For most companies carrying out content marketing campaigns, journalistic-style articles make up most of their content. But how long should this kind of content be? The answer is: whatever length it needs to be. That said, the stats on content length do give us something to think about.
As a journalist, I always loved writing longer pieces, and the in-depth research and interviews they entailed. When a topic was worth looking into, the deeper I looked into it the more interesting it became, and the more I felt my readers absolutely needed to know.
On the other hand, many bloggers are known for their 200 or 400 word articles (Seth Godin is the master here) and they can be a joy to read. But this kind of writing is less about research and facts, and more about imparting the author’s views for the reader to reflect on; a kind of daily affirmation.
Content length should be determined by how much information you need to convey in the piece. Don’t write for the sake of filling space, but at the same time don’t short-change the reader by giving them too little.
The case for shorter
Much of the content we absorb on the B2B front is work-related, and most people sitting behind a desk all day are very busy. So we’re doing our audience a favour if we make their informative read as short as possible. There are only so many hours in our day and most of us are always trying to pack two minutes’ worth of work into one. So if you constantly give me content that takes seven minutes or more to read, I might eventually get annoyed.
We should also acknowledge that B2B topics are not always riveting. This is not page-turning stuff. Much of the time we probably can’t wait to get to the end. We’re reading because we feel we have a responsibility to do so: business is competitive, and we need to stay up-to-date on topics that will help give us a competitive edge.
But unlike the very best feature-length writers who immerse you in their amazing storytelling, B2B content can be pretty boring. And reading it is work, after all. So maybe we are doing our audience a huge favour by making it brief.
The case for longer
I often know in the first 200 words how much I am going to learn from a piece. I can tell that the article is going to go deep into the subject, giving me new knowledge and skills to help me do my job better, and that the author has taken a lot of time and care for the reader’s benefit.
Sometimes longer pieces are long because they need to be. The topic couldn’t have been covered adequately in 700 or 800 words. There’s too much to tell, and passing on anything less would risk the short-changing I mentioned earlier.
Remember: you’re the expert, and just as your products or services solve problems for your customers, so should your content. Sometimes you just have to go deep. Consider it a duty. And some prospects who are regular consumers of your content will have picked up on that effort. Over time that builds trust, and when one day those prospects have a genuine need for your type of products or services, you are more likely to be the one they approach.
Clarity in the digital marketing chaos
A study by serpIQ concluded that longer content ranks higher in Google search results than shorter content, with a clear drop in content length between number one and number ten. Longer content also tends to get more shares.
Content marketers spend a lot of time analysing statistics to try and find patterns, amid the chaos that is digital marketing. But if anything, the statistics only tell us what we already know: there are truly no shortcuts when it comes to creating something of value. If you want to have an impact you have to put in the time. It’s something that has to be earned.
Your job is not to count words as you’re writing. That won’t help you write better or get higher up in the search rankings. But if you put your expertise to work creating something of real and honest value for your audience, your content will be the length it needs to be, and will end up delivering the results it should for both your audience and your company.