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In content marketing there are two schools of thought. Many feel that longer, more robust content has more ranking capability, and serves the visitor better. There are others who feel that because our attention spans are shrinking, so too should our content. I think the answer is that it really doesn’t matter. The answer lies in the content itself.
To give you an example we’ll use two of our most popular blogs. The irony is that they’re essentially the same blog. Only one of them is rewritten for last year, while the more popular in the search engines was written about 4-5 years ago. So the question will be is there too much content, or just the wrong content?
This first example is the original “Core Deliverables for Simple Web Design.” It ranks #1 on Google for a host of things relating to website and design deliverables. It probably accounts for 14% of our web traffic over the last year. It was so popular that we rewrote it for 2016, to give people a look at what things have changed over the course of a few years
While it’s heavily trafficked, it’s not heavily read. We even put a related video at the bottom to encourage folks to read to the bottom. Still with all that, less than 25% of visitors hit the bottom of the webpage.
Loved by Readers, and by Google – just Not as Much
The second example is the 2016 version of the same blog. It’s been rewritten of course, with updates that were applicable for newer design standards. But basically, it’s the same length and much of the same topics are discussed. Now, Google gives it a lot of love too, ranking it #2 for most of the same keywords. But it hasn’t surpassed it’s older counterpart and it only is about .2% of our traffic.
The difference is in how far people read down this page compared to its predecessor. Nearly 75% of people hit the bottom. So the difference isn’t the length of the content, but the value that it has to the reader. It seems that most visitors are gaining more information from the updated version than the older one.
In the question of, is there such a thing as too much content? The short answer, yes, but it depends on your audience and how much information you’re giving them. If it’s too much fluff then it won’t matter any more to Google than it will to the reader, and your rankings will suffer. The most important thing is that people are fully consuming your content. Whether it’s 500 words or 5,000, if your purpose is to educate your readers then do it by giving them something to read.
Using tools like heat mapping and your analytics data will help you determine what your audience wants.
We definitely live in an age of a lot of content, and short attention spans. So who your audience is greatly influences how long your blogs should be. If your audience isn’t technical or expects more in-depth understanding, don’t drone on. If you can educate them the same with less words, do it. In the examples that we’ve presented, it seems that people are happy to read long blogs, so long as they feel they’re getting something out of it. Otherwise, we could have written half as much and had better engagement.