Ideal Blog Post Length: Long vs. Short

Ideal Blog Post LengthWhat’s the ideal blog post length? There are as many answers to this question as there are blogs in the blogosphere. However, is there a ballpark how long your blog posts should be? Instead of giving you a number, let me give you some guidelines which will help you determine whether your blog posts should be long or short, and how long or short.

Factors that Determine Blog Post Length

Every blog is unique. Every blogger is unique. Here are some factors that strongly influence the ideal blog post length.

  • Personal Style: Some bloggers just prefer shorter or longer blog posts. Some blogs are known for their short, crispy, to-the-point posts while others are known for their long, detailed, juicy posts. If you fall in one of these categories, you probably want to stick to it. A blog can build an identity around length of the post (remember though that length is NEVER a substitute for quality. This should be obvious by now).
  • Examples:

    Short Posts: Seth Godin’s blog. This is by far the best example I can think of. He’s an expert at what he writes and is able to deliver great value in 100 words or less.

    Long Posts: Self Made Chick is one of the blogs that is known for long, detailed posts. Regular readers expect the posts to be long – more than a 1000 words in most cases.

    Conclusion: Depending on your style, your blog posts can be long or short, especially if you want to build your reputation around the length of your posts. Either way is good.

  • Pillar Articles: A pillar article is usually some piece of content that provides a great value to the readers and attracts repeated visitors again and again to your blog. Pillar articles attract new readers to the blog who find these articles satisfying a need and stick with your blog. Every blog should have some pillar articles that establish your blog’s authority. Pillar articles usually tend to be long. If you are writing a pillar article, then you’re an expert in that area and you would want to share as much as possible with your readers about that topic in one post. It is also a good idea for pillar articles to be comprehensive and complete within themselves.
  • Example: A pillar article about pillar articles written by Yaro Starak of Entrepreneurs Journey. Notice the long, detailed post explaining most aspects of what a pillar article should be like.

    Conclusion: Pillar articles are long. I would suggest posts over 1000 words for pillar articles.

  • Idea Generation: Lots of bloggers use short blog posts to paint an initial idea and ask for reader feedback. Perhaps you want to test a new idea and see how people react to it. You don’t want it to be too long because you want your readers to think from all angles and not just in a direction that you lead them to. In those cases, keep your posts short. These can make for terribly interesting reads!
  • Example: The Atlantic wants readers views on what an entrepreneur-first platform looks like. What do they do? Write a short blurp and let the readers pitch in their ideas. The Economist does that very well too.

    Conclusion: Keep posts that explicitly ask for reader feedback short.

  • Reviews: Reviews are usually detailed posts. For readers to derive value from these reviews, it is essential that you’re an expert yourself and know what you are talking about. You need to research further, look at the pros and cons and lay them all out so that your readers can make an educated decision about the product or service you are reviewing. In most cases, the ideal blog post length of reviews is at least twice as long as your average post.
  • Example: oDesk Review at GeeksMakeMoney. This is a detailed review of oDesk that lays out the pros and cons and lets the reader decide for themselves if they want to join the site.

    Conclusion: Reviews in general should be long, over 1000 words ideally, especially if they form pillar articles for your blog.

  • News: There are many times when you want to let your readers know about an event or news. For instance, if you run a blog on SEO, you might want your readers to know about a huge upcoming change in Google’s algorithm. In that case, you might just link to the main Google blog post and keep your post short. All the information the reader needs is on the other link. However, you can add your subjective thoughts to the issue. In general though, you want to keep these posts short. This happens a lot in certain niches, like technology.
  • Example: There are plenty of blogs on HuffPo that fall into this category. If they are talking about a news released by CNN, they will just link to that news item and provide only a brief write-up leading to that.

    Conclusion: News based articles should be short and link to the source. Detailed analysis can follow in another post. Ideal blog post length of news articles is less than 250 words.

Ideal Blog Post Length for SEO

The ideal blog post length for SEO is hard to determine because Google and other search engines don’t publish this data. There are however several unofficial reports. Many SEO experts believe that blog posts should be of “ideal length” which is usually 250-1000 words. Anything shorter/longer can get penalized. However, this wisdom is old, before all the algorithm changes by Google last year. I am not sure if Google penalizes longer content but it is definitely possible. I know some SEO experts think bigger is better.

As you probably realize, for this blog, I like to write longer blog posts. What’s your average length of a blog post?

Photo Credit: DailyMail

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oDesk Alternative: Sites Like oDesk

oDesk alternativeWhat are some oDesk alternatives? I know a lot of freelancers and businesses are looking for alternative sites like oDesk. This is for a variety of reasons – oDesk has grown too big and it seems that the quality of jobs and freelancers has been on the decline. I have been on oDesk for several years now, and personally, I have seen the quality of postings deteriorate. Of course, the number of job openings might be increasing too, but that isn’t the whole story. Freelancers want better paying jobs and small businesses want quality freelancers.

Why look for oDesk alternatives?

Don’t get me wrong – oDesk is a fine marketplace, but you should know what it is about, its pros and cons. I did a thorough oDesk review and a follow up oDesk review from an employer’s perspective that outline under what circumstances you should consider joining oDesk.

However, there are many reasons to look for oDesk alternatives. Some don’t like the quality of freelancers and that is a cyclical problem – quality freelancers don’t want to go on oDesk because most assignments don’t pay very well. Good freelancers know what they are worth and don’t want to waste their time wading through a ton of crap. It is a hard problem indeed to overcome. No wonder most freelancers decide to scout for clients on their own and thus exacerbates the problem of finding them for the employers who know that quality works costs more.

Is there a solution?

That, in a nutshell is the whole problem with oDesk – lack of quality freelancers and lack of quality jobs. They are related. Some oDesk alternatives try to address this issue in their own way. Even if they don’t fully succeed, in a competitive marketplace, it is always good to have some alternatives both for the freelancers and the employers. You shouldn’t, after all, be too dependent on just one site.

Honestly, I haven’t seen this problem being addressed adequately on any other marketplace. That being said, alternatives are still good to have. In addition, if you read through the comments of the above mentioned articles, you’ll realize that not everyone is happy with oDesk but might want a site similar to it.

To really solve the problem of quality freelancers/pay is a much trickier proposition and needs a whole analysis of itself. I don’t pretend to know it myself but is a worthy question to pursue.

So if you are looking for oDesk alternatives, here are some websites to consider –

Elance

Elance is a site very similar to oDesk. However, it is older than oDesk and somehow has managed to keep its reputation. Compared to oDesk, I find that the jobs at Elance are, on an average, better paying. There are usually few to none extremely low-ball offers (you know the kind – 50 cents for a 500 word article offers). Most jobs are decent paying and a few high-end ones. Most established companies (not small businesses), when they have to turn to freelancing marketplaces to get a job done, almost always turn to Elance because of its reputation. Being older though, it might be harder to break into the top here. Also read my Elance vs oDesk post to get more information about these two sites.

Freelancer

Freelancer is another site that is similar to oDesk and Elance. I doubt its claim of being the largest freelance marketplace online, but it is true that its Alexa rank (as of today) is better than both Elance and oDesk. This means it is definitely one of the biggest freelancing marketplaces. Honestly, I haven’t played around this site a lot, but have heard a lot about it, so definitely one of the options to consider whether you are joining as a freelancer or looking to hire freelancers.

From the little that I’ve poked around on the site, the quality of jobs seems to be higher than oDesk, which makes me confident of including this on the list of legitimate oDesk alternatives. The assignments are higher paying than at oDesk. I would love to hear from my readers about their experience here.

PeoplePerHour

PeoplePerHour is a relatively new site out of UK, but I mention it here because it is indeed a legitimate alternative to oDesk. The quality of jobs posted here is definitely much better. Naturally, the freelancers are pretty good too.

Somehow, at least for now, the site has managed to keep quality postings/freelancers. It doesn’t have as many jobs as oDesk though, since it is relatively new. However, it is definitely a legitimate oDesk alternative to consider especially because it is quite different from oDesk in many ways. Read my PeoplePerHour review to learn more about this site.

One attractive feature of this site that immediately distinguishes itself from oDesk is the introduction of the ‘Hourlies’. Here, instead of employers posting jobs, employees post what they can do and for how much. This means if you specialize in a skill, you can advertise on the site through an hourlie. If someone likes and needs what you offer, they will buy this and the payment will be released to you when you complete the work. It is a nice feature for freelancers to advertise themselves and let employees contact them for work rather than the other way round. It is good for employers because they can look for very specific tasks and specialized people to fill the roles.

WitMart

WitMart is an interesting site in that it allows you to post contracts and contests. Contracts are like any regular job posting that you see on oDesk or Elance. However, contests are, well, contests – you post a content, determine an appropriate prize money and in the end, choose a winner who will get all the money.

Contracts work just like anywhere else, but contests are an interesting addition to the freelancing marketplace. For an employer, if the prize is good enough and there are enough talented freelancers working, it can work great. The site allows you to look at submissions that have been made public. The quality is reasonable, and I think it is a good way for employers to get their work done and get quality submissions. There is a risk of course, but it is better than the risk that a single freelancer you hire isn’t going to deliver. The risk with a contest is that every single submission is bad, which is usually not very likely.

The site is more specialized for graphic designing, web designing, logo designing, etc. and less for hardcore programming and even writing, although there are definitely those jobs posted as well. I think a lot of designing related jobs tend to go well with the contest format.

vWorker

vWorker was previously Rent A Coder and specialized in web programming and web designing jobs. It is a site similar to oDesk but smaller, so there are most things that you would see on oDesk.

Job Boards

Lets not forget the good old job boards. These are especially effective when you are looking in a specific niche, whether it is a job as a freelancer or a business looking to hire. These can be specialized and if you are looking at a reputable jobs board, then there is definitely good quality of freelancers and good jobs being posted. These are also a great way to make lasting industry contacts. Well known sites like FreelanceSwitch and ProBlogger have their own jobs board that can be a good source of jobs.

What are some of the oDesk alternatives that you use? Share in the comments.

Photo Credit: Victor1558

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EzineArticles any Good in 2012? A Case Study

EzineArticles any goodIs EzineArticles any good in 2012 and worth your time to publish there? For those who don’t know or have been in the online world for less than say a couple of years, EzineArticles was the best article directory out there. They have consistently maintained a higher quality of articles (than say a site like GoArticles that was popular at one point of time and almost dead now) and it was a good resource for people who wanted a quick, cursory research on a topic. The webmasters who published on EzineArticles knew that if they provide something of value, people will click on their links in the signature and they get highly targeted visitors. So is EzineArticles dead in 2012 now or does it still have life in it?

Why Publish for Free?

Historically, the primary benefits of EzineArticles was –

  • Backlinks for your site in the signature
  • Traffic to your site from highly targeted visitors

A lot of people especially in the SEO world looked primarily at the first benefit – that of link-building. Granted, EzineArticles homepage is a PR-6 (page rank 6) and it definitely helped you get a good link profile. However, the second aspect was and still is as important. Webmasters realized that it was easier to rank their EzineArticles pages than their own blogs, and they tried to funnel that traffic from the article to their websites.

This was a strategy that I had personally used and historically, I have had some really good quality traffic coming from EzineArticles to my blogs (granted, at times, I was really annoyed that my EzineArticles page ranked higher than a page about the same topic on my own blog).

Google Panda

And then Google Panda update happened. That almost killed article marketing and EzineArticles was one of the worst hit. A lot has been written and said about the death of EzineArticles and article marketing. However, I take a less dramatic approach. I’ll tell you when you should still use article marketing and when you shouldn’t.

Yes, the Google Panda update changed things. Hopefully for the better. This also means that genuinely good content might have been pushed down in the Google search engine rankings. Sites like EzineArticles weren’t deemed to provide enough quality content and the entire site suffered as a result.

Although Alexa rank isn’t the best judge of traffic, it can give a fair estimate. Before the Google Panda update, EzineArticles had a rank of under 100, which means according to Alexa, it was among the top 100 websites visited around the world. After the Panda, it ranks at 311 at the time of writing this. A rank in the 3 digits is still a highly respectable one.

Personal Experience – A Case Study

I have been using EzineArticles for several years now. My best performing article still manages to get over a 1000 visits a month in a very specific niche. However, I have definitely seen a drop in traffic to my articles and subsequently to my blog through EzineArticles.

Before the Google Panda update, I was able to rank highly and get good traffic from EzineArticles. After the Google Panda, here are the changes I noticed personally –

  • It is much harder to drive traffic from EzineArticles to my blog. This is because these articles rank lower in Google and also because overall, people visiting and searching for things within EzineArticles has probably decreased.
  • ‘Backlink juice’ is lower but still not terrible. Yes, backlinks from EzineArticles are still precious in the eyes of Google even though as much as before.

When I try to determine if EzineArticles is any good in 2012, I look at both traffic and backlinks. Both have decreased, but that still isn’t a reason to abandon this strategy completely. I would still recommend EzineArticles to new blogs to get backlinks and rank soon in Google.

The advantages of EzineArticles in 2012

  • The backlinks are still valuable! If you are a new blog and no one is linking to you, this is a great way to get some linking going.
  • Other blogs still borrow content from EzineArticles. This means if you publish an article, chances are, someone else picks it up and thus you get additional backlinks. Don’t count on the quality of these sites though.
  • You can still get decent traffic, especially for a new blog. When you are starting out, it isn’t terrible if you can get your first 10-20 visitors through a site like EzineArticles.
  • If you are a diamond member and write halfway decent articles, they should be accepted. It doesn’t take me more than 20-30 minutes to write and publish here, and it shouldn’t take you more either. For the effort that goes in, I think the results are worth it.
  • One strategy that I often follow is to publish a new post on my blog and write a related article on EzineArticles and get a link back to my blog in my signature.

Case Study

After the Panda, I tried to see how effective EzineArticles was in terms of helping me rank better in Google. Here is what I did –

Step-1: Publish a post on my blog, targeting a keyword that I want to rank high on.

Step-2: Measure its rank in Google. I used different computers just to be sure that I wasn’t affecting the results of my own blog. I saw this every day for a week, to make sure the rankings are stable for the short term at least.

At this stage, I have no backlinks to this newly created piece of content.

Step-3: Publish an article on EzineArticles with one link to my homepage and another to this newly created content. Wait for the article to be accepted and published on the site.

Step-4: Measure the rank for the particular keyword again.

Results:

  • For Keyword1, the rank went from 25 to 8. Not bad at all.
  • For Keyword2, the rank went from 15 to 6. Again, not too bad

This is why I think EzineArticles can still be good in 2012, considering the effort that is needed to publish there, versus the kinds of returns that you can expect. I wouldn’t write this off completely and is definitely still a powerful tool in your arsenal.

What has been your experience with EzineArticles before and after Google Panda?

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