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Digital content: Is shorter more effective?

There are many factors to consider when determining what quality digital content looks like for your target audience.

In today's technology-driven business environment, it is virtually impossible to gain a competitive advantage without a strong digital content strategy. Regardless of the industry you're in, getting in front of target audiences now means, first and foremost, getting online. But there are many factors to take into consideration with developing, creating and distributing content - and the overwhelming and sometimes contradicting advice can give marketers cause for concern.

When it comes to creating digital content, one of the most common questions business leaders have to deal with its length. It's no news that, in general, the attention span of humans is shrinking. This is why eLearning courses have been dominated by microlearning modules. Media outlets deliver bite-sized headlines that can be summed up in 40 characters or less. The size of  the screens on which we view content are getting smaller - so content length should be too, right? Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

Is shorter really better?
We now live in a world of information overload, so digital marketers and publishers need to get to the point quickly. At the same time, they also must ensure their messages are engaging and able to not only grasp the attention of their readers, but also keep it. To establish an authoritative online presence and stay relevant to consumers, businesses should also consistently produce and deliver content - which can sometimes cause issues as far as quantity versus quality. But, perhaps more to the point, in this day in age, what actually constitutes as "quality" content?

"Content length is only one factor to consider."

Most people assume that lengthier articles tend to rank better in search engines - and they aren't exactly wrong. However, content length is only one factor that search engine algorithms consider. Plus, just because you are getting a lot of eyes on your content, doesn't mean they are staying there. It's also important to consider how long people are lingering on a piece of content. For example, high bounce rates indicate that the person didn't get the information he or she was looking for - or that it took too long to find it - so the individual decided to look elsewhere.

Critical questions to consider
In an article for Forbes, Joe Escobedo recently explored this topic. He explained that, when deciding how long business content should be, there are three main questions one must answer:

  • Who is the target audience?
  • What issues are they trying to resolve?
  • How is this content going to help them do that?

Broad, generalized answers to these questions are not enough, though. You must be as specific as possible. The more detailed you get, the more precise and meaningful you can make your content - and ensure that its length is appropriate. For example, if the goal of an article is to teach someone how to do something, they aren't going to want to go into a lengthy article where they have to read every word to get the information they need. They want actionable headlines, digestible content and clear, straightforward and succinct directions. There is also the question of content format. Depending on the context of the training, it may be more efficient to provide a quick tutorial video that demonstrates how to do something, rather than text-based content. 

It all boils down to what will make for the most enriching end-user experience. Some people prefer to watch videos. Others like to consume content in article form because they are in a public place or quiet office. The best option is to at least have available to you a blend of content delivery options and formats. Incorporating a wide range of multimedia and features allows you to tailor digital content materials based on the audience and the specific needs. 

The success of your digital content boils down to the agility of its infrastructure.
The success of your digital content boils down to the agility of its infrastructure.

Digital infrastructure solutions
As recently pointed out in Marketing Interactive, it is highly recommended you have a strong, scalable digital infrastructure in place that allows you to change your content strategy and deliverables on an as-needed basis. The internal digital infrastructure - as well as the IT processes used to power it - must be flexible in order to create meaningful experiences for today's tech-savvy customers. By leveraging the right tools and technologies, the source explained, content marketers can utilize more data and insight, influence better decision making and ultimately provide an optimized user experience.

As far as what is the most appropriate length for your digital content, there really is no short answer or one-size-fits-all approach. But a general rule of thumb is that the appropriate length is however long it takes you to get the message across - no more and no less. At the end of the day, if you focus on creating quality digital content and delivering it in engaging ways through popular channels and platforms, it will be successful.

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