The ideal length for web page content is a long debated topic by experts and readers alike.
Some online publications get by with a few paragraphs and some images while others use thousands of words per story. Each type of publication is successful.
Uncovering the perfect length involves a little trial and error. It also involves understanding your core audience and what they like best.
The Optimum Length
According to research done by the blogging service Medium, stories that take seven minutes to read are the most popular and engaging. Their study found shorter posts and significantly longer posts had around 1,000 page views while posts in the seven minute range had anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 page views.
Another interesting statistic found that when content reached three minutes reading time, page views went up as well. This means the real sweet spot ranges from three to seven minutes.
The Average Isn’t Always Best
The study from Medium is only an average. This doesn’t mean that’s what your readers want. A seven minute post is approximately 1700 words. Do your stories realistically fit this word count? For instance, if your publication covers breaking news, it might be hard to write stories over 500 words since immediate information is limited.
One important thing to remember is you should never fluff up pieces for the sake of trying to meet an ideal average length. The less useful information in a story, the sooner visitors leave. This increases your bounce rate and could eventually negatively affect your search rank.
Pleasing Visitors Is What’s Important
The main thing Google and even other search engines look at is how well visitors are responding to your content. For instance, take a look at the amount of text on BuzzFeed posts versus a New York Times story. There’s a drastic difference, yet both sites enjoy millions of visitors.
Keeping your visitors happy is what’s most important. If you try out 1700 word posts and visitors only stay a few seconds, try 1200 words instead. It helps to mix up story lengths to see which lengths visitors respond to best. This gives you a target average for your core audience. Suggest to your clients to test their layout to feature longer content over shorter content to see how readers respond.
Ideally, make your content as long as it needs to be to get your point across. Anything more or less is going to lead to dissatisfied readers.
The Long Form Trend
Online publications can’t overlook the long form trend. It’s a good idea to advise your clients that longer content does tend to rank better with Google. While all their content doesn’t need to be long form, adding in a mix of long and short may help with their overall rank. One study found the highest ranking long form content ranged from 2,000 to 2,500 words.
This isn’t going to be the norm for most websites. Most online publications would need to ramble on or do intensive research to come anywhere close to these numbers. The majority of experts are beginning to agree that the ideal length for longer stories and blog posts is closer to the 1,500 to 1,600 word range.
Interestingly enough, 74% of readers preferred blog posts that averaged three minutes while 94% preferred posts under six minutes. This means preferred stories range anywhere from 400 to 1,700 words.
Breaking Up Content
Longer content has been proven to be more effective. The key to making sure readers get the most from it is to break it up with descriptive or catchy headlines. According to Nielsen, 79% of readers scan stories before actually reading. Using short headlines along with images helps break up long content to make it easier to digest.
The longer the content is, the more headlines and images that are necessary. These help readers focus and find the information they need quickly.
Every online publication will have its own ideal content length. The best thing to advise your clients to do is test various lengths and never try to write longer content just for the sake of a longer post. After a handful of stories of varying lengths, it’ll be much easier for you to determine the perfect length for your audience.
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