If you want to start a flame war between bloggers, SEO specialists and copywriters, just ask a mixed group how long your blogs should be — then grab a tub of popcorn and watch the sparks fly.

It’s debatably the most controversial topics in our industry, and for good reason — there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. The truth is that the best blogs are those that make a huge impact to their readers.

And that’s the key to this mess.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — you’ve got to know your demographic before you do any writing. After all, who you’re writing to dictates what you’re writing.

The Long and Short of It

The Nielsen Norman Group released the results of a web content reading study back in 2008 that concluded that the average Internet user spends very little time on any one page — just 25 seconds plus 4.4 seconds per 100 words.

In real terms, that means that your 500 word blog gets just 47 seconds of eyeball time. Considering that humans can read at a rate of about 200 words per minute, that’s not very promising — which is why we design blogs and web sites to be easily scannable. It’s all about creating an easy to understand format that gives readers what they want right away.

The data is pretty consistent up to 1,250 words or so — then it becomes erratic because of the varied types of content at that length or above.

These results are surprising when you consider them alongside a 2012 report from serpIQ that revealed that the average length of pages turning up in the top 10 search engine rankings is over 2,000 words. Did four years really make that much difference?

QuickSprout told us in 2014 that the sweet spot for shares is above 1,000 words — so, what does all this mean?

It means, at least to me, that blog length doesn’t make a lot of difference. You can be a short blog and get lots of reader attention, you can be a very long blog and be more easily found because of extra keyword use, or you can be a mid-length blog and get shares. In the end, all of that stuff should balance out in the equation that is content marketing.

What You Should Care About

Instead of focusing your energy on length alone, you should be thinking about pleasing the Panda. Length is important because it gives you a goal to reach for and a guide to how in-depth each article should be, but it’s not the most important thing. Far from it.

What matters most in the Age of Panda is user experience and readability. Google wants to see high quality material coming from reputable sites, regardless of the length of the content.

If you can completely cover topics relating to your industry in just 500 words, then do it. But if your readers need more technical information, deeper speculation or in-depth instructions, don’t hesitate to run up to 2,000 or more words.

Blog length is one of the more subjective parts of marketing on the web. Instead of worrying about absolute word counts, write to your audience and give them the information they need. Don’t skimp, don’t word stuff and whatever you do, don’t write (or purchase) low quality content, and you’ll always make a big splash.