There are a lot of conflicting thoughts on how many words a piece of content should be.
Blog posts, ebooks, landing pages, website pages and more…
One of the first, and most common, questions people have involves the length of the content.
There are a few reasons for the variety of answers. For one, those creating content generally want to do what’s best for the audience. And audiences can have different preferences. There are also platforms that aid in the production of content, such as search engines. And these seem to have their own preferences.
Here are a few thoughts on how to determine what your content word count should be…
1. The Preferred Answer
The number one guiding principle for creating content should be the preferred answer of the audience. Obviously this isn’t always easy to decipher. But that should be what your north star is when you’re creating content. To try and provide the best answer for the audience.
This strategy works. Want proof? It’s the principle that Google uses for its search results.
Look at what the competition is doing. Look for indicators of what word count is working on the most popular content. You’ll see trends. You’ll see preferences.
Choose a starting point for word count based on some research. Then experiment with content that’s a little longer and a little shorter. Over time, you’ll see what your audience prefers.
2. Your Expertise In The Area
If you have experience creating content it’s good to use that to your advantage. Let’s say that you’ve been creating longform content for years. Let’s say it’s 10,000+ words.
Now you’re entering the blogging world where preferences seem to be 500-1,000 words.
It’s likely that the shorter word count is the preference of the audience. So it may take time to learn that style. But don’t abandon what you’re good at too soon. There are likely some in the audience that appreciate longform content. You can focus on questions and other content where the preferred answer is longer.
There is likely a niche where your experience with content fits with what the audience wants. This can be a bit of work to find, but it’s also something that could be a big opportunity. Both because it’s missing and also because you’ll be unique in the industry.
3. The Landscape
Most songs are 3 minutes.
Most feature films are two hours.
Most sitcom episodes are 30 minutes.
There aren’t rules that force content creators to do this. But over time preferences show themselves in any market. Especially in the content world. Audiences become used to certain lengths. These preferences are difficult to overcome.
If people are used to reading a 500-word piece and you present them with something that’s 5,000 words, one of their first thoughts will be: why is this so long…
That’s not necessarily a good or bad thing. But it takes the focus off the content. It can be a really good thing, but the content better be really good.
It’s okay to go against the grain, but the struggle is often more difficult.
It’s good to stick with the landscape standard for the most part. Let’s say you’re creating blog posts. A general rule of thumb would be to create 80-90% of your posts within the 500-1,000 word count framework. That’s what audiences are expecting.
But I also think it’s good to leave room, 10-20%, for experimenting. There are plenty of people, typically 10-20%, that like to stand out from the crowd. There are plenty of people that like really short or really long songs. The same is true for really long, epic movies.
It’s impossible to know what the next trend will be. But in the content world, if you’re experimenting, including with word count, you can stumble on something that people want that isn’t being addressed.
5. A Note On Google And Other Considerations
You can find plenty of content that points to word counts that platforms like Google “prefer”. It’s not bad to follow the lead of a platform like Google. They have immense knowledge and data on what people are looking for in the content world. So starting with Google’s “recommendation” to create content that is ~1,800 words is fine.
My thought is to choose a place to start. Stick with that for the long-term and for 80-90% of the content you create. Then leave the rest of the room for experimenting.
You can bet that Google is experimenting. They may see that ~1,800 words is the preference today, but that doesn’t mean they won’t switch the moment they see that the new preference is ~1,000 words.
Consistency is the real key with creating content. Choose a word count, but then plan out a schedule and stick with it. Whether you’re creating blog posts, ebooks, social media content, videos for YouTube or podcasts…the main key is to be consistent with your schedule.
This improves the quality of what you’re doing while also providing more and more data on what your audience wants. Including the word count they want.