One more reader question, then it’ll be back to the regularly-scheduled rambling in this Sunday slot: unless, of course, anyone has any other burning blogging issues they’d like me to talk about, in which case, ask away – I love getting questions, mostly because they save me the trouble of actually having to come up with my own topics. I’m lazy like that. Anyway, on with the show! Kat asked:

I’m quite interested in the editing process – what is yours for instance? Besides getting readers, what are some other viable options so what you post doesn’t sound awkward or is too long (do you have a word limit for posts?).

Ok, so first of all I’d just like to say how immensely flattered I am to think there’s someone in the world who thinks there’s even the slightest possibility that I might have a word limit for my posts, because, oh honey, no. I actually worry about this from time to time, because whenever I read other people’s blog advice, it always seems to include the line “KEEP IT SHORT”, plus something about how people don’t read long content on the internet, because they just want to see pictures of cats, or whatever.

I read these posts, then I read the comments on them, which invariably all say something like, “OMG, YES! Long posts are the WORST! I HATE long posts! People need to learn to edit!” and then I get all paranoid, and think they’re talking about me, because yes, I am THAT important, obviously. (OK, no I’m not: I’m just that paranoid. I can guarantee that if I follow you on Twitter, and if you’ve ever posted a passive-aggressive tweet about something, I’ll have assumed it was directed at me, and now I think you hate me. Once I’ve finished writing this post, I’m going to go and add “stop being so paranoid, woman,” to my ‘To Do’ list…)

How long should the perfect blog post be?

The thing is, on the face of it, “people don’t read long content on the internet” makes a lot of sense, especially these days, when a lot of people are browsing on their phones or whatever, and just don’t have the time or patience to read a 5,000 word essay on Why Amber Likes Those Shoes. In theory, long content just shouldn’t work, and on some sites it doesn’t. I don’t ACTUALLY write 5,000 word posts about shoes, for instance, because not even I can find THAT much to say about them, and I very much doubt people would want to read them, either. On a site like ShoeperWoman, for instance, people really are mostly there for the pictures: they want to buy shoes, not read a college essay about them.

So, as I say, in theory, long content doesn’t work. In practice, however, it DOES. (Or rather, it CAN: I should really caveat this entire post by saying that I’m speaking purely from personal experience here, as always: I don’t think there are any hard and fast “rules” about this.) My longest posts, for instance, are also some of my most popular: in fact, I don’t think there are any really short posts which would make it into my Top Ten, either in terms of number of views, or number of comments. I’m sure there are some people who hate them, of course, and who either skim over them or avoid them entirely, but for the most part, I find that long posts do pretty well – not only do people read them, they also tend to leave long, thoughtful comments on them, which I think is the greatest compliment a blogger can get.

kate spade pencil set

The success of those longer posts isn’t necessarily co-related to the word length, I hasten to add: I mean, it’s not like there’s a formula whereby X number of words = instant success. But if I’ve written a really lengthy post, it’s because I had a lot to say about the topic, and if I had a lot to say about the topic, it’s because I feel strongly about the topic, and I think that when you feel strongly about a topic, that comes across in the writing, and people respond to it. In the case of advice posts, meanwhile, it would often be hard to do them justice in just a few sentences: I know I hate it when I click on a post title that sounds promising, and instead of the in-depth advice I was hoping for, I get two short paragraphs which just gloss over the subject without telling me anything I couldn’t get in a few seconds from Google.

So, that’s the personal perspective: I’ve also read quite a few articles lately suggesting that search engines like Google also favour long content. I’m no expert on this, obviously (Only Google itself knows how Google works, and the first rule of Google is that you don’t talk about Google. Or something.), but again, it would make sense that the longer a post is, the more content there is for Google to index and the greater the chances of that content including key words that people might be searching for. When someone types a search query into Google, Google attempts to find the most helpful answer, and a longer post is often (although not always) more likely to fit the bill.

blog tips: how long should your post be?

That doesn’t, of course, mean that you should force yourself to ramble on endlessly just to hit some target word-count, because you’re writing for people, not just for search engines, so here are a few editing tips I use to at least TRY to make my posts a bit more readable…

01. Wait before you edit

Just as it’s hard to proofread your own writing, it’s also hard to edit it:  YOU know what you MEANT to say, so your post will make perfect sense to you, especially if you’ve just finished writing it, and the ideas you were trying to convey are still fresh in your mind. Most bloggers can’t afford to pay professional editors, and family and friends will get tired of playing editor pretty quickly, so the next best thing is to leave some time between writing your post and editing it, so you can come to it with reasonably fresh eyes.

02. Preview the post on the blog

I’m not familiar with other blog software, but with WordPress, you write your posts in a text editor, and there’s also a “preview” option which allows you to see what the post will look like when it’s published. Always, always preview your post before publishing it: it can look quite different in the preview than in the text editor, and any mistakes will be more apparent, too.

03. Use short paragraphs

People may be willing to read long posts, but they don’t normally like to read long paragraphs: long blocks of text are difficult to read online, so I tend to use shorter paragraphs on my blog than I would in other kinds of writing: they’re easier on the eye, and make people more likely to read to the end.

04. Consider font and formatting

Again, if your post is long, is particularly important to make it easy on the eye. I DO read long posts, but if it’s one giant block of text, in a tiny font, and a pale colour (pale grey seems to popular for some reason…), and centred (OMG, WHY?!), I’ll hit the ‘back’ button rather than risk eye strain. Use clear, legible fonts, and for the love of God, enough with the centred text, people!

05. Use images to break up text

Like it or not, the internet is a highly visual medium, and gone are the days when you could just empty your brain onto Livejournal, and trust people to read it. Even if your blog isn’t image-based, if your posts are long, it can be helpful to break them up with images, which will minimise the “wall o’ text” effect and make the post more visually appealing.

06. Use headings and sub-headings

As with the images, these help break up the text, and also make it easier for skim-readers to go directly to the part of the post they’re most interested in.

07. Tailor your post structure to your readers

Although I personally don’t think long posts are as generally hated as people think they are, it’s certainly true that some readers dislike them, and won’t want to read them. I know that the people who visit my blog primarily for the outfit posts, for instance, are mostly interested in the photos, so when I’m putting together an outfit post, I normally put the images first, then the text: that means that those who are just there for the outfit can see the images without having to scroll through a ton of text, and I’m then free to ramble as much as I like without annoying those people. (It also helps to be consistent here: for instance, I always put the product links in the same place in my posts, so readers can go straight to that information, rather than having to search for the links within the text.) In advice posts, on the other hand, people are much more likely to read the whole post, so I’ll usually scatter the images throughout the text instead of having them all at the top.

*  *  * 

So, how long should your blog post be? I don’t think there’s a simple answer to that. There will always be people who don’t like long posts, just as there will always be people who prefer them, which makes me think the best thing you can do as a blogger is to simply write in the style (and to the length) that feels most natural to you, and trust your readers to skip the posts they don’t want to read. My readers, for instance, probably know by now that I tend to write long posts, so I’d imagine that most of them don’t mind that, or they’d have stopped reading by now. The ones who really object to longer content, meanwhile, will presumably have realised this blog isn’t for them, and moved onto something that’s a better fit: that’s the way of the world, and of the internet. I think one of the most important things to understand as a blogger is that you can’t please everyone: as Dita Von Teese famously said, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be someone who hates peaches.”

If you read to the end of this post, you’re the living proof that yes, people DO read long content on the internet: you’re also one of my favourite people ever, so thank you for that. And as always, if you have any tips to share, I’d love to hear them!

(P.S. the Kate Spade pencil set in the photos is from Shopbop!)

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21 Comments
  1. Since I started blogging in the times when blogs were mainly long form text posts, I do really love to see that kind of thing. And I like sitting down to read something. Too often posts these days could be easily summed up by saying “nice photos!” And I’m guilty of this too, of course… For me, taking photos and posting them without comment is fairly quick and those posts do usually get a lot of attention. But I also like to spend rainy Sunday mornings such as this one to sit down with a drink and read some long posts.

    But yes, overall, it seems that the readers of my blog prefer short posts and eye candy. The other day I posted an entry about contemporary art conservation that I found to be really interesting… and not a comment was to be found. 😉

  2. I follow some blogs where he images are beautiful but I have literally zero interest in the 1-2 paragraphs of accompanying text, because they’re so poorly written and uninteresting you can tell all of the effort’s gone into the pictures. These days I just look at the pictures on those blogs and don’t even bother with the text – and if the blogger suddenly stopped posting I wouldn’t be heartbroken as I feel like I don’t know them or have any kind of connection with them. You’re the opposite end of the spectrum (although your pictures are also great too) and I pretty much always read to the end of even your longest posts. I think if you’re a good writer you’ll edit yourself and make your content interesting and people will read it even if it’s long, because every sentence is worth it. Just like any good article!

  3. Before I really gave my time into writing. Now I realized people came on my blog just to see photos. Now honestly I m not taking so much time to write something special. And for sure people dont like long posts.

    1. “And for sure people dont like long posts.”

      That’s a really sweeping statement – if it was true for everyone, I for one wouldn’t have any readers, but, as I said, my long posts (like this one) are actually the most popular on my blog. SOME people definitely won’t read long posts, but I don’t think that’s true of everyone. You obviously read this one, for instance 🙂

  4. Great post, Amber. You give some really excellent advice. My posts probably tend to be on the longer side (and like you, some of my wordier posts have been my most popular, or at least have gotten the biggest response), and I think if something is promised in the title, it had better deliver! Also, I cracked up at your paranoia – because I’m the exact same way! I’m always afraid passive-aggressive tweets are geared towards me, and I always worry that “things you shouldn’t do” posts apply to me! I think one of the best pieces of advice for bloggers (and writers in general) is to read your text aloud to yourself as you’re proofreading and editing. When you’ve written something, your eye tends to skip over little mistakes, and sometimes doing that can help you make sure your sentences make sense and that you haven’t missed anything!

    xox Sammi

  5. I don’t write long posts probably because I write about my life and I have tons of pictures. This week I’ve posted about an event in Liverpool, I had 24 pictures. I said what I needed in a few paragraphs and that was it. Any more details will be just a description of the pictures and that is useless.
    I like reading long posts if is a topic I’m interested in. But, when I’m looking for a recipe… I will not read 10 paragraphs of how someone decided to make apple pie, I’m much more interested in how much butter she used. So, I think the subject is much more important than the number of words.

  6. Thank you so much for answering my question. I immediately smacked my boyfriend in the face with my phone waving it in excitement with the entry on the screen. He’s since recovered and has gone back to sitting close to me.

    That irrelevant aside, thank you for answering my question and for all the thought and work you’ve put into the reply. I’ve loved this series and have found it incredibly helpful. I can’t wait for more of your tips!

  7. Great post! I’m a book blog and depending on how strongly I felt about the book (either good or bad) I can go on for quite a few paragraphs but also I don’t want to bore my readers so in those paragraphs I try and get straight to the point.

  8. I have to admit I am guilty of skipping long posts, but only if the content doesn’t interest me. If it is something I want to read I always want to read more!

    1. Presumably that would mean you’d also skip short posts if the content didn’t interest you, though? So it’s really about the topic, rather than the length of the post?

  9. I just wanted to say that your blog is what made me feel confident enough to post long(ish) content on the internet. When I was thinking about starting my blog everyone I talked to were so firm that a post should be 350-500 words and no more. Which really isn’t how I write and didn’t allow me to say what I wanted to say. Then I found your blog, and I loved your style and the flow of your posts and enjoyed them so much. But they also proved that longer posts could work, that people other than me wanted to read them. So I wrote what and how I wanted to. Thanks so much for that

    1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head – there will always be people who won’t read long posts, and people who prefer them: I guess the best thing you can do is write in the way that feels most natural to you, and trust that the readers who prefer that style will find you. In fact, I’m going to add that to the end of my post, because that’s what I SHOULD have said in the first place 🙂

  10. Hey, I read to the end of your post, so I’m one of those who like to read longer posts! 🙂 Good tips, and I totally agree with you that it’s all about context. Some of my most popular posts have also been my longer ones — I like to call them my “musing” posts — including posts I’ve written about my personal journey walking in high heels, or about my (literal) growing pains during my teenage years, or my post around the new year about why I continue to blog that delved into my own blogging ethics and standards. I get the most thoughtful comments on those posts, too — a point you also highlighted — and that has meant so much to me. Sometimes, I don’t feel like saying all that much, and other times I do, so I go with what feels right to me in the moment. That’s one great thing about having a personal blog — I just try to stay true to my voice and natural instincts, and hope that my readers are up to exploring that journey along with me, even if that journey takes a meandering path (or two). 🙂

  11. Brilliant post. I have just discovered your blog and I already love it – I am so glad to hear I am not the only one who thinks that anything going on in the world is a go about them! (oh to matter that much!!)

    P.S I love those polka dot shoes!

  12. I’m the Queen of epic posts. I simply can’t self edit- and I need to. My resolution is to mix up my posts a bit, some short, some long… The trouble is, once I start a post I can’t stop writing. To be fair I talk too much in real life too…. Having said that, I’d much rather read a long, interesting post than a gushy, ill thought out review full of “super fun” and “super lovely” So, horses for courses…

  13. Long posts for me always feel like a chance to really hold a conversation with your favourite bloggers. Sure, they are bit one sided, but I like that you get the chance to see how the person on the other side of your screen thinks. You just can’t get that same insight with short posts. But, there is a caveat ~ too much of a good thing can be too much. I think it’s nice to have a balance. 🙂 ❤

    xox,
    bonita of Lavender & Twill

  14. You’re definitely right in saying that not everybody wants the same things from blogs/the internet, in general. Some people don’t want to read much, others (like me) actively seek out good websites for lifestyle articles, etc.

    I don’t have a blog, or write for any other reason, but I do read A LOT (in fact, all your blogs, along with some other sites, have taken the place of magazines & newspapers for me…. partly because the magazines I like are just too expensive to justify my buying regularly) & what I can say in relation to how long an article should be is that quality forever & for always trumps quantity, for me.

    What I mean by that is if some wants to write about something, in order for it to be a decent article, you should make it as long, or as short, as it needs to be. I get that with some blogs, when people depend on them to earn a living, they need to cater to the audience, and in the world of fashion blogs, people do wants lots of photos and not very much writing.

    However, I do think that if someone if focusing too much on trying to keep a post short, that is to say, more concerned about quantity rather than quality, they ought to ask themselves whether the final product is worthy of being published.

    This is why, while I have been following all your three blogs for ages, & my credit card company owes a hell of a lot to Shoeperwoman, Forever Amber is by far my favourite of the three, and probably one of my top 5 sites to visit in general.

    The fact that you don’t have consider quite as many factors when writing for this blog as you do for your other, more commercial focused blogs, really does come through in your writing. It permits you to write essays about your walks to the country side, several thousand words about organising EVERYTHING, post after post about how you just can’t stand mess, and a series on the mysterious appearance of garden knomes (& let’s not forget Nigel – one of my favourite “stories” by far) – and I absolutely love it all!

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