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When being ‘to the point’ isn’t good

You have a short attention span.

That’s the general consensus, anyway. If you read things on the internet, just like you are right now, you won’t be able to concentrate on them for much longer than a goldfish would. The BBC made that suggestion more than 14 years ago, and it still seems to apply today.

Short and sweet

It’s true that readers want to understand the words in front of them as quickly as possible. In our own survey, we discovered that older demographics in particular prefer pages to cut to the chase. Clarity is important, but that doesn’t automatically mean sticking to five words per sentence.

We actually browse through a staggering amount of content on a daily basis. One study from November 2011 showed that the average UK internet user visited over 2,500 web pages during that month.

What is ‘long copy’ these days?

I’ve seen people comment on examples of ‘long copy’ in poster ads which only used 30 words. They’ve got nothing on this epic ad from Ogilvy & Mather.

For a while, 500 was the magic number for blogs. Now, though… it’s whatever your readers think ‘long’ is. And if they think it’s too long, they’ll stop reading.

Size matters

Your audience might grumble a little at being bombarded with content, but Google seems to love it. The trend of longer content achieving higher rankings in search results emerged earlier this year. Google stated at the time that “up to 10% of users’ daily information needs involve learning about a broad topic”. Posts with word counts in the thousands started appearing in droves, and the top ten search results for 20,000 keywords linked to pages containing over 2,000 words on average.

In other tests to evaluate conversions, long copy outperformed short copy by as much as 40 percent.

One of the reasons suggested for Google’s change was the implied higher quality and value of information in a lengthier post. A 3,000-word essay probably requires a bit more research and insight than a quick 50-word missive.

Keeping readers hooked

People, much in the same way as fish, need the right lure to get them to bite.

That’s why there are so many ‘clickbait’ articles with enticing headlines on sites such as Buzzfeed, Cracked and Gawker. They draw you in to get those vital clicks and page views – but the content itself often isn’t that engaging, or interesting, or valuable to anyone. Facebook’s already bringing the hammer down on clickbait to get it out of newsfeeds.

To really get your readers coming back for more, what you need is substance. You need quality content that provides value and a talking point. So what do you make of ours? Leave a comment or tweet some very short comments @strattoncraig to let us know.

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