How long should your content be?
“It should be possible to explain the laws of physics to a barmaid.” — Albert Einstein
All too often, we create content in order to prove how much we understand about a concept. Most readers are not interested in your understanding of an idea — they simply want to know more about the subject. This need to prove yourself can reduce the usefulness of your content. So, how long should your content be? Long enough to get the point across and usually not a syllable longer.
Exercise: If you’re stuck on how to explain an idea, write down how you would explain it to a friend and use that.
But don’t search engines want longer content?
“I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” — Elmore Leonard
This is true...kind of. There is an idea that search algorithms prefer longer works of content — some say in the 1,000-2,000-word range. This is true only if the content maintains its usefulness throughout. Ultimately, search engines want to deliver useful results to their users. More often than not, online readers are skimming longer blog posts rather than fully reading them. If written properly, a shorter blog article can prove itself to be just as informative as the longer articles. When you can offer as much information with less reading or skimming, this will increase the user experience of your blog article. This ease of consumption of your content will motivate others to share your work and thereby increase the article’s authority with search engines.
Writing shorter content is actually harder.
“Please forgive the long letter; I didn’t have time to write a short one.” — Blaise Pascal
Publishing a shorter article does not mean writing less. The shortening of an article happens later. Yes, the final product is short, but the first draft may be hundreds of words longer. The editing process is where you pan for the gold of your article and remove unnecessary debris. Trimming fat and simplifying ideas can often take more time than preparing a longer version of the piece.
Exercise: Strike the entire first paragraph from your first draft and see if the article still makes sense. You’ll often find that it will. Frequently, the first paragraph was simply clearing out the cobwebs in your mind.
- Using words sparingly increases each word’s weight.
- More content does not denote a greater understanding of the subject matter.
- When educating your readers, anticipate their questions and deliver answers.
- Begin writing unhinged and tighten it up when editing.
- You will be surprised how much of your writing you can remove.