How long should a web page be?
If you are creating a new website, one of the first questions you might ask (after 'what should I write on my new website') is how many words each page should contain. It's a question that comes up again and again, and one which everyone seems to have an opinion on.
A quick search tells me that I should be aiming to please the SEO gods, and write a minimum of 400 per page. Those same gods will me to favour long copy, and ensure that each page contains just the right number of key words to get my web pages onto the top of search rankings. I'm not going to argue that this is the wrong way, but I don't think it's entirely the right way either.
What about my readers?
I think it's vitally important when writing for your website to put your customers at the very top of your list of consideration. In my opinion, no matter what kind of website you are writing for, and what kind of business, you’re not going to win any popularity awards if your readers don’t enjoy reading your web content.
If your website reads like a technical manual, or a long and boring advertisement for your products, people will click away and find something more interesting to read. I think that first and foremost you have to be able to give your readers the information they want, in a way they can understand. They need to relate to what you’re telling them, otherwise, why should they stay?
On the other hand, if your website is nothing more than a brochure which gives the bare minimum of information, your readers will look for the information elsewhere.
It’s a fine balance. But if you get that balance right, your readers will come away satisfied that they have gleaned all the information they need, without having to wade through lots of waffle.
But how long should my web page be?
In all honesty, I’m not sure it matters a whole lot, as long as you’ve covered the points I mentioned above. If you think that 500 words covers everything you need to say and you have at least considered using relevant key words and phrases that will help people to search and find your website, then that’s the right amount of words for your website. And anyway, who says it’s set in stone? The beauty of online media is it can be changed, updated, and completely re-written, if that’s what you want – and in fact that’s the way it should be. Keeping your content fresh and updated can only add value to your site, and keep readers coming back to see what’s new.
Above the fold
Something I think is worth thinking about is the words that will appear ‘above the fold’ on each of your web pages. By that I mean the section of text that appears first and before the reader has to scroll down. Because that’s the bit that has to grab you readers attention, in order for them to carry on reading. If you can address at least some of the information they’re likely to read near the top, and the promise that the rest of the information they’ll need is to follow, then you’re more likely to have your readers stay to find out what you’ve got to say, regardless of the word count.
Something that always turns me off a web page above anything else is opening a page and seeing long reams of unbroken text, no headers, no paragraph breaks, no clue where to start. I treat these types of pages in the same way I treat the small print on my insurance documents – I file them away and never look at them again. Don’t let your website fall into this trap – it doesn’t take much effort to organise your text in a way that looks pleasant and is easy to read.
The last word
As long as your word count is not too short (say, 300 words) and not too long (and full of unneeded waffle), and gives the right information, in the right order, and has a healthy amount of searchable key words, don’t get too tied up in the length of your pages. Let your readers be your guide – if you find that you are not reaching the right people, change something. Experiment. You’ll soon see what works and what doesn’t.
What are your thoughts? If you have anything to add to the discussion, please leave a comment below.