Too Long or Too Short? Optimizing Content Length

 

Let’s face it, there’s a lot of discussion on what length the elements of your site should be. In reality the optimal length is specific to your site. All content should be structured around generating a  positive user experience. How long or short your site is affects  your engagement, traffic, and in the end, your revenue. 

Some disagree  with the notion that every site is unique when it comes to lengths. Others may say there is indeed a set formula. The problem is some of these theories contradict and honestly, there is that much data to support either claim.  There isn’t a 100% proven strategy that always performs best on every site. Every site and it’s audience members are unique and need something a little different when it comes to page length.

Now you may be thinking it  seems counter productive to even discuss page length without any concrete standards, but there are trends and we want to discuss them to help you monetize your site more efficiently.

content Too Long or Too Short? Optimizing Content Length Screen Shot 2017 04 25 at 4At Monumetric we believe in measuring what matters,  and that means starting with the data.  In a study done by the blog platform Medium, they found that the highest engagement occurred at  7 minutes time on a page.  In their study, Medium found at 3 minutes of page time, user engagement started to go up. This continued to increase until about 10 minutes. Of course we all read at different paces, so just to give you an idea of how long a 7 minute page to clarify,  7 minutes = 1700 words. So even though our attention span shrinks every year,  our engagement with long-form content clearly does not. Even with this data, creating long form content can be complex, and in some cases not always the best option. To better understand what factors you should consider when deciding content length , we’ve broken down a few concerns to address what’s best for your site.  

SEO 

One of the hardest inner battles publishers face can be finding the balance between achieving SEO ranking and creating quality content. The key to acquiring this balance is to remember you are writing for people , not search engines. This doesn’t mean you can ignore optimizing your page for SEO. Organic traffic is still crucial for your revenue. If your work never appears on any search engine it will never get  read. So how do you find that balance? We’ve seen that when the publisher focuses on creating  quality content first, and then tweaks their content to reach a desired SEO ranking, they’ve effectively optimized their content for search and engagement.

Something to keep in mind when you start your creation process, is that for SEO purposes your posts should generally never fall below 500 words. Similarly, anything over 2,500 words can start to feel like a short novel or scholarly journal so don’t go overboard. According to the data, longer styled content performs better when it comes to SEO rankings. The ability to include more keywords, images, and backlinks, helps you climb the Google bots ladder. Just keep in mind quality over quantity. Your readers come to your site for a reason, don’t make them sift through filler text to find it. 

USER EXPERIENCE

The caution we give to those wanting to increase their page length is to be weary of load times. Even though people will stay on a site for 7 minutes or longer doesn’t mean they will wait 20 seconds for your giant post with 20 HD images to load. Our attention span is only around 8 seconds. If your page loads longer than that,  you can expect an increase in your bounce rate. Readers gladly spend time reading, but not waiting. 

With our short attention span, you must also factor in the readability of your site. Think again on the 7 minute time on page metric.  Image you’re reading something so stuffed with jargon and scholarly lingo you can’t understand a single sentence. Your readers will have issues reading or skimming such a post very quickly. You will lose your audience if that’s not how they are used to reading. If people can’t easily navigate and understand your site they won’t last even 3 minutes on your page. 

The key to creating longer content is to be conversational and try to follow a story. Our brains naturally follow stories. If you can somehow formulate your content in a systematic order your readers will easily be able to follow along. Certain types of content are already naturally long. When the piece feels a little too long, try adding in breaks with multimedia or even an ad unit.

See what we did there? Adding a little something different like a nice cat Gif breaks things up. People love variety when it comes to media because we all absorb information differently. Breaking up your content with photos, videos, and infographics will make it more digestible and will keep your readers engaged. (Side note: when adding in creative elements is to avoid adding in wide or horizontal lines or graphics. This could give the user the impression that this is the end of the post. The same goes for references. Place references towards the very bottom of the page as not to confuse.)

MONETIZATION AND ADS

Optimizing your site for your readers is your number one priority. After all, as a publisher you are nothing without your audience. Knowing what the best length for each post and page is crucial to satisfy your readers, but equally important for your revenue. Whether a majority of your income comes from your display ads, Eshop, affiliate marketing, sponsored posts, or any other monetization tool, you have to have people on your site. The more people on your site, and the longer they stay, the more you can make with your monetization strategies.

Lets speak specifically about ads and how page length can play a role in how much your ads are worth.
content Too Long or Too Short? Optimizing Content Length graphicads

Lengthier material is more of what users want, and it’s the same with advertisers in most cases. Longer pages and posts create more space for more advertising and more opportunity for revenue. Instead of clouding a shorter page with tons of ads, a longer post lends itself to a variation of ad  types and sizes which seem less intrusive to your readers. If people stay on your site long enough you can also qualify for refreshing ads where after a certain period of time (60 seconds minimum) your visible ad units will load a new creative. You can get paid by multiple advertisers for the same ad space by refreshing your ads. Long form content can also be broken up by different types of rich media ads that yield a high return. An example would be a video ad. The more you incorporate photos, videos, and other graphic materials you can add more to your ad strategy to give your ad revenue a boost!

On the other hand, short form content which generates high click through rates, can also give you a different opportunity to advertise. Each new page a user lands on has a new set of ads which equals more revenue. This is much trickier to pull off as your content must be engaging enough to send most of your traffic to other pages. Some users may also find this type of interaction more difficult as they must wait for multiple pages to load during their session. For these reasons long form content is still preferred by most advertisers.

IN THE END…

The long story short is that page length isn’t as important as content quality. Write first for quality,  and don’t let page length dictate your publishing. A site with highly engaged traffic will always create the most profitable monetization opportunities. Period.

If you are wanting to know more about your user engagement on specific pages, try these tools to track how your readers move on your page. Here you can see at what point people are leaving and where they go to next. 

www.hotjar.com

www.mouseflow.com

www.smartlook.com

www.crazyegg.com

And even after seeing where your users go when they are on your site, you still may not know exactly WHY these behaviors exist. That’s where our expertise comes in. Our free site analysis give you detailed insights into how to generate more revenue without pressure or any sales pitch. During the analysis, a Monumetric team member personally analyzes your site and gives you a direction to improve your current setup. To see how a site analysis could impact your revenue strategy click HERE.

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