How Long Should My Content Marketing Elements Be?

Published on February 7, 2018

Maybe you’ve head the famous Shakespeare quote that “brevity is the soul of wit.”

Maybe you’ve heard that, and then responded with “cram it, English major, just tell me how many characters I can put in this blog headline!”

We get it. When it comes to creating content for your digital marketing channels, including blogs and social media, finding the perfect length seems hugely important – and yet it’s also one of the trickiest things to get right.

That’s where the Geek team would love to help! Below, we’ve got your go-to guide for making sure that your content marketing elements measure up. Curious about character limits on social media? Looking for the ideal length for an SEO-focused blog post? Read on…

Blog Content: Longer Is Better

When it comes to blog content, the rule of thumb is to aim long – particularly if you’re using your written content for the purposes of increasing organic traffic via SEO. If this seems a little contradictory to what you’ve heard in the past, you’re not alone. Talk abounds of the ever-shrinking human attention span, or how the rise of mobile is killing off longreads.

But this is all just talk. The facts tell a different story.

Today, the ideal length for a blog post is estimated to be between 2000 and 2500 words. To put it slightly differently, blogging platform Medium once estimated that the ideal reading time was seven minutes. Because the average English-speaker reads at a rate of 300 words per minute, this translates to a post length of 2100 words.

Other metrics agree! For instance, one SerpIQ study (published in 2012, so take it with a grain of salt) found that the average content length for the top ten results on a SERP (search engine results page) fell between 2000 and roughly 2450 words.

Even if you don’t aim for this exact word count, there are other reasons to emphasize longer content. For instance, according to one MarketingExperiments study, longer blog posts outperformed shorter blog posts in terms of conversions by 41% in one study – and by 50% in a second.  What’s more, there is reason to believe that search engines actually penalize what they deem to be “thin content” – which includes pages oversaturated with links, or which contain 200 words or fewer.

With a longer article, you also have more of a chance to build in the elements that search engines love. For one thing, a longer article means that you just have more elements on your site, quantitatively – and search engines just like ‘em bigger. What’s more, with a longer article, you have a better opportunity to include the specific keyword elements that search engines love, including subheads and variant phrases.

A longer article conveys credibility to your reader. With more words devoted to a topic, you’ll be able to go into greater depth, add more context, answer questions more fully, and even introduce intriguing new thoughts or sub-topics that your reader may not have even known they were looking for!

Plus, it’s not just your readers who will appreciate your attention to detail, thoroughness, and quality writing – you’ll also bolster your standing with search engines! The longer (and better) your content, the more time your readers will spend with it, and the more likely they’ll be to click through to another page on your website, rather than backing out and looking for a different resource. Search engines respond very highly when readers engage with your content, spend a lot of time on your page, and create a low bounce rate.

With all of this being said, are there reasons to publish shorter content? Of course!

For one thing, it requires a massive amount of time and investment to research, write, and edit materials that long with any kind of consistency. To go back to a point we hit earlier, it is true that readers may actually prefer shorter content. In particular, it’s important to remember that an enormous number of your readers will only ever skim your post, and about half will move on in 15 seconds or less.

In many ways, shorter content may perform better with social media. If someone is caught up with reading and comprehending a piece, they may be less likely to share it on social platforms.

Finally, if you’re combining your text with multimedia elements – such as a video, infographic, or podcast – an overly long block of body copy may deter readers from ever reaching or engaging with the meatiest, best part of the post (that is, the visual/audio element).

It’s also important to remember that your mileage may vary with this advice (and anything else we discuss below). All brands and all audiences are different, and it’s important to realize that digital marketing cannot be cookie cutter.

If you’re looking for a greater guarantee of success, though, remember that quality supersedes just about anything else! Length is one thing, but if your copy isn’t:

  • Substantive
  • Creative
  • Consistent
  • Well-formatted
  • Purposeful
  • Targeted for a specific audience

…then it won’t do any good! Consistently check on your efforts and question your digital marketing methods. Why are you blogging? What are you blogging about? Who are you blogging for? All of these questions should take precedence over how long your blog needs to be.

Some more blog guidelines to keep in mind:

Titles: Google SERPs generally limit title tags to 600 pixels, which Moz estimates to be about 50-60 characters in length. To help elucidate matters further, HubSpot research has found that titles between 8-12 words got the most Twitter shares, while titles between 12 and 14 got the most engagement on Facebook. (Bonus tip: 50 characters is also a great rule of thumb for email subject lines.)

Meta-descriptions: The small, descriptive paragraphs that accompany your links on social media, meta-descriptions are best kept to 160 characters or fewer. Any more, and you’re likely to see some cut-off words.

Social Media: How to Stand Out

What about social media? Though networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram all offer a plethora of multimedia options, it’s important that you don’t go too wild. Like Google, these social networks all have their own in-house best practices, which generally fall in line with user preferences.

Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:

On Facebook

Text and Image Posts: While Facebook essentially allows an unlimited number of characters for status updates, captions, and other types of body text, you should still keep it brief. Don’t use all 63,000 available characters; instead, keep it snappy. If you’re using your post to link to a piece of content, stick to 40 characters or fewer; just enough to provide context and encourage clickthrough. For content specifically set to be published on Facebook, limit your word count; attention spans are even shorter on social media than they are when it comes to other websites.

Videos: One study from Wistia suggests that two minutes is the optimal video length. This gives viewers enough time to turn on the video sound and engage with the content; any longer, and audiences tend to fall off, minute by minute.

On Twitter

Tweet Length: Twitter currently allows up to 280 characters per tweet. This length that does not include images or tags, but does include links. Generally, research suggests that sticking to the old character limit will be to your benefit – tweets featuring between 120 and 130 characters tend to garner the greatest clickthrough, according to one study.

Hashtags: Per findings from Buffer, two hashtags per post is the magic number. According to their findings, tweets with two or fewer hashtags get 21% more engagement than those with three or more.

Videos: Maximum video length on Twitter is roughly two minutes and twenty seconds. Ideally, you should keep your videos a little bit under the maximum, to ensure engagement.

Tweet Threads: As of 2018, the “thread” is one of the defining aspects of Twitter. Originally an audience-created “hack,” this mechanism – by which one author responds, in line, to her own tweets – has been embraced by Twitter’s HQ, which is making it easier than ever to thread tweets. With that said, we can’t tell you the ideal thread length just yet, as there’s just not enough information out there. You’ll see threads with two dozen tweets perform incredibly well, and threads with just four tweets go viral. Ultimately, it comes down to substance over style – at least for now.

On Instagram

Bio: Instagram cuts off your bio after 150 characters.

Captions: While there doesn’t necessarily seem to be a fixed limit for caption lengths, it is important to note that your captions tend to get cut off in users’ feeds after the first three lines, which generally translates to 125 characters. Similarly, while there’s nothing wrong with going hashtag crazy, Insta will cut you off after 30. (Please don’t use 30 hashtags in one post.) Personally some of us (looking at you, Chief Geek) find 5+ hashtags obnoxious, and credibility-reducing.

Stories: For your Instagram Story posts, each video can last up to 10 seconds, and you can overlay just about as much text as you see fit. Generally speaking, don’t use all 10 seconds unless you have to, make sure that you don’t add so much text that you obscure your beautiful images, and don’t make it a habit to post Stories that are more than a dozen slides long. Bottom line? Don’t push it!

On LinkedIn

Status Updates/Posts to Outside Content: Buffer recommends keeping your text posts between 16-25 words if you’re marketing to businesses, and 21-25 words if you’re marketing to consumers. Your absolute limit as allowed by the platform is 600 characters.

Posts Published Natively on LinkedIn: If you’re using LinkedIn’s in-house publishing tools to write and share articles, keep in mind that your headline will be capped at 100 characters, and your body copy will be maxed out at 40,000 characters. One trick? You may want to post the hooky, introductory parts of an article to LinkedIn – and then include a call to action that gets readers to click through to your site for the red meat.

Profiles: Profiles come with some hard and fast rules. Professional headlines are limited to 120 characters; personal summaries are limited to 2000 characters; and position descriptions must be between 200 and 2000 characters.

Have any other burning content marketing questions? Curious about how to put these best practices to work getting traffic, leads, and conversions for your brand? The Geek Chicago team would love to help! Drop us a line today to talk shop, and don’t hesitate to follow us on Facebook or Twitter, where we keep the digital marketing geek-speak going 24/7!