Long form vs short form content - which one is right for your business?

 How to build a website for your business.

In these days of snappy status updates, GIFs, infographics and the like, it’s easy to believe that short form content is the only way to get your business message across. Our attention spans have all but disappeared, right? There’s no way we’d bother reading a blog post over 500 words!

Or would we? Actually, when you look at the data, that’s not quite true. Long form content - usually defined as being above 2,000 words and often many more - is making something of a comeback.

The benefits of long form content

There are three key reasons why more businesses are starting to invest in long form content.

1) Improved search rankings

Long form content tends to rank more highly on search engines, especially Google, making it great for driving organic traffic. According to a study by serpIQ, if you look at the top 10 highest ranking pages, the average word count is over 2,000.

Part of the reason for this is that the longer people stay on a page, the more valuable Google believes the content to be and the higher it will therefore be ranked. When Wordstream started experimenting with long form content, the average time people spent on their site tripled.

In particular, longer articles help you rank for long tail keywords - in other words, the three or four word phrases that really help people who are looking specifically for your kind of business to find you. Which means you won’t just get more people visiting your site, but more of the right people.

2) More social shares

According to a study by BuzzSumo and Moz, the longer a published article, the more shares it will get. This works right up to the most extreme lengths, with the highest number of shares correlating with posts of 3,000 to 10,000 words.

3) Better conversion rates

Long form content is also good at converting. When CrazyEgg did an experiment with long form content, they found that their conversion rates went up by 30%. While not everyone will read until the end of your 3,000 word article, those who do are much more likely to drop you a line than those who have skimmed through 600 words, because they'll be the really engaged ones who are ready to buy.

When to use long form content

To say that long form content is important is not to dismiss short form altogether, or suggest that you abandon anything other than articles of 2,000 words or more. But you do at the very least need to consider whether long form content could benefit your business.

As we’ve already discussed, long form content can help you:

  • Improve your search rankings
  • Drive organic traffic
  • Increase social sharing
  • Establish yourself as an expert
  • Boost conversion rates

However, it is likely to be most effective if you:

  • Have a new or complex product or service that needs some explaining
  • Have a product or service with a high price point requiring a longer decision-making process
  • Are working within the B2B market where buying cycles can be long and have many obstacles

You’ll also need to be willing and able to invest the time and effort (or budget) in researching and writing genuinely excellent long form content.

When to use short form content

The problem with long form content is that it takes a fair bit of effort. You need to be a good writer to keep someone’s attention for that long, and you’ll have to take time to research your topic well so that you add maximum value.

And it isn’t a blanket answer for all businesses in all sectors. If you’re selling burgers to teenagers, you probably don’t need to write a thesis extolling the virtues of the quarter pounder or set out the fascinating foodie history of the sesame bun over 3,000 words.

Short form content is perfect for your business if you:

  • Have a relatively inexpensive product or service
  • Have a product or service that is well established and doesn’t need much explaining
  • Need to make your point quickly e.g. on social media or in an advert
  • Need to produce frequent high volumes of content
  • Have an audience that is extremely time poor
  • Don’t have the time or skills to write long articles* 

Getting the balance

It’s worth remembering that the debate about long form vs short form isn’t purely about numbers. Because length for the sake of length is pointless - as we always say, you don’t need many words, just the right ones. In the end, it’s about how much value you can add to your audience.

Ultimately, what will drive the success of your content is and always will be quality and value. Only by delivering this will you please both people and search engines, attracting the right readers, keeping them engaged, generating shares and, with luck, making sales.

(*You could, of course, get someone else to write them for you - and if you're looking, we'd love to help. Get in touch to speak to one of the Rin Hamburgh & Co team today.)


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