Which is Better? Lots of Content on One Page or Lots of Shorter Pages?

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There’s been a trend in internet marketing now for quite some time and that’s to make pages longer – more words, maybe more pictures or videos to break them up.

It’s something I think is well worth doing. Various bits of research including my own very ad-hoc peeks at the pages that show up near the top of the results strongly suggest that longer pages show a greater tendency to appear near the top of the search results. In turn, that’s likely to generate more traffic for those pages.

But is that the only way to go?

What if you struggle to put together 1,000 coherent words let along five times as many?

That’s something that’s been puzzling me for a while now.

Partly because when I’m asked about something to do with internet marketing, my usual answer is that there’s no single correct answer.

Could that be the same for page length?

Almost certainly the answer is yes.

I’ve been reading a book by Ryan Holliday called Trust Me, I’m Lying.

One of the things Ryan talks about is the length of posts on sites like Huffington Post. He says their staff writers are asked to keep the posts short. The book was written a few years ago so I thought I’d check whether the post length is still short. I checked a fairly random sample from their front page and got word counts anything from a couple of hundred words through to just short of 1,000.

But most were in the region of 400 to 500 words – the kind of length where EzineArticles don’t allow you to have a large resource box as they like to encourage you to write more.

Then I came across a post in an SEO round-up that talked about content length.

The analysis took into account word count and the number of times articles were shared.

And – as I suppose I should have realised a long time ago – there’s no simple answer.

But once you get to the stage of one long post (upwards of 3,000 words) compared with three shorter posts that – between them – come to roughly the same total length then the shorter posts win in terms of being shared on social networks.

Maybe that’s our time pressured short attention span.

Maybe it’s because the people who Tweet or share on Facebook and elsewhere don’t read long posts as much as they do shorter ones, then they follow their friends who are doing the same and it turns into a virtuous circle.

I’m sure there’ll be debate about that for a long time to come.

And studies will show whatever the person studying set out to show, much the same as research in other areas of life.

But what does it really mean?

Essentially, it means that if you like writing lots of content, keep doing that.

But if you prefer writing shorter pieces of content and hitting the publish button, go for that instead.

For me, it probably means mixing and matching.

I’ll probably do more short posts like this one (which will likely turn out to be around 700 words long judging by the word count I’m being shown) and a few longer posts that go into more depth and that I link from these shorter items so that anyone who wants to read more can do so.

It will be interesting to see what happens.

I already know from other tests that Google likes regularly updated content – my sites get crawled more regularly if they’re updated regularly – so it’s likely that the new, shorter,  content will get crawled faster because the site is being updated more often.

Where it gets placed in the search results is in the lap of the gods. But it could be that a sub-thousand word article doesn’t stray from the point as often and maybe gets put a bit higher up the search results for the long tail keywords it’s aiming it.

Time will tell.

But in the meantime it means that so long as you’re adding new content to your website on a reasonably regular basis, you’re probably going to get more attention from your regular readers and the search engines.

And if you can encourage people to click the share buttons, you’ll reach even more people over time.

Feel free to click the share buttons and/or add your thoughts in the comments section.

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