All great content deserves a home and thanks to the endless expanse of digital space at your fingertips, every funny story, deep SEO study, and top 10 list you can think of can easily be uploaded onto a platform and become instantly accessible to the world.
A bit of free real estate on a platform doesn’t necessarily guarantee that anyone will actually find and read your content, regardless of how great it is. Unless your J. K. Rowling or transcribing another jaw-dropping tell-all interview with producer Quincy Jones, capturing an audience with words on a page is easier said than done.
If you don’t have access to a celebrity to spread their mojo over your killer copy to magnetize the masses, the journey from zero views to not zero views is a long and humbling road. During that journey there are some good practices you should develop that can give your next brilliant or average idea a chance at going viral.
There are many countless variables and factors that will ultimately determine the success of your content. They include:
- The topics/themes you choose and whether they are evergreen or topical
- The level of difficulty to understand your content
- The usefulness of your content, and whether it is actionable and engaging
Although all of those reasons play a role in the content wars, at Kwasi, we decided to take a closer look into some of the more measurable reasons why one piece of content does better than another. The most obvious place to look was word count. Do readers prefer long-form writing or something short and sweet? When it comes to web copy does size really matter? And if it does, what is the ideal length for content that will keep your audience clicking and scrolling, not kicking and screaming?
So how long should your blog posts be? From an SEO perspective, it is clear that content that is too short is unlikely to give readers enough information to be useful. Haikus are awesome but in the vast sea of words we are swimming in, overly short content is much less likely to rank in search engines for the keywords you want to target, which can result in less website traffic. Simple formula really, fewer words, fewer eyes, less engagement.
At the other end of the spectrum, content that is very long is unlikely to be read in full by visitors in a single sitting. It may contain too much information (or be too complex) to be well understood by the average reader. Here is an experiment. Try scrolling through a PDF version of War and Peace on your mobile device and see how far you get. Even the most avid readers would struggle. There’s nothing wrong with the content itself but as an experience, it is more valuable outside of the digital space.
Somewhere between those two extremes, there is a sweet spot for content length. We decided to take a closer look at the content available on our own website to see how balanced our approach has been with content length to date and hopefully walk away with some insights that will help us experiment and continue to improve how we do things.
The graph below shows how Kwasi’s website content is distributed by length:
Generally, Kwasi’s content is well distributed by length with many pages being an appropriate length. That said, some of the very short content (0-249 words) would probably have a solid chance of performing better if it was just a touch longer.
To put things into perspective 249 words equates to about a fifth of the post you are reading right now. That would have ended this post somewhere after we name-dropped the greatest music producer of all time, Quincy Jones. Very necessary and fun, but it would not be all that informative without all the juicy bits of data on the way.
Certain topics require the setup and additional information to actually arrive at a point where there is something readers can take away from the experience. As a creator of content, you don’t want your audience to feel like all they are getting is a preview or a trailer. You want to leave them with a fully realised experience. A great example is our interview with Geraldine DeRuiter. The feels we caught reading about her otherworldly affection for the actor Jeff Goldblum and learning about the true definition of “Nextflix and Chill” were worth every single word my friends.
Some of the very long content we pulled up (2000+ words) may perform better if it was made to be more succinct. As an example, this post you are reading now is at the halfway point. We do have some more ground to cover but it won’t take double the words for us to arrive at a rational conclusion unless we decide to take this document to the pub for a final spirited edit. (Quincy who? Phil Spector mate!)
Knowing if there are any direct correlations between content length and content performance (we’ve looked at sessions and links to assess performance) can be extremely useful when developing future content. Again, it’s important to note here that length is just one of many factors affecting performance, so these findings only help us understand the lengths that are the most appropriate for your web content, and which should be avoided.
The graph below highlights correlations between length, sessions, and links for all content on the Kwasi website.
The following graph shows these correlations for blog content only.
This data suggests that, for blog posts, 1,500-1,999 words is a sweet spot for attracting both traffic and links. Given the drop off in links and mild improvement in sessions, it would appear that the additional efforts to write content longer than 2,000 words will not return commensurate results.
Keeping an eye on the length of your content is more than just a numbers game. Producing quality content requires understanding your audience and your intention. Curating a reading experience that considers the eyes on the other side of the screen and how to keep them engaged so that the ideas and information within the copy can be delivered.
We would recommend trying to keep most evergreen blog content to around 1,500-1,999 words and saving longer content for cornerstone evergreen content like major resources (e.g. guides and studies) or dedicated, strategic link building assets.
Our data also suggests that 500-999 words is wholly appropriate for core website content – anything less should certainly be avoided, and there is not much benefit to sessions or links to create content that is much longer.
So far this particular post tallies in at just over 1100 words. Which to be honest is a bit awkward considering what the entire post is about. Perhaps a 400-word explanation is in order to push us into the sweet spot territory. Or maybe a spicy, slightly self-deprecating conclusion that breaks down more third walls than a Deadpool teaser. You get the picture. Choose your word count wisely.