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Long-Form vs. Short-Form Content – Which Is Better for You?

By: Compose.ly — November 09, 2018

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This post was written by Compose.ly writer Nia Gyant.

The goal of search engine optimization (SEO) is to earn your website prominent placement in search engine results. Claiming the coveted top spots increases your business’s online visibility, credibility, website traffic, and more.

The best way to do this is by creating content. Specifically, blogging is an excellent way to gain exposure and, ultimately, to generate leads for your business. While you’re likely aware of the importance of blogging, you may not necessarily be sure how to tackle it. If so, you’re not alone.

One of the most common things people wonder about is whether they should be producing shorter or longer content. To answer the question, you need a clear understanding of each content type, along with their respective benefits and limitations.

What is Short-Form Content?

Short-form content is generally defined as being 1,000 words or less.

Due to the limited word count, most short-form writing handles provides a general overview of its subject, in contrast to longer pieces that are able to discuss it in depth. As a result, short-form content usually contains short-tail keywords (1 to 3-word phrases). For example, “copywriting” would be considered a short-tail keyword.

Such phrases are the most common queries people type into search engines and are often more general than their longer counterparts. This actually poses a challenge, which we’ll discuss shortly. But first, what are the benefits of this type of content?

The Benefits of Short-Form Content

The benefits of short-form writing include:

1. Quick Consumption

For various reasons, many people prefer blog posts that they can read and benefit from without a major time investment. Some people don’t have much time to spare, others don’t like to read; the list goes on. Whatever the reason, short-form blog posts can come in handy for those inclined toward quick reads.

This is especially true if those posts are optimized for skimming and scanning with clear headings, short sentences, short paragraphs, and so on. These help readers quickly locate the points most interesting and relevant to them if they do not wish to read a post in its entirety.

2. Quick Creation

Just as short-form posts don’t take long to read, they also don’t take long to write.

This can keep your workload at a manageable level. You don’t have to stress about researching, drafting, and editing an extensive piece while still tending to other responsibilities. This can be a major advantage if you often feel that you’re short on time.

It can also afford you the freedom to produce more content in more variety if your strategy calls for it.

3. Mobile-Friendliness

With so much of website traffic now originating from mobile devices, mobile-friendliness is more important than ever. It’s a good thing, then, that short-form content gives you a headstart when it comes to optimization for mobile!

Short-form content is easy to read on mobile devices.

Because of its length, it’s usually easier to read than longer posts, which can sometimes be cumbersome to scroll through on smaller screens.

Short-Form Posts Worthy of Imitation

Would you like to see some real examples of effective short-form content? Check out two popular posts from two well-known marketing names—CoSchedule and HubSpot.

Example #1: CoSchedule

One of CoSchedule’s most popular posts recently is this one—29 Top Blogging Tools to Help Tackle Your Content Marketing. It provides a well-rounded list of mostly free and low-cost tools.

Although short, this post is packed with value!

In addition to suggestions for planning content, this post also gives several recommendations for publishing, writing, design, and distribution. It covers all the bases.

This straightforward post needs no additional explanation.

Coming in at around 1,000 words and with one-line descriptions for each tool, this post is proof that you don’t always need to get into the details to produce effective content. HubSpot teaches a similar lesson.

Example #2: HubSpot

This popular HubSpot post—Emotional Advertising: How Brands Use Feelings to Get People to Buy—is an excellent short-form example. Why? For one thing, it’s a quick read, requiring just 4 minutes of its readers’ time.

Additionally, it is an excellent example of good formatting. It’s broken up with clear headings and subheadings, images, videos, and plenty of white space owing to the short sentences and paragraphs. This makes for a pleasant reading experience on both desktop and mobile.

The Limitations of Short-Form Content

What challenges might you face as a result of using mainly short-form content?

1. More Competition

As mentioned, short-tail keywords are often a natural occurrence in this type of content and are the most common phrases people use when performing searches online. Because these phrases are so commonly searched and often not very specific, there’s usually fierce competition because a large portion of your competitors will be using them.

2. Less Engagement

Shorter posts can mean that people will spend less time on your blog, decreasing the chances that they will meaningfully engage with your business. While this is certainly not the case with all blog visitors, as some do become leads, it a possibility that comes along with producing shorter posts.

Understanding Long-Form Content

You’ve probably figured out that long-form content boasts a greater word count than short-form. There’s no clearly defined point at which a post is considered long-form, but 1,000 words is a bare minimum.

long books on table

That increased length often means that this type of writing naturally uses long-tail keywords, which consist of 4 words or more. An example of this type of keyword might be “find affordable copywriters online.” That’s much more specific than our short-tail example, “copywriting.”

This is characteristic of long-tails; they’re usually more specific and, therefore, less commonly searched for. While that might sound like a negative, it can actually be a very good thing.

The Benefits of Long-Form Content

Long-form writing offers many advantages. They include:

1. Better Rankings, Increased Traffic & Interest

Because long-tail keywords are searched less often by consumers, many websites and blog owners focus their attention on phrases with a greater search volume. This means that there’s less competition for long tails, making it easier for you to rank. Ranking high in search results, in turn, draws more traffic to your blog. But that’s not all.

In addition, skillful use of long-tail keywords draws better traffic to your blog. How so? Because of the increased specificity of these keywords, the traffic you attract is more interested in what your content has to offer.

To illustrate, let’s go back to our short-tail term “copywriting.” What might a person who types this into Google be looking for? Just to name a few things, they might be interested in:

  • Learning what copywriting is
  • Learning how to do copywriting
  • Hiring someone to do copywriting for them

Do you see the difference between this short phrase and “find affordable copywriters online“? There’s no doubt as to what searchers are looking for using that second phrase. As a result, you can be sure that ranking for that keyword will bring you the right kind of traffic.

2. Stronger Branding & Greater Credibility

Longer posts give you more room to develop and showcase your brand. They allow you to share your unique brand personality, style, tone, and values. As a result, your readers can develop and deepen their connections to your business.

It’s worth mentioning, though, that credibility is also an important component of that relationship-building process. Without it, without trust, you’ll have real difficulty driving and nurturing leads with your content. This is another reason why long-form is so useful. Because such pieces delve deep into the subjects they’re based on, the trustworthiness of their authors skyrockets.

3. More Social Shares

It might seem unlikely that people would even read long posts, let alone share them, especially with all the talk about the shorter-than-ever human attention span. However, research conducted on 100 million of the most shared articles revealed that, by far, long-form content gets shared more than short-form.

The benefits of shares are far-reaching, so it’s logical to include more in-depth pieces in your content marketing strategy.

Examples of Effective Long-Form Content

Consider these long-form examples, again from HubSpot and CoSchedule.

Example #1: HubSpot

At just over 8,000 words, The Ultimate Dictionary of Marketing Terms You Should Know is truly long-form. As its title implies, it lists and briefly explains all of the most important terms and acronyms in various forms of marketing. This in itself provides immense value to readers.

The content itself makes this an example of great long-form content. The readability of this blog posts also contributes to its effectiveness.

Example #2: CoSchedule

One of CoSchedule’s longer posts—Here Are The 101 Catchy Blog Title Formulas That Will Boost Traffic By 438%—provides similar value and and a similar reading experience. With clearly defined sections, it outlines steps, formulas, and best practices that readers can use immediately to boost their traffic. As a result, this post has been wildly successful.

Not only is it extremely useful for CoSchedule’s audience, but it also increases the company’s credibility. Well-planned and executed long-form content can do the same for you.

Long-Form Writing’s Limitations

While its advantages are highly desirable, long-form writing isn’t without drawbacks. Potential limitations include:

1. Lack of Mobile-Friendliness

The smaller screens on mobile devices mean that blocks of text appear much longer than they do on desktop. Likewise, longer posts appear much longer than they do on desktop. Seemingly endless paragraphs and posts can be overwhelming, and image-heavy posts can be difficult to load on mobile devices.

Unless you format your long-form posts for ease-of-reading, you could run into this issue.

2. An Extended Creative Process

The research required, as well as the time needed to write and edit long-form posts is, of course, significant. Spending so much time on singular posts could limit your output if you don’t have a content creation team and are trying to blog regularly on your own. While what you do post will provide a lot of valuable information, you might not be able to hold to a consistent schedule, especially while juggling other responsibilities.

You can get around this issue by delegating content creation to somebody with the time and skill to handle it.

Which Content Type Should You Use?

You now know the ins and outs of short-form and long-form. Still, the core question in the short form vs. long-form debate still remains. Which type is right for you?

The answer is that the length of everything you post should be determined by your goals for it. Short-form writing is best when detailed information is not needed. For example, if you sell inexpensive, commonly-used products or services, there’s little risk involved for your buyers and no need to restate what they probably already know. If you’re selling socks, your readers probably don’t need to read 3,000 words about them.

socks on chair

Additionally, content written for an audience that already trusts you often doesn’t need to be as extensive as for an audience that you’re still trying to win over.

What about long-form writing, though?

The opposite is true. More expensive, rarer products and services usually will need a thorough explanation. Posts for audiences that are largely unfamiliar with your business are also more effective when they’re more in-depth and informative.

Beyond the Word Count

It’s clear that length is important and that you must construct your content marketing strategy carefully with that in mind. But word count isn’t the only factor when it comes to effectiveness. How well your posts perform depends on several factors, some of which we’ve already mentioned.

  • Readability: Do you use language your audience can easily understand? Does your formatting make for a comfortable reading experience?
  • Keyword Research: Don’t leave your rankings to chance. Thorough research will help you target the keywords that you have the best chance of ranking for.
  • Distribution: Are you using the right distribution channels to reach your audience? Are you sharing your content at the right times? Do you stick to a consistent posting schedule?
  • Topics: Even the best content in terms of quality isn’t worth much if it’s centered on the wrong topic. Therefore, before anything else, you must make sure that your subject matter is relevant to your target audience. Further, you should try not to rehash information that’s already been published but instead to add something new and valuable.

These things can make or break your content marketing strategy, so it’s smart to educate yourself on best practices. You should do this even if you plan to hire writers for content creation so that you can be confident in the quality of the work they deliver.

Are you interested in outsourcing your content writing? If so, Compose.ly can help, whether you need short or long-form content. To get fully optimized content from an expert writer familiar with your industry, contact us today.

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