Text length online

Length matters, after all!

Susanne Gmachl | © punkt & komma
Susanne Gmachl
Content marketer

You’ve just read a headline with 7 words.

Do you think this headline is too long or too short? As you probably know already, there are a lot of factors to keep in mind when creating online content. First, there’s the topic. But there are also your personas, the choice of medium and the optimisation of your content for that medium. All these criteria contribute to how successful your content will be. 
You might be wondering: What is the perfect length for a text then? That depends on a number of factors. Let’s take, for instance, the topic: There’s no point in artificially prolonging a text when all the important things have been said already. If it took you 400 words to cover all the relevant info to fulfil your persona’s needs, that’s great! But sometimes it takes more words than that – 1,000 words maybe, or even 2,000. 

Add to that several other factors: 
  • the type of content (see the illustration above) 
  • the aim that you’re trying to achieve with your content 
  • the device that your content is read on

Title and description

The meta tags
Unfortunately, meta tags are still often treated as an orphan or altogether forgotten about. On purpose or by accident – that’s not good. Because title and description ensure that Google can attribute your content to a certain topic. And that the personas can find your content. They’re also the first thing that potential customers read from you – and they’re what gets them to click on your website. Right on the search results page! Currently, Google gifts us the following space for our meta tags: 

Title: maximum 70 characters – but keep in mind the CMS that you’re using. Not all of them display all 70 characters. 
Description: maximum 175 characters. In terms of the CMS, the same holds true as for the title. 

Why do we talk about space and not about characters? Well, that’s easily explained: Google doesn’t count characters but pixels. Here’s an example to illustrate this: If an elevator holds six people, it makes a difference if there are six slim children standing inside or six heavyset adults. And an “m” just takes up more space than an “i”. 

Tip: Put your brand in the title and a call to action in your description. 

You can read more about the topic of meta tags in “Content Marketing – das Workbook”.

Headlines and subheadings

Headlines and subheadings are among the most important elements of your text. They give readers a first impression, an overview and – last but not least – they’re incredibly relevant for SEO. What makes creating headlines and subheadings so difficult? You’ve got to pack a lot of content into only a few words – and make them sound nice as well. 

Many people just “scan” the headlines and read only the first and last few words. That’s why your perfect headline should be no more than six words. That’s not always possible. We know that very well. But when it comes to the optimum length for headlines, the motto is: keep it short and sweet.
Schreibmaterial und Workbook punkt & komma.  | © punkt & komma

Web copy

Sentence length matters!
A sentence with 26 words: 
For web copy, we love short and concise sentences – but not like in a children’s book please, because you don’t want to insult your readers’ intelligence. 

Three sentences with six, seven and eight words: 
We love short and concise sentences. But not like in a children’s book. You don’t want to insult your readers’ intelligence. 

Two sentences with no more than 11 words: 
For web copy, short and concise sentences matter. But they shouldn’t sound like right out of a children’s book. Keep in mind your readers’ intellectual level! 

So … do you see the difference? Short and concise doesn’t mean that you have to make do without proper main and subordinate clauses. You don’t need to oversimplify your sentences too much. 

The general rule of thumb: If your sentence is longer than 15 to 17 words, reassess and edit! Eliminate unnecessary fillers. Use verbs. Or just split the sentence in two.
How long should it be?

The blog post

Now, we’re coming to a topic that is heavily debated among online content creators and marketers: the perfect length of a blog post. Opinions about that vary greatly. Because on the one hand, the length of the content matters for search engine ranking. But on the other hand, it doesn’t make sense to artificially prolong your article with unnecessary info and redundant phrases. In that case, a shorter text is better. Or none at all. 

The punkt & komma rule of thumb is: A blog post should be just as long as it needs to be to cover all the important and relevant info. We usually aim for about 600+ words. 

You can read more on optimum content length and a successful content strategy in “Content Marketing – das Workbook”. 
Webtext-Produktion für E-Commerce. | © punkt & komma

The subject of a newsletter

You’ve only got one shot …
… to convince your recipients. Because if you screw up with the subject line, you’ve already lost. Or have you ever opened a newsletter with the subject “Welcome to our newsletter”? See! Your subject line should have a maximum of 50 characters. Because different e-mail programmes vary, it’s smart to write the most important things first. 

Text for Facebook

“Show more” … not!
Yes, we admit it. On Facebook, the credo is: the shorter the better. The ideal length of a Facebook post is at around 100 to 250 characters. And yes, we also admit that that’s not always possible. Still: If a “Show more” option appears underneath a Facebook post, that’s less than optimal. Why? Because the reading behaviour on Facebook is entirely different than the reading behaviour on a website. 

Most people use Facebook on their mobile device – their smartphone or tablet. They open the news feed and scroll down. If something looks interesting, they pause. Nobody clicks on “Show more” to find out if there is something interesting hiding behind it. Of course, exceptions prove the rule. But in case the text does happen to be much longer, you should catch your reader’s interest with the first 100 characters already. 

By the way: This magazine article consists of 1,047 words, 6,078 characters, 30 paragraphs and 105 lines. 

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