefits. That approach is well within most company's comfort zone.
And in the spirit of full disclosure, the blog you are reading right now is a type of sales pitch. We're explaining how organizations use blogs and why they're suitable for many types of businesses. And it just so happens that Cup O Content writes blogs. And we do SEO. So, this blog is definitely a sales pitch for blogs. Very meta, right?
But whether you want a long blog or a short one, it's important to remember that all blogs are not created equally. There are many hidden dangers and tripwires. In fact, if you don't know the rules, you can actually hurt your site's visibility.
Keyword Stuffing is a Danger for Long and Short Blogs
In any type of writing, using the same word over and over is a no-no. When we write about the same thing repeatedly, it can get monotonous, repetitive, and ultimately counterproductive. Overusing a word in online text is called keyword stuffing. And while repetitive writing offline would never be tolerated, some online companies convince clients that this is a useful SEO tool. But in fact, it will decrease your SEO.
Here's the Google definition of keyword stuffing;
"Keyword stuffing" refers to the practice of loading a webpage with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site's ranking in Google search results. Often these keywords appear in a list or group, or out of context (not as natural prose). Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience and can harm your site's ranking."
How do you know if your text is guilty of keyword stuffing? Although there are no official guidelines posted by any search engine (including Google), most professionals aim for a one to two percent density. Your target keyword(s) should not appear more than one to two times per 100 words. At this saturation level, search engines will still rank your page for your keyword without dinging your site for stuffing.
Sounds easy enough, right? But in the last two paragraphs, we wrote 127 words, and "keyword" showed up seven times or about 5.5 percent. Technically, that's keyword stuffing.
Long or Short: Surround Your Search Terms With Relevant Content
Google doesn't analyze your online content paragraph by paragraph to calculate keyword stuffing. Instead, the prevailing wisdom is that their web crawlers examine online content page by page. (But honestly, no one knows for sure, and Google's not telling.) That means that even if you need to use one or two keywords frequently in one set of text, you can counteract the "stuffing" effect by adding a lot of other relevant content on different parts of the page.
For this reason, many SEO experts suggest that creating longer blogs (2,000-5,000 words) is a more effective SEO tactic than creating several shorter blogs laser-focused on one topic. Additionally, some companies and SEO experts claim that their longer-format pages consistently rank higher than shorter-format pages.
However, it's hard to ignore the challenges of a long-format blog strategy. Content that is more than 500-1,000 words is less likely to get read. Most online readers prefer snippets and bites of information, not 5,000-word thesis papers (equivalent to roughly ten letter pages of text.) While creating longer content may be a good SEO tactic, your readability suffers.
Here's Where it Gets Even More Interesting…
So, if your primary strategy is readability to the people who do visit your page, and you want to capture your readers’ attention and drive home a point, shorter is better. More concise content makes sense for websites that are focused on converting visitors to sales or want users to act quickly. For example, an online catalog probably won't have a deep set of long-format blogs. Instead, they will create SEO by using including hundreds of alt txt image tags and short product descriptions.
However, for the long sale, or for non-catalog websites that need to get ranked on search engines, the long-format text is a viable way to increase content without the dangers of keyword stuffing.
Some Background on the Fight Against Keyword Stuffing
In the early days, Google and other search engines found that programmers were trying to game the system. They were adding long lists of keywords to pages hidden from users, or programming invisible text at the bottom of the page. While these sites were getting ranked high for their chosen keywords, the user experience was suffering.
That's why Google began Latent Syntax Indexing, or LSI, in 2011. This new approach to web crawling made it possible for Google to rank sites based on their overall content and relevancy, instead of focusing on keyword headcounts. Over the years, Google and other search engines have continually improved the accuracy of ranking sites based on relevance. For example, by analyzing the content around the keywords, they are able to determine which website talks about pine trees vs. pine-scented candle vs. Chris Pine, the actor.
Long or Short, Your Blog Should Follow These Rules
No matter which blog format you choose, long or short, keep these rules in mind.
1. Keep Keyword Density at one to two Percent
Using this rule, you can determine if your use of keywords is helping or hurting your overall marketing goals. Yoast has useful tools for tracking the density of a term, and Boostabilty offers a free diagnostic tool.
2. Use a Thesaurus
In this blog, we've used several synonyms for "keywords," including search terms, terms, content, and words. If you're stuck for synonyms, check out Thesaurus.com. It's free and easy to use.
3. Talk About the Subjects Surrounding Your Keywords
The only way you'll get your term onto your site repeatedly, without getting penalized for keyword stuffing, is to include lots of related and relevant content. Surrounding content and associated materials will consist of the kind of relevant syntax LSI loves. If you're a nursery that specializes in pine trees, talk about the climate, conifers, the history of landscaping, why parks love pine trees, as well as compatible shrubs, flowers, and ground cover to add to a pine landscape. Not only will you avoid keyword stuffing, your blogs now offer a more rounded set of articles and information which will attract more readers and customers.
How to Create More Relevant Blogs
No, we don't have a magic tool to help you create blogs (unless you want to hire Cup O Content, which is always a good idea and works almost as well as magic.) Still, we can give you some tips on mapping out content while minimizing repetitiveness and optimizing LSI best practices.
1. Create a Content Calendar
Whether you plan to blog daily, weekly, or monthly, think through your ongoing content. That will help you understand which blogs are focused on your core products and which ones can stray off into related content and topics.
2. Mix Long Entries With Short Ones
While writing a 5,000-word blog might help with SEO, many of your customers will find them daunting. You may want to write some long blogs and some short ones. Mix it up to get the best of both worlds.
3. Write Blogs That are Short AND Long
If you need to pump up your site with long blogs, consider the short/long strategy. Say what you need to say in the first 500-1,000 words. That allows people to get the message even if they're not willing to spend the time reading your entire blog. This was a common strategy in print journalism, called the inverted pyramid. Newspapers needed to edit articles to fit available space, so the most important information was at the beginning, and the least important information was at the end. You won’t have to worry about printing space for your blog, so use the remaining 4,000 words of your blog to dig into each topic in more detail. Add information and value to the more extended portion but allow people with limited time or interest to skim the front without missing the point.
4. Use Lots of Subheads
Google gives extra SEO attention to headings and subheads. That’s why it’s smart to use your keyword in the title and use it again in about 25 percent of your subheadings. If you use your key term in every subhead, some web crawlers will flag it as keyword stuffing.
Rely on an Expert to Help You Optimize Your Content
While the information in this blog is accurate in April of 2020, things can change quickly in the world of blogs and SEO. Cup O Content follows these changes, so you don't have to. Want to jumpstart your blog and start improving your website's search rankings right now? Contact us for a free consultation.
Want to read more blogs about content development? Check out these Cup O Content articles.