By Joe Gillespie

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Here at SmartBug Media, we like to take a paragraph now and then to appreciate great moments in history. For your consideration, the opening lines of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

“Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Powerful stuff, of course. A poignant piece of American history. Yet, for someone in 2016 who has never heard the speech, the Gettysburg Address might lose its audience after about the sixth word. After all, what’s a score? What do our dads have to do with Gettysburg? And why is one of greatest presidents talking about propositions?

If an inbound marketer had written this speech, there might have been a temptation to tighten up the opening:

“Eighty-seven years ago, our fathers created a new nation and declared all men equal.”

This revision is half the words and the same meaning. And though the impact is historically lessened, in today’s inbound marketing environment in which every word counts and you must capture visitors’ attention in a hurry, our Gettysburg tweet gets the job done more effectively.

OK, I’m not suggesting you rewrite history. But I am proclaiming that you might be using more words than necessary in your inbound marketing efforts. Too many words might scare readers off, not get your message across in time, and be a waste of resources. So choose your words—and how many you use for each piece of content—carefully.

30 Words When All You Need Are 10

Copyeditors see wordy text all the time, but less trained eyes might not realize something is verbose, whether they or someone else wrote it. Take this sentence:

“Best practices behoove you to complete thorough audits of all your processes.”

This sentence, though technically correct, simply takes too long to finish. So many words might suggest you aren’t quite confident in what you are writing, instead hiding your statement in a dozen words. Moreover, if you have only a certain number of words to work with on a given piece of content, you just wasted a bunch. The same sentence can be shortened to:

“Audit your processes.”

Besides getting to the point faster and using fewer words, this second sentence establishes your authority—you are declaring a course of action rather than just suggesting it. From an inbound marketing standpoint, this conveys your message more decisively.

Some extra verbiage can deliver the impact you want (consider President Lincoln in Gettysburg). However, as you write and edit, try to streamline the copy as much as possible and get the reader to the point in the most direct yet entertaining and informative way possible.

How Long Should a Blog Post Be?

Effective inbound marketing blog posts should run about 500-1,000 words. Shorter and readers may not believe they are getting anything from the blog. And though longer posts can be effective for complex topics (of efficient if you are pressed for time and can write only a couple times a month), they also can be intimidating if you aren’t careful. If you are regularly running long on posts, careful editing and a general approach of “Does this post absolutely need this item?” can rein in the word count.

E-Books Shouldn’t Be Book Length

E-books are wonderful long-form content that can increase inbound marketing leads. However, the content must still be interesting—and 20,000 words on one topic can get boring in a hurry. There’s no magic number on how many words an e-book or whitepaper should run; some topics simply require more than others. But it should be light reading, and if you are yawning as you edit an e-book, your leads will surely yawn as they read it—and maybe think you are talking down to them. Keep e-books compact, and if you do find yourself covering too much in one offering, you can always split the content into a library of e-books that will look more authoritative than a 50-page opus.

Website Copy That Gets to the Point

Website copy that piles on the words and makes the visitor work to discover what you are all about can be disastrous for your inbound marketing efforts. Unfortunately, many sites feel like they need to explain everything. The result is dozens of pages with excessive paragraphs that usually lead to a visitor clicking away. Website copy must be concise. Strong design and impactful words can tell your story much better than endless gray blocks of text.

Efficient Emails

Focused emails are another great tool in your inbound marketing arsenal—when done right. Write and send an email that is too long and the lead may not only ignore it, but also may ignore any future ones you send. Again, a temptation might be to pack as much into your emails as possible, but less copy will more often grab the reader’s attention. Keep your words short and efficient—try for no more than 150. This brevity should extend to subject lines as well, which should be fewer than 50 characters.

Be Social, Not Verbose

Twitter, of course, limits its posts to 140 characters, so you are generally safe from writing too much. Facebook is another matter—you generally get about 400 characters (80 words) before a post is truncated with the dreaded “See More” link that is often never clicked. That said, you shouldn’t even think about approaching 80 words on Facebook posts; your followers probably encounter enough long posts without having to deal with yours as well. Take a cue from Twitter and be brief when posting to Facebook and Google+.

Do you struggle with keeping your inbound marketing content concise?

Psychology Behind Inbound Marketing Guide

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The Ultimate Guide to Inbound Marketing Personas

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Joe Gillespie

About the author

Joe Gillespie is a Senior Brand Journalist for SmartBug Media. He graduated from Marquette University with a B.A. in journalism and is a two-decade veteran of the newspaper industry. As a Senior Brand Journalist, Joe writes and edits inbound marketing content for SmartBug's clients. Read more articles by Joe Gillespie.

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