From blog posts to landing pages to social media updates, high-quality content is a non-negotiable component of your digital marketing efforts. Without compelling content, you'll have difficulty generating leads and increasing organic visibility for your business.
Sounds easy, right? Just create content that your customers will love and call it a day.
Well, it's really not that simple. Creating content is a complex and painstaking process with plenty of nuances in between.
One such nuance is content length.
As a career marketer and business owner, many writers and clients often ask me for my opinion on the short-form vs. long-form content debate.
My answer is always the same - in today's content marketing landscape, you should never write a piece of content for the sake of fulfilling a word count. However, you also need to know when it's appropriate to use a particular type of content over the other.
Today, we will take a hard look at short-form vs. long-form content, including definitions, uses, and examples.
What is Short-Form Content?
When it comes to content creation, there's a popular notion that "longer is better." While it's true that longer content pieces tend to perform/resonate better with readers, not every article and post has to be 1,500 plus words.
Definition and Uses
Depending on which high authority resources you consult, the length of short-form content can change from one website to the next. Ultimately, short-form content is any written copy with a word count of fewer than 1,000 words.
Short-form is relatively quick and easy to digest content that generally covers a specific topic instead of going too detailed or in-depth.
Short-form content marketing makes the most sense when:
- Your target audience is already familiar with your company and your products and services. These customers are looking for quick and precise information to make an informed purchase decision.
- You're writing for existing customers or qualified leads. These people are already late into the buying cycle and are potentially ready to make a purchase. They're looking for specific information about your product or service.
- Your product or service is relatively common and inexpensive. Shorter content works because such products benefit from concise descriptions rather than longer ones.
- You're writing for a marketing format that requires fewer words, such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads, emails, etc.
Pros of Short-Form Content
Short-form content acts as an essential marketing tool for brands and businesses. According to recent research by BuzzSumo, roughly 75% of B2B companies are producing short-form content.
Here are some of the top reasons why short-form content creation is worth your time.
1. Requires Less Time and Resources
One of the strongest arguments in favor of short-form content is that it's quick and easy to produce. Let's be honest, shorter articles and posts have a faster turnaround, and if you work with a blog writing service, they tend to be more affordable as well.
Since they're quicker and less expensive to produce, you can create more content pieces within a shorter time period. In our experience, you could easily create numerous short blogs and social media posts in the same time required to make a 2,000-word blog post.
2. Quick and Easy to Digest
Due to dwindling attention spans, your target audience may not be reading your lengthy, thousand-word blog posts. People are always on-the-go and busy, so they need quick answers to their questions. Short-form content caters better to readers that need immediate solutions.
Short-form is a quick and effective way to communicate a single point while demanding less from the audience. Given this fact, it's no surprise that short-form has become a primary communication tool in social media.
3. Optimized for Mobile Users
According to a Statista report, there are over 3.6 billion mobile users worldwide, and that number will increase to 2.3 billion by 2023. This statistic is significant because short-form content is easier to optimize for mobile.
Short-form pieces are easier to consume and are more engaging to people who are on their smartphones. With half of the global website traffic coming from mobile, your business can't afford to disregard developing optimized content for mobile devices.
4. Increased Shareability
Short-form content is more shareable on social media.
Short-form content is appealing to readers because it delivers value with minimal time investment. Shorter content that's enjoyable, creative, and valuable is precisely the sort of thing readers will want to share.
Keep in mind that not all content has to be for SEO. If one of your goals is to generate more engagement and social shares for your brand, short-form content is a viable option.
Cons of Short-Form Content
Short-form writing is not without its drawbacks. Let's take a look at some of them.
1. Lack of Depth
One of the strongest cases against short content is that you can only provide a surface-level understanding of an idea or topic. This problem is more apparent if you're writing a guide or on a topic that requires many statistics and examples.
With abridged information and insights, your content will look one-dimensional and less helpful. This could be detrimental to your brand as your audience may perceive your content to be low-quality, and potential customers who are early in the sales funnel may disengage from your brand.
2. Not SEO-Friendly
Perhaps the biggest drawback of short-form content is that it's less likely to contribute to your SEO efforts.
The short length prohibits you from optimizing your piece with respect to keywords, making it more difficult to establish your company as an authority in your niche. Not only is it difficult to repurpose this type of content for other channels, but short-form content is not "evergreen," which means that it doesn't offer long-term value and sustained interest.
Examples of Short-Form Content
Which kind of content qualifies as short-form? Below are some examples of short-form content that you can incorporate into your content marketing strategy.
- Blog posts - Search engines may like long-form more, but humans prefer to consume shorter content, including blogs. When it comes to short-form blogging, we recommend that you have at least 350-500 words.
- Videos - Short-form content doesn't have to be written text - short videos count too. Breathe new life into your old blog posts or articles by repurposing them into short video content.
- Landing pages - A short landing page takes advantage of scannable content to encourage visitors to move into the next stage of the sales funnel. Short-form landing pages rely on visuals and images to communicate a message and influence a conversion.
- Infographics - These are easy to digest visual representations of your content. Infographics are great for boosting engagement and adding value to your existing content. Plus, infographics hit the mark in shareability, especially in social media.
- Social media posts - We're not just talking about the occasional posting of product pics and tweets. Over time, social media became the main channel for brands to tell their stories. For example, GE recently made a series of compelling tweets with short stories and videos detailing the company's history and evolution.
What Is Long-Form Content?
When it comes to digital marketing, long-form is the king of content. Longer content is generally seen as more authoritative and value-driven. Here at WordAgents, we're big advocates of in-depth, comprehensive content (including this piece).
Not only does long-form content build trust and credibility, but, according to a content study by Backlinko, on average, long-form content receives 77.2% more links than its shorter counterpart.
Long-form content marketing is most applicable when:
- Your audience is in the early phases of the sales funnel, and they don't have enough knowledge or experience with your product or service.
- You sell high-end and expensive products and services. I.e., your target customers need as much information as possible before making a purchase decision.
- You're launching a new product or service and need to provide in-depth details about your product or service.
- You sell products that are technical and sophisticated and you want to provide a detailed explanation of your offering and how it can be valuable to consumers.
- Your product or service requires significant time and resources from the customers.
Definition and Uses
Again, there's no precise definition of long-form content.
However, many content creators and digital marketers agree that a long-form post should have at least 1,000 words, and the longer, the better. Examples of long-form content are blog posts, e-books, whitepapers, tutorials, and guides.
What makes long-form content so valuable is that it's a deep dive into a particular topic. It aims to provide an extensive scope of a subject with meaningful insights, analyses, and statistics. As a result, long-form demands more time and resources.
Pros of Long-Form Content
From establishing authority to influencing purchase decisions, there are many reasons why long-form content is an essential tool for content marketers.
Let's explore some of the most common benefits of long-form content.
1. Keyword Rich Content
Back in the day, you could improve your search engine rankings just by simply stuffing keywords into a short 500-word article. Today, keyword stuffing is a one-way ticket to getting your website delisted by Google.
Long-form content provides you with ample opportunities to integrate long-tail keywords seamlessly. Not only does this improve keyword density (naturally), but it can result in better organic visibility and while attracting qualified leads. With long-tail keywords and phrases, it's easier to write high-quality content that aligns with search intent.
However, you have to remember that the goal is to use the right keywords - this is where keyword research is essential.
2. Build Powerful Backlinks
If your blog post is well-researched and displays valuable data, statistics, or detailed images, you'll strengthen your link building strategies by attracting powerful backlinks.
According to SEMrush's Content Marketing Survey, long reads of 3,000+ words receive 4x more website traffic and 3.5x more backlinks than posts of average length (i.e., 900-1,200 words). We're not just talking about the number of links but the quality of the links as well.
So why does long-form content receive more backlinks?
For one, long and comprehensive articles are perceived as more useful and provide more value than short-form. Readers don't want to waste time endlessly searching different websites when they can get all their answers in one place.
Search engines like Google are committed to providing the best user experience possible. Therefore, it's no surprise long-form ranks higher in Google search engine results than short-form content. This is true for most brands and websites, with the exception of mega brands like IBM or Apple.
According to the findings of a recent Backlinko study, after analyzing 11.8 million Google search results, the average Google first page results have 1,447 words. Producing long-form content allows you to integrate more keywords and go on a topical deep-dive, making it easier to deliver a great experience to your visitors - something that Google now demands.
4. Evergreen Performance
Long-form pieces tend to perform better as evergreen content.
In our case, much of our traffic and online visibility comes from long-form content. Even some of our older blog entries continue to do well in generating traffic because they provide immense value and detail. Combine this with some regular content updates, and you can create a steady flow of traffic that keeps on giving.
Furthermore, long-form content lends itself well to repurposing content so that you can distribute it far and wide across different formats and platforms. For example, you can take your 5,000-word mega guide and repurpose it into a video series that you can then upload to your company's YouTube channel.
By itself, long-form pieces already have long-term value and sustained interest. Repurposing content gives it wings and extends it's value to a broader audience.
5. Build Trust and Credibility
If your goal is to build brand awareness and credibility, one of the best practices is to write long-form content.
For content marketing to succeed and help establish authority, you have to offer your customers something of value to earn their trust. Long-form content lets you display knowledge and expertise about your niche while reinforcing your brand's authority.
Higher authority enables you to win the trust of your audience and convert them into loyal brand advocates.
Cons of Long-Form Content
Despite the attractive benefits, long-form content is far from perfect. Below are some of the most common drawbacks of long-form writing.
1. More Time and Resources to Produce
Let's be real - writing a 2,000-word blog post is far from easy. You need hours of research and a thorough understanding of the topic. Compared to short-form posts, it requires more time and resources to create long-form content.
If you're not a writer, you have to hire an expert or agency to create lengthy content on your behalf, and that can be expensive. As such, producing long-form content on a consistent basis is a significant investment for both your time and money.
2. Audience Have Short Attention Spans
While the research into whether or not the human attention span is decreasing on a biological level is inconclusive, it's hard to deny that there are more distractions than ever - especially with smartphones and social media.
With readers always busy and multitasking, not everyone has the time to read a thousand-word blog post. As a result, longer content tends to be glossed over or downright ignored.
3. Less Mobile-Friendly
Even if your blog or website is mobile-optimized, longer content, in general, has less appeal to mobile users. The smaller screen combined with the aforementioned decreasing attention span makes it difficult for people to consume lengthy content.
Instead of reading right away, they may end up saving your post for later and forget about it entirely.
Examples of Long-Form Content
Here are some examples of how you can integrate long-form content into your digital marketing campaign.
- Guides - This is one of our favorite types of blog posts. Guides are informative, solve a particular problem, and they can demonstrate your expertise on a topic. Well-written guides drive engagement and build brand credibility.
- Case studies - This type of content is an excellent example that demonstrates the power of long-form content. Case studies let you tell a compelling story, build trust and credibility, and hugely beneficial for your sales team.
- E-books - These are pieces of long-form content that are typically used to generate leads. E-books enable you to communicate lengthy and complex topics in an easily digestible, compelling way.
- Whitepapers - A white paper is a report that informs readers about a complex issue and the problems surrounding it. Whitepapers are not only beneficial for lead generation but can also establish your organization's authority as a subject matter expert.
- Video content - According to YouTube, people watch over a billion hours of video every day. Long-form video may be an expensive and time-consuming form of content marketing, but it's definitely worth the effort.
4 Factors to Consider When Determining Content Length
Short-form vs. long-form content: which content type is better?
Well, it's tough to say because each type complements the other. If you solely focus on long-form content, you'll miss out on the benefits of social media. Likewise, focusing too much on short-form content will have a negative impact on your SEO and brand credibility.
Does the length of the content matter?
The simple answer is: yes, content length does matter. However, not in the sense that longer content is necessarily better than shorter content.
We highly recommend using both short and long-form content as valuable tools for your content strategy. Below are some of the most critical factors to consider when determining the length of your content.
1. Content Strategy Goals
To determine which content length you should employ, you have to look internally. What are your content marketing goals?
Do you want to engage people via social media and build a following? In this case, it's best to focus your efforts on producing short-form content. After all, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are dominated by quick and easy-to-digest content.
Conversely, if you want to establish brand authority and be perceived as a thought-leader in your industry, lengthy blog articles, whitepapers, and long-form videos are more appropriate.
The length of the content depends on whether the piece in question can help meet the goals you have set.
2. Search Intent
Search intent is one of the most crucial factors of why we do SEO.
Search intent, also known as user intent or keyword intent, is the reason why people search for something on the internet. To put it simply, if you want higher search engine rankings, you have to offer content that caters to user intent. There needs to be a match between search intent and your website content.
Therefore, one of the first things you should determine is why and how a visitor has landed on your website or blog. What are they looking for? What are they trying to achieve? Find out about your website visitors' search intent and use it to help determine the ideal length for a piece of content.
3. Audience Preferences
Not to be confused with search intent, audience preference (also known as "content preference") refers to the type of content your readers prefer to consume and how. Are they more of a reader? Or do they prefer to watch long-form videos? Audience preference may also refer to the type of topic or format your target audience prefers.
Look up the basic demographics of your readership, including their age, gender, location, likes, dislikes, and so on. Once you have a thorough understanding of what your audience likes, you'll know the ideal length and type of content to publish.
4. The Competition
A winning content marketing strategy should always include an analysis of the competition. B2B marketing is extremely cutthroat, which is why it's always critical that you know what your competitors are up to and use that knowledge to your advantage.
This means fully understanding the type of content that your competitors are publishing.
Knowing the competition and their content strategies should give you a fair idea about the length of content you should publish. Some top-tier tools you can use to analyze your competitors' content are SurferSEO and MarketMuse.
See our roundup of the best content planning tools for more.
Short-Form vs. Long-Form Content: Does Length Matter?
When it comes to this debate, there's no clear winner.
As a content marketer, both short and long-form content should be a part of your content marketing strategy. Each has its pros and cons. The primary thing to keep in mind is which phase your customers are in with respect to the sales funnel.
As an example, if you're looking to inform potential customers about your products or establish authority, long-form is the way to go. On the flip side, customers who are late into the sales funnel may need a quick nudge to make a buying decision - this is where short-form content shines.
Focus on producing content with the right length to serve the purpose that you need.