Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write the world’s shortest novel. He did it in six searing words: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
I share this factoid as an illustration that the length of your blog post doesn’t really matter. The only thing that matters is that you effectively get your point across. After all, Hemingway is also famous for the extreme length of his sentences!
Successful Long-Form Blogging
If you’re approaching a difficult topic, you may need thousands of words.
Take, for example, the amazing deep-dive posts of Tim Urban at Wait But Why. He has half a million subscribers, and his posts often run into the tens of thousands of words. He also doesn’t follow the oft-prescribed “write consistently” advice. His posts are published when they’re ready, and when he has something to say. (Warning, some of his content is NSFW.)
Another great example of long-form, successful blogging is Avinash Kaushik’s Occam’s Razor. When you read his detailed posts on analytics and digital marketing, you’re essentially getting a free college level course in the subject. I often read his posts with notepad on hand, so I can go back and use the suggestions.
On the corporate blogging side, you have the professional team at Buffer’s blog, who have been publishing fantastic long-form content for several years. I often envision them as a team of thousands, researching, editing, and uploading blog posts like a highly efficient Borg. (Just kidding, I’ve met some of their team and they’re actually human and very nice.)
Do long form blog posts work? Yes, if you’re delivering exceptional value with high quality content, according to TheNextWeb.
Successful Short-Form Blogging
Let’s talk about some of the short post publishers.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t first mention Seth Godin, the godfather of the pithy post. He’s also a rule-breaker because he doesn’t even really promote his posts…his Twitter account is set up to Tweet out the link when it’s published, but he’s not active on Twitter at all. However, if you subscribe to the email notifications for his content, you can easily reach him by replying to the email. For real, I’ve done it, and he’s responded.
Another very popular use of short-form is listicles and ranking posts. This fascinating interview on the Kellogg Insight podcast describes how lists and short bursts of information help us remember better, and help us cope with the massive amounts of data coming at us every day. We might mock the Buzzfeed-style, “10 ways to groom your dog with a toothbrush” article, but we’re still clicking on those headlines.
One of the most recommended Medium blog posts of 2017 is a five-minute read. Why is it so short, but so effective? It packs a powerful emotional punch, peppered with supporting stats. It’s intensely shareable.
Looking at those three short-form examples, if you want your brief posts to perform well, follow your own muse, say something useful, and make a strong emotional impact.
Finally, remember that you don’t have to stick to one side or the other. Plenty of successful bloggers alternate long-form and short-form articles.
What is your blogging style? Have you mixed it up lately?