When you’re planning out content for your site, one of the many things to think about is target content length. While the ideal length of a piece of content depends on a lot of factors, there is some data to suggest that certain content lengths are better at accomplishing specific goals. Here’s what the statistics show, and when you should (or shouldn’t) follow the numbers.
Forbes says that content should have at least 300 words in order to meet SEO best practices. Content with at least this many words has a better chance of including the right SEO keywords with the right density and frequency, making it easier for a search engine crawler to correctly classify and index the content. Content with fewer words may not register with search engines as being relevant and helpful for the keywords it contains. Hopefully, you’re already writing content that goes beyond 300 words, because as we’ll see in this article, longer content tends to get more attention.
You may be writing content with the goal of getting your page to the top of Google’s search results. A study that analyzed 1 million Google search results concluded that the average length (in total word count) for sites that make the front page of Google’s search results is 1,890 words. Note that this includes all words on the page, though, and not just the content length; the length of content on these pages would be a bit lower than this estimate. According to this study, page rank falls off sharply after the first 2,000 words.
If one of your goals is to get a lot of social shares, you may want to push for content between 3,000 to 10,000 words. Research has shown that content of this length gets more shares than content between 0 and 3,000 words. Since this advice contradicts the target length in the previous paragraph, you’ll obviously have to balance your strategy and see what gets you the most readership: organic search or social shares.
Image via Flickr by mkhmarketing
Results that discuss the effect of content length on conversion rates are mixed; longer pages don’t always convert better. It likely depends on the industry and the product being sold, along with the quality of the copy on these pages. Since this is one highly variable (and important) area of content, you’ll likely want to test and tweak your landing pages to see what is most effective at getting clickthroughs for your particular product or service.
Reader behavior is one area where shorter content may be beneficial. Some data suggests that 55 percent of readers will read an article for 15 seconds or less. When your content is succinct, you can get more of your message across in that short timeframe. This doesn’t always mean you need to cram important information into a shorter post if that doesn’t make sense. It simply means that first 15 seconds of content needs to be of the highest quality possible in order to convince people to keep reading. If you have an important message to get across at the end of your long-form content, make sure your content is strong enough to hook your reader in for the long haul.
So far, a lot of the data seems to show that longer content is most useful to encourage widespread discovery, readership, and sharing. However, the ideal length of any piece of content will also depend on the various specifics of that content. So, while it helps to look at the data to see what lengths of content are generally performing well, you will also want to look at some other factors, such as:
Content needs to be more detailed (and usually longer) when it covers a topic that could significantly affect the reader’s financial or personal wellbeing. Google refers to these as “your money or your life” topics, and the company applies more stringent requirements for this content in its human search engine result ratings.
You want to choose topics that you can confidently cover with enough depth to convey authority. Broader topics will naturally require longer content lengths in order to be effective. A 1,000-word article that provides a satisfying, in-depth look at its topic is much more meaningful than a 4,000 word that barely scratches the surface of a topic that’s too ambitious or broad.
You already have a unique way of connecting with your customers. Your audience expects to get something specific when they read your content. Does your business tend to write quick pieces to entertain or inspire readers, or are you known for providing the most comprehensive resources in your industry? If your strategy is working so far, it’s wise to keep your content at a similar length, no matter what crowdsourced data suggests.
Different types of content are best suited to buyers at specific phases of the buying cycle. Someone who clicks on a white paper is expecting depth and authority, and longer content types may be appropriate. A person who clicks on a press release or blog post may be more interested in a quick read that updates them about your company or a topic that’s relevant to their interests.
Ultimately, how do you find the right content length for your business? The points above should give you a starting point for deciding on a target word count. However, don’t forget to experiment and see what attracts the most readers or conversions for your specific business. Try content of different lengths and track the number of reads, shares, or conversions for each piece. Consider A/B testing your landing pages or blog posts to see whether long-form or short-form content converts better. Good content is both an art and a science, so make sure you have a solid strategy in place for crafting and evaluating your content.
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