What’s the first thought that comes to your mind when you think about writing a blog post?
If it’s anyhow related to the length of the blog, you may want to rethink your content marketing strategies.
Some say short, punchy blog posts are the way to go in times of dwindling attention spans and instant gratification.
Some say lengthy, informative content is the king as it appears more authoritative.
What do I say?
I say your content should be long enough to get the message across, but not a word longer. The key here is to serve your audience and not get hung up on what Google or others think.
BUT… and that is a big but (no pun intended), time and again research has shown that long-form content performs better in the SERPS.
Now, before you go ahead and make your articles 5X bigger, take a moment to understand why so many advocate short form content.
“Humans have shorter attention spans than goldfish” – said a headline of an article that I read recently. It turns out that throughout 18 years, the average human attention span has reduced from 12 seconds to 8 seconds. That’s lower than a goldfish!
According to a study done by Microsoft, the rising popularity of smartphones, mobile data, messaging apps, and social media is the cause behind falling attention rates.
Since we now have access to content anywhere and at any time, it’s become tough for us to focus on one subject.
While our civilization is yet to come under the risk of being bested by goldfish in a game of Sudoku, the availability of content 24×7 does bring a new set of challenges to a marketer vying for their audience’s attention.
Call it a double-edged sword, if you will. Today, it’s easy to get someone’s attention, but easier to lose it as well. Shorter blog posts mainly cater as a solution to this dilemma.
But there’s a twist in the tale!
Before you start creating bite-sized content consumable by goldfish, know that a BBC study has proven the “attention span lower than a goldfish” claim as a myth!
According to the study, the whole idea of measuring the average attention span is not of much use.
Especially since no one till date has spoken to a goldfish nor has there been studies that suggest any fish, in general, have unusually short memories or attention spans.
Source Global Research states that the favorable wholesale shift in the view of snackable content being more popular is plain wrong! Their survey about the habits of numerous business people and thought leaders demonstrated that a significant number of them are looking for substantial content pieces.
Even though short articles online remained the most preferred, the survey concluded by saying that every format has its audience. Look at the graph below to know more.
So, Long or Short – What Should I Try?
I’d say long.
But not long for the sake of hitting a specific word limit; long for being packed with value and serving your audience.
If you provide an incredible experience to your audience, they will come back for more!
According to Orbit Media’s survey that included 1000 bloggers, it was found that those who post lengthier articles are likely to see better results. But how long is too long?
Well, according to the same survey, the average length of a blog post as on 2017 was 1142 words, which is higher than that of 2016, when it was 1054 words. Back in 2014, the average was just 808 words.
After studying the trends, you can clearly understand what form of content is superior and what the future of content marketing may look like.
Even though long-form content isn’t inherently higher in quality than their shorter counterparts, it’s easy to see why they get favored more by search engines too – because they can solve problems better.
Now, that you have an idea about WHY long-form content is better, let’s get to learning HOW they can drive more traffic and sales.
Why Long Content Generates More Traffic and Sales
Long content doesn’t only make you a good guy in the eyes of your audience; you also get love from Google and social media.
When a blog covers a diverse range of topics, answers all questions from existing and potential customers in depth, you can bet that it is going to go viral.
Here are the ways a long copy can outperform 500-750 word pieces:
Long content ranks higher in Google search results – many gurus say that. But how does it happen?
When you publish an article that addresses pressing matters of your industry, it will act as the go-to source of all information.
And being an authority on the topic, your article is likely to earn natural backlinks from those who refer to it on their blogs.
High-quality links, coming from authority sites further increase your site’s trust in Google’s eyes and that puts you higher up in search rankings.
Brian Dean, Founder of Backlinko, analyzed a million search results to find out the factors that correlate most with rankings. He discovered that longer content generally outranks short content, making length one of the most compelling factors of high rankings.
He noted that the average word count of a first-page result is 1890 words.
Remember: Correlation is not causation, so don’t always expect to rank on the first page (not immediately at least) by beating your competition in content length.
2. Gets More Social Engagement
Want to create a buzz online? Then create content that people would love to share with their friends. And that’s hard to do unless you double down on providing value by helping your audience address their pain points.
BuzzSumo and Moz teamed up in 2015 to analyze over one million articles, web pages, and posts to determine what aspects influence social shares and backlinks. The analysis revealed that 85% of the total web content consists of less than 1000 words.
They found that long-form content that contains more than 1000 words consistently got higher average shares and natural backlinks.
The research also revealed that most new contents do not generate social shares at all simply because they are not worth sharing. But the content that people do share with their friends turned out to be well-researched articles or opinion pieces.
3. Ranks for Hundreds and Thousands of Keywords
Long form content performs better in 2018, but it was not always like this. Before, you stood a chance of ranking your content on the first page by just writing a 500-word article, stuffed with keywords.
Back then, factors like keyword density mattered more than the actual value a piece of content can provide. It led to a drastic drop in the quality of first-page search results. In other words – people were not finding what they came for.
Google eventually caught up to these bad tactics and rolled out the Panda & Penguin updates that eliminated these low-quality sites for good. But that was in the year 2011 and 2012 respectively.
Till this date, Google’s algorithm has become much smarter at judging not only a content’s quality but also its intent thanks to RankBrain.
So, when you publish a thoroughly researched, long-form article now, the chances are that you’ll automatically rank for hundreds and thousands of related keywords.
Doing this will not only bring more traffic to your site but also increase the likelihood of getting more conversions.
Now, one solid piece of content (3000-4000 words) that answers all the user queries is deemed more valuable than 5-6 short 500-word contents that aim to do the same separately.
4. Builds up Brand Authority
What matters more in SEO – relevance or authority? In the quest to demystify some of Google’s top ranking factors, I set out to understand how the search engine giant ranks its results. I discovered (unsurprisingly) that content from authoritative brands naturally ranks better.
Think Forbes, think Huffington Post, think The Wire Cutter, why do you think their blogs rank automatically on the first page within days (if not hours) of posting? Brand authority is your answer.
There may be hundreds of variables responsible for determining search result positions, but when you pit relevance against authority, the latter wins. What does this mean for you?
Well, like it or not, it means that if you are a newcomer in the online market space, chances are Google is going to take your word as less valuable than someone who has been here a while.
You may have expertise on a given subject, but without authority and trustworthiness, it’s going to be significantly hard to rank for any given keyword. That’s why you must focus on building up a brand that has a loyal group of followers.
And what better way to build up followers than consistently posting detailed, highly actionable guidance that solves your target market’s problems? Long form content is perfect for the job!
To take it one step higher, you can combine it with these proven tips on How To Build Brand Authority in 90 Days.
Does This Mean I Cannot Post Short Blogs Ever?
Not really. Big brands do it all the time and generate a crazy amount of engagement too.
Seth Godin carved a niche for himself by posting short blog posts daily on a wide variety of motivational topics. Seo.com made a post on Seth Godin’s top socially shared posts and let me tell you, many of these topics are between 50 words to 300 words long.
Take a look at the statistics below. And those are from 2016!
How did Seth manage to garner such colossal popularity on social media? By showing up daily and introducing fresh perspectives and ideas that resonate with his audience.
Heck, some of his posts even rank the first page on Google – like “But what will I tell the others?” Try typing the phrase on Google search, and you’ll find the 57-word post ranking #1.
And it’s just not Seth who is killing it with short blog posts. Disney World Parks posts several short blogs every day to give away behind the scenes information, and their fans love it!
Their posts are just over 200 words each on an average, and they garner many Facebook shares, retweets, and pins on Pinterest.
Here’s the catch though – both the examples I stated are highly authoritative figures in their respective industries, with fans around the world. So, they can get away with doing many things an average person or a company cannot.
I’m not saying this to conclude on a negative note; it’s just the reality. The sooner you accept it, the better. You’ll probably do great with short content when you reach Seth Godin’s or Disney’s level; till then, keep working on writing detailed, long-form posts.
Long Form vs. Short Form Content - What Experts Prefer?
To make this copy more compelling, I reached out to a group of blogging experts, with different backgrounds, who have been in the business for years. I urged them to share their personal experience and results with both, short form and long form content, and which performed better.
Let’s have a look at what these experts have to say:
In general, I’ve had more success ranking long-form content (anywhere from 2,000 – 10,000 words) for Google searches, but articles on the longer side of that range haven’t done as well regarding conversion. My most effective content for converting (sales of my digital products and for promoting other people’s products as an affiliate) tends to be somewhere in the 2,000 – 5,000 word range.
Although I do pay attention to word count, I’m not big on forcing myself to write content at a specific length. I prefer to focus on creating the best content possible, regardless of how long or short it is. Depending on the type of content, visitors may prefer something short that they can read very quickly, or they may prefer something longer and more in-depth that will teach them everything they want to know.
You should think about what the user will be looking for when they search for the keywords that you’re targeting and give them the content that will give them what they are looking for.
Google aims to provide the best search results possible, so if your content is the best available, regardless of whether it is 2,000 words or 5,000 words, you’ll have a good chance to rank well.
Regarding social media shares, I haven’t found a strong correlation between the number of shares and the length of the content. I’ve found that having a compelling, attention-grabbing title is more important than the length of the content.
What works for marketing in 2019? As a Lead technology Coordinator for a New York Web Design Agency, marketing for our business and our clients is an enormous part of my teams’ job and mine.
Here are some reasons why I believe short form content works better.
With the development of technology, smart phones have become our main source of communicating with the use of text messaging, social media apps, videos, Siri, email, etc. People are constantly searching for products and businesses through their smart phones in their local area while on the go and this will continue to be popular in 2019. Mobile friendly, responsive sites achieve higher rankings in google search, mostly while searching on a mobile device.
For many businesses and their customers, mobile friendly sites are much faster, easier, and more affordable. This will continue to become an even bigger trend in 2019 as smartphones continue to evolve. Most people who are searching for information on their phone want something that is short and simple to read. Therefore, a short form of content will make much more sense when it comes to marketing.
People don’t want to read too much unnecessary information while quickly searching something on their phone, sharing information on social media apps, or reading an email. Content that will make it more difficult for the reader to find what they are looking for quickly, will most likely be ignored. Therefore, short form content will quickly grab the user’s attention and work better.
Along with the development of technology came the creation of voice search. This new trend of digital assistance has increased over the past year and will continue to in 2019. Users can ask devices like Alexa or Siri the answers to their search just by verbally asking them a question. These devices usually give a short response with a short list to choose from.
Many marketers use SEO to get their business at the top of google pages. But with the use of these devices, optimization will be a lot more critical. These devices are very different than your typical keyword search. This means marketers will have to change how they share their content. This will include making their content short, simple, and more in a Q and A type form.
Doing so will make it much easier for digital devices to share content when being asked a question. If your content is long form and shares too much information, applications like Siri and Alexa will not understand how to distribute your content to their users. This is another reason why short form content will work better for marketing in 2019.
In terms of ranking high in Google search results, long-form content is far more effective than short form. According to internet marketing guru Neil Patel, the average word count of a Google first page result was 1,890 words (in 2016).
Another reason why long-form content ranks better in the search results than short-form content is a topical authority. With the Hummingbird algorithm, Google is now able to understand the breadth and depth of any given topic.
In a nutshell, the better you cover a subject, the higher your page will rank in the search results. It’s hard to write an article with high topical authority in under 2000 words. So that’s another reason why long-form content outranks short form content.
In my blog posts, I aim for long-form content with high topical authority, and I usually manage to rank on Page 1 of Google for my chosen keyword.
In summary, I believe the best content marketing strategy in 2019 will be long-form content that ranks high in Google.
Lindsay van Clief
In my experience, there is really no secret to long or short content. I have seen extreme successes and failures with both. Often the biggest shortcomings I have seen with our contributors is the pre-determination of the length of the content before understanding the content itself.
If you can explain your point in a few sentences or paragraphs – great. If not, then take your time to make sure it is exactly what you want.
Do not make it longer or shorter than it needs to be. The trick is that regardless of the length you need to make the content scannable and easy to read. If the piece looks too daunting no one will bother to read it.
Keep it entertaining and manageable. Use headings, sub-headings, bold or underlined keywords. Make it easy for your reader to stay engaged and wow them with your content.
It depends on your goal. If you’re trying to organically rank on search engines, then long-form content is the way to go. Long-form content has an array of other qualities besides SEO.
In fact, this method of content marketing establishes you as an authority and is more likely to increase engagement. With that being said, there one big difference between successful and unsuccessful content: QUALITY.
If you have a 10,000-word article about how all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, only Wendy will read it, and she’s just going to skim it. Real engagement and shares come from quality, not quantity. If that means your post is under a thousand words, then so be it.
Online length tends to represent quality, but if it doesn’t need to be lengthy, by all means, keep it short.
Tips on Writing Long-Form Copy That Doesn’t Suck!
Okay, I can write over 5,000 words on this topic, but for the sake of brevity, I’m going to give you the highlights in 150 words or less. I used these words of advice to grow my blog naturally ever since it went live in 2016. Here we go:
- Time spent doing research is more important than time spent writing.
- Aim to make your posts as detailed as possible while introducing a fresh perspective.
- Make your content emotionally compelling and include CTAs to encourage more shares.
- Stay far away from using misleading or clickbait-y titles as they do nothing to boost your credibility.
- It’s okay to monetize your content, but not at the risk of sacrificing user experience. Don’t litter blog pages with ads or affiliate links.
- Write a lot of case studies, in-depth guides, opinion pieces that are exclusive to your industry.
- Give credit where it’s due – that’s not only an honorable thing to do but will earn you friends in high places.
- Quality always triumphs over quantity, and user experience always beats the desire to earn quick money.
To conclude, I’ll say that the question “How long should my content be?” is wrong. Short form content can work for few but not for everyone. It depends on the type of business you’re running and how much information is required.
You should rather ask yourself “How one can offer more value to their audience?” There lies the key to finding success with content.
What’s your take on the subject? Which one do you prefer – long-form or short-form content? Or is there any sweet point between those that have worked great for you?
Either way, I would love to hear your thoughts about the topic and discuss more. Do leave a comment to initiate the conversation. Also, socialize this post on Twitter and Facebook to let your followers learn more about the most heated content marketing question – “long-form vs. short-form content.”
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