How Many Words? Choosing Optimum Content Length

Deciding on a word count for your online content can be a little tricky. On the one hand, we want content to be meaty enough to indicate to Google and Bing search bots what the web page is all about and prove that it’s a source of valuable, high quality information. On the other, it’s important to provide a good experience for your website visitors, too.

The truth is that us humans have a pretty limited attention span when browsing the web; we want the facts and we want them now. For this reason short, sharp content that can be read and digested in a jiffy is often the most successful. However, there are different rules for different content types.

Web pages – 300 to 500 words

General web pages which describe your business and services should be kept reasonably short and succinct. Rather than filling each page with thousands of words, you should work on separating out your content into different themes and pages.

Not only does this help visitors to easily navigate your site for the information they’re looking for, but it’s also a good exercise in internal link-building. For example, your homepage may briefly discuss various aspects of your business with links through to other pages for more information. Your ‘About’ page may discuss the history, ethos and vision of your business and link through to specific products or services to back up your message.

It can be tempting to publish thousands of words about the strengths of your business in order to persuade visitors that they need you, but often the simpler the message, the more effective it is. And as your copywriter it’s my job to summarise the awesomeness you have to offer and craft a compelling message in less than 500 words.

Product descriptions – 100 to 400 words

When a potential customer is considering buying a product, all they want is the facts. What does it do? Why do they need it? What makes it better than the competition? That means that brevity is key to product descriptions. However, the total length of a product description will completely depend on the product itself. Take these two examples:

1.) A shoe store will only need the very basic information in their product descriptions; material, colour options, size options, fit, and maybe a few style tips thrown in for good measure. People buy shoes primarily for their aesthetics; it is the shoe’s image which will sell it best. 100 words of supporting text is just enough to add a little more practical information and, of course, hit the keywords needed to satisfy the search engines.

2.) An electronics retailer selling laptops, televisions and digital cameras will need to include lots of technical information in their product descriptions in order to persuasively describe why the product is good and who it is suitable for. Whilst a product image is still essential, a customer is unlikely to buy based on the image alone and will perhaps need 400 words of supporting text to make a decision.

No matter whether your product description is long or short, your product copy should include 3 to 5 short unique selling points and a bulleted list of the key specifications. This allows readers to see at a glance if the product could be right for them, and then be persuaded to buy by reading a the longer, more compelling description.

Blogs – 350 words

If you’re going to have a blog on your website, you absolutely must update it regularly. Failing to do so suggests that you don’t have anything exciting going on in your business, or that you’re neglecting to update your site.

However, that doesn’t mean to say you need to post an extensive essay or long article each and every time; 350-500 words is about the right length to say something of value without boring readers who just want a quick update on what’s going on in your company or industry.

Articles – 500 – 2000 words

Whilst blogs are a great way to share short, sharp news updates or tips and tricks with your audience, articles give you the opportunity to get down into the nitty-gritty of a topic and provide lots of valuable, interesting information.

You’ll need at least 500 words to ensure there’s enough depth to the article, but don’t go overboard; 2000 words should be the absolute maximum. Any longer than this and you may be better off creating a series of shorter articles, or turning the whole lot into a downloadable eBook. Headings and images are still essential as they will help to hold the reader’s attention and draw them down the page.

EBooks and Whitepapers– 2000 words or more

EBooks and whitepapers are designed to be longer reads, so in theory you can have as much content as you want. However, just because someone has downloaded your eBook doesn’t mean they’ll read every little word from cover to cover if you hit them with intense walls of text.

It’s important to break eBook and whitepaper content into easily digestible chunks. Use chapters to separate out different themes, and have plenty of headings within each chapter to label subtopics; this will help the reader scan for the information they want. Include summaries at the start or end of each chapter or break up pages with boxes for stats, facts or key takeaways. You could also use images or infographics to illustrate complex ideas and keep the reader interested.

Still not sure?

If you’re still not entirely sure how long your content should be I’d be happy to help. Sometimes it takes an external eye to weigh up your business and subject matter and help you to figure out a plan of action. Just drop me a line to discuss your projects or content marketing campaigns.


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