- Should you try to come up with a certain amount of words for your website content pages and blog articles? In general, no.
- SLS Consulting has found that there are three factors for effective web writing: being informative, being accessible, and being concise.
- The best advice for writing content is to write until you’ve said all you have to say about the subject, while not forgetting about your readers!
If you’re the kind of person who produces (or assigns) content for a website, there’s a tendency to write (or request) a minimum number of words for an assignment. But—is word count truly important in producing quality web content? Or is it, ultimately, counterproductive? Let’s take a look at this question.
When we at SLS think of word-count requirements, we think of writing assignments in grade school, junior high, and high school. Teachers use minimum word counts to ensure that students fully explain their understanding of a subject, rather than simply stating an answer. For instance, a teacher’s prompt might be, “Why did the Allies win World War II?” A lazy junior high student might answer: “The Allies broke the Enigma Code, Germany lost a lot of men invading the Soviet Union, the U.S. entered the war, and nuclear bombs were dropped on Japan.”
Sure, that sentence states some widely accepted theories, but it doesn’t display the student’s overall understanding of what led to the Axis powers’ downfall. What the teacher wants to know is, why did breaking the Enigma Code gave the Allies the upper hand, why was Germany’s decision to invade the U.S.S.R a grave mistake, how did America’s relatively late entry into WWII tip the scales, and why did the U.S. come to the controversial decision to use nuclear weapons?
But, ensuring a lazy teenager has been listening during lectures, and informing and enticing legal clients, are two entirely different things.
When potential clients visit your website, they want their questions answered simply and sufficiently. When someone is looking for an attorney or law firm, he’s usually in a time of crisis. He’s been injured, lost a loved one, been arrested, or is planning his estate. People in crisis want concise answers to their questions. They want to know if they have a case, what kind of compensation they are reasonably entitled to, and what they need to do to get things underway.
In such cases, brevity is the ultimate key to success.
Many producers of web content think that lengthy pages will impress potential clients, implying that they have extensive knowledge on a subject, and, therefore, have a lot to say. Maybe. A Forbes contributor chimed in on the subject to say that some sources believe 600-700 words is ideal for SEO purposes—but counteracts that claim by pointing out that pages with 300 words can hit the top of Google search. It really depends on what the page is saying.
The reality is that people looking for an attorney want answers; and they want those answers immediately. At SLS, we’ve found that effective web content is informative, accessible, and to the point.
- Informative: Tell them the facts. They may have a claim, they may not have a claim; but they need to talk to you to find out, because the legal system is full of subtleties that can make or break a case. Don’t discourage them, but don’t sugarcoat things, either.
- Accessible: The average potential client isn’t going to understand a lot of legal language. Non-attorneys get most of their legal knowledge from TV shows. Speak to them in a language they can understand. There’s no reason to use phrases like “party of the first part” or to cite legal codes without explaining exactly how they apply to your readers in plain English. That will only confuse or intimidate a potential client.
- To the point: Don’t make the reader do too much work. A webpage is not an impressionistic novel, where you’re trying to convey a rich visual experience. That said, you don’t want your web content to read like an instruction manual. You want to be personable, and write with the voice of a friend or confidant.
In our experience, a required word count often leads to “padding,” which most of us were guilty of at some point in school. Padding is adding unnecessary words or redundant descriptions—some examples include in order that, obviously, the fact of the matter is—to reach the required number of words for an assignment.
All padding does is frustrate the reader, making him go back to Google and type in “California car crash attorney”…and choose someone else.
Find that sweet spot between what you mean to say and what potential clients need to hear, no matter how long it is, and you should see results.