The timing of Fandango’s Provocative Question this week:
Do you have a preference with respect to the length of blog posts you read? Does the number of words in a post affect how you read it or even if you will read it? What is your average post length?
…is interesting because I recently decided that I would try to write a longer post on an issue of our times every week, or two…or three.
This is one of them. I answer Fandango’s question, but I also explore some thoughts related to why along the way…because I think they might affect most every communication these days.
Engagement not length
How long a post should be, in my opinion, is as long as is needed to express one’s thought.
If something catches my imagination or gets me thinking It can be pretty long. I don’t like rambling, but some thoughts take more explanation than others. And I never look at or think about word count.
We live in an AD/HD world.
Twitter has conditioned us to 140 characters or less of communication at a time. I say “us” even though I do not use the platform, because I believe that the format has changed how we communicate in ways beyond the platform. We want things shorter than we used to.
When Twitter first came out I had two contradictory thoughts
- The last thing this world needed was a bunch of short bumper sticker slogans shat out while people were on the potty.
- That it might make people more erudite. We might get better about editing and more careful and accurate in their use of words.
The net result of the Twitter phenomenon is that we are unwilling to give complex issues the thought they deserve; we often try to simplify things that shouldn’t be simplified; and we seem to think that a snarky knee jerk response is reasonable in response to anything.
…then there is the business of visibility: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
In thinking about the length of posts one cannot ignore the Google-monster. There are parameters for distribution of our content. Yoast SEO plug in recommends a minimum of 300 words. This is driven by the Google-monster’s algorithm.
The SEO algorithm also affects the wording and content of posts.
I use Yoast SEO on theSquirrelChase.com, my other web site. It is mainly accommodating the Google-monster. The plug-in evaluates “readability” and SEO separately, giving you little hints about how you can toe the line.
The readability aspect tends to make you use short sentences and stay away from many big words. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. It helps me to stop and reconsider my choice of words. But sometimes I feel like it changes my voice. It also has a weird hangup on “transition words” and doesn’t like it if too many sentences start with the same word. It gets its virtual panties in a wad when I make a list of steps, which I often do, since I mostly post how-to posts on that site. It also puts a crimp in using the literary device of repetition.
The Search Engine Optimization section really bugs me. They want you to choose a key phrase. Then you are supposed to have that phrase in your title, the first paragraph, the subheadings, the alt attributes of some, but not all, photos and sprinkled throughout the text at a specific rate.
I really struggle with this. Back in the day I was taught to have a point, but to express it in a variety of ways to make it more accessible to a variety of people, and help to refine it. It feels artificial to keep plugging in the same phrase over and over, and I think it turns off the reader. I usually make an effort, then tell the computer to take a long hike off a short pier (often out loud, and sometimes not so politely).
I can see why the Google-monster like this. It makes it easy for the algorithm to know how to categorize. But it does encourage all posts to follow a similar pattern.
The reason I bring this up
I feel like the way I communicate has been changed by these two factors. They are examples of the way I feel like the world is training us to be less effective at communication. I wonder if others feel the same way: Do you think that you have changed the way you word things because of them? Do you notice these factors in the posts you read?
I follow about 100 blogs, the most I can handle , plus I pop around a bit. I typically read the first part of every post in my feed then decide if I want to continue based on interest and how much time I have available.
According to WordPress my average post length has been 200 words in 2022 (year to date). My average has been consistently in that range since I started this blog in 2014. Last year was my lowest average, 118 words per post, and 2015 was the highest at 222 words per post.
I don’t think averages are meaningful, because of the way I post. I either post pictures or a wordy post reminiscing or reflection. If I do a challenge that has you post a photo every day (like the Squares) for a month it biases the average because I do often just post a photo.