I’ve been writing web copy for well over a decade and clients still ask ‘how much content to I need?’ The glib answer is ‘as much as is needed to get your message across’, but it’s never as simple as that.
In the ‘good old days’ web pages would often have as much as 600 words (that’s a couple of A4 pages of text) because the SEO people had said that was what the search engines gave you ranking points for.
Even in those days nobody read that much content on a page, so if your call to action was at the end of the content, very few people would ever get to it.
Worse still there was the issue of key words and key word density. That was the percentage of relevant key words or phrases in the content. Most sensible SEO people used to aim for around 2%, but I was once asked to write copy with the key word density for a single word at 8%! That meant that the word appeared on virtually every line. You can imagine that the reader found this kind of copy hard going, so from a retention point of view it wasn’t good.
Then search engines got smarter and SEO people reduced demands to 250-300 words with at least one or two mention of your key words. But that was when there was only one piece of content on each page – including the home page. Today home pages are more like a magazine contents page with bits of information for everything the site offers.
Also the human interaction with the screen has changed. Our attention span has diminished – possibly because we’re faced with so much information that we’ve had to develop our scanning skills and now read very little in depth. More people are accessing the web via their mobile devices and flicking up and down websites at a rapid rate.
This means that every word on the page has to earn its place. Mark Twain is credited with this P.S. on a letter he sent to a friend:
“Sorry for the long letter, I didn’t have time to write a short one.”
Some people think this doesn’t make sense – until they try to get a complex concept across and are limited to just a few words. Anyone can ramble, very few can deliver clarity in just a few words.
So what are the essentials for getting your message across:
- A strong attention-grabbing headline – focused on the reader.
- A short introduction (two short paragraphs) that entices the reader to explore further.
- A call to action telling the visitor what to do next.
- Something that makes taking action no effort – so if you want them to phone, put the phone number; if you want them to move to another page, put a link or, better still for mobile devices, a button.
Every page needs these elements, although some pages will need a little more information and, perhaps, some benefits.
Invest time (or engage an expert) in these elements and your website will work well for you.