Shorter is Better: Why Your Readers Prefer Simple Writing

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Writers take note. In the world of content marketing, size matters. Regarding the size of the paragraph, the size of the sentences and the size of the words – shorter is better, according to Nancy Harhut, a speaker at Boston’s 2017 Content Marketing Conference.

Humans Like Shortcuts

In his book, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman outlines how the brain uses shortcuts to navigate the myriad and complex functions it performs on a daily basis. Humans prefer shortcuts as a result of this cognitive “quirk.” Think of this as a way to explain the overwhelming popularity of articles with the word “hack” in the title. People want to shortcut their way through your content. The more ways you can give readers the chance to do this, the more popular your site will be.

Google Likes Short and Sweet, Too

The competition has sifted, and Google has come out on top of the search engines. If you can please the Google bots with your content, you’ll come out on top, too. As Yoast advises, Google recommends headlines of 60 characters or less. This may have more to do with their bot requirements and less to do with live brains, but it’s still good to keep in mind. Now, if shorter headlines are better, it stands to reason that the words that you do use in your content better be pretty special.

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The Magic Words That Draw Readers and Elicit Action

There are certain words that are inherently more valuable than others in content marketing. They are:

  • New
  • Free
  • You
  • Secret

New is valuable because it appeals to the part of us that is always looking for the latest and greatest. Free is valuable because it makes readers think they are getting more than what they have to give. You is valuable because it helps readers relate to your content. Secret is valuable because it implies that the reader is getting something special that other people don’t have access to. So when you use these four powerful (and short) words in conjunction with shortcut content, you’ll enjoy enhanced reader engagement.

Why Shorter is Better for You, Too

Shorter content pieces are better for the content marketer for many reasons.  First, you’ll be able to deliver more content in a shorter amount of time. Deeply researched articles still have their place, of course. But to draw first-time visitors in, you need to grab them in those first 4-8 seconds that they’re willing to spend on your site. If you can do that, they’ll come back for the more in-depth content that you offer (the kind that Google will really reward you for).

In summary, content marketers should focus on helping the brain with its search for shortcuts with short words, headlines, and content that contain those magic four words. It’s not rocket science, but it is necessary to understand a little bit about how our brains work as well as how to woo Google.


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