scissors cutIs the content you publish online too long? Does it take you hundreds and hundreds of words to communicate ideas in writing that could be delivered more succinctly?

The Problem of Lengthy Content

Research shows that people won’t stick around to read your long-winded content. While there are tricks you can use to encourage people to read more of your articles, those tricks won’t help you over the long-term if you’re not writing great content.

Bottom-line, your content needs to be clear, concise, interesting, meaningful, and relevant to your target audience, or they won’t read enough of it to have any reason to return to your website or blog or to share your content with their own audiences. In other words, you’re limiting your content’s success if you can’t communicate a focused message quickly.

These facts were corroborated by Farhad Manjoo in an article on Slate, which I have to admit I did not read in its entirety. It’s a very, very long article. As John McElhenney of uber.la (syndicated by Newstex) explains, “Nobody reads your blog, if you are actually ‘blogging,’ you might be doing it for some other reason than business. Of the people that do arrive here, a good portion of them stay around two minutes and visit several pages. The referrals I am hoping for, via my ‘Work with me’ page and free offers, are virtually non-existent.” By the way, I read all of John’s article. It’s much, much shorter.

McElhenney goes on to explain that good content (including blog content) that answers visitors’ questions and is useful to them will help attract the right people to your content. More importantly, the right people will find out who you are and what you can do for them, and that could turn into new business or other opportunities.

Tips for Content Publishers

With that said, writing concise blog posts and content helps people quickly recognize the value of that content. Don’t make your readers sift through hundreds and hundreds of words if you can more effectively communicate the same message in fewer words. This is a fundamental rule of copywriting that content publishers can learn from, and it applies to online content writing as well. The online audience moves quickly. If you can’t prove your value instantly, they’ll pass you and your content by.

Several years ago, I wrote an article for About.com that shares some secrets of blog post length. You can follow the previous link to check it out. Today, I’d recommend increasing the minimum word count for your content to 350 words to ensure Google indexes it (rather than the 250 I recommended years ago), but a more important rule to follow is this—quality should always be the top priority and everything else should be secondary.

Don’t sweat the length of your online content, particularly your blog content. Instead, invest that time and energy into providing useful content that your target audience will instantly recognize as being meaningful to them. Your long-term results will improve organically when you put your audience first.

Image: Pam Roth