We've seen the studies. People tend to read less on the web. Instead of diving right into a great piece of content, they skim the waters and pick up tidbits of information here and there. Does this mean that all SEO copywriters should craft content that's short, sweet, and to the point?
Well, kind of. Sort of. Maybe. Let's talk about it more.
The Trouble with Length
You see, most SEO copywriters are tasked with creating content that's both valuable and friendly to search engines. It's a tough job, but it's not impossible. In terms of length, many SEO copywriters get nervous about crafting something that's too long or dragging. They have to keep up the pace with internet readers without being redundant. Sometimes, that can take 100 words. Other times, it can take a thousand. There's really no hard and fast rule when it comes to length of an article, blog post, or section page. It all depends on three huge factors:
1.) The Audience: What do they want? Do they really have time to read this? Do they tend to like more explanation? Will they actually get what I'm writing about? Be familiar with your audience, their traits, and the language they prefer.
2.) The Subject: Does the copy speak to the subject? Does it provide enough detail? Am I providing information that's useful? Am I avoiding being redundant? Know your subject and know what information to convey.
3.) The Purpose: Do you want to inform? Convince? Convert? Decide on a goal before you start writing.
These three factors (and all of these questions) can be great indicators when it comes time to think about length in a piece of SEO content. So, to answer the initial question: SEO copywriters shouldn't be so concerned with length, as long as they're communicating clearly.
But What About Best Practices?
Now, there are also a few schools of thought when it comes to SEO copywriting best practices concerning length. You want to serve your purpose and be creative, but what about space? Do you have too much space to fill? Too little? What can you do to actually streamline the copywriting process so that you have a length that's good for web readers? Well, here are a few tips that I use when it comes time to write some SEO-friendly copy.
Make it Easy to Read
Internet readers, as I mentioned, tend to skim, so it's important to write content that's easy to read. One way to break up text so that it's reader-friendly is to use lists, bullet points, and different headers (or categories, sub-categories,etc.) You'll see that I did it with this post. Remember - white space is your friend!
Use Common Sense
Suit the length to the medium. If you're working on a section page, use common sense. You want to have enough text to inform the visitor without pushing products or other valuable information below the fold. Consider the space you're given to work with and then go from there. If you have a blog post to write, think about the reader. Will they have to scroll to keep reading? Can they click to read more? Think about these things when you get concerned with length.
Short and Sweet
Remember all of that stuff you learned in grammar school about the meaty, 3 paragraph essay structure? You know, having a neat and tidy introduction, body, and conclusion all constructed out of thick sentences? Toss it out. Web readers don't abide by the same rules. Instead, they look for pieces that look easy to read and *gasp* interesting. Keep your paragraphs and sentences trim.
...And To The Point
Avoid redundancy. If you feel you have to repeat yourself over and over, you're probably not communicating your idea clearly. Go back and edit. Proofread. Make sure everything fits and get to the point. Internet readers are short on both time and patience. Tell them what they need to know and do it quickly. Just make it interesting.
Feel Free to Play
Speaking of interesting, it's paramount that you utilize your space wisely. Get the reader wanting more with an attention-grabbing headline and shorter paragraphs. Then, make things visually appealing by adding an image or graphic. Work with the medium; it's so much more fun that that lined piece of notebook paper your teacher gave you to work with!
Don't Sweat the Word Count
When it comes to word count, don't focus in on a number. Instead, think about what your purpose is and what information you have to convey. Then, consider the language and length that would be most appropriate to your audience. If you can say it in fewer words, go for it. If you can't, don't stress.
Breaking Up Isn't Always Hard to Do
Worried about being long-winded or lengthy? Don't be afraid to break up a large piece of text or article into several shorter pieces that are easier for a reader to digest and better yet, remember. Just think, that huge blog post you've been working on can now be stretched across several days!
These are just a few suggestions on how you can work with length in SEO copy. The truth is that there really is no official rulebook when it comes to crafting content. As long as it provides value, is interesting, and incorporates SEO best practices, consider yourself on top of your game - and in the good graces of internet readers.
Mandy Boyle is the Director of Internet Marketing at Net Driven. She is also a published freelance writer and co-founder of NEPA BlogCon. She enjoys theater, not taking herself seriously, and adventurous eating.