How Do You Make Content Work For Your Business?
The Content Paradox
We have been writing content for the Wired Plus blog since July 2017. In that time, we have posted over 90 blog posts. Engagement levels have varied throughout but we started to notice an unusual trend which we will call our content paradox. The longer the post and the more effort we put in to adding as much value for the reader as possible, the less engagement we receive. Shorter content which gave the reader less value but cost them less time to read was more successful, receiving more page views and social engagement.
The Cost/Benefit Balance
There are so many content pieces that it is near impossible to stand out. The more content that is available, the less engagement content marketers are receiving on their posts. To make sure readers engage with their intended readers, content pieces need to have a clear value.
Logically, longer, more informative posts giving detailed insights into how you can help your readers should be more engaging. Give more benefit to your readers and you would expect that they would stick around, read more of your content and share it with their contacts. However, longer posts take more time to read and more effort to digest.
Readers decide that the cost of reading the content isn’t worth it.
Most readers need quicker answers. Shorter content is better. You can still receive a high amount of value in short bursts from shorter content pieces.
Our Content Length
We have created a number of longer blog posts to explore every detail of a subject. In some cases, they have taken us days to create like the Inbound Marketing Strategy post from earlier this year. Our first three posts in our disruptive marketing journey totaled an impressive 6,840 words. We wanted to share everything that we had learned about every subject we explored. That meant compiling the most comprehensive,detailed blog posts that Wired Plus has ever seen.
After posting the content and distributing it through some key industry influencers we thought that the posts would have a high reach and engagement.
However, the engagement never materialised.
At the top of each post, we give the estimated read time. Our longest blog posts have an estimated read time of circa 12 minutes. Pausing to understand the information, that read time could easily reach 15-20 minutes. Potential readers made the decision that long articles don’t provide enough extra information to be valuable over and above shorter articles. The Nielsen Normal Group suggest providing readers with a ‘mixed diet’ of long-form and short-form content for the highest engagement to content value balance.
The reduction in the human attention span is well documented. You need to capture the attention and imagination of your readers in the first eight seconds if they are going to read your post. If they can see that they have to focus for a significant amount of time they aren’t likely to stick around unless they know you offer enormous value.
We also realised that people didn’t need to know everything all of the time. Most of the time, people are looking for shorter, pithier content.
Creating Shorter, Topical Posts
So we changed. Instead of longer, more detailed posts covering every aspect a marketer could want to know on a subject, we have started to create short, more topical, opinionated content. In short, we joined ongoing discussions in our industry rather than covering old ground more comprehensively.
Writing about Wetherspoon’s decision to quit social media felt like a strange departure from our usual strategy. Used to writing about the facts, figures and strategy that people need for their campaigns, joining a debate was new territory. But it worked. The early signs from our topical content pieces are encouraging.
So, is there a perfect content length? We don’t think so. Sometimes longer pieces of content are needed to discuss a subject in fine detail like our Complete Guide to Email Marketing. However, other content pieces lend themselves to a shorter, more concise approach. Using a mixture of long and short content is the best way to keep readers engaged whilst giving them good value.
Over to You
So now we are turning the tables. As readers of our blog we are asking you what content you would like to read. If you have your own blog or marketing strategy we’d love to know what works for you.
Do you use longer, shorter or a mixed-length content approach?
How do you drive engagement with your content?
Maybe most importantly, what content do you find most engaging?
Let us know in the comments!
I create content, publications and adverts for Wired Plus. When I’m not writing, reading or blogging I enjoy road running.