Art of Message

Art of Message – June 18, 2023

Truth in shortness

For 20 years, conventional wisdom on the web has been: more words, longer posts.

In the late 2010’s, Brian Dean explored this through large-scale SEO research. In analyzing blog content and search engine results Brian formalized what SEO experts had long guessed: Google rewards content for length – 1500 to 2000 words, to be specific.

For now, this is still the case. The net effect is agonizing wordy-ness. Just like in school: if you force people to write X number of words, you bore and annoy readers. ChatGPT has mastered the art; people hate it. It’s industrial-age behavior.

To clarify the obvious: just because an article is long doesn’t mean it’s bad. What’s more, long articles can add value in a way short ones can’t.

For example, the average essay in The New Yorker is 3,000 words; many are 6,000

And long blog post essays about a business, tech, or societal trend can be more, not less, useful for their length, when there’s space to weave together multiple ideas, and provide examples or discuss data.

As a specific example: Andreeson’s Why AI Will Save the World. It’s long enough that it has a chapter structure that serves as a table of contents and internal navigation. (The presence of a ‘chapter’ approach was another Brian Dean SEO finding actually.)

But these examples of high-quality long-form content are exceptional and require great effort.

Neither Google nor anyone else required or incentived Marc Andreeson, a billionaire venture capitalist, to write such a long post. He made it as long as it needed to be to make his point and supporting points.

And he can also keep it short, just check his Twitter. He does so 999 times of out a 1000. That’s a pretty good ratio.

Here’s the thing: keep it short almost all the time, unless you have an extraordinary reason not to – and are willing to expend great effort.

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