In this world of social media and content on-demand, you’ve been told that your audience’s attention span is short and growing shorter. To stay in the game, the thinking goes, you need shorter content to match.
For certain platforms, this may make sense. Twitter was built for snippets of short, “snackable” content. And yet, just last year, Twitter increased its character limit in order to give its users more breathing room when creating posts.
But is short content better? According to Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping and CEO of Monumental Shift, “We’ve removed everything that really makes our content interesting in the rush to get a few seconds of our audience’s attention. We’re giving it all away up front and stopped giving people a reason to keep paying attention.”
It’s time to stop writing blogs as though they’re a social media post. At least that’s the message from the 2018 Orbit Media Studios survey (OMS) of more than 1,000 bloggers on content trends.
Depending on the vertical you are writing for, suggested word counts have increased from 800 or so words just a few years ago to well over 1,000. Just how much longer should a blog be now depends on what expert you trust and what survey you want to believe. According to the OMS survey, the majority of blogs are still 500-1,000 words, but more than half the bloggers posting 2,000 or more words for a blog are reporting “strong results.”
(Side note: In an age where measurement needs to be mandatory, only 34 percent of the bloggers who took the survey said they “always” use analytics to help measure success.)
If you agree that longer content is better, how do you make it work in this snackable, digestible, scannable era of readers? How do you keep your audience’s attention for longer than eight seconds?
Jay Baer, a noted speaker and author on marketing, puts it this way:
“To succeed with blogging (or just about any written word online) you must provide definitive content. Not just some half-baked flotsam and jetsam that is 85% the same as the other 5,237 posts on the topic, but real meaty stuff. This is why bloggers who succeed are creating longer content that requires more time to produce.”
Time is the caveat.
“All of this long form opining demands the one thing that is a finite resource for bloggers: time,” Baer says. “Which is why the zeal to publish daily has diminished precipitously, in favor of more infrequent, chunkier content.”
The OMS survey found that the time bloggers spent researching and writing a blog increased from 2:24 in 2014 to 3:28 in 2018 – more than an hour per blog! The result? Forty percent of bloggers who invested six or more hours into a post reported “strong results.”
The clear takeaway is that there is so much content out there floating around that bloggers can no longer get away with what Baer tersely describes as flotsam and jetsam. Good enough is no longer good enough.
(Side note Part Two: While acknowledging that quality of content is important, nearly half of the bloggers responding to the OMS survey admitted that they used no formal editing process before posting their work.)
Content only becomes too long when the audience has no more questions. When they know everything they need to know, they become bored and move on. So how do you keep them from becoming bored?
One blogger suggested to ‘format everything incorrectly’ from length of paragraphs to the use of punctuation. If you’re not ready to send your AP English teacher to her grave, there are a litany of other ways to break up long-form copy that satisfies concerns about reader attention:
- Pull out quotes
- And the always popular bullet points
Video is the ultimate win-win. This infographic from ecommerce company Oberlo on video marketing shares some great stats.
What kind of video depends on what kind of message you want to send to your audience. If you are posting an article about creating company culture, use that as an opportunity to show what the culture is like inside your company. That’s what we did with a series of videos we called EVR Olympics.
Subheads are nothing new, just a carryover from print media, but are particularly effective for scannability. Subheads are the compass for readers that are looking for something particular in your blog.
Pamela Wilson of BIG Brand System wrote an entertaining piece for copyblogger.com on the effectiveness and necessity of subheads. The headline says it all: How to Write Subheads that Hook (and Re-Hook) Your Readers.
Facts are the backbone of any claim of superior quality or service. They can win the day when you are trying to persuade an audience. Just like pulling out a quote to draw a reader’s attention, calling a fact out in the body of an article is a great way to call a reader’s attention to a point you want to drive home.
Ultimately, you have to decide why you are writing blogs.
- To be found when people are searching for information that you can provide?
- To build brand loyalty?
- To be seen as a thought leader?
- To populate your website’s blog section?
Whatever the reason, you have to remember that there are other people in your same vertical writing blogs. What is their frequency? What is their quality?
Why does it matter? Because there is a lot of stuff floating out in the digital space and you may be wasting time if you don’t take time to make sure what you are writing has true value for your audience.