Content Length Guidelines: Improve Engagement by Following These Tips

Content, content, content. It’s all we hear about these days in the marketing world – and for good reason. People are consuming more. People are expecting more interaction and personality from their brands. And, people are getting bombarded by branded content as a result.

All of this makes it hard to cut through the clutter and get attention.

But every platform and content type is different. Here is a tip sheet for the ideal content length on just about everything.

Facebook Post: 40 Characters

If you thought Twitter was limiting you, then you might not like knowing that Facebook is even more tight on content preferences. You really need to boil your words down to straight value with one sentence in most cases. According to Jeff Bullas, the most effective posts are short, with posts around 40 characters getting 86% higher engagement rates than other posts. In his study, he found that only 5% of retail posts even qualified at a length of 40 characters. The next most popular post length was 80 characters or less, achieving 66% higher engagement levels than longer posts.

  • Questions or simple statements can help spark interest and increase engagement.

  • Data also showed that posts with a fill-in-the-blank strategy (“I like…”) get nine times the comments of other post strategies, while only 1% of brands are actively using this technique in their posts.

  • Straightforwardness is especially important when it comes to offers, with “$ Off” and “Coupon” getting the highest engagement as popular sales keywords. “Sale” and “% Off” got the lowest levels of fan engagement for sales posts.

  • BlitzLocal published a study on over 120 billion Facebook impressions during a six-month period in 2011. They also found that longer posts performed poorly as well. Posts between 80-119 characters did the best, while engagement began to fall after 140 characters.

Tweet: 100 Characters

Sure, you get 140 characters for your Tweets, but you will increase optimal engagement with fewer. People love short comments that are quickly consumed. Buddy Media found that Tweets with fewer than 100 characters achieve a 17% higher rate of engagement. When Track Social looked at 100 well-known brands that get a lot of attention on Twitter, they found that 100 characters seemed to be the perfect length for a Tweet. The Track Social CEO Morgan Arnold said engagement reaches a peak between 70-110 characters and engagement falls as the length increases towards the 140-character limit.

  • Use medium-length Tweets to increase likes and reTweets.

  • Shorten your message by including your hashtags within the Tweet itself, rather than at the end of the message.

  • Research your hashtags before using them in your text to avoid embarrassing mistakes (or tagging to nonexistent conversation threads).

  • Use a URL-shortening service, like Bitly, to condense your hyperlinks and reduce the non-content part of your Tweet.

Google+ Headline: 60 Characters

When Demian Farnworth of Copyblogger looked at the breaking point on Google+, he found that headlines should ideally be kept on one line and not exceed 60 characters. Google+ is different than other social platforms where users are often already browsing. The content on Google+ can actually impact the search results of your followers and contacts.

  • It is important to include images for Google+ posts.

  • Headlines should be unique, helpful, specific and urgent, kept to under 60 characters.

  • If you can’t keep your headline to one line (60 characters), then use a killer first sentence that only spans two lines.

  • You can only see the first three lines of your article before the “Read more” link, so you want a gripping first sentence to increase engagement beneath your condensed headline.

  • Don’t include many hashtags.

LinkedIn Post: 25 Words

On the LinkedIn platform, professionals are looking for high-level tips and information. Posts on LinkedIn have been shown to do better when they are longer and more in-depth. The original post should be short and sweet to grab attention -- BufferApp recommends around 25 words to increase click-through rates. Research from iMarc said that the connected posts should be ideally 500-1,200 words long for top engagement. LinkedIn can provide three times the number of conversions than Twitter or Facebook.

  • Posts with links increased engagement by 200%.

  • Images increased engagement by 98%.

  • "Developed," "Won" and "Created" have been found to be among the most shareable words on LinkedIn.

  • Professional headlines are more likely to be shared.

Article Headlines: 6 Words

People are skimming, and if something is too long, they will only read the beginning and end according to Kissmetrics. Most people will only read about six words of the headline, taking in the first and last few words. If your article headline won’t fit easily into a Tweet, then it is too long to share. Make every word count.

  • Use numbers + Adjective + Keyword + Rational + Promise to get a formula for the ultimate headline, according to Lenka Istvanova (“5 Appalling Mistakes You…” or “3 Foolproof Ways to…”).

  • Some experts say half (50/50 rule) or more of your time spent on an article should be spent on crafting the perfect title. That’s how important a good title really is to draw interest to your content.

  • Use powerful adjectives and avoid overused words that have lost their meaning (best, great, bad, etc.).

  • Back up your headline promise with content or offers that accurately fulfills your claim and satisfies your visitors.

  • Follow suit with interesting and short subheads within your text. If your reader manages to get past your headline, the other headers in the text are what he or she will likely skim next to see if the article (or even part of the article) is worth reading.

Avoid clickbait titles (“I Saw Her do This, and by the End I was Crying” or “Three Minutes In and I’m Hooked…How Did He Do That?”). While some are drawn to read the article just to get what the title or picture are talking about (hence, clickbait), others will leave comments to summarize the article and prevent clicks as a part of #endclickbait on Facebook or Twitter. Even if you post interesting content behind the vague titles, like Upworthy is known to do, the title isn’t helpful, and curiosity feels contrived. People get annoyed that you would manipulate them into wanting to read a story or watch a video, which can hurt your credibility. Moreover, people don’t like sharing content that has weird, vague titles.

Blog Post: 1,600 Words

It’s important to emphasize here: cut the fluff. Long posts are only optimal if you are going to include valuable content with every sentence and cut out the excess. People often skim (as we talked about with the headline section), so long content will only be read if your content is worth reading.

That being said, longer blog posts get better search engine rankings and get more shares. Yoast reports that posts over 1,000 words are more likely to achieve better SEO, since they achieve multiple long tail keyword variants and give Google bots more clues as to what your text is about.

Medium looked at how long readers stayed on an article, trying to measure the ideal length for readers. They found that a post that takes seven minutes is the max post length that will keep the majority of visitors engaged. After this point, reader interest declines. A seven-minute read can be accomplished in roughly 1,600 words. Including a lot of photos or graphs may bring that number down to 1,000 for a seven-minute story.

  • You can improve readability by structuring your content and including appropriate headers that pique interest.

  • Include images to keep readers interested throughout your content and increase sharing.

  • Use bullet points or short paragraphs to keep text from seeming overwhelming.

  • Cut all excess.

  • Improve SEO by writing in-depth content about your subject, with research, authoritative links and long tail keyword variants.

Paragraph: 5 Lines, 40-55 Characters Wide

The width of a paragraph is just as important as its length. People get overwhelmed when there are too many words scrolling across a page. The ideal width has been reported by social media experts, like Derek Halpern, to be around 40-55 characters per line (about 8-11 words). This helps give the appearance of simplicity and maximizes reader comprehension.

Sitepoint, Yahoo! Style Guide and Bob Brooke’s Writers’ Corner says that five lines is the best practice for paragraph length. Three or four short sentences are often enough for one paragraph.

  • If content gets too long, you will want to break it up into paragraphs on sub-topics.

  • Remember that content will appear differently on different screens, so also prepare for mobile users with a responsive design that keeps line width in mind.

  • Remove the fluff.

Email Subject Line: 28-39 Characters

Email continues to be one of the most important tools for marketers. Research has also shown that there is a sweet spot where you can start. According to Mailer Mailer, there was a slightly higher click rate at emails with 28-39 characters, dropping off somewhat sharply after 40 characters or longer. Most experts say a general rule-of-thumb is to stay under 50 characters.

In order to write the perfect email subject line:

  • Keep it straightforward.

  • Avoid anything that looks or sounds spammy (promotional phrases, desperation, etc.).

  • Know your audience.

  • Segment your contact lists (by location, point in the sales funnel, activity, interest, etc.), and send content only to the groups that find it relevant.

  • As questions in your subject lines.

Domain Name: 8 Characters

If you are setting up a website, keep your domain name short. When Daily Blog Tips looked at the top 250 websites, they found 70% of them had domain names under eight characters. The average of all 250 sites was just over seven characters.

  • Keep your name short and easy to remember.

  • Use spelling that will come naturally to your audience.

  • Use a name that is descriptive and brandable.

  • Do not include hyphens or numbers, but do make it a .com site (unless you are nonprofit).

Use this tip sheet to help write better content and increase your engagement. As you get to know your audience and the various platforms you are using, you will become more familiar with what exactly works best for your brand.