I've been doing some research on the "ideal" length of articles for online content – blogs and e-news - and realised there are so many views. What’s best? Long or short? Or is length relevant at all?
When I started this business in February 2000, the internet was in its infancy and printed newsletters were the best way to educate and communicate with clients. Just like magazines, if the newsletter looked professional with 4-colour print, nice photos and clear typeface, more people (current and potential clients) were inclined to read the whole publication – then share it around. Although space was limited by how many pages were in the newsletter, articles tended to be on the long side because the reader had a tactile relationship with the publication and was not continually distracted. (Interesting and relevant content helped too!)
Then the internet came along and thanks to the myriad distractions due to constant movement on screens, we were told that people “surfed” from one page or website to another. “Online readers scan,” the experts announced. So we started to cull unnecessary words to make articles short and sharp – usually no more than 400 words.
A decade on and there is a new generation of experts with different advice - longer is better! What are you to believe?
You’ve probably been noticing that blog posts now easily run into the thousands of words. They also tend to have links placed within the copy enticing you off to another long article on a related topic (usually before you've finished reading the original article).
But how much are readers actually taking in?
Professionally, I don’t believe there is a right or a wrong length when it comes to providing information to your clients. If a message can be delivered in a short article, why would you write a thesis? This not only puts more pressure on you to find the time to write more words, but you also expect your readers to put aside extra time to read them.
As advice-givers, isn’t it nicer to sit in front of a person and explain something relevant rather than write about it from every possible angle, hoping a few of your 1000+ words will inspire a reader to contact you?
Instead, focus on the message, cover the important points, deliver it with passion and purpose, then finish with a strong call to action.
Don’t worry about the number of words you use – go for quality over quantity. If you’re a gifted writer (and have the time), writing longer articles can be enjoyable, both for you and your readers. If you’re time-poor and writing is a challenge, don’t stress about what the “experts” are saying. Do what feels right for you and your audience.
Our library has articles ranging from short “Fast Financial Facts” under 100 words through to “Special Feature Articles” that provide an in-depth look at the topic, sometimes more than 1000 words. But generally we stick to an average 500 words to get a message across. This allows you to add more if you feel it’s appropriate, knowing that the “grunt work” has already been done for you.
I hope this short article has helped to take the pressure off what you “should or shouldn’t” do when it comes to how you educate your clients. Just as long as you do it.
PS. If you're still struggling to find time to write your own newsletter or blog articles (long or short!), there are plenty for you to use in the Financial Articles Library. If you haven't yet joined, click on "Subscribe here" tab above.