Is There Truly An Ideal Article Length? We Think Not!
Let’s Finally Put the Ideal Article Length Debate to Rest
When it comes to marketing to the B2B crowd, what is the ideal article length? This is a question that has plagued marketing writers since blog posts became a thing. Some say longer posts are king while others say shorter posts reign supreme. Who’s right?
Spoiler alert: They both are!
Why don’t we put this pointless debate to rest? The fact is, no one knows what the ideal article length is, and here’s the proof.
Attention Spans Are Getting Shorter? Not So Fast
For years, we’ve been told to write for skimmers; that people are short on time and attention. And to keep in line with that mantra, Constant Content suggested we keep our blog posts to between 500 and 700 words. That was back in 2012.
Current data suggests the opposite.
Attention Spans Might Be Getting Longer
While research claims that our attention spans are shrinking, oddly enough, the latest research tells a different story.
In 2014, Buffer published the results of a study that claimed 1,600 words was the “sweet spot” for attention and shares. To back up those results, HubSpot tallied the averages of all of its 6,000+ blog posts and derived that there is a “positive correlation between high performing pages within organic search and word counts over 2,250 words.” HubSpot’s “sweet spot” rested right between 2,250 and 2,500 words.
Furthermore, HubSpot found that word counts over 2,500 get the most shares on social.
The unexpected jump at the >250-word count is for posts like infographics that require very little text to generate interest.
Moz also found that longer articles generate more interest and found that posts between 1800 and 3000 words attract more than 15 times more links than posts with less than 600 words.
Is It All in the Timing Instead?
Medium took a different approach to finding the ideal article length. The company wanted to find out what kept their readers most engaged, and they dug through the data. By examining the number of page views and searching for patterns, they noticed something peculiar. What they found was that, instead of measuring posts in words, they posted the ideal time. It turns out, 7-minutes is the “sweet spot” that gets the most attention and shares.
Since the average person reads between 200-250 words per minute, which comes to about 2,100 words, this falls in line with the above research.
Don’t Listen to the Research
As a B2B marketer, you have to ask yourself, “what am I attempting to accomplish?”
Do you want more social shares? Because people sharing doesn’t always mean people are reading. Do you want more engagement? Because the Write Practice found that 275 words is the ideal word count for getting more blog comments.
Seth Godin is certainly no slouch in the sharing and engagement department, and his blog posts are consistently concise at around 75+ words.
Kaleidico said that 500 to 1,000 words was the “sweet spot” for SEO, branding, and marketing.
To confuse things even more, according to an informal Twitter poll, more people prefer shorter content over longer.
Digital marketing guru Tim Brown is one of those that jumped on the bandwagon heralding long-form content as king. He even gives tutorials on how to write longer blog posts on his website.
However, after polling his nearly 70K followers on Twitter, he discovered that reader preferences don’t always follow conventional wisdom. It appears, by the poll, that more people prefer shorter content that is between 300 and 1500 words.
All the research and data, findings and suggestions are enough to make your head spin. The fact is, there is more to this debate than the mere counting of words read and minutes spent.
Marketing agency Snap says that it’s more about consistency. If you can regularly churn out 2,500-word fluff-free blog posts, more power to you. If you can write 500-word quality posts each week, that might work also.
Write Well and Forget About Length
It’s more about what your blogs contain rather than how long they are or how much time they take to read. As you build up your content library, keep an eye on your analytics and make adjustments accordingly. Or, ask your audience with a poll or survey.
If You Do Go Long Form, Break It Up
Long-form content, the supposed king, can quickly seem like a wall-o-text if you don’t format properly. The adage to write for skimmers is still apt, even today, and you can do this by using short paragraphs, bolded subheads, and numbered or bulleted lists where possible. HubSpot also recommends breaking up your content every 350 words with a relevant image.
No one can predict what your audience will tolerate, whether we’re talking about word count or reading length. But you can learn these things about your audience over time, which is when you’ll finally know just how long your articles are supposed to be.
Over To You
Do you have any thoughts on this subject that you’d like to share? Do your writing habits match your reading habits? Truly interested to see your comments on this.
Related reading: 6 Common Blogging Blunders (And How To Fix Them)
Ryan Gould is the Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services at Elevation Marketing, a B2B marketing agency. Ryan helps medium and large brands improve sales and market share by developing integrated marketing experiences distinguished by research, storytelling, engagement and conversion.
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