What’s the ideal length of content

Digital Content Planning.

We are not digitally identical. But we share enough habits and tolerance levels to bring meaning to the word ‘ideal content’.

FACT: How easy it is to read your content affects value, stickiness and conversion.

Shorter sentences are easier to read. Obviously.

On a widescreen device that means single sentence paragraphs, or using multiple columns. We opt for a 2 + 1 layout, using the two left-hand columns for content and the right-hand column for supporting information, calls-to-action and lists.

Content should be short and punchy. If you are chasing multiple-page readability you should stay under 300 words with paragraphs less than 40 words long. That’s 5 lines long if you adhere to the ‘maximum 50 characters per line’ rule.

Use lots of sub-headings.

They help the reader scan the page quickly looking for triggers and interest points. When writing your article, think about the needs of the reader and try to answer those questions in your sub-headings. Or at least allude to the answer.

Why 50 characters per line?

The human eye is accustomed to scanning lines of text, reading is not an innate skill and this is how we learn to read. To do that, in western languages, that means move the eye left to right to read the right to left to pick up the next line.

That ‘return to the left’ is the catch point. If the line is too long and the block too large the mind will find it hard to pick-up the continuation point – it will take longer and slow the reader down.

Mobile vs Desktop

In due course, we’ll be able to better define the breakpoints of different width devices and re-purpose content in such a way to suit the reading habits of different screen types (and context). But for the moment we’re using a universal average.

To deal with this today we use 2 or 3 columns of content and a supporting column on widescreen devices and change the layout on mobile devices so it appears as a single column. This is the best solution available currently.

What about search engines?

Mostly you should write for people. You should never write just for search engines. A well built site (especially on WordPress) responds well to search engines and vice versa. You can and should think about readers and naturally include words and phrases that would help them.

And other media?

Facebook and twitter layout content differently, and it’s scanned rather than consumed, but the same broad rules apply. When translated into values that means a Facebook header should be 40-50 characters and a Tweet around 100 characters.

Need help?

Contact us, we’ll happily guide you through content planning and creation. We’ve been a WordPress Agency for longer than I care to remember, working on hundreds of sites and millions of bits of content. We’ve learned a lot, and happy to share.