For over 15 years, we have made websites for all sizes, shapes, and varieties of businesses and non-profits. While I don’t know the number of shipped websites we have created, it is in the hundreds. One of the eternal questions common to every website design and development project is content: how much is too much, how much is too little?
When I had the idea for this post, we were working on projects with vast and expansive content on every page. I immediately communicated to the client, “This is a website, not a novel; keep it concise and focused.” And I believe in that. But in more recent history, I have come across the opposite philosophy: brevity to the point of invisibility, at least regarding search engines.
So, who is right? In the battle of content length, is there a knock-out winner? Should your content be long or short?
The answer is probably YES.
Don’t you love it when someone answers an “or” question with yes? When talking with toddlers, they often miss the “or” and leave it at a yes or no, leaving the parent having to re-iterate the question – but they may be on to something.
John Longcontent vs. Connie Concise
Let’s call our first client John Longcontent. John loves long form content. John does have an advantage if his content is well-written and relevant to his audience – he will find all sorts of incoming Organic traffic and feel good about his growing numbers. However, his regular day-to-day users are going to get bored and wonder how they take their next step. Heck, even his prized Organic search users may find reading long-form content taxing when it is on every. single. page.
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In contrast, Connie Concise has just the facts with a bit of personality injected into her pithy sentences. Her site users get precisely the content they came for almost instantly. The user sees that Connie:
- Does what I am interested in;
- In a way that I like;
- And I can get started as soon as I want.
That seems like a win! But poor Connie is checking her analytics reports and seeing nothing but flat or downward trends in her Organic Search traffic. Plus, no user stays on her site long enough to sell themselves on her expertise, helping nuture them into a lead if they weren’t ready to act in the first 10 seconds.
So, what should you do for your website content?
I am so glad you asked! Our recommendation is a little bit country and a little bit rock n’ roll aka a little of both.
Here is how this approach works: your top-level pages are super tight and concise and bear just the facts with a bit of color (unless you want your brand to have 0 personality, which for some markets is just fine). Then, your interior pages build more expertise and long form into the mix, giving search engines like Google something to read and latch on to. It also offers the engaged user a place to take their attention so they can start to sell themselves that you are their solution. Then, if you have a blog or recurring content type, you provide even more depth and length with a combination of posting frequency and longer format work.
Let’s break it down practically.
Home Page: Just the content you need to say who you are, what you do, and why someone should care, and lead them to 1. take action or 2. dig deeper into the top-level navigation pages.
Top-Level Navigation Pages: These pages show subject expertise similarly concisely; they focus on each aspect of your business, not the overview of everything. In these pages, you can link off to an even deeper layer.
Third Tier Pages: These are the pages that you get to show exactly how much you know about what you do. They draw in the engaged user and attract that Organic Search traffic.
Blog Content: Recurring content rounds out the structure with constant curating and creation signaling to Google and other search engines that you care about what you know, and that they should too.
No matter what, every area of your site should have a clear action step for the person ready to take their next step. Even if your website sells ads, and it is all about pageviews and time on site, you are missing out if you don’t lead the user to what is next.
The Beauty of Organic Search Traffic
When the Organic Search user enters your site via longer form content, they will see your calls to action or click your home page, and they will get the elevator pitch. They may come into long content, but the concise elements will convert them anyway. By combining concise and lengthy content approaches, you maximize the usability and discoverability of your website. And that is what you want because if no one finds your website, why have it?
There is room at the table for John and Connie; just know where they should sit. I recommend placing Connie at the head of the table, and John can have a less prominent seat. (If that makes no sense to you, don’t skip to the end! 😉)