How Long Should Your Content Be?

How Long Should Your Content Be?

April 16, 2019 Writing 0
long-form content

Whether you’re a brand, a blogger, or a small business, your website needs quality content. And no, you can’t get away with publishing a brief description of your service or posting 150-word blog posts. Both your audience and the search engines need more than that. Let’s look at some stats and analyze the trend.

What Makes Google Love Your Content

Ever since Google’s Panda update the importance of writing and publishing high-quality content has been on the rise. Websites and blogs with low-quality texts kept dropping in the search results and resources known as “content farms” had to eventually shut down because they couldn’t earn enough money. In a way, the Panda update and everything that came after it made the Web a better information resource. However, in its attempt to kill low-quality shady websites that used black hat SEO techniques like keyword stuffing, a lot of legitimate businesses and blogs got hit badly. How did that happen?

You see, no algorithm can actually read content and appraise its quality and value because it’s not a person. So, Google was forced to analyze content by several factors and use that information to decide whether the website is worth a good ranking or not. Here are some of these factors in no particular order:

  • Usefulness and relevancy – with voice search on the rise, Google pays a lot of attention to content answering user questions. In other words, content has to be useful and offer a precise answer to a query. Actually, that’s how Google came up with its snippets – you know, the answer to your question you see right in the search results. The content also should stay relevant throughout the page or post. That’s another factor.
  • Length – now, this is typical machine thinking. Since Google knows that content has to be useful, it thinks that long-form content provides the best answers and is the most useful. That’s true for many industries but not for all of them. HubSpot’s analysis of its own organic traffic showed that pieces over 2,250 words ranked the best. This and other stats show a trend that Google prefers long-form content, which doesn’t always provide the best and the most precise answers to user questions. So, in a way, this is a downside.
  • Keywords – definitely a massive factor but not in the outdated sense (stuff your site with keywords and you’re good to go). Instead of encouraging websites to post one article per focus keyword like in the old days, Google now prefers long pieces of content that incorporate your main keyword and its synonyms in a natural way. As a writer, I’m very happy that finally Google recognizes the need for interesting and beautifully-written content.

You must have noticed that I talked about Google only. So, what about the real people, your readers?

Content Length Matters to Your Audience

We can’t pretend that people don’t enjoy reading long content. They do and research by BuzzSumo and Moz proves that articles over 1,000 words get the most social media shares and backlinks. So long-form content is definitely the way to go if it works well for your niche. The thing is, not all niches are well-suited to have long content on their websites.

Let’s have a look at some scenarios: a gardening blog, a recipe blog, and a computer software website.

As you might have already guessed, the gardening blog is most likely to have the longest content. There are tons of books written on the subject of gardening and there’s always more to cover. This is true for gardening blogs – it takes a lot of words and pictures to post a detailed gardening how-to or to even compare different types of cucumbers. A gardening blogger can easily reach the 2,500-words target without posting “thing content” that doesn’t give much value.

The recipe blog will have a harder time maintaining the word count because when people search for a recipe, all they need are precise instructions with pictures. Something that can preferably be printed out on a single page or viewed on a smartphone screen without too much scrolling. But what about Google? Well, I’ve seen a lot of recipe bloggers write lengthy introductions to their recipes, tell their readers how they discovered the recipe and modified it, and trying to increase the word count in every way possible. I can’t say that I approve of that because I don’t like adding words for Google’s sake. As someone who loves cooking and discovering new recipes, I usually scroll down to the actual recipe and find the intros annoying and unnecessary. My ideal recipe post is around 500 words.

The computer software website might be a simple one-pager. Have a look at some popular apps like Setapp (OK, I’m a Mac user) and you’ll see that their websites are very graphics-centered and their home pages aren’t at all wordy. That’s understandable because these businesses have only seconds to grab the visitor’s attention and get him or her interested enough to download the app. The whole Setapp home page content is about 600 words and that includes all the footer links, menu items, photo captions, testimonials, etc.

Do you think recipe blogs and software developers should start posting 2,500 words on their home pages to improve engagement and CTR? Absolutely not. Unlike most blogs, these niches do not require long-form content, at least not on the home page.

Niches That Can Keep It Short

As you can see, short-form content isn’t dead yet. It’s perfect for some niches and in many respects, it’s more user-friendly and definitely more mobile-friendly. Here are just a few examples where shorter texts work better than long-form content:

  • News – there’s no such thing as a lengthy news report. If your website or blog is strictly news (no analytical pieces), then keep it short.
  • Business website home pages – your website’s home page is like your business card. Put too much info on it and the visitors will become overwhelmed and confused. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t add a blog with high-quality long-form content to your business site, though.
  • Short tutorials – unless you publish lists of “top 10 cool things”, short tutorials that show your readers how to do something quickly should be kept, well, short.
  • Image-focused blogs – there are blogs that focus on posting memes, comics, and other content where a picture speaks a thousand words. And that’s perfectly OK.
  • Landing pages – there’s a myth that a landing page needs to be long to convert. That’s only a myth because a good LP is a combination of images and text.

The Bottom Line

Before you sit down to write that 2,000-word blog post, think of your audience. Will the post engage them? Will all of the 2,000 words be relevant and useful? Would you want to share a similar post and leave a comment? If the answer is yes to all, then go ahead! If not, consider how you can make your piece of content just right for your audience and concentrate on that instead of the word count. After all, it’s all about staying relevant and true to your clients and readers.

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