Web Copywriter’s Guide to Word and Character Counts
It doesn’t matter if you’re a blogger or a corporate writer, your typical days have you crafting content of all kinds, from meta titles to Tweets, in an effort to promote your company or brand. And as you take into account various factors that come into play, do you think about word counts? What’s the right length for a press release, for example? What about a Facebook post? Are there general guidelines you can use?
To help answer those questions, here’s a quick list of the character counts you need to get the job done online!
Up to 65 characters.
To put it simply, meta titles matter because of search engines. Search engines, from Google to Bing, Yahoo to Ask.com, will use a page’s meta title as its title in search results. But while you can make a title as long as you like on your website, the search engines will only pull in a certain amount of characters. For Bing, this means 65 characters, including spaces; for Google and Ask.com, 69 characters, including spaces; and for Yahoo, up to 72 characters with spaces (source: Sage Lewis). Therefore, to ensure your entire title is read by the greatest number of search engines, keep it under 66 total characters.
Keep it under 160 characters.
Like meta titles, meta descriptions are valuable because they determine what shows up in search results—in this case, as the description under a title. Most experts consider the right length for a meta description to be under 160 characters, as that’s what Google typically will show. It’s also the amount set by popular WordPress plugin All-in-One SEO Pack.
Nonetheless, Aviva Blumstein of Search Engine People makes an interesting point that search engines like Google will also tailor search result descriptions to the keywords users type in. In fact, Google may draw from up to the first 265 characters of your post to create search results, adjusting which 160ish characters are shown based on which words users are searching for.
What does this mean for you? In addition to crafting meta descriptions within 160 characters, you should also be sure to work your most important keywords in the first 265 or so characters of a page/post.
Up to 140 characters.
With Twitter, the name of the game is brevity. Every Tweet must be under 140 characters—not words, not letters, but characters—in order to publish. While at first glance, such constraints might seem limiting to most writers, the truth is, Twitter represents tremendous potential to learn how to better be concise. According to Jennifer Blanchard of CopyBlogger, “Crafting a message for Twitter requires you to ‘pump up’ your verbs (replacing adverbs and adjectives with them), and discover a better, clearer and more concise way to say what you want to say.”
Facebook Status Messages
Longer—as in, more than 140 characters, to encourage interaction.
When it’s as easy as it is to cross-post on social networks, many users will publish the same update to both Twitter and Facebook, meaning their Facebook updates will be within the 140-character limit of Twitter standards. According to at least one study, there may be more short posts out there on Facebook, but it’s the longer updates (over 140 characters) that draw the most interaction. In other words, to promote discussion and user engagement, use the words you need to get across an idea.
300 to 500 words.
Typically speaking, press releases get read in a hurry, and what’s more, whether or not a media professional will even read a given press release gets decided in moments. What this means for you as a press release writer is that you need to get your message across quickly and clearly. Most sources recommend between 300 and 500 words: anything shorter than that, and it’s hard to convey your full message, but anything longer than that, and there’s a good chance nobody will be reading it.
So what about you in your regular Web writing—are these character and word counts in line with what you’re already doing? What other types of writing require certain lengths of content online?