Inbound vs. Outbound Content

The world changed with the advent of the Internet. All of a sudden, information and content became instantly accessible, just at the click of a mouse. It seems like everyone is talking about content marketing these days as if it’s some kind of newfangled industry tactic. But in 1999, Seth Godin was already writing about the importance of a content-centered marketing strategy, and it’s still true: content remains king.

DOMO reports that Internet users produce over 347 blog posts and send over 200 million emails every minute of the day. With all of this noise, how can brands increase visibility of, and engagement with their content? Brand new research indicates that content length plays a key role in how much content ultimately resonates with customers.

But before we talk about better practices, we need to keep a few things in mind: not all content engagement is the same. We have to first break down content into two categories: inbound and outbound. Inbound content is used for SEM conversions, whereas outbound content is used in email campaigns. This simple classification makes a huge difference in the mindset of the consumer and the size of your content.

Inbound Content: Why Longer Is Better

For inbound content, you have a person searching for help. They are finding your content while doing research for a topic. They are searching out an answer, and you popped up in the middle of the search. During this scenario, the consumer actively wants to engage. This means they have dedicated time to learn, which dictates a longer form of your content in order to answer all of their questions.

When someone finds your content from an inbound search, and you ask or her to fill out a form to gain access to your content, you are in a negotiation with the person. You ask for an email address, with the promise of delivering valuable content in return. For you to win the negotiation and the email lead, you have to provide content that seems to be worth the email address. This is why longer-form content usually works in this context. The longer and more helpful your content seems to be, the more value it appears to have to the consumer, and the more likely you are to drive an action.

Shorter-Form Content As an Outbound Strategy

For outbound content, the consumer’s perception of your brand and your content is very different. You are being disruptive to the person’s day by sending her an email and proposing to offer some value that she didn’t seek out. People will still engage with large documents via outbound channels; however, many people just want content to be quick and easily digestible when it’s coming to them through an outbound platform. For example, a quick personal development piece would fall into this category.

What the Numbers Say

Before you decide whether that piece of content needs to be a detailed e-book or a brief two-pager, consider the numbers. I recently conducted a survey of 300+ B2B buyers that yielded two important statistics:

  • 66 percent of B2B buyers are looking for short-form content either daily, weekly, or monthly.
  • 70 percent of B2B buyers say they prefer content to be under five pages long.

So should all content be under five pages? No, it shouldn’t. Instead of thinking that your content should forever stay below the five-page mark, these numbers point to the fact that data consumers want their content to be targeted and appropriately detailed or brief according to their needs. Disruptive content needs to be easy to download and absorb in a short window of time, while content found through search can be longer and more comprehensive.

A five-page e-book might not be as attractive on a PPC conversion as a 20-page e-book, but the shorter content might perform better in a nurturing campaign. So when creating content, always factor in where the content will ultimately live as you plan the piece’s scope and length. Keep your content targeted to its purpose – and keep the length tailored to that goal – and your engagement rates will increase as your bounce rates go down.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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