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Little and often: Why shorter blog posts can be a winner

You're writing for humans but you're also writing for Google to position your content and your organisation more highly up the search engine listings. But if you go long on your content, you risk alienating the very people you hope will buy from you. Here, we look at how to go short, successfully.

A photo of a brass outdoor tap with a drop of water dripping from its spout. The background is blurred, but is suggestive of a dry, dusty desert. The suggestion here is that a drop of content may be more effective than a larger quantity.

The quote “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead’ is, like many quotes you may have come across in management presentations or social media posts, one of disputed provenance.

Often attributed to Mark Twain, it’s also been marked down as by Blaise Pascal (and to save you looking it up, he’s a French mathematician of the 17th Century), or the Roman consul Cicero, who Boris Johnson is fond of quoting to show how expensive his classical education was.

The point is that brevity is both desirable and, sometimes, difficult. But, as Cicero never said, ‘if you’re going to write to support your content marketing efforts, then you should at least write stuff that people can face reading.’

That isn’t, for now at least, an issue with the quality or subject of your corporate blog content.

It’s all about the length.

A common issue with organisations getting their own team to write their copy is that they write all they know about a topic and then stop. Whether that is 400 words or 4,000 words, it becomes an attempt to demonstrate expertise and authority - which is fine right up to the point you become a bore. Long content pieces don't have to be boring, of course, but you're going to have to work so much harder to keep people going through a long article, and the only reason you really want people to stick with it, is that it's riveting, or valuable.

Long, drawn-out content pieces, more often than not, become boring, but also daunting. The user experience of overlong blog posts, especially on a mobile where it seems like you’re scrolling forever, just puts people off. You’re doing content for people to read, not just for SEO, so make sure you make the content both interesting and consumable. So if you're going to go long, then have a lot of great stuff to say. Don't just dilute and extend what should have been a short article because you think it will position you more highly on Google.

Here are our tips on keeping it short and eminently consumable.

Grab them by the intros

Start with an attention-grabbing introduction. It might be an anecdote, an eye-catching opinion or a simple explanation of what they are going to learn. Make people understand that it’s worthwhile them spending the next few minutes in your literary company.

Break it up

Use headings in the piece to provide signposts throughout the page so that people can, if they wish, drop to the bits which interest them most or, at least, give them a menu of what they need to remember.

Keep paragraphs short

Long paragraphs in massive blog posts look dense and daunting. They are fine in a hardback novel, less good on a mobile. Make it easy on the eye by creating white space dividing short blocks of text.

Like this one.

Keep the editorial tone simple

Writing in ‘plain English’ has many advantages.

It is easier to include the keywords that people use to find the services you provide, since your audience probably uses a less fancypants way of describing your services. It’s also, by the very same token, easier for people to read.

No one wants to read you trying to show how clever you are, and while they want proof of expertise, they also want something that’s easy to understand. Create an editorial tone of voice that allows you to do that. And stick to it.

Use imagery - and images

While your creative writing classes shouldn’t be finding an outlet in your blog posts, finding anecdotes, stories and imagery that keeps your prose lively will help. Vivid, but not florid, writing will make people enjoy your writing more and will share and link back accordingly. It’s useful to add bold imagery to a post - it’ll draw the eye in the constant scrolling of social media timelines and set expectations for your reader, making it visually more appealing.

Conclude

Remember when you were a student and you were supposed to read those learned articles and you jumped straight to the conclusion which told you what to think? The same applies here, only people jump to the bit which tells them what to do. So give them that little shortcut.

Have a call to action

As you get to the end of a piece, give the reader something to do next. It might be to read more, to buy something, to share on social media or to get in touch for advice and support. Give a next step. And if you're trying to apply these ideas to what you know is going to be on the bigger side, scatter calls to actions and internal links to other relevant pages throughout your content.

And then stop

When you’ve said everything you want to say, remember that you don’t have to write for length, you just have to write enough to get your point across.

Then you can stop.

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