The Ideal Length of Everything Online, Backed by Research

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Every so often when I’m tweeting or emailing, I’ll think: Should I really be writing so much?

I tend to get carried away. And for the times that I do, it sure would be nice to know if all this extra typing is hurting or helping my cause. I want to stand out on social media, but I want to do it in the right way.

Curious, I dug around and found some answers for the ideal lengths of tweets and titles and everything in between. Many of these could have been answered with “it depends,” but where’s the fun in that? Solid research exists to show the value of writing, tweeting, and posting at certain lengths. We can learn a lot from scientific social media guidelines like these. Here’s the best of what I found.

The ideal length of a tweet is 100 characters

Whom should you trust when it comes to advice on the ideal length of a tweet? How about Twitter itself?

Twitter’s best practices reference research by Buddy Media about tweet length: 100 characters is the engagement sweet spot for a tweet. 

Creativity loves constraints and simplicity is at our core. Tweets are limited to 140 characters so they can be consumed easily anywhere, even via mobile text messages. There’s no magical length for a Tweet, but a recent report by Buddy Media revealed that Tweets shorter than 100 characters get a 17% higher engagement rate.

The Buddy Media research falls in line with similar research by Track Social in a study of 100 well-known brands that are popular on Twitter. Track Social also found that the perfect Tweet length was right around 100 characters.

Their analysis saw a spike in retweets among those in the 71-100 character range—so-called “medium” length tweets. These medium tweets have enough characters for the original poster to say something of value and for the person retweeting to add commentary as well.

Tweet length retweet - track social 

The ideal length of a Facebook post is less than 40 characters

Forty characters is not much at all. (The sentence I just wrote is 35 characters.)

But 40 is the magic number that Jeff Bullas found was most effective in his study of retail brands on Facebook. He measured engagement of posts, defined by “like” rate and comment rate, and the ultra-short 40-character posts received 86 percent higher engagement than others.

The 40-character group also represented the smallest statistical set in the study (only 5 percent of all posts qualified at this length), so best practices on Facebook also include the next most popular set: Posts with 80 characters or fewer received 66 percent higher engagement.

Jeff Bullas facebook posts length

Many different studies over the years have confirmed that shorter posts are better on Facebook. One such study by BlitzLocal looked at nearly 120 billion Facebook impressions and found that performance tailed off as posts grew longer. Their particular data found significant advantages to question posts between 100 to 119 characters.

Pic1

The ideal length of a Google+ headline is less than 60 characters

To maximize the readability and appearance of your posts on Google+, you may want to keep your text on one line. Demian Farnworth of Copyblogger studied the Google+ breaking point and found that headlines should not exceed 60 characters.

Here is an example of what we mean. The post below had a headline exceeding 60 characters and got bumped.

Copyblogger headline Google+ 2 lines

This post kept the title within 60 characters and stayed on one line.

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 8.02.24 PM

Demian’s advice goes even deeper. If your Google+ headline simply can’t be contained in one line, then you can turn to Plan B. Write a superb first sentence.

In the last update, Google changed the layout of posts so that you only see three lines of the original post before you see “Read more” link. In other words, your first sentence has to be a gripping teaser to get people to click “Read More.”

Here is Demian’s killer example:

G+ killer first sentence

In terms of overall post length, Google+ posts average 156 characters, according to Qunitly Research. Digging further, Quintly found the largest spike in engagement at posts of 5 characters in length and the second-highest spike in posts of 442 characters. Takeaway: You can write a lot longer on Google+ and still find great results.

The ideal length of a headline is 6 words

How much of the headline for this story did you read before you clicked?

According to a post by KISSmetrics, you might not have read it all.

Writing for KISSmetrics, headline expert Bnonn cites usability research revealing we don’t only scan body copy, we also scan headlines. As such, we tend to absorb only the first three words and the last three words of a headline. If you want to maximize the chance that your entire headline gets read, keep your headline to six words.

Of course, six-word headlines are rare (and hard to write!). If you can’t cut your title down to six words, you can still be aware of how your headline might be read, and you can adjust accordingly. As the KISSmetrics post says:

Of course, that’s seldom enough to tilt the specificity-meter into the red. And I have it on good authority that some of the highest-converting headlines on the web are as long as 30 words. As a rule, if it won’t fit in a tweet it’s too long. But let me suggest that rather than worrying about length you should worry about making every word count. Especially the first and last 3.

 

The ideal length of a blog post is 7 minutes, 1,600 words

When measuring the content that performs best on their site, Medium focuses not on clicks but on attention. How long do readers stick with an article?

In this sense, an ideal blog post would be one that people read. And Medium’s research on this front says that the ideal blog post is seven minutes long.

Best post length

To arrive at this number, Medium measured the average total seconds spent on each post and compared this to the post length. All Medium posts are marked with a time signature for how long the read should be. After adjusting their analysis for a glut of shorter posts (overall, 74% of posts are under 3 minutes long and 94% are under 6 minutes long), they came to their conclusion:

And there we have it: the average total seconds rises for longer posts, peaks at 7 minutes, and then declines.

And in terms of word count, a 7-minute read comes in around 1,600 words.

(A photo-heavy post could bring the average down closer to 1,000. Medium’s seven-minute story on ideal post length was filled with images and graphs and contained 980 words.)

SerpIQ examined the question of ideal post length from an SEO perspective. They looked at the top 10 results on search results pages and counted the words in each article. Their data included text in the sidebars of posts, so you can knock a few words off of the totals below.

Post length by SERPs

Of course, as with any of these ideal lengths, the answers you find here could very well be taken as “it depends,” since research varies from site to site. For instance, Moz found that longer posts on their blog get linked to more often, and Upworthy found little correlation between length and attention when they tested Medium’s hypothesis for themselves. (Upworthy cited factors like type of posts and audience as a couple of possible explanations for the discrepancy.)

Perhaps the best takeaway here is this, borrowed from the conclusion of Medium’s study:

What it does mean is that it’s worth writing however much you really need. Don’t feel constrained by presumed short attention spans. If you put in the effort, so will your audience.

The ideal width of a paragraph is 40-55 characters

I know, I know. Width and length aren’t the same thing, but I just couldn’t resist this interesting take. Social media expert Derek Halpern found that there are a pair of very important, underlying factors that go into the width of your content:

  • Content width can give the appearance of simplicity or complexity
  • Content width is key to maximizing reader comprehension

The ideal paragraph length, in this sense, would appear simple to the reader and allow for easy reading. Halpern believes he found the window where this happens.

The problem is, to ensure maximum comprehension and the appearance of simplicity, the perfect line length ranges between 40 and 55 characters per line, or in other words, a content column that varies between 250-350 pixels wide (it depends on font size and choice).

Forty and 55 characters per line means about 8 to 11 words. If you’re viewing the Buffer blog in a desktop browser, you’re likely seeing up to 20 words per line. Whoops!

You may have noticed many sites online that have a different font for their lead paragraph than they do for the remainder of their text. Would you believe there is psychology at play here? Consider that shorter lines appear as less work for the reader; they make it easier to focus and to jump quickly from one line to the next. Opening paragraphs with larger fonts—and therefore fewer characters per line—are like a a running start to reading a piece of content. This style gets readers  hooked with an easy-to-read opening paragraph, then you can adjust the line width from there.

Here’s an example from Smashing Magazine:

Smashing Magazine 

The ideal length of an email subject line is 28-39 characters

In September 2012, MailChimp published the following headline on its blog: Subject Line Length Means Absolutely Nothing. This was quite the authoritative statement, but MailChimp had the data to back it up.

Their research found no significant advantage to short or long subject lines in emails. Clicks and opens were largely the same.

Mailchimp subject line length

By this token, you are likely to be okay writing an email of any length (and always better off being specific and helpful with the subject you write, regardless of how many words you use). That being said, other research hints at a sweet spot: 28-39 characters.

A study released by Mailer Mailer around the same time as MailChimp’s study found a slight bump in opens and clicks at a certain range of characters. Here is their analysis:

  • 4–15 characters: 15.2% open; 3.1% click
  • 16–27 characters: 11.6% open; 3.8% click
  • 28–39 characters: 12.2% open; 4% click
  • 40–50 characters: 11.9% open; 2.8% click
  • 51+ characters: 10.4% open; 1.8% click

The stat is one of the few of its kind to show a demonstrative (but not overwhelming) difference in subject line lengths. Litmus referenced this study in their popular subject line infographic. If there were ever to be a recommended length for a subject based on research, this would be it.

Beyond the perfect length, you can also adhere to best practices. In general, a 50-character maximum is recommended, although MailChimp does point out that there can be exceptions:

The general rule of thumb in email marketing is to keep your subject line to 50 characters or less. Our analysis found this to generally be the rule. The exception was for highly targeted audiences, where the reader apparently appreciated the additional information in the subject line.

At Buffer, we tend toward the upper threshold of the 50-character limit and often go beyond.

Of course, you can always just learn from those who do it best and those who do it worst. In MailChimp’s studies they came across some especially high performers—and some low performers.

Mailchimp best open rate

Mailchimp low open rates

 

The ideal length of a presentation is 18 minutes

TED talks

Organizers of TED have found that 18 minutes is the ideal length of a presentation, and so all presenters—including Bill Gates and Bono—are required to come in under this mark.

The science behind this 18-minute mark comes from studies of attention spans. Scientists seem to agree on a range of 10 to 18 minutes for how long most people can pay attention before they check out. The physiological reason behind this is that new information must be processed by the brain, resulting in a huge use of glucose, oxygen, and blood flow as brain neurons fire and burn energy. This loss of energy leads to fatigue.

Carmine Gallo, writing on LinkedIn, pointed to even more scientific research at the root of this attention-time phenomenon. Gallo wrote of Dr. Paul King of Texas Christian University who likens the act of listening and absorbing information to lifting weights: The more we are asked to take in, the heavier and heavier the load gets. Eventually, we can’t hold the weight anymore, and we drop it all – or forget it all.

King tested this on graduate students, observing that those who went to class three days a week for 50 minutes recalled more information than those who went to class one day a week for three hours.

Science is a nice reason to put a limit on presentations, but if you’re sharing yours online or looking for virality, there could be other important factors, too. Here is what TED curator Chris Anderson thinks:

It [18 minutes] is the length of a coffee break. So, you watch a great talk, and forward the link to two or three people. It can go viral, very easily. The 18-minute length also works much like the way Twitter forces people to be disciplined in what they write. By forcing speakers who are used to going on for 45 minutes to bring it down to 18, you get them to really think about what they want to say. … It has a clarifying effect. It brings discipline.

 

The ideal length of a title tag is 55 characters

Title tags are the bits of text that define your page on a search results page. Brick-and-mortar stores have business names; your web page has a title tag.

Recent changes to the design of Google’s results pages mean that the maximum length for titles is around 60 characters. If your title exceeds 60 characters, it will get truncated with an ellipse. The design change can be seen below where a formerly ideal title has now been truncated.

SERPs changes

Finding a hard-and-fast rule for the maximum recommendation of a title tag isn’t as easy as you’d think. Quick typography lesson: Google uses Arial for the titles on its results pages, Arial is a proportionally-spaced font, meaning that different letters take up different width. A lowercase “i” is going to be narrower than a lowercase “w.” Therefore, the actual letters in your title will change the maximum allowable characters that can fit on one line.

Moz dug deep to see where exactly this maximum character limit surfaced for truncated titles. They found that 55 characters seemed to be the breaking point as a general rule.

Moz headlines

The ideal length of a domain name is 8 characters

This one may not apply to all of you, but if you’re trying to name your startup it’s a useful find. According to Daily Blog Tips, these are the characteristics of a good domain name:

  1. It is short
  2. It is easy to remember
  3. It is easy to spell
  4. It is descriptive or brandable
  5. It does not contain hyphens and numbers
  6. It has a .com extension

Daily Blog Tips also found the ideal length. They ran an Alexa report that looked at the domains for the top 250 websites. The results: Over 70 percent of the sites had domain names of 8 characters or less, and the average number of characters per domain was just over 7.

Alexa domain study

Recap

For the tl;dr version of this article on ideal length, here’s a graphic that encompasses all the guidelines mentioned above.

Ideal length of everything

What lengths have you found work best for you? I’d be keen to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Image credits: fstoaldo, Orbit media, Track Social, Jeff Bullas, BlitzLocal, Copyblogger, Medium, SerpIQ, MailChimp, Moz, Daily Blog Tips.

  • http://oirms.com OIRMS

    Very informative article Kevan! Two takeaways for me; FB posts under 40 characters and titles 6 words (though this will prove to be difficult!).

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      You’re absolutely right! 6 words is indeed a challenge. :)

  • Vera Rabkina

    What an awesome article :)

  • http://www.exploretemecula.com exploretemecula

    Thanks for this great article! I’m going to put it into practice right away.

  • http://blog.zopim.com/ Abhiroop Basu

    Great post! Definitely something to bookmark and refer to on a regular basis. However, I must admit it’s tough to adhere to all these rules all of the time.

  • http://www.jackiebledsoe.com/ Jackie Bledsoe, Jr.

    Nice! thanks!

  • http://www.briangerald.com/ Brian Gerald

    One of your most helpful (and actionable) articles yet–and that’s saying something, I love y’all. Just took a moment to tweak first paragraph font size and line heights to get at that ideal character length … science aside, I like the way it looks too.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Right on! Thanks for the kind words, Brian!

  • Vitor Bellote

    really great article! sharing now! congrats!

  • Guddina Coffee

    I wonder, does the optimum length and science behind keeping someone’s attention (18 minutes) mean that we should do our reading of news in the evening so that we aren’t bogged down before we work?

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Really interesting idea here! I might have to test this one and see. :)

    • TonyTh

      No. You can normally adjust the pace of digesting information, but not when being audience in a public presentation. Please follow your instincts, don’t try to absorb information when feeling exhausted -if you have the choice. Poor kids in school, with their 45-minutes sessions…

  • http://www.themobilejobsearch.com/ Matt Schmidt

    Fantastic breakdown. Different sites have said that content is king in 2014. It continues to be so.

  • http://www.sheinspires.com.au/ Belinda Stinson

    Love the research you’re sharing, especially the chart showing subject line characters and open rates.

  • http://streamline-marketing.com/ Sal Conca

    Great insights here! I’ve researched most of this before but to have them all in one place makes for one great piece of content that anyone working in the digital space should be aware of. When implementing anything don’t forget to test and test again!

  • Anika Jaffara

    Awesome insights, Kevan!

    That 40 characters for Facebook is so surprising. And the 7 min blog post duration is helpful- I tend toward drastic cuts and ommissions.

    Now I’m wondering if it might be worthwhile to redesign presentations and workshops to deliver 20-minute spurts of instruction in tandem with discussions and application activities.

    Good stuff!

  • http://www.clc.vic.edu.au CLC Eltham

    Fantastic article and tips, thanks!

  • Chris O’Dell

    This is awesome!

  • Vincent Mathieu

    Awesome :)

  • Derek Slater

    Fantastic. Thank you.
    HOWEVER – you are missing the crucial piece of data I seek!
    What is the ideal length for an in-text link, in terms of clickthrough?
    Some say the link should be really [short]. Some [say the link demands a verb] if possible. [Almost everybody agrees that really long linked text is a nuisance and a distraction to the reader].
    But I haven’t seen any data yet!

  • Madison McClure

    Very useful stuff! Thanks for the tips!

  • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

    Love this research, very helpful Kevan! Here’s a sketchnote infographic I put together after reading, thanks again!
    (Twitter @mattragland)

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      LOVE this sketch, Matt! Really amazing stuff. :)

      • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

        Thanks Kevan!

    • LeoWid

      this is amazing Matt, great work! :)

      • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

        Thanks Leo! Appreciate it :)

    • priyansha_ranaut

      Really cool Matt! Loved it :)

      • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

        Thanks Priyansha!

    • Perry Kahai, Ph.D.

      If I understand this correctly, Matt, shouldn’t “f” be less than 40? The sign you used in your infographic – which by the way is uber-cool – is “greater than.”

      • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

        Hi Perry, I did see it and confused myself – what I was picturing at the time was the sign in relation to the number and not the logo. I should have perhaps made it F=40<

        • http://newlocalmedia.com Dan Knauss

          It has nothing to do with the logo. You did the same thing for Google+ too. It should be <40 and <60. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Less-than_sign

          • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

            Thanks Dan, see above for updated pic!

    • Perry Kahai, Ph.D.

      I would just use “f < 40" because that's what the author says. I will like to use the infographic after you make the correction :-). Just puts things together nicely.

      • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

        It’s fixed, here’s a direct link Perry! http://www.dropbox.com/s/hy88bmvx23olomo/onlinecontent-length2.jpg

        • Mariana N.

          Hi Matt, loved the sketch! I’d like to share it as well but could you correct the g+ part, just like you did for f? It should be g+<60 char. :)

          • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

            What would I do without all of you? Thanks for helping me out!

          • Mariana N.

            Much appreciated!

          • http://mattragland.com/ Matt Ragland

            Here you go :) Thanks for the heads up!

    • Perry Kahai, Ph.D.

      Thank you Matt. Will be showing it to my class students tomorrow.

  • Jo

    I agree! This is so helpful. Im a visual kinda gal, and this put everything in perspective for me in a whopping 1.4 seconds ;) Is there any way to PIN that infographic? I didn’t see a PIN button?

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Thanks, Jo! It’s so awesome you want to share this to Pinterest. I’m afraid we don’t have a PIN button, but maybe the Pinterest bookmarklet could help here?

  • http://about.me/azizul.yusof Azizul Yusof

    Great Guide Kevan.

    Bookmarking this.

  • http://twitter.com/URBN_SCIENCE Gary Riccio

    Great stuff, Kevan! The whole is greater than the sum of the parts in your aggregation of findings. Lots to think about. We’re following you now @URBN_SCIENCE.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Awesome! I appreciate the kind words. :)

  • Antti Kivivalli

    Nice and useful! How
    about the ideal length of a video? +6=61

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Great question, Antti! From what I found, the ideal length of a YouTube video is 3 to 3 1/2 minutes: http://www.orbitmedia.com/blog/ideal-blog-post-length/

      Hope this is what you were looking for! :)

      • Antti Kivivalli

        Not really looking for but I thought it was missing. :-) And in this relative world everything is really relative not to mention human communication that we are (hopefully) talking about. Everything depends on the topic, the quality of expression (another relative thing) for example and not just the media or the length.

  • MrGlyph

    Who is the original author of this article? Leo Widrich claims to have written it: http://socialmediatoday.com/leo-widrich/2308481/ideal-length-everything-online-backed-research

    • Courtney Seiter

      Yep, great catch there! Kevan is in fact the post’s author; looks like Social Media Today may have picked up fellow Bufferer Leo as the author – perhaps because he’s written so much great stuff there in the past. :)

      • MrGlyph

        Thanks for the clarification

  • http://about.me/ivanpablorubio Ivan Pablo Rubio

    Congratulations for this great article!

  • Sheila Hensley

    The depth of research is amazing and most valuable. Thanks for all the time you spent putting this excellent article together. I’ll use it as a reference many times.

  • http://www.praverb.net/ Praverb

    Great starting point. You guys always present quality material.

  • http://jasonfalls.com/ JasonFalls

    This is not research. This is statistics. They mean nothing. To prove my point, here is my ideal, optimized, 100-character tweet: “Purple dinosaurs eat green carrots off your face if you let them. Nancy Pelosi is 25 percent poodle.”

    Without meaning or context the number of characters you use is 100% senseless. I would have hoped Buffer would have seen these types of crack science posts from a few years back and realized this does nothing but lead people down the wrong path for doing content well.

    • Courtney Seiter

      Hi Jason, great to see you stopping by these parts! You’re right; what you tweet is always going to be more important than the number of characters you use to do it – and we try to write about quality content as much as possible, too. That said, the medium matters as well as the message. I think there’s value in knowing (whether through psychology, biology or other types of studies we mention here) what has been successful for others in terms of format. Marrying great content with these best practices is a win-win, no? I always appreciate your point of view; definitely would love to hear more of your thoughts on this!

      P.S. I would definitely share that ideal, optimized tweet! ;)

    • http://blog.datadirt.net datadirt

      Couldn’t agree more. Also, the database is deeply flawed here: “…that Jeff Bullas found was most effective in his study of retail brands” Right. Maybe that’s because peeps are bored by retail brands on FB by now :-)

    • http://www.buyosphere.com/ missrogue

      Thank you for saying this Jason! I really despise posts like this. Mostly because clients will send them to me. They make me want to cry.

  • http://www.deswalsh.com Des Walsh

    I love the finding on 7 minutes / 1,600 words for the ideal blog post length. It used to drive me made, one time doing some commissioned posts, to have to fit my argument into their requirement for less than a third of that!

  • priyansha_ranaut

    Very informative article and useful insights!

  • bertavsl

    Very nice and interesting blog post. Thank you!

  • Luca Forest

    Amazing work

  • Cornelia Hicks

    This is great information! Thank you for sharing. I have to test the science and will be interested in the results. Could different readers behave differently?

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Thanks, Cornelia! Yes, different readers could prefer different lengths of content. The ideas here are a starting point, and you can test and adapt as needed. For instance, you might find that a good chunk of your readers prefer short blog posts, or that a certain length of content fits better in a particular industry. There’s a lot of fun to be had in the quest!

  • David King

    Disagree on the ideal length for a blog post. I think Medium is a skewed format.

  • Patri Hernandez

    The ideal blog post is this one :)
    Easy to skim through – packed with needed stuff – full of helpful images – written with love :)

  • Stanley Watson

    Great post!

    What about the ideal amount of photos posted?

    I know that, on Twitter, one can only post one photo at a time. But Facebook and Google+ allows to post more than one at a time. Is 2 photos not more ideal? If not, is there some research (or at least anecdotal experience) to back it up?

    • Courtney Seiter

      Great question; it would be cool to dig into this! Thanks, Stanley!

      • Stanley Watson

        Thanks Courtney!

  • Daniel Howell

    You missed the all important VIDEO length. I would imagine it would be 2min … but I have no research.

    • Courtney Seiter

      Oooh, great one Daniel. Perhaps a followup post is in order!

    • Philip DiPatrizio

      I came here looking for optimal video length :(

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      If it’d be helpful at all, Orbit Media’s post on ideal length says that video is best at 3 to 3 1/2 minutes long. Here’s the link. :)

      http://www.orbitmedia.com/blog/ideal-blog-post-length/

  • Eric N.

    The only thing I didn’t see mentioned, and this is a big one, is video length. I’m presuming 7 minutes is the ideal length of a video, but I’d love to see some research on this.

  • Philip DiPatrizio

    I can’t believe EVERYONE missed this…

    “Forty and 55 characters per line means about 8 to 11 words. If you’re viewing the Buffer blog in a desktop browser, you’re likely seeing up to 20 characters per line. Whoops!”

    It should say “likely seeing up to 20 words per line.” :)

    Great post, btw.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Everyone, including me! Thanks for finding this, Philip. :)

  • http://righthandplanning.com/ Pete

    That is some delicious, digestible data!

  • http://www.fccps.org/ John Wesley Brett

    Love the research, love Matt’s illustration, love the article. But I still have a question in the back of my mind: How might these stats be/not be swayed by the inclusion/omission of an image? How likely would I be impressed by this article if it only included text? That sort of thing. (Oops my length has probably expired) :)

  • Amanda Oberg

    Awesome post! Thank you so much for sharing.

  • http://www.buyosphere.com/ missrogue

    I really despise posts like these. Engagement has little to nothing to do with length. Jonah Berger proved that in his study in 2010 (where longer articles got more play on NYTimes, but it had little to do with the length, it was actually the content! http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/09/science/09tier.html?_r=0). I hear from brands who read these posts that we need to keep our wordiness down, yet some of the most popular bloggers, vloggers and tweeters ramble on forever. Hell, some of the most watched YouTubers have videos that go on forever and ever. It’s the content, not the word count. Not the length. Please focus on the right metrics.

    • Courtney Seiter

      Thanks for sharing; we definitely value all viewpoints here. I just finished Berger’s book–good stuff!

    • Anna

      It could be both. Short content does not equal great content, but succinct marketing is usually more powerful because it leaves more to the imagination.

    • http://docsheldon.com/ Doc Sheldon

      I don’t “despise” this sort of post, by any means. Some of the data is validated by testing, and as such, I think it’s worthy of consideration.
      However, there are a few problems with the data, as presented.
      For instance, it’s been proven that Google (not sure about Bing/Yahoo, but likely the same) doesn’t select titles by character count… rather, by pixels.
      The item I have the biggest problem with, though, is:

      “The ideal length of a blog post is 7 minutes, 1,600 words”

      In my opinion (and a lot of observations by many different people bears this out, too) is that the ideal length of a blog post (or any other document) is that length at which the topic is addressed in an informative fashion, in accordance with the topic, the venue and the audience. That might be 300 words or 3,000.

  • Bufferer

    HI

    Error here: you mean words not characters: “Forty and 55 characters per line means about 8 to 11 words. If you’re viewing the Buffer blog in a desktop browser, you’re likely seeing up to 20 characters per line. Whoops!”

  • Ruth Livingstone

    Very useful and great to see the evidence to back it up. Thank you.
    (above line = 67 characters)
    Now, I’m wondering what the ideal length of a comment is? :D

  • Bethanne Matari

    Could not agree with you MORE! Getting your message out there in a brief, concise format is key while still making the message engaging and enticing. I always recommend this book to anyone who writes for me: MICROSTYLE by Christopher Johnson. An excellent book written by a linguist. It will give you a better understanding of the philosophy of brevity. Writing less is much harder than writing more.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Microstyle looks really interesting, Bethanne! Might have to add that one to my reading list. :)

  • http://www.salesdujour.com/ Gary S. Hart

    We love you for compiling this research and your insights. You led us to question audience demographics such as, how does the same person respond as a consumer vs. executive? How does age or gender factor? What about time of day? For instance, do people respond better to longer or shorter lengths early in the day or later in the
    day? How does topic factor in, i.e., fashion vs. marketing automation? Another side
    to this is word selection.

    We’re not asking you to do the work although we wouldn’t stop you and I am not diminishing your work, it would just be interesting to see those metrics.

  • http://LisaJohnsonFitness.com/ Lisa Johnson

    OK Facebook surprised and I’d like confirmation on the click through rates increasing with images … has then been assessed lately … also disagree a bit on blog post length because I think it’s so dependent on the audience … Medium.com welcome people who want to dive into a piece … HuffPo (by contrast) they just want the eyeballs … different audience, different time lengths.

  • https://plus.google.com/+VanessaBBernardbooks/posts Vanessa B. Bernard

    Hi Kevan! Thanks so much for this post! It’s making a world of difference in my social media life already. Might I ask, with your great Canva infographics, have you considered adding a Pinterest pin it button to your posts? I pinned one your “Ideal Length of Everything Online” to my social media board. But but I bet there are others out there that would like to do it too. Anyway, just a thought. Again thanks and have a great day! -V

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Love this, Vanessa! We’re always looking for ways to improve the blog, and a Pin It button on images could be really useful. I’ll add it to our idea list. :)

      Thanks for taking the extra step to share this to Pinterest!

  • http://www.uhcanohio.org Alyssa Chenault

    We do twice monthly newsletters. I like to get the articles (mini-blogs) down to 200-300 words so I don’t have to create a jump link to the website blog for the full article. I can’t do 5-6 1,600 blogs in our newsletter. I wonder if there’s research about that?

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Oh, good question, Alyssa! I think your intuition here is spot on. Makes a lot of sense to fit as much of the article into the newsletter as possible if you’re sharing multiple stories. I’ll keep this topic in mind as I’m researching, though. Thanks!

      • http://www.uhcanohio.org Alyssa Chenault

        Thanks! I’ll keep a look out!

  • Heiner.Karst

    Great article, thanx mate. My blogs are usually around 1500 words, so I’m comfortable with that. However, I also record and Podcast them, and when I read them they are usually around 10 mins – a little longer than the recommended 7. Any research on Podcast length? Thanx

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Podcast length is a great question! I didn’t look too in-depth for an answer there, but there is some data from Stitcher and a couple other places. I believe the recommendation is 22 minutes.

      http://www.orbitmedia.com/blog/ideal-blog-post-length/

  • Rehash?

    No offense but this seems to be a rehash content from TNW. Saw this last week. Sorry, you just got busted ;)

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Hehe, good eye! We have a partnership with TNW, so some of our original content gets republished over there. I believe this was one of them!

  • http://www.OwenDaniel.com/ Owen Daniel

    Great blog, well presented with an ideal amount of content – thanks for sharing (is this comment too long?) :)

  • Fluffy

    tl;dr

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      :)

  • emily aaron

    Hi Matts!!You can a very good and a simple explanation that we need to stick to. It does help a lot when we share posts and blogs in social medias which helps people to understand in a gist about what we wish to convey. It is one of the best optimization we can carry out.

    http://www.marvelitech.com/web-research/

  • http://www.tuhinzdiary.com/ Tuhin Deshamukhya

    An article worth reading! I had no idea about the things you mentioned here! Thanks for sharing this!

  • http://www.zapstitch.com/ Tejaswi Raghurama

    This is research on steroids! One of the most insightful posts i have ever read. thanks a lot @kevanlee:disqus for taking the time to dive in and share the reports. It’s a treasure.

  • Pixelsnader

    When looking at such graphs, keep in mind to ask whether the data is actually useful. You mention this for the mail open/click rates but it applies to several other graphs.

    The 7 minute per article graph shows a pretty clear trend with a peak, but the SerpIQ one doesn’t really have an upper limit to the amount of words as it’s mostly a triangular graph; what happens with 3000+ or 4000+ characters?

    But the least useful is the one with 8 characters for a domain name. There’s a huge variance across the graph, and only a single average. It would have been much more useful to see the average length for the first 10, second 10, etc and see if there’s a correlation. Or inversely, check the average rank of >5, 5~10, 10~15 and 15~20 character domain names.

    As some extra information; the general ideal line length of text on a screen is between 50 and 75 characters. However, going over that (to, say, 100 characters) will give slightly better reading speed at the cost of feeling less comfortable to readers, but making very short lines (25 characters) will hurt both legibility and comfort.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Wow, such amazing stuff here! Thanks so much for sharing this and being so thorough in your reply. You’re absolutely right about some of the findings – they’re best to be taken as a guideline or a jumping-off point. Love your insight into line length, too! Thanks.

  • http://danpresources.wordpress.com/ Dan Pedersen

    Very informative, thank you. So I guess I should get rid of my long-ass domain name.

  • Anthony Browne

    Ideal length? Long enough to engage the reader and not a word more.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Well said, Anthony!

      (Could have saved myself a couple 1,000 words with that one.) :)

      • Anthony Browne

        Not at all Kevan, I really enjoyed your post and have shared it with my colleagues this morning. It is one of the most concise and well thought out on the subject I’ve seen. Thanks.

  • http://toninelsonmeansbusiness.com/ Toni Nelson

    It’s great to have this information all in one place. I’m going to have to try the 100 characters on Twitter and see if there’s a difference. I agree that 18 minutes is the ideal time for a seminar. Is there any way to use your infographic on my site?

  • http://www.amazon.com/author/stevevera Steve Vera

    Very helpful post, Kevan, thank you! I figure this is useful to have at least have a baseline to shoot for and modify as we see fit. Thanks for the chart, Matt; I saved that puppy. And very nice rebuttal Courtney; very pleasant and disarming while stating your viewpoint. I dig seeing the varying POVs. And I do agree with Missrogue in that content will always be king. Thank you!

  • http://brettjanes.com Brett Janes

    This is interesting, but it could do with analysing what type of engagement the different lengths are getting. Facebook posts that short make me think of status updates such as ‘omg, so annoyed, grr.’ and all the responses are things like ‘u ok hun?’

    I realise that looking at the type of responses would be a massive amount of work, but it would be good to know which are positive and/or useful within these stats.

  • Mariana

    very interesting! Thank you.

  • David

    Interesting stats. Just a couple of quick pointers:

    The 7 minutes = 1,600 words is historical and based on printed material which shows that an adult reads at approx. 250+ wpm. Research into computer-based reading has shown that the read rate on a laptop screen placed 50cm away is 10%-30% slower. So, around 175 wpm. This makes the the ‘ideal’ 7-minute blog closer to 1,200 words.

    There is also no mention here of the Flesch-Kincaid readability scale. It is clear that the choice of vocabulary and sentence structure is going to have an impact on the drop-off rate.

  • http://learnhowtoblog.com.au/ Sean Rasmussen

    Kevan. Your articles are gold. Your massive effort is appreciated.

  • Tom Leonard

    Kevan, where has this been! Wow, what great content backed up by good research. Thanks a ton.

  • http://www.clippingpathbusiness.com/ Clipping Path

    Awesome and good working and very much helpful for me thanks a lot…
    Clipping Path

  • Athar Afzal

    Great advice – thanks for sharing!

  • http://blog.advancedsp.co.za/ Sean Van Staden

    I’ll keep it short… what a WOW article
    Thank you!

  • http://www.advicemedia.co.uk/ Ben @ AdviceMedia

    Many years ago, when I was editor of a magazine aimed at CxO level staff, we did some pretty comprehensive research into the ideal length of content ranging from news to features through to interviews and how to guides.

    We found that if you failed to get the point across in under 3 minutes, your content would be put on to the “I’ll look at it later (read: never)” pile. The result was a focus on high-quality, highly-focused content. Very few features were above 600 words. Those that were longer were broken down into easily skimable and digestable bullet points.

    Let’s get one thing straight. Length≠quality. Granted, different markets have different sweet spots. But if you’re running a business that markets to decision makers in other businesses, chances are you’ll have a lot less than 7 minutes to convince them. And as for consumers? Often, you have a damn sight less time than that. That’s based on over a decade of experience in writing for both markets both commercially and as a journalist.

    By all means, produce long form content. Once someone is engaged, it makes perfect sense to produce content that answers their questions. However, blog posts are not necessarily the best content to convince and convert. In fact, personally, I’d argue they are the worst way to convince and convert. They should be your lead/prospect attraction and capture content.

    At the end of the day, the ideal length is the absolute minimum it takes to get your point and value message across. Anything more is waffle. As French write Antoine de Saint-Exupery said: “Perfection is Achieved Not When There Is Nothing More to Add, But When There Is Nothing Left to Take Away”.

  • Stella Eromonsere-Ajanaku

    Thanks for the very informative and helpful tips! I will keep your tips in mind when I tweet, share on facebook or write my headlines.

  • http://www.technofare.com/ Harish Bali

    Good yardsticks, regarding 55 characters for title tag – in 70% of cases google does not show more than 55 characters and that too with spaces. As mentioned by you it depends upon the font and the pixels. Good post.

  • http://batman-news.com Gerdjan

    Any suggestions for a discussion post on LinkedIn?

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Thanks for the comment! I’ll try to dig into this one for a follow-up post on ideal length! :)

  • Sebastian Stock

    Are there any guidelines regarding the length of a website? I am about to post a new website, have cut back as much extraneous content as possible, but was hoping to get some tips to review before making the new site live.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Hi, Sebastian! Great one! I might have to research this one and include it in a follow-up post. Hope the web design project is going well! :)

  • http://techpurge.com/ Ian Mutuli

    It takes great skill to be able to fit words into the length of titles as per you information, but i’ll definitely give it a try. I have been using what WordPress SEO Yoast recommends, which is 70 characters for all article titles, but again, mine is more like a news magazine so am just wondering if that makes any difference. You may also want to check out this infographic that shows what users are currently sharing on social networks. It’s a good one for strategizing your social media plan as a business or a person. http://www.techpurge.com/pictures-opinions-top-people-share-social-networks-infographic/

  • Mukarram mugal

    great stuff and very helpful for me. thanks to share this research with us.

  • Matthew Geller OD

    Glad to see you tweeted this today. It is a great post, I will send it to my team!

  • http://www.netmix.com djtonyz

    Kevan, good stuff and very useful. I’ve already passed this around to a few Internet marketers and will be using this research in my work. Appreciate the effort.