Word Count Sweet Spot: Determining the Optimal Content Length for Professional Services

At Content Equals Money (CEM), we write content as short as a tweet and as long as an ebook. Many business owners, marketers, and content creators wonder about optimal content length. How long is too long? Will I lose my readers if I post something more than 2,000 words? How can I treat a subject in depth in a short post? Read on to discover the truth about word counts, reader interest, and how you really define quality and quantity.

The Numbers

Less is not always more. Today’s content consumers value their time, but that does not mean you need to constantly churn out 200 – 500-word blog posts. Rather, it means you should be creating content that shows you want to provide value for the time invested. Here are some numbers regarding word count you may find surprising.

  1. 2416 Words

Marketing guru Neil Patel has reported research showing this as the ideal length for a higher ranking web page. Readers prefer articles and blog posts that contain more content with better research over the quick hit blogs that dominate most websites. A longer article usually indicates more time invested in research, looking for more than a single statistic to comment on. This kind of work gives the website credibility that leads to more linkbacks, which in turn leads to a stronger search engine optimization (SEO) ranking. A positive cycle that leads to more traffic to your website.

  1. 41%

MarketingExperiments conducted a study that compared the performance of long and short posts. The study involved three tests of which long copy won the first by 41 percent and the second by 50%. In the final test the two tied. Taken by itself, that data indicates long copy tends to outperform shorter copy. We here at CEM have found that, when you combine this with Patel’s finding on quality or relevance over quantity, you have a strong case for longer, less frequent posts over shorter, more frequent versions.

  1. 10 Seconds

That’s the purported attention span readers have when first viewing your page. Although this is a myth, it continues to be repeated everywhere on the web. Google Analytics tells a different story, indicating the time spent on your page varies for many reasons, including load times, reader engagement or connection to your content, content arrangement on the page, and more.

  1. 200 Words

Search engines scour pages for what the industry calls “thin content.” This kind of page contains an unusually large number of images, lacks search friendly content, or contains mostly links. If your page contains fewer than 200 words, red flags go up in search engine algorithms, leading to a low ranking for your content. At CEM, we always recommend a minimum target above 300 to avoid this search engine penalty.

Quality Vs. Quantity

The answer is not just a matter of writing better content. It’s a dynamic approach that flexes according to the customer and the content. CEM employs an approach that delivers what the customer wants to say in a manner optimized for reader engagement.

Here’s are two recommendations for use in determining what aspects of quality and quantity you need to employ for your copy content:

  1. Respect the Reader

Readers do not always just care about getting through an article quickly and moving on. Sometimes they need more. When and where is hard to determine, so you must be engaged like a reader as you create content. Consider what would make content valuable to you. When do you read content, what keeps you connected to the copy? What do you consider to be a waste of time? How can you avoid those pitfalls?

Value your readers’ time and aim to create content that demonstrates this. Readers care about content that informs, entertains, or spurs them to action. It’s content that delivers reputable sources the reader can trust and presents the content in an engaging format. Value their time and never insult their intelligence. Do the same and you’ll find your copy, regardless of length, will engage more people.

  1. Cover but Engage

A college professor of mine taught me a simple rule that applies to all writing: It should be long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to make the subject interesting. Your content needs to hit all the major points, but not dig deep into superfluous details your reader doesn’t need. Where the line lies for each post shifts, based on who the customer is, what reader base you are engaging with the content, and the level of detail needed to fully cover a subject.

At CEM, for example, we cover a variety of topics: law, real estate, health, insurance, marketing, and more. We’ve found that sometimes we need more than 500 words to write about the latest trends in room design; however, we’ve also found that we might not need 2500 words to cover a more thoroughly researched legal article on personal injury lawsuits. The line always shifts, so we adjust to move with it. You should do the same.

In closing, remember that content creation does not always hinge on length, or having 50 links to sources filling your article. Your content needs to target the right reader in the right place, engage them, and provide enough information to cover the subject. If you can write less about a topic, do so. If your topic needs more, make certain you maintain quality. Create engaging content you can produce consistently, while respecting your readers, and you’ll find they come back to you for more, bringing friends with them.

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Brian Guthrie

Brian Guthrie, 2017 Dragon Award nominee Best Scifi novel, is an independent author of science fiction, fantasy, and more. His first novel, Rise (book one of a series of four, available now) won the Inkshares Nerdist Contest and his second novel, After Man (co-authored with Michelle Guthrie; release TBD) won the Inkshares Geek and Sundry Contest, making him the first author on Inkshares to win two contests. He has completed Rise’s sequel, Fall (which is now available for pre-order as it awaits Inkshares/Audible production), and has plans for a joint project science fiction/historical fiction piece, some historical fiction, and much more. He is married to Michelle Guthrie, a father of a daughter who defies gender roles and has two cats.

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