WARNING! When writing online content, you must resist the temptation to write lengthy marketing copy for the sake of filling up the infinite space of the internet.
In other words, Keep It Simple – and Short.
There’s a reason the “tl;dr” concept was created. “Too long, didn’t read” is a snarky response to people rambling on and on, whether it’s a blog or social media post or some other online content.
When Writing Online Content, Remember to KISS
Traditionally, when you read the acronym KISS, the phrase keep it simple, stupid probably comes to mind. Well, that’s a little harsh. For today’s lesson, let’s remember this – keep it simple, short.
Why? Because you have an increasingly short amount of time – some people believe it’s now as little as two to five seconds – before someone clicks away.
Between shrinking attention spans, people using multiple screens at once (my record is five: desktop, two laptops, phone and tablet), and our general FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), there’s one surefire way to increase the chances of your online content being read: Brevity.
A Short-Course on the Components of Writing Online Content
So here’s how to keep your writing simple – and short – for today’s online realities:
This is probably your most important online content. It needs to be comprehensive, since this is where people will go to learn about your business. But it doesn’t need to be long and boring.
Short, impactful sentences help your readers get through your content faster. Keep long, explanatory copy limited to sub-pages, or even to downloadable PDFs (especially for things like product brochures).
Be clear, to-the-point, and customer-focused. Show them why your company/product/service is worth another click, and another click, and then hopefully their business.
PRO TIP: Keep your paragraphs short, too. One to two sentences, in most cases. This isn’t that academic writing you did in high school or college. It should be reader-friendly, since it’s a crucial part of engaging people on the customer journey.
You’re in someone’s inbox – you’ve got ’em! You’ll be tempted to bombard them with all kinds of great things about all you have to offer.
Your emails should actually be super-short. Be respectful of your reader’s time and email clutter.
Your open rate – the percentage of people who actually click to open/read your email – is often crazy-low. So if you DO get someone to open your message, get right to the point.
Address them in a friendly way, and tell them how your product/service can help them. Then hit them with the Call to Action (CTA).
PRO TIP: The faster you get to the point, the more likely they are to click through to wherever it is you want to send them. And the more valuable they find your emails, the less likely they are to unsubscribe.
On the interwebz, you’ll find all kinds of “helpful” insights on blog writing, with titles such as How to Launch Your Business Blog With 4 Quick Posts, The ABCs of Writing Website Content That Won’t Bore People, 6 Ways To Nail Your Blog Promotion Using SM, and so on.
In general, most of the above applies – use a strong customer focus, short sentences, etc. Remember that your blog is pretty much the friendly “voice” that represents your business. And your voice shouldn’t be boring or long-winded!
And breaking up your blog posts into sections can improve your reader’s experience, too.
PRO TIP: Some folks feel that there’s value in extra-long blog posts, and that search engines reward you for bigger word counts. That may be true, but I’m about quality over quantity when it comes to blogs. I try to stick to a word count range of 300 to 800 words. But don’t freak out if you go over, especially if it’s interesting/valuable content for your readers!
A quick run-through of writing for the “big three” social media channels:
- Facebook = You can go quite long with an FB post, but I don’t recommend it. You’ve got basically a paragraph before FB abbreviates your post and gives you the “See More” click. Of course, if you want to use the cool “big text on a standout background color” feature, it’s got to be like one sentence. Bottom line — standing out on someone’s busy timeline means keeping it short and interesting.
- Twitter = Ah, the 140-character limit. (280 if you’re someone Twitter really likes.) What else can I say? They give you the limit right up front, but you should aim for less. You don’t need to expand it to get close to 140. Just say what you need to (and double-check spelling, since there’s no “Edit” function) and click Tweet.
- LinkedIn = Another busy timeline to crack. And this one is full of your network connections, all sharing/seeking knowledge and more people to connect with. Make sure your message is interesting, engaging, and gets right to the point.
PRO TIP: People spend a lot of time on these channels, but it’s usually in small chunks of time. So it’s OK to do an “ICYMI” (In Case You Missed It) re-post later that same day, or even later that week.
Banner Ads & Text/SMS Messages
Ah, the ultimate “keep it short” channels! You’re intruding in people’s web browsing with banner ads, and even more so when you pop up on their phone with an unexpected marketing message.
Every character counts, so choose wisely. Especially when using these channels!
PRO TIP: I recommend the outdoor billboard rule – “7 words or less” – for these media.
What About Your Own Instincts for Writing Online Content?
But don’t listen to me. Because in the end, it’s all about you. Write the way you feel you need to in order to engage with your customers and prospects – which might be the opposite of what I’m recommending.
Heck, I’ve contradicted myself at least eight times in this post alone. For example, this blog post is well past 800 words.
But if these tips are in your head the next time you’re writing online content, and one of them helps you, I’ve done my job.
Check out some of my previous Rocks Digital blogs related to this topic here.
Do you have any rules about the length of your online content? Any helpful recommendations of your own? Share in the comments.