The Ideal Length of Content: Long or Short?

The debate for the ideal length of content has taken centre stage for a while now, and there’s no indication that it will leave the limelight any time soon.

Writers and Content Marketers have been knocking their heads together on the length of their posts and tend to focus mainly on whether to make a post long or short, without thinking about the actual content in question.

For some copywriters, charging per word is the norm, so cramming in a lot of words means making more money, whether the extra words are necessary or not. Some however, know just when to cut the line. To these people, quality matters more.

In other cases, clients or employers slap an expected word count to a project, for which a writer must stick to. While some might be aligned to an accurate evaluation of the project, others are just plucked out of a hat. This often puts writers in a tough spot, as the word count to work with is often too large or too small.

So, the crux of the debate is: what is the ideal length for any piece of content? Blog posts, guest posts, interviews, landing pages and product descriptions – is there a one-size-fits-all approach?

The answer is simple. No.

The length of a blog or guest post cannot realistically be ideal for any product description or landing page. In fact, every article shouldn’t necessarily be restricted to a word count range.

However, there’s one ingredient – regardless of length – that every content form must contain:

Quality.

Yes, quality. You’re not looking to merely beef-up a website with blocks of words like newspaper pages. The primary aim is to keep the reader informed and interested. Then you can take up other means of conversion from there on in.

So, whether you’re writing a blog of 3,000-10,000 words, or a small product description of 100-300 words, without good quality, your content is as good as useless.

Again, what is ideal? Long or short? We are about to find out.

Long-form or Short-form?

If you’ve been an active player in the SEO world for a while now, you’ll find that long-form has been gathering lots of attention for nearly a decade now and still is.

Long-form content has been reported by numerous surveys and leading bloggers to perform far better than its short-form counterpart – but all the time? Everywhere? Definitely not.

While long-form is the normal big deal, there are instances where it could cost you dearly, but that doesn’t strip away all its credibility.

Simply put; there are content situations and (many) types that call for lengthy articles, while some just require a couple of hundred words. In some cases, just a few words are ideal.

So, long or short?

It depends.

What are the Instances that Require Long or Short Form Posts?

There are different content types as far as the internet is concerned and these require different forms of length. A huge factor here is the reader. In some cases, keeping a reader’s attention for a long time is ideal, whereas in others, you need them to take action as quickly as possible.

These content types include:

  • Blog posts
  • Guest posts
  • Interviews
  • Landing pages
  • News articles
  • Product descriptions

Normally, blog posts, news articles and guest posts require meaty content, and thus long posts. On the other hand, the length of product descriptions and landing pages vary.

A landing page can lose its purpose with a lengthy piece of text, but in special cases where the user needs a ton of information before taking action, a lengthy post packed with relevant information is ideal.

It’s almost the same with a product description. Products require every snippet of information passed on to the reader and have more details than others.

Blog Posts and Guest Posts

For all kinds of blog articles – including guest posts – word count only applies when the quality of the article is high. The length of your content shouldn’t be your primary pursuit, but the quality should. If you can, let the quality of your content determine its length.

That said, a lot of studies have been conducted to determine the ideal length for blog articles. Many have found that long-form content reigns supreme in this case.

According to a SerpIQ survey on the importance of content length, blog posts of about 2,500 words tend to perform the best in general, though their assessment contains texts found in the sidebars of the page, as well as the main content.

Another study from backlinko reported that 1,890 is the average word count for contents that ranked first on Google.

Although this does not point out that articles below 1,890 don’t rank first at all, it is an indicator that long form contents are taking most of the top positions.

Both studies show just how important long form content is to all kinds of blog articles.

What is the Influence of Lengthy Posts on Blogs?

During the nascent stages of the internet and blogging, posts were quite short compared to what they are today. Back then, we would see 500-800 word long posts, which were considered just fine. However, more recently, competition and the need for more information has significantly increased the number of words found on an average blog post.

Realistically speaking, there is more to share nowadays. The scope of knowledge is increasing and there is more need for in-depth information.

One way that long posts influence content is the ranking. Google algorithms (especially the panda update) take long, in-depth informative posts as a ranking signal. Note that it mustn’t necessarily be long to rank, but needs to be relevant, though the longer, relevant posts do tend to rank higher.

Another good influence of a lengthy blog post is that it shows the user it contains high quality information and lots of it. It should do as well of course – otherwise a reader will leave after reading just a few lines of the post, which happens in a lot of cases.

News Articles

As far as news pieces go, there have been calls, especially by Associated Press, to keep news stories as short as possible or no longer than is necessary. Many have gone against the clichéd 800-word long articles and called for writers to stick strictly to the ‘A matter’, so that readers don’t easily lose interest.

This does not necessarily put a bad mark against long news articles though. What does however is word padding and unnecessary rambling. If the information you’re trying to convey through a news article is small, then keep it straight to the point.

Interviews

Publishing an interview should promise an exciting read for the reader. So, you should cut to the chase and provide the real stuff. Banal questions and answers should be cut out of the whole proceeding.

Even though people are excited to read as much as they can from a celebrity or expert, providing an interview that has been excessively diluted with wordiness and off-the-point questions, is a move that will certainly backfire.

I’ve often found that some rationales often beat the interview itself in length.

So, even for interviews, keep the questions (and content) as relevant as possible.

Landing Pages

The length of a landing page can be a driving factor in converting a site visitor or losing them. Long or short, it all depends on the kind of landing page involved and the purpose of the page.

For example, if you want a reader to provide their email address and download a book free of charge, you don’t necessarily have to roll out a thousand words for this. A few hundred words telling the person the usefulness of the book and why they need it should be enough.

On the other hand, when you’re expecting someone to make a purchase for a hefty sum on your website, you’d require quite a lengthy post to try and win them over. You’ll be expected to provide information on your genuineness, why you should be trusted, and most of all, why they need the product.

When it comes to landing pages, it all depends. So, make sure you get things right. Your landing page determines your ROI, so it should be taken seriously.

Product Descriptions

Product descriptions should be crisp and clear and contain only relevant information about the product. Sounding too ‘salesy’ and veering off topic is a huge turn-off at anytime. Make sure you describe the product in great detail though, as browsers love to gather as much information as possible about products they are about to spend their money on.

If they aren’t satisfied with your description, they simply move on to find another source that can provide adequate information.

Conclusion

Remember that no one likes fluff and too much blabber. Try to keep it straight and simple. Don’t go off topic just because you’re trying to make bulky content. Keep your quality level high and don’t comprise on this. While a long post is great for most contents, quality is always better.

If you find it difficult keeping tabs on the length of your posts, you can hire a professional to see you through.