At first blush, understanding the role of online content seems pretty simple. Using search engines like Google, as well as social networks like Facebook and Twitter, consumers search for information, solutions to their problems, and answers to their questions. Your company’s content can and should provide those things; the whole point of creating content is to establish your brand as a potential solution to consumer pain points.
But while that may seem simple, it encompasses some altogether trickier questions—like the question of length. For as long as content marketing has been around, this is the question that marketers and business owners alike have obsessed over: How long should my content be in order to resonate with customers and appease the Google search bots? What is the magic word count I need to hit in order to gain maximum SEO value?
The answer: It depends.
Different Content for Different Needs
As a rule of thumb, we’d recommend that pretty much any content you create be over 500 words. That’s not a magic number that guarantees amazing Google results, but it is the threshold for having your content indexed by the Google search algorithms—meaning it’s really the bare minimum you need.
Beyond that, we would contend that both long-form and short-form content have their place—and that a big part of effective content marketing lies in knowing when to use each of them.
A couple of quick definitions here: First, while things like infographics and YouTube videos can obviously be qualified as content, we’re really just dealing with written content today—e-books, blog posts, and the like.
Also, for the purposes of this post, we’re defining long-form content as 2,000 words or more. Short-form content is anything below that threshold, which means it can range from 500 words to well over 1,000.
The Chief Concern? User Intent.
With those stipulations out of the way, the main thing you want to consider when writing content is user intent. Who are the people you’re trying to reach through this content, and how much depth or substance are they really looking for? Those are the kinds of questions that should guide you as you think about your content length.
For example, say you’re writing a complete guide to your company’s new software program—a handbook that is meant to answer every question and explain every feature. A skimpy 300-word description isn’t going to do the trick, but a long-form manuscript will convey the weight and attention to detail you’re after.
On the flipside, if you’re writing a sales sheet that summarizes the basic value of your new software, a 2,000-word document is probably way too much information; potential consumers just want the fast facts, the what’s in it for me information. Here, short-form is likely the way to go.
Checklists: Choosing Long vs. Short
To help you think further about user intent and the scenarios where long or short might be the preferable option, here are some quick checklists.
You may want to consider writing long-form content when:
- You are writing to customers in the top part of the sales funnel—especially those who have little prior knowledge of your brand, and may need some extra explanation or background.
- You’re writing about a high-end product or service that comes with a steep price tag; here, length can be reassuring to the buyer, and help answer all their questions before they part with a lot of money.
- You’re writing about a service that might require more of a commitment to purchase, such as regular upkeep or servicing.
- You’re writing for a business-to-business transaction, which can often be more complex than a business to consumer one.
- The product you are writing about is highly technical in nature.
- The product you’re writing about has a need for data or analytics to back it up.
Meanwhile, short-form content may be the better option when:
- You are writing to customers at the bottom of the funnel—customers who are already well qualified and educated.
- You are writing to people who already know your brand pretty well, in particular repeat or returning customers.
- You’re writing about a product that is more commonplace and requires little explanation.
- You’re writing about a product with an lower price point.
As a footnote, we’ll add that there are certain forms of content that dictate brevity—including social media posts, emails, and PPC ad copy. Here, it likely goes without saying that just getting to the point is desirable.
Thinking Clearly About Content Length
Critically, your readers don’t necessarily care about length; what they care about is substance. What we mean by that is, nobody ever sets out to find a product guide that is exactly 550 words; there’s just no need for that. Instead, people set out to find a product guide that fully addresses their questions without wasting their time; they want thoroughness but not fluff, in other words, and if you can provide that in your content, that’s smarter than simply trying to hit an arbitrary word count.
Ultimately, you’ll probably find that both long-form and short-form content work well for your brand, with diverse situations dictating different content needs. This is another area in which an integrative marketing approach—one that encompasses both quick blog posts and lengthier e-books, PPC ad copy, and exhaustive product guides—is beneficial.
Learn More About Integrative Marketing
We would love to talk with you about what a truly varied and robust marketing strategy looks like, and to explain some more about our approach to content development. Start that conversation today by reaching out directly to the enCOMPASS Agency team.
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