How to Pick the Right Length for Your Content in 2020: The Ultimate Guide
Updated: Jan 26, 2021
What is the ideal blog post length?
1. The ideal length for blog posts is 1,600 words (7 minutes to read)
2. Average content length of results on Page 1 of Google is 1,900 words
3. Posts of 1,000 words get 50% fewer shares than posts of 3,000 to 10,000 words
In 2020, the quest for well-written content that converts will continue. Likewise, the issue of length will remain crucial.
Emerging content trends include a myriad of interactive content running the gamut of bite-sized to personalized storytelling. The main goal should always be to ensure that your content resonates with your target audience, and its length will depend on that. Here is our ultimate guide to the ideal length for content in 2020.
Best Long-Form Content in 2020: Emotion Words and Short URLs
What makes long-form content successful?
While the recipe for success isn’t set in stone, there are a few universally valid factors behind it. Short URLs using your main keyword is one of them as they can convey the essence of your page to a potential visitor. A study by MarketingSherpa showed short URLs received 2.5 times more clicks than long URLs on average. What is more, short URLs rank better in search engine results pages (SERP).
When writing long-form content in 2020, it should be as useful to the reader as possible, but this isn’t to say it should be dry. According to a study by CoSchedule, headlines containing emotion-rich words get significantly more social media shares. More specifically, they discovered a direct connection between the probability of content being shared more than 1,000 times and the number of emotion-tinged words used in its headline. Examples of such words are a cut above, delighted, devastating, eager, mind-numbing, euphoric, and exhilarated. Use of “exclusivity words” like blacklisted, banned, or behind the scenes and “urgency words” such as act now, before, closing soon, deadline, instant, and hurry is recommended as well.
Words we rarely use in everyday speech will attract the reader’s attention.
Consider Vertical Scrolling
Content use has shifted radically with the widespread use of smartphones. Millennials consume content and news almost entirely on mobile and will continue to do so throughout 2020. When it comes to entertainment, news, and simple messages, short content is the way to go considering almost all browsing and reading happens on mobile devices. You need to think about how content will appear on a small screen. A 4-line paragraph in Word will look clunky and uninviting on a phone screen.
This is not to say longer, more complex formats will disappear. There will always be a need to acquire valuable information or create emotion through storytelling.
Any content that is more than 1,000 words long is considered long-form content. Within the category of short-form content, really short can mean as few as 50 characters, which isn’t unusual for social media.
Defining Post Length: Things to Consider
When determining the perfect length for your content in 2020, key points to consider include your industry and your brand, your goals, the platform, and your target group. We’ll go into each of these in more detail.
Your Industry and Brand
To find the right length and format, consider the industry, of which your brand or company is part. Certain industries call for specific formats by default. If your company is in the service industry, you will need to communicate attention and care to your potential and existing customers. If you manufacture consumer goods, you will need to foster appreciation and provide opportunities to connect emotionally. Companies in finance or technology are faced with a longer decision-making process and need to educate, inform, and raise awareness.
Why does this matter?
Long-form content is required to inform and educate, while short form is more suitable for the purpose of emotional bonding. You need to adapt your communication style and form of content in 2020 depending on how established your company or brand is. Well-known brands don’t need to introduce their products or services, so short form would be more appropriate. A new brand will find long form more suitable because it needs to convince consumers of its quality by educating and informing, guiding the reader’s attention towards a more comprehensive understanding of the brand and what’s behind it.
Content in 2020 to Achieve Goals
Great content is not the end, but the means. Broadly speaking, there are three types of goals: communication goals, marketing goals, and business goals. Communication goals are those you need to act on. What behavior or change in behavior do you want your content to elicit?
What outcome do you expect? It needs to be concrete and specific, for example product trial, app usage, 2,000 registrations, 6,000 likes or shares, etc. The marketing goal is anything marketing-related that helps increase or augment customer engagement, ranging from consideration and awareness to loyalty and purchase.
Finally, the business goal is a measurable objective that can be used to track achievement. Typically, it includes increasing your market share or your sales. The overall strategy for your content in 2020 should include the business goal and individual elements of content reflecting either a communication or a marketing goal. You will need long-form content to increase SEO ranking and your users’ level of education. Short form serves the purpose of eliciting direct action, such as sharing, liking, signing up, or registering.
Your Platform for Content in 2020
When trying to determine the right length for your content in 2020, consider the features of the platform or platforms where you intend to publish it. On one end of the scale, we have LinkedIn, whose users welcome long-form blog posts that deliver informative and complex messages. Instagram also allows for long-form content, but the text displayed is less important than the visuals. On this platform, capturing attention visually has priority over written content.
At the other end of the scale there are platforms like Twitter, which aim to draw followers’ attention in 140 or fewer characters. Brands on Twitter have to create meaningful engagement within that framework.
The Influence of User Experience on Content in 2020
Time Magazine reports that with each generation, attention spans are getting shorter. This is hardly surprising, but what are the implications of this on content in 2020?
Does short-form content automatically translate to a better organic search ranking through improved user experience? It’s not likely. People will continue to enjoy reading long-form online content in 2020. SEO isn’t only about content that ranks well. It is also about content that performs well by satisfying the reader.
The Quality Factor
Regardless of length, there will always be good content and poor content. Most statistics from studies examining content do not reflect its quality. They offer only an analysis of the length of articles. While shorter content is definitely faster and easier for people to read, does it always offer an answer to the reader’s question?
While many questions can be answered with a single sentence or even a single phrase, the content that does this normally is not quality. It offers a simple, brief answer with neither sourcing nor clarification, and Google usually recognizes that does not establish a piece of content as informative, educational, and high-quality.
Of course, there are one-phrase or one-word answers that people find useful and could score Position Zero in Google, also known as featured snippets or snippet boxes.
As always, good content in 2020 will come in various forms. It will be compelling and relatively easy to comprehend because of rich media, sourcing, and reasonable structure and formatting. Search engines want evidence, substance, and facts from authorities on the given subject matter. Long-form content usually integrates all of these elements. That largely explains why long-form content ranks better than short-form in organic searches.
Short or Long-Form: The When, Which, and Why
The first three results in SERPs get almost two-thirds of all organic clicks, and long-form content has always ranked better in searches. Experts predict this will be valid for content in 2020 as well. We will need to focus on creating longer content if search is the main or at least a major source of traffic. However, the connection between social shares and content length is not unambiguous. Long-form content may be shared more often, but not all topics warrant longer content.
There is still a huge difference between writing a 500-word and a 5,000-word article. Buzzsumo data indicates that a post of 1,000 words or less will get 50% fewer shares than one that is between 3,000 and 10,000 words long. Should we break our efforts down into 2 posts of 2,500 words or 5 of 1,000 words? Or should we try to write 5,000-word articles on a regular basis? If so, will our time and budget permit us?
The Ideal Average Content Length
According to a study by Back Linko, the average content length of results on the first page of Google is around 1,900 words. Depending on the search, blog-type content may or may not dominate the results on the first page. What you can be sure of, including for content in 2020, is that the content that will make it to that coveted spot is going to be the one deemed most useful and informative by users. It will certainly include thoughtful, well-constructed blog or other articles that satisfy a search query.
Your plans for the structure and ideas for your website’s blog and other content in 2020 should be guided by efforts to achieve that goal.
Your Target Group’s Status and Journey
When it comes to long vs. short-form content, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. We mentioned industry, topic, and distribution platform as factors earlier. There is one more key consideration and that’s your target group. It’s always tempting to keep up with trends, but this may mean a certain degree of trial and error. If it doesn’t “click” with the target group, just let it go.
You need to study your target group and their current position. Who’s going to look for and consume your content in 2020? Successful content takes the user journey into account, meaning the level of intent. Do the users want to buy something as soon as possible or are they searching for in-depth information? Your content should reflect their needs and their different stages of intent.
Structure Content before Generating It
Quality content is mapped out before it is generated. It connects the goals of the users looking for it with the goals of your company or brand. Keep in mind that a website can publish content that meets users’ needs at different stages of intent for a given topic. That is no accident.
To adapt the length of your posts to your target group, you need to understand your audience. You need to know who they are and what their attitude towards consumption of content in 2020 is or will be. This can depend on their interests, their age group, or their level of education. As you guide existing and potential customers along their journey, understand their relationship with your brand.
To establish consideration and awareness, you need the right balance of information and correctly positioned emotional messages. It will help to alternate between longer and shorter article lengths in the early stages with view to creating awareness and promoting consideration.
When you need action from your audience several stages later, such as trial or purchase, you’ll find shorter content with call to action messages will serve you better because your audience is already past the stage of becoming familiar with your products or services. In the loyalty stage, you can revert to long-form content as your brand already has their undivided attention.
When is Less More?
Less can be more when it comes to creating content irrespective of the format or length you ultimately choose. In other words, don’t publish content for the sake of publishing content. Your content in 2020 will be more important as a means of engaging with your customers than ever before. Useless content is not worth your or your audience’s time and effort. Don’t post anything unless you have a point to make and communicate.
Many companies and brands focus too much on the average word length for posts. The importance of having or exceeding a certain number of words to rank well is grossly misunderstood. You should start with the big and move towards the small, not vice versa. As you begin structuring your content, start with broad notions and advance toward more narrow ones. This is true for every type of tactical or strategic approach. It’s valid for creating the outline of a presentation, conceiving a strategy, and finding the optimal length for the article you want to publish.
Content is for Your Target Group, but it’s about You
When you write, try to go beyond your own perspective and experience. Find out what your audience wants to read and write about that. Your content in 2020 should have advantages for your customers regardless of its type, length, and format. These aspects should be adapted to your customers’ consumption habits, not your usual work approach or comfort.
It is a fact that the best content goes beyond the words appearing on the screen. The highest-quality content connects skillful writing and comprehensive, thorough research with a user’s search query, which reflects their need for specific information.
Combine Formats for the Best Outcome
Let’s say you have a video you’re really proud of. To make sure its goals and concept are clear to the viewer as well, add well-written text to elaborate on it. Include additional resources that could improve the content so the user gets the most out of it. That is the ultimate goal: offering the best information on the right platform and in the most appropriate format.
Formats will vary depending on the content. Some content is easier to digest in writing, while other content is more suited to audio. Still other content is most appropriate for visual and needs video or rich imagery. When you opt for audio or visual content, always add text to help users find it and make sense of the information on the page.
Your Content in 2020: Resourceful, Well-Crafted, and Informative
Content has always been a great way to connect with your audience meaningfully, and 2020 is the year to make the most of it if you haven’t so far. Great content can take many forms and be found and consumed in multiple ways. Writing 1,600 words because that length seems “ideal” for organic search rankings shouldn’t be your goal. You’re missing the point if you’re concerned with hitting the perfect post length for SEO. Your goal for content in 2020 should be providing high-quality, well-optimized, and useful information matching your target audience’s intent. Your analytics will reflect your audience’s appreciation.
Meta Title: How to pick the right length for your content in 2020 Meta Desc: Content in 2020 should be high-quality and informative, over 1,000 words to maximize shares, content length of results on Page 1 of Google is 1,900 words.