Long content vs. short content

Long content or short contentIt seems like every week some internet marketing blog poses this gripping question: is it possible to use long content in the internet age? The short answer is yes. The slightly longer answer is that it depends, but there are a couple of rules of thumb you can look to for guidance.

The real world

Sometimes internet marketers like to think that the world exists in a vacuum where all companies and prospects are alike, and the only thing that is different is the metric of the week. In this case, the only thing different about Website A and Website B is the length of the content. That’s not how the real world works. We’re all guilty of it.

In the real world, every companies, products and prospects are unique. Deciding on how much content a website needs depends on your particular mix of those factors.

There are a couple of rules of thumb that I like to follow when considering the length of content. These are heavily influenced by freelance copywriter and prolific author, Bob Bly.

When to use shorter content

Consider shorter content when the reader knows the problem and/or solution.

When a prospect already knows the problem, you don’t need to convince the prospect to know that there is one. For example, somebody who’s concerned about his or her weight already knows the problem – they feel unhappy with their body. You don’t need a big block of copy to tell somebody what they already know.

You really don’t need a lot of content when somebody knows the solution. Let’s use the same example. If I own a company that sells exercise equipment. A prospect who comes to my site knows what the problem and solution are. He knows that he is unhappy with his body and already believes that exercising can change that. So I don’t need to spend a lot of time telling him that my home gym will help him lose weight.

When to use longer content

Consider longer content when the reader doesn’t know the problem and/or solution.

Let’s start with a prospect who knows the problem, but not the solution. For example, let’s say a woman knows that her credit score is bad, but she’s not sure what to do. Not knowing how the best way to fix it, she’s naturally going to be more suspect about what anyone has to say. If you run a credit repair company, it will usually take more explanation and persuasion to move someone from skeptical to ready to buy.

The most difficult situation is a prospect who doesn’t know that there’s a problem. You must convince them that there is one, and that you’re the solution to it. Let’s say that I run a company that installs home security systems. Not everyone believes that they need a home security system. So not only do I have to persuade them that they want my security system, I have to persuade them that they need any home security system. This task may require longer content.

Of course, there are exceptions to these situations. But they make good rules of thumb.

Every company and ideal prospect is different. Problems and solutions are different. These guidelines are meant to put you in your prospect’s shoes, so that you might be able to start your company’s conversation with them at an ideal place.

Interested in learning more about me? You can find out more about me on my website, or follow me on Twitter at @woeifert.

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