Today, there’s a debate raging in the world of content. This discussion hinges on long- vs. short-form content, and which is better. If you’ve been working in the content marketing landscape for a while, you’ve likely heard it. While the long-form option seems to convert and perform better, we also live in a world where human attention spans are shorter than those of goldfish, and expediency is key.
So what’s the answer?
If you’re going to create content, should you make it long or short? And why? Today, we’re going to break it all down to help you decide which types of content will be better for your company.
What is Long-Form Content?
First things first, what defines ‘long-form content’? If you guessed that it’s content with a long word-count, you’re right. According to WordStream, the term refers to any blog, article, eBook, or other piece of writing that is 1,200 words or longer. Bear in mind, though, that some other sources debate this, applying the title “long-form content” to pieces with as few as 700 words or as many as 1,800.
8 Big Benefits of Long-Form Content
The benefits of long-form content are many. In addition to standing out in a world that’s primarily dominated by shorter, snappier pieces, long-form content dives deeper and covers the topics, questions, and issues readers care about more comprehensively. Here are a few of the biggest perks of long content:
It Helps Brand You As An Authority
The longer your content, the larger the knowledge requirement for its author. It’s virtually impossible to write a 10,000-word piece on a topic you know nothing about.
As such, readers who search for and find long-form content online typically come to view the brand that created it as an authority on the topic. Over time, this perception of authority will encourage the reader to share it and refer to the brand for future information.
Take Neil Patel, for example, who is something of a king in the world of long-form content. Patel has stated that all his posts are more than 4,000 words, and his company has branded itself as a go-to for massive, long-form guides. Because of this strategy, NeilPatel.com earns more than 100,000 visitors a month!
It Gives You Something To Promote
While you can (and should) promote short-form pieces, the long-form variety provides more fodder for promotion. If you use platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn, creating long-form content is an excellent way to populate your profiles. When you create a long-form guide, for example, you can build an entire campaign on its presence.
From creating ads to developing landing pages, long-form content provides the foundation you need to promote your material and your brand across all your social platforms.
It’s Easier To Re-Use
If you’re creating content, you should also be re-using it. After all, it takes a long time to develop, proofread, and publish. If you’re only sharing it once, you’re not getting as much value from your work as you could be. Luckily, long-form content offers you more avenues to re-use the material down the road.
A long blog, for example, can be broken down into a SlideShare presentation, while an eBook can become a series of Tweets or a “master class” series of Instagram posts. The longer your content is in the beginning, the more you’ll be able to get from it at the end.
It Converts Better
According to Search Engine Land (citing a Highrise Marketing study), home pages featuring long-form content enjoyed conversion rates 37% higher than their short-form counterparts. What’s more, Crazy Egg reported boosts of 30% in their conversion rate when they started using long-form.
Wondering why long-form content reaps these results? The answer is simple: people love value, and long-from options offer it in spades. That makes people want to convert.
It Provides Fodder For Your Email Campaign
The cardinal sin of email marketing is spamming your readers. If you’ve been looking for a reason to get in touch, though, creating long-form content is a great excuse. Again, your readers will value things that provide relevance and in-depth information.
And if you email them to tell them about the 10,000-word guide you’ve just created on a topic that’s relevant to them, they’ll likely respond by downloading it, sharing it, and interacting with the rest of your site’s subject matter in the process. It’s a win-win.
It Ranks Higher In SERPs
According to a serpIQ study (reported by Kissmetrics), the average length of an article or post that lands in the top 10 spaces of Google’s SERPs is 2,000 words. Again, this can be explained by readers’ love for value and relevance. Since long-form content offers more of it, users click, share, and read more often, which helps long-form material rank in the top 10.
Readers Spend More Time With It
Looking to decrease your bounce rate? Long-form content is an excellent way to do it. When you create in-depth material that’s well-written and relevant to your audiences, people will spend more time on your site.
As an added perk, more pages in your article or blog post means more page views and a lower bounce rate. To put this another way: when you spend more time creating your content, your readers will spend more time interacting with it.
It Earns Social Shares
Think the only content that gets shared on social is short, BuzzFeed-style material? Think again. Kissmetrics reports that long-form material will perform better on social media than a 700-word post on a blog.
What is Short-Form Content?
By now, it should be pretty obvious that short-form content is the opposite of long-form content. Defined as material with a word count of less than 1,000, it is designed to be simple, snappy, and easy for readers to process.
Top 5 Benefits of Short-Form Content
While most companies are trending toward long-form content today, that’s not to say that short-form material doesn’t have its perks. Here are the top five:
It’s Easy To Scan
Today, people don’t typically read an article from top to bottom. Instead, they scan. Short-form material helps them do this. By keeping the length in check and providing a series of bullet points or lists, short-form material is easy for people to digest quickly.
Short-form content has historically been the sharing favorite of social media. Easy to swap online and talk about, short content is ideal for anyone who wants to boost social shares.
Short-form content can be mobile-friendly, but, then again, so can long-form content. According to Parsley.com, articles with high word counts earn more engagement from readers on mobile platforms.
It Wants To Go Viral
Short content (thin list posts) lends itself easily to virality, which can be a great strategy for anyone looking to expand their brand’s reach.
It’s Fun To Write And Read
Readers who aren’t looking for involved and in-depth pieces will appreciate the fun, lighthearted nature of some short pieces.
Long- vs. Short-Form Content: Which is Better?
So now we go to the golden question: is long- or short-form content better?
The answer is: it depends on your goals.
While long-from content is undoubtedly better for building authority, re-using material down the road, and earning engagement through hard facts, in-depth research, and social shares, short-form content can act as valuable filler material for brands looking to build out or enhance their content strategy.
In fact, the most successful digital companies on the web use a mixture of both long- and short-form content.
If you’re wondering which type you should be focusing more of your attention on, though, ask yourself these questions:
What is Your Company’s Primary Goal?
If you’re looking to dominate your niche and stand out as an authority in your industry, it’s time to start investing in long-form content. If you’re just trying to earn fast social shares or promote brand recognition, however, you might benefit from a well-thought-out short-form strategy, as well.
Defining your company’s primary goal is the first step in determining whether you should focus primarily on short- or long-form content.
What is Your Brand’s Personality?
While Neil Patel produces massive guides that earn thousands of shares and likes, Seth Godin produces 200-300-word blogs that receive virtually the same results.
The difference is brand personality. Defining yours will help you determine where and how to invest in content.
What do you Want the Content to do?
Next, you’ll need to determine the goal of your content. Is it to entertain your readers or inform them? While short-form will be better for the former, long-form is ideal for the latter. Again, most brands use a mixture of both strategies, so you may find yourself switching back and forth.
The Case for Long-Form Content
While there’s no doubt that short-form content still has a place in the world of digital marketing, long-form content has risen as the preferred method for branding yourself, earning an audience, and keeping it engaged down the road. By providing the space to brand yourself as an authority and share relevant facts, figures, and stats with your audience, long-form content flies in the face of our instant-gratification world and shows that marketers willing to zig while everyone else zags can earn massive benefits from content today.