Online Content Length – How Long Is Too Long?

Blog Content Copy Length

Have you ever wondered if there is such a thing as a “right” length for an article or blog post?

I was writing an article on behalf of a client the other day which was supposed to be 1,000 words long but it finished up at 1,600. I wondered if I had rambled on for a little too long, but when I re-read it, I found that it was not overly verbose; it simply took that many words to cover the subject adequately.

However, this got me thinking, so I did some research on Google and found that there are indeed, recommended lengths for headlines, titles, email subject lines, and more.

Twitter Tweet Lengths

Apparently, the ideal length for a tweet is 100 characters or less. Twitter themselves say that, according to research by Buddy Media, it was shown that tweets shorter than 100 characters produce an engagement rate 17% higher than tweets of between 100 characters and the Twitter limit of 140.

This is very similar to research by Track Social which found that there was an increase in re-tweets where the number of characters was between 71 and 100. Tweets of this length left enough room for the person doing the re-tweet to add their own comments.

Facebook Posts Lengths

As far as Facebook is concerned, the ideal length of a post is 40 characters. This is an extremely small number but it has been found that these very short posts obtained an engagement rate which was 86% higher than any longer ones.

It was also found that posts of this maximum length represented only 5% of all the posts on Facebook, so the researcher looked at posts with between 40 and 80 characters and found that even these received a 66% higher engagement rate than longer ones.

Google + Headline Lengths

If you are writing on Google+, your headline should be able to fit on one line. If, for some reason, you cannot fit your headline on to one line then the next advice is to write a killer first sentence.

The reason for this is that, during the last update, Google change the layout of posts so that you will only see three lines of the original post before you get to “read more”. It follows that your first sentence needs to be killer in order to get people to click on the “read more” link.

As regards the length of headlines on Google+, it has been found that there is an increase in engagement at posts of 442 characters. It would appear that you can get away with writing a much longer post on Google+ than you can on Facebook or Twitter.

It seems that the best length for a headline is six words. According to research, it would appear that we don’t just scan body copy, but we also scan headlines. As a result, it seems that we only read the first three words and last three words of a headline. It is not easy to write a headline of six words or less, but you will note that I managed to do so for this article.

With that said, the researcher found that some of the best converting headlines on the Internet are as much as 30 words long. However, as a general rule, if your headline is longer than a tweet it is too long.

Blog Post Lengths

How long should your blog post be? One company measured the best performing content on their site, focusing on attention span. They found that the ideal length for a blog post is seven minutes. Of course, it depends on your reading speed, but this equates to around 1,600 words. It seems that for longer posts the average total seconds spent increases with the length until the seven minute mark is reached, when it then declines.

However, it depends who you believe. Having tested the seven minute theory, another company found very little correlation between the length of an article and attention span. Yet another company found that longer posts on their blogs get more back links.

Paragraph Widths

It is also interesting to note that the actual width of a paragraph can affect engagement. It would seem that the wider the paragraph, the more complex it looks to the reader, and the ideal width is between 40 and 55 characters. This works out to between eight and 11 words. It is also the case that, in general, a paragraph should not contain more than six lines. Again, paragraphs longer than that look more complex.

Email Subject Lines

What about email subject lines? Research by MailChimp found that there was no difference in open rates between short or long subject lines. However, similar research by Mailer Mailer found an increase in open rates and click through rates at a certain point. Although the highest open rate, at 15.2%, occurred at between four and 15 characters, the click through rate was 3.1%.

From the point of view of click through rate, a subject line of between 28 and 39 characters performed best. Although the open rate was 12.2%, the click through rate was 4%.

As regards a presentation, it seems that scientists agree that 18 minutes is the maximum attention span for most people. This is apparently because the brain is processing information which results in the use of glucose and oxygen, and increases blood flow. This leads to fatigue, and most people are unable to concentrate any longer.

Title Tag Lengths

When you write a title tag, the ideal length is 55 characters. If it exceeds 60 characters, Google will cut off the end of it. An interesting point is that Google uses Arial, which is a proportionally spaced font.

This means that different letters take up different widths so, for instance, the letter “I” will take up less space than the letter “M”. This means that the actual letters in your title tag will have an effect on how many characters can fit on the line.

Domain Name Lengths

Finally, how many characters should you have in your domain name? The ideal answer is eight. A study was done on Alexa which counted the characters in the domain names of the top 250 websites. Some 70% of these websites had domain names of eight characters or less, the average number of characters per domain being slightly over seven.