The long and short of successful content, #contentmarketing

How important is the length of content? As content marketers and storytellers, should we write long or short? And, does it matter?

It’s tempting to assume that, in today’s time-squeezed, distraction-packed world, only short, snackable content can cut through. After all, if it’s good enough for @realDonaldTrump, then surely it’s good enough for us?

The data, however, suggest that longer is better:

  • Longer web pages outperform shorter on Google searches. The average word count of Google first-page results is 1,890 (Source: Backlinko, 2016)
  • The optimal reading time for a post or web-page is around 7 minutes (about 1,600 words) (Source: Medium, 2013)
  • Longer posts are shared twice as much as shorter ones. BuzzSumo and OkDork found that posts of 3,000-10,000 words were shared twice as much as those that were 0-1,000 words in length. (Source: OkDork, 2017)
  • “Long form content of over 1,000 words consistently receives more shares and links than shorter form content.” (Source: Moz and BuzzSumo,2015)
  • Longer form web pages improve conversion by 30% or more (Sources: SignalVNoise.com, 2011, and Conversion Rate Experts)

Length alone isn’t enough

You need depth and clarity, too.

Today’s audience, especially in B2B, demands a clear return on its investment of time. There’s little taste for discursive, ruminative or overly descriptive prose (channel your inner Hemingway, not your Dickens), but definitive, “go to” text is highly valued.

In short, aim for:

  1. Relevance
  2. Quality
  3.  Value.

A place for pithy content

It’s not all about long-form, though. As above, longer content is great for building engagement, thought leadership and influence, but pithy and regular can work, too. It depends on your goal. People often point to Seth Godin’s insightful blog as an example of successful, short-form content. Interestingly though, the most shared item on his blog in the last 12 months was one of his longest. The Candy Diet (673 words and 20,300 shares) is, ironically, a protest against over-simplification:

“We can survive if we eat candy for an entire day, but if we put the greenmarkets out of business along the way, all that’s left is candy.
Give your kid a tablet, a game, and some chicken fingers for dinner. It’s easier than talking to him.
Read the short articles, the ones with pictures, it’s simpler than digging deep.”

Other examples of effective, concise and very regular blogs include Execupundit and Nicholas Bate.

Balance both for an effective strategy

The truth is that you probably need both.

Long-form content will form the bed-rock of any strategy to engage and persuade, building thought leadership and supporting the journey to trusted adviser status with existing customers. But creating good, longer writing takes time and money. Your content calendar might target one longer piece every two weeks or every month while you maintain the pulse with regular and relevant, shorter pieces.

Further reading on long versus short

Image credit: https://unsplash.com/@glennoble

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