Time for a little how-to. When creating content, word count might not be high on your list of priorities, but it should be. Research has shown that content length can directly correlate with user engagement as well as many other key metrics. If your content’s word count doesn’t get the job done, you’ve wasted time and money — not to mention your audience’s unrealised loyalty.
However, ideal word count lengths vary significantly depending on the medium. Here are a few of the most popular types of content and the lengths you should consider for each.
Google’s algorithms have changed to favour long-form content so that the search engine can serve up more relevant, in-depth results. The algorithm wants to display content that’s written with humans in mind, and it measures the time users spend on the page when deciding how to rank content.
If your content’s word count doesn’t get the job done, you’ve wasted time and money
Unless you’re sharing a quick news item or advertising your latest product launch, you want juicy, meaty blog posts that delve deeply into a topic and cover as much detail as possible. Interestingly, research suggests that 2,416 words is the sweet spot for blog content. Now, I don’t personally, necessarily believe that you need aim to be hitting those dizzying heights every single time; I think this more just makes the case for longer content. But if you’re pumping out 400- or 500-word articles for your blog – more or less the gold standard before Google changed its algorithm – it may be time to update your strategy.
Long-form content provides readers with more detail and information, which inherently makes the content more valuable. In today’s DIY, hyper-informed culture, consumers want to arm themselves with information so they can make educated decisions and protect themselves from poor investments.
Additionally, longer content often translates to higher authority. However, this doesn’t hold true if you fill your blog posts with fluff and filler. Each sentence must communicate valuable information that the reader can use, or you just go the other way and risk alienating the reader.
White papers are very specific, useful pieces of content that impart detailed information about a topic. Writing for HubSpot, Kuno Creative executive vice president John McTigue suggests that white papers should span at least 10 pages. Otherwise, you can’t impart the level of detail consumers expect from these documents.
Of course, white papers include more than text – you’ll include charts, graphs and other visual aids to help readers understand your assertions – but a white paper should nevertheless be text-heavy and provide readers with detailed information resulting from an academic level of research.
Social media posts
If you’re active on social media, you’re familiar with the short, quippy missives users fire off, whether for personal or professional reasons. The character limits that the platforms impose, however, don’t necessarily reflect the ideal length for engagement or shares.
A MarketingProfs infographic reveals that social media posts should generally include 100 or fewer characters. Ideally, your post should include some form of visual media, whether it’s a photograph, video or animated GIF. Visuals can increase engagement, encourage shares and add depth to your content. Instead of cramming as many buzzwords, keywords and hashtags into your social media posts as possible, focus on the basics.
MarketingProfs reports that tweets under 100 characters get 17 per cent more engagement. In other words, when you post shorter tweets, you might get more retweets, replies and other interactions from your followers. You want your social media presence to promote your brand, and following best practice will help make that happen.
When you post shorter tweets, you might get more retweets
Recent rumours have suggested that Twitter intends to increase its character limit to as much as 10,000. However, as it stands the expanded character limits apply to @names, retweeted quotes and media attachments like pictures. As far as the text itself (and links), you’re still limited to 140 characters, but it’s a refreshing development, at least.
Readers have to commit more time and energy to an e-book than they do a blog or social media post, so length matters less than content. If you pad your word count with unnecessary facts or anecdotes, your readers will likely tune out, unsubscribe from your mailing list or disregard future content marketing efforts you might make. Mind you, that’s also true of a blog. Every word has its place.
There’s no standard length for e-books, so focus on value. Write only the number of words required to educate, inspire or entertain your audience. When you’ve accomplished that goal, stop. Many e-books look long, but their file size or page count becomes inflated by visual media. If you include photographs, fancy headings, charts, graphs and similar media, your page count will increase, but your text will remain tight and easy to follow.
Every word has its place
Email marketing messages
The other day we talked about how email marketing is still one of the most powerful lead generation channels, so it’s still very important to get your email right.
The ideal length of an email marketing message depends on its content. For instance, if you’re sending an email to announce a new product or advertise a sale, keep it short and sweet. Include an image, a concise product description and a call-to-action. Superfluous wording will only distract the reader from the “click here” button, which will derail your marketing campaign.
However, email messages with other goals can be much longer. If you’re sending an educational email, such as a how-to, feel free to use as many words as you need to make the instructions clear.
Length also matters when you’re crafting product descriptions. If you get too wordy, potential customers will get lost in the verbiage and forget your message. However, if you err on the side of brevity, your audience will want more detail — and might click away in frustration.
If you want to include more information, consider breaking up the content using subheads. For instance, you might list each feature as a subheading, then provide bullet points underneath each feature to elaborate.
Informational web content
Whether it’s an “About us” page or a page that details your business’s services, length matters less than presentation. You don’t want to overload web visitors with too much information, but neither do you want to leave them wanting more but finding none.
Large blocks of text do tend to intimidate readers. Your potential customers lead busy lives, so don’t encourage them to click away by inviting them to read Faulknerian sentences. Instead, break up your content into bullet points, block quotes and other easily digestible tidbits of information to keep readers engaged. Even simple subheadings can make informational web content more readable.
Word count matters less in video scripts than the time it takes to read those words. Research shows that users are more likely to click “play” on a video if it’s less than one minute long. Condensing your word count so that the voiceover artist can read it in less than 60 seconds can make a video script far more effective.
Look, content length isn’t a marketing deal-breaker, but it is a component of your content marketing strategy that you need to think very carefully about. Heeding industry standards is an important thing for gaining brand visibility and a better reach, but there’s no point in stuffing your articles with superfluous information just to reach a ‘sweet spot’. The point is – as it always is in the content world – quality. Put simply, a 1,000-word article is likely to be better researched than a 500-word article on the same subject. Of course that’s not a hard and fast rule; it really depends on how good a writer you have and what the marketing goal of that bit of text is. It’s a Goldilocks syndrome – not too hot, not too cold – make your content the right length for what it needs to achieve, no more and no less. If your article feels like it needs more depth, it probably does. If your “About us” page feels like it’s going on a bit too long, it probably is. Think about what isn’t needed and what you’d want to add. Think about your audience’s very specific needs when considering what that piece of writing should achieve. Word counts count because quality counts. And on that note, make sure you get a really good sub-editor; they’ll keep you in check.