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For Brevity’s Sake: In Defense of Short Content

In contributor Joel Klettke’s shortest post ever, he takes a stand on short content.

short content

This will be my shortest post on this blog.

Buffer’s now-famous “Ideal Length of Everything Online,” pegs the ideal length of a blog post at seven minutes, or 1,600 words.

SERP IQ analyzed post lengths for SEO and found that sites ranking in the top 10 across 20,000 keywords all had at least 2,000 words. Bill Sebald explained that Google needs sufficient content to judge semantic relevance.

Quicksprout’s Neil Patel’s testing showed that his shortened landing page generated fewer and worse leads than the longer variant. He also pointed out Moz’s old 2011 test showing longer posts got more links.

Marketers are in love with long content.

But Nadine Diaz claims in an Inc. article that a 2015 trend in content marketing will be the need for content marketers to keep it brief. And while Neil Patel’s old landing page for Crazy Egg rang in at 1,209 words, his new variation is less than 250.

And what about other content types? The ideal YouTube video tops out at three minutes, but TED Talks ramp WAAAAY up to 18. Podcasts can go even longer—22 minutes, but on Vine, it’s six seconds of video tops—plenty with engagement numbers into the multimillions.

The ideal length of a tweet is 71 to 100 characters, while curiously, a Facebook post should be just 40, and email subject lines just 10 (good luck coming up with one).

And as some anecdotal evidence, I always read the shortest stories in my “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book when I’m taking a bathroom break.

What gives?

The problem: Fish can’t climb trees

When you measure length, you measure the wrong thing. You can’t judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree. You can’t judge the value of a piece of content by its length.

Length should be a function of your audience.

Length should be 100 percent dependent on the context of how your content will be consumed and the expectations of those consuming it.

TED Talk viewers are willing to watch 600 percent longer than the average YouTube viewer. Every time Seth Godin posts or Gary Vaynerchuck shares an idea, thousands tune in for a short post. A viewer primed for an “Ultimate Guide” will sit through a 20,000-word eBook, but a busy CEO just wants your email to get to the point already.

And as Joanna Wiebe of Copyhackers points out, the length of a landing page is dependent on the awareness level and existing knowledge of a lead:

in defense of short content

The ONLY reason people care about length is because they’re making a judgement call of your content’s value against their available time.

Length is not a magic formula.

  • Time-starved audience? Be brief.
  • Customer doing in-depth research? Long is OK.
  • Entertaining an audience? They’ll stay until you get boring.
  • Sharing an idea? Don’t ramble to hit a word count.
  • Trying to rank in Google? Give it enough data.

But above all, consider context.

time is valuable, so don’t be afraid to keep it short.

There’s value in saying only what you need to accomplish your objective, then getting the heck out of your own way.

6 responses to “For Brevity’s Sake: In Defense of Short Content”

  1. ronellsmith says:

    Joel,

    I “hate” you for this one 🙂 Working on a similar post that
    makes the SAME point. A great example of marketers interpreting the
    data in a way that favors them. Yes, longer posts do better in organic.
    But look at the research on how many ppl actually read a post, not just
    share or link to it. Nasty numbers.

    Thanks for the brevity, and the wit.

    RS

    • Joel K says:

      I feel like there needs to be a “scroll revolution”, where marketers actually put tracking WITHIN their content to watch engagement, not just superficial share numbers. I feel like that would change a whole lot of minds. Thank you for reading, dear friend.

  2. Joe Griffin says:

    Ha, I appreciate a short and sweet post. Good read too. Need more of this!

    • Joel K says:

      Thanks, Joe!
      I’m thinking I might try to keep a few posts here on iAcquire more succinct in the future, without losing the value or sharability. I think it’s a great challenge 🙂

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