Long-Form Content vs. Short-Form Content – The Ideal Blog Post Length
Before you can consider whether long-form content or short-form content is right for your business, it is important to understand the difference between the two. As you learn how to write long-form content, you will find that this writing tends to be in-depth, high-quality work that goes beyond just cursory information on the subject.
We all know content is king, but does short-form or long-form content rule all? While the ideal blog post length depends on the type of content you are creating and what you hope to accomplish, there are some definite advantages of long-form content. Take a closer look at what defines long-form content, why it matters for SEO, exactly how long your content length should be, how to create content and how to promote and distribute your content.
What Is Long-Form Content?
Before you can consider whether long-form content or short-form content is right for your business, it is important to understand the difference between the two. Traditionally, long-form content is considered to be any content longer than 1,200 words. Today, long-form content refers to any content from that length all the way up to 10,000-word articles. However, it is critical to note that long-form content is not just about total word length. As you learn how to write long-form content, you will find this writing tends to be in-depth, high-quality work that goes beyond just cursory information on the subject.
Long-form content is characterized by expert knowledge, in-depth information and quality writing. To start, your content should not just summarize the information on a topic that can be found on any number of other pages on the web. Basic summaries and information on virtually any topic can be found anywhere, so your content needs to be distinguished from the rest. Perhaps the content is heavily researched, drawing on new information. Or, content might focus on the expert opinion of a professional in the field, setting the standard for knowledge in a particular area.
Long-form content is not the place for “listicles” that count down the 100 best ways to do something. Instead, it is about a deep dive into a topic or an area of knowledge, so it would be best suited as a way to explore just one of those items on the list in a full, comprehensive way. Deep analysis and information that is not commonly available is key to thorough long-form content. Finally, long-form content is akin to a magazine or newspaper article. It is often read by people who are focused, rather than by people just scanning for the highlights. With that in mind, your content needs to be well written according to the highest quality standards.
Why Is Long-Form Content Important?
Since long-form content is in-depth and typically more extensive, it can also take more time and resources to write. Knowing that, some individuals and businesses wonder whether long-form content is really that important. Although it is possible to find success without long-form content, there are undoubtedly a number of benefits that stem from this type of content. Notably, some advantages include increased SEO value, more shares, more conversions, a company’s increased reputation as a thought leader in the field and serving as a differentiator within the industry.
Long-form content does have an advantage over short-form content from an SEO perspective. The length is one of the relevant factors which helps determine SEO success. There is no exact answer for how long content should be for SEO benefits, but it should answer all relevant questions a user has regarding a specific search request. With longer content, of course you have a better chance to cover all those questions. But quality should always come before the quantity! With in-depth,high-quality content you have better chances of getting more backlinks and receiving higher search engine rankings. You will receive more organic traffic, and your visibility will rise. Google and similar search engines also track user signals, such as how long a person spends on a page. Longer content takes more time to read, so the user signals for a longer article will be more impressive as a result. Nevertheless, you should always keep in mind the user intent and try to think from a user’s perspective: What would you expect to find behind a search query and how long should it be?
Creating long-form content is certainly not a guarantee that something will go viral. However, we do know users tend to share information that is helpful, valuable or otherwise informative to them and their peers. When you spend the time and effort it takes to create high-quality long-form content, you are making it more likely that users will read through your content and then want to pass it along to others. For that reason, long-form content is often shared via links in emails, social media or just by word of mouth among a specific audience.
Ultimately, the goal of almost every type of content is to lead to a conversion. Depending on your business model, that conversion might be signing up for an email list, pledging a donation or making a purchase. Whatever the ideal conversion for you, the ideal article length may end up being longer than you expect. By the time a user has read through thousands of words, they are likely to be convinced that you know what you are talking about, which can lead to a higher conversion rate. In addition, there is an option to gate or protect some or all of your long-form content, requiring individuals to enter an email address or even payment information to access the remainder.
Improved Reputation as a Thought Leader
Every business wants to be the best in their respective field. One way to encourage that perception is by putting your expertise on display in long-form content. When the average blog post length is just a few hundred words, publishing something much longer conveys your extensive knowledge of the industry. Long-form content can establish your ranking as a thought leader and differentiate your brand or website from others that provide shorter, less comprehensive content.
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How Long Should Content Be for SEO?
How many words should a blog post be? This is a common question, especially when you factor in search engine optimization. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as the minimum or ideal word count for SEO success. The right length for your content will depend on factors such as user intent and content type. However, there are some trends that can serve as rough guidelines as you plan out future long- and short-form content.
User intent should be a major determining factor in your content creation. Think about the content you are creating and then imagine how you want a user to interact with that content. Are you providing users with the address to your restaurant in response to the query “pizza restaurant address in my town?” For simpler, more information-based searches like this, long-form content would be inappropriate. After all, users simply want to get the answers to their questions as quickly as possible, so short content that can be easily scanned is key. On the other hand, users who are searching for longer, more in-depth answers will usually prefer long-form content. Imagine a person searches for “how to train for your first marathon.” If they pull up a search engine result with a 200-word response, they will probably move on until they find something with more information, perhaps a long-form article of a few thousand words. Let your intended user experience guide the length of your content.
Content type is also a big factor in determining its ideal length. An online retail store, for example, might have product descriptions that are shorter. This is entirely appropriate for the content type. On the other hand, the same retail store might have a much longer article describing the difference between in-ground and above-ground swimming pools as well as the pros and cons of each. Readers will likely stick around for 3,000 words on swimming pools because they are interested in building their own pool, but product descriptions of pool chlorine will need to be significantly shorter or risk losing the attention of the reader.
Finally, it may be helpful to look at trends for word counts in online content. For example, the average word count of a website on the first page of Google’s search engine results page is 1,447 words, with position 1 results trending towards 2,000 words. There is no definitive proof that long-form content outperforms short-form content, but it does provide more opportunities to include links and long-tail keywords, both of which can have a positive impact on search engine results and rankings.
How to Write Long-Form Content
Now that you know why your company needs to invest in long-form content, you will need to create that content for yourself. Writing this type of content can be challenging, especially for those without experience writing longer essays, articles or white papers. Fortunately, there are a number of tips that can help you focus in on topics and create effective, helpful long-form pieces for your audience.
1. Define a Primary Goal for Your Content
First, decide why you are writing the content and what its purpose will be. Are you drafting a comprehensive article about something in your industry, or are you addressing current events? Do you expect readers to read through your content from start to finish, or is it a kind of reference guide to come back to multiple times? Think carefully about this step, as it will guide and inform future decisions about the length and style of your content.
2. Choose a Specific Topic
Next, narrow down your content to a specific topic. Ideally, come up with a title and a brief outline. What will you talk about, and are you knowledgeable about the topic? If not, consider whether it is really the best topic for your company. Make sure the topic is relevant, and then consider how it can build your business, increase your traffic or otherwise lead to the desired conversions on your digital platform.
3. Meet User Intent With Your Content
Imagine, for a moment, you are reading your planned content from the other side. How do you expect users to interact with or experience your content? Will it reach a niche audience of industry experts who will pick up on the finer points of your text? Or, will it be highly ranked and popular in search engines, appealing to a wide range of users? Your content could be a lengthy article cited by researchers, or it might be a persuasive sales piece helping people take the plunge and decide to purchase a certain type of product. Make sure you understand how the long-form content should read and what you expect users to get from that reading.
4. Plan Out Format, Length and Appearance
Again, there is no recommended word count for SEO success among long-form content. That being said, it is wise to plan out in advance how long you expect your content to be. There is a big difference between a 1,500-word article and a 10,000-word article. Is the topic you have chosen big enough to warrant thousands of words? Then, consider the format of the article and whether it should be broken down into categories, turned into a list or otherwise structured a certain way for maximum user benefit.
5. Write Content or Outsource the Writing
Last, but certainly not least, comes the step of actually writing the content. In some cases, you might want to take on this challenge yourself. However, it can also be more efficient to outsource the writing while providing the author with all of the guidance you have compiled through completing the steps listed above. Instead of crafting long-form content in-house, outsourcing it to a professional writer means you can ensure that the final product is easy to read, appealing to your desired audience and of the highest possible quality. If you go this route, be sure to provide plenty of information and structure to the author you work with.
How to Promote Long-Form Content
Creating long-form content takes time, resources and effort. Once all the work is complete, you need to promote your content correctly in order to make the most of your efforts. There are many promotion options available, but across the board it is helpful to be clear about the length of your content to potential readers. Advance notice of length means that people will allocate time to thoroughly read it if they are interested, spending more time on the page as a result.
1. Social Media Promotion
Social media is a great way to share long-form content. However, do not feel limited to just sharing the headline once. Instead, pick out interesting quotes or surprising statistics and share those along with the link to your content. This allows you to share the same content multiple times without getting too repetitive for casual social media users who are simply browsing your profile. You may also want to create an infographic to accompany the content as a quick, digestible way to share information and capture the attention of your audience.
2. Email Newsletters
Another popular way to promote long-form content is with an email newsletter. It is very likely you already have a customer, donor or subscriber list available. These are individuals who have already expressed an interest in what you do, which makes them the prime audience for your long-form content. Keep in mind you do not need to share the entire piece of content within the newsletter. Instead, lead with a paragraph or just a few interesting tidbits and then provide readers with a link so they can click through and read more.
3. Browser Push Notifications
After investing heavily in high-quality long-form content, push notifications can be yet another way to promote your work. Push notifications can engage users who are already familiar with your website, products or services.
If budget allows for the paid promotion of your long-form content, advertisements can certainly bring more eyes to your content. However, it is so important to only spend money on niche audiences who will recognize the value in your content and find it useful. For example, it would not make sense to blanket Facebook with advertisements leading to your long-form content about new changes to dental marketing practices. If you can target your audience, of course, then it may be very worthwhile to pay more per click if each click is a professional within the dental industry.
5. Make Sharing Simple
If your long-form content is truly excellent, then readers will want to share it on their own. This is one of the best possible ways to share content because it costs you nothing and can have a tremendous impact within the right social networks. To make sharing simple, consider including buttons on the bottom of your posts that allow readers to quickly share the content on their preferred social network or even by email. Eliminating one of the steps for them can increase the chance of organic content sharing.
Conclusion: No Ideal Blog Post Length
At the end of the day, every piece of content is unique. There is no one ideal length for either short- or long-form content. It always depends on the user intent and the keywords you are targeting. What we do know is high-quality long-form content usually receives more backlinks and higher rankings. It is an opportunity to showcase in-depth industry knowledge and can be incredibly valuable to your audience. Whether you write your content or outsource it, long-form content can be a key way to increase traffic, conversions and brand loyalty.
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