There are few things worse than working hard to create a piece of writing loaded with valuable facts and information, only to find that it doesn’t work for its intended purpose.
Your patients call your practice with the questions that it answers, the resources it contains go unused, or it doesn’t have the SEO impact that was expected. It’s too long or too short to do what needs to be done, and its functionality suffers as a result.
In this article, we discuss the different lengths of content that you may use on your site, how and where they are best used, and how to decide on which type is best for you. Keep reading to learn more about how long your web page should be.
Long-form and short-form content
If you need to cover a topic in-depth, there’s no sense in shortening it if this detracts from the value it provides. If you only need to communicate a few key details, there’s no sense in burying the information under hundreds of unnecessary words. For your content to be at its most effective, you should think about the way to best convey it.
We refer to these differing lengths as long-form and short-form content. Both of these have a role to play on your webpages, and there are a range of factors you should consider when deciding which one is best for your specific page.
Below, we talk more about the types of information that long-form and short-form content are best for displaying.
Long-form content is exactly what it sounds like: content that’s long. Generally speaking, it’s more than a few hundred words in length and takes more than just a few minutes to read through.
This type of content includes magazine articles, books, journal articles, and reports. On your website, it may include white papers, deep-dive articles, patient information, and articles in your site’s blog section.
Long-form content is better for:
- Explaining a topic in-depth – Covering a lot of information often involves naturally using more words.
- Generating backlinks to your page – Content that covers a topic in-depth is more likely to get referenced and shared by others.
- SEO value – Several studies have shown that the best-ranking articles tend to have an average of 2,100-2,400 words.
The obvious drawback is that long-form content takes a long time to research and produce. It can also be difficult to fit into predetermined spaces (such as some web page templates)
If you have the means to research and produce it to a high standard, long-form content can be great for your webpages. If you aren’t able to produce it or if it doesn’t suit your purposes, you may consider producing more short-form content instead.
Short-form content is content that isn’t as long as long-form content. It may come in the form of a few paragraphs, or just a few short sentences.
You may see shorter content on flyers, in your social media, in emails, or in in the form of small publications online and offline. On your website, you might use it in your product pages, for communicating your contact information, or on pages which don’t require a lot of explanation. You may also use it as a placeholder on pages that you haven’t had the time to fully develop yet.
Short form content is best for:
- Producing consistently – It’s much easier to produce 300 words a week than 1500.
- Sharing facts – There’s no need to write a whole page of text when a few sentences will communicate all the necessary information.
- Skim-reading – Short content is easier to digest quickly.
- Filling pre-designed spaces – If your website has a fixed design, you may need shorter amounts of content to fill your design without causing display issues.
Although it doesn’t often have the same SEO value as long-form content, short-form content is better suited for some purposes. Deciding on whether long-form or short-form content is best for your purpose is easy to do by asking yourself a few questions – keep reading to learn more.
So which one do I need for my page?
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how long your web page should be. Different pages have different purposes, and they need their length and structure adjusted accordingly.
When deciding how long your web page should be, it’s important to consider its role in your website and how it will function. Ask yourself these questions:
- What’s the purpose of the page?
- What do your readers need?
- What are the physical constraints of your text?
- What can you reasonably produce?
In the sections below, we discuss each of these questions in-depth and how their answers can impact the way you plan your pages.
Think about your page’s purpose
Not every patient seeks out information for the same reason. Different searches have different purposes, and you should plan your page length and structure to best suit the intended purpose.
For example, a patient who suspects that they have a medical condition may not be ready to immediately book an appointment with a GP or specialist. Instead, they may be more interested in a well-crafted, reliable, in-depth guide on what symptoms they should watch for, how to pursue a diagnosis, and what to expect in their potential treatment process.
Here’s an example of a Google search for ‘should I see a dentist?’. The top organic search result for this term is almost 1000 words long. It talks about the topic in-depth, and it contains links to other credible information.
If someone searches a query like this, Google has determined that the searcher is best answered with information of this type.
However, if a patient or customer has already made a decision to book a service or buy a product, they likely don’t want to learn much more about the topic. Instead, they may benefit more from a to-the-point description of your service and a reliable way to secure it (such as your contact details or a booking form). In this case, your patient is better served by short-form content.
To illustrate, here’s an example of a search ‘book dentist Brisbane’. The top organic search result (below the paid ads and map pack, since this is a competitive term) isn’t a list of dental conditions or an article on how to choose the best dentist for your needs: it’s a HealthEngine page with locations, contact details, and links to relevant clinics. The entire page totals just over 400 words.
In this case, Google has determined that a person making the query will be best satisfied with a short answer, rather than a deep dive into the topic. It’s the functionality of the page and its ability to fulfil the user’s goal that matters, rather than the volume of information it provides.
Think about how your page will be read
If your reader is someone who is taking the time to sit down and digest a lot of information at once, a long-form content piece may be best suited. If they’re more likely to be doing a quick Google search on their lunch break, short content may be better suited.
You can find out how your readers prefer their content by asking them. This is especially easy to do through your social media.
If you are less able to directly reach your target readership for answers, you can try running a Google search for the term you’re trying to rank for. Click on the highest-ranking pages and give them a quick read. How long are they? How are they structured? By evaluating the way the information is presented, you can gain a feel for the type of answer that Google sees most fit for your query.
It’s also important to remember that many online readers naturally skim their content. This should be accounted for in the structure of your page, regardless of its length. To learn more about structuring medical content for the online reader, consider reading our article on helping patients understand your medical website content.
Do you have physical constraints on your text?
If you’re writing to fill a pre-designed template, you will usually find that your content will need to be a specific length to fill it neatly. If you just write whatever you want, it often won’t fit properly.
If you need to write to fill a predesigned space, it’s worth creating a detailed map of your content before you begin – go through the page and record exactly how many words or characters are needed to fill each headline, paragraph, and button. Using this information, you can develop content that closely fits each section for optimal presentation.
Generally speaking, this content will be on the shorter side and will need to be in paragraphs of a specific length. However, some templates may require longer-form content or have more leeway for varying text lengths.
If you need to produce content of a length that just won’t fit into your design, you can talk to a graphic designer or web developer about creating a template that better fits your needs.
Think about what you can reasonably get done
It’s all good and well to decide on producing a carefully-researched, well-written article that’s 2,000 words long and full of links to other resources. But if you don’t have the actual time or resources to get it done, it’s likely that it will never get finished.
There are a few ways you can work to combat this. For example, you may find it easier to develop content in small chunks, rather than completing large sections at once. This can make the task seem less daunting, although it may cause delays in your publishing process.
If you have your heart set on a certain type of content but find yourself unable to reasonably produce it, you may need to re-evaluate your production plan. You can read more about how to go about this and what to prioritise in the section below.
When it comes down to it
If you don’t have the means to constantly produce thousand-word blog articles and deep-dives into your services, it’s alright to produce shorter website content.
Although it often doesn’t rank as well as longer content, short content can still show Google that your website is relevant to a certain topic, and that it’s being updated regularly.
For example: if you offer a service but have nothing on your website about it, Google is very unlikely to rank your website for that service. If you put off adding anything about it to your website until you have a longer article ready, you could be missing valuable traffic.
Adding something about it to your website – even if it’s only a sentence or two saying ‘we provide [service]’ – is better than having nothing at all. Although your chance of ranking for the term is still low, it’s higher than before.
The beauty of publishing on your website is that you can go back and change things later on. If you have the time and resources to produce longer content in the future, you can always update and republish it.
If you are unable to produce content at the length or standard you would prefer, you may consider outsourcing your content development to a professional. A freelancer or content development professional with experience in your specialty area can help you develop the content you need on the schedule it’s required, and may provide an outsider’s perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of your current content plan.
Discuss with your marketing team
With a better insight into your readership, your business goals, and how each web page can help you drive traffic and improve business, your marketing team can lend a valuable hand in determining the type of content which will best suit your purposes.
If you are unable to produce your desired amount of content, your marketing team can also help you outsource to a freelancer who specialises in writing for your specialty area.
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