Long-form content is a hot issue. When I tell people I’m a copywriter and content specialist, one question keeps coming up.
How long should my content be?
Depending on who you ask, you’re likely to get a different answer.
An SEO guru might tell you that longer is better. We’re talking over 3,000 words.
However, if you talk to enough online users and readers, you might get a different picture.
I’m not going to try and offer a definitive answer here, because I don’t think there is one. I will, though, go through the pros and cons of long-form versus short-form content.
Does More Mean More?
Marketing experts like Neil Patel are firm advocates of this more means more approach. They say you must create evergreen content that is lengthy but meaty – full of useful information for users to digest and, importantly, share.
If you create long-form content, then you are more likely to increase your online visibility, increase your shares and build your credibility.
Here are the benefits:
- you create something you can get behind and campaign with on social media, because it appears substantial;
- Google likes quality content, and it ranks it accordingly;
- it allows you to explore issues more fully, taking the reader with you (if write it well);
- it builds your credibility as an expert in your field; and
- long-form content increases your conversion rates.
Wow! It’s beginning to sound like a miracle solution, a content magic bullet.
The Problem with Long-form Content
This is my problem with long-form content. We know the internet is a varied and complex thing, with multiple sites and potential audiences running into the many hundreds and thousands (depending on your line of business).
Everyone wants a piece of the action. Within this vastness, we look for direction signs, indicators that we’re doing the right thing.
Advocates of longer and longer content point to the metrics for justification.
They’ll say that long-form content routinely performs better, even allowing for supposedly shorter attention spans online.
I think the danger is that we begin to conflate longer with better, regardless of the quality. We latch onto this information as a guide, hoping it will give us the competitive edge.
And the thing is, long-form only works if the quality is there.
Simply writing 1,000, 2,000 or 3,000 words plus to order, while shoehorning in some keywords and plenty of subheaders is not the answer to using content well.
Really, it just becomes plain old SEO blogging in an inflated form.
What About the Bounce?
What will long-form content do for your bounce rate? Will it attract people to your page only for them to disappear just as swiftly when they see the 3,000 words you’ve written for them?
Put it this way: how many long-form pieces, replete with illustrations, charts and graphs, have you waded through recently during your coffee break?
I understand why we’re at this point. We all want reassurance and we think the figures tell us what we need to know.
My worry is that it’s a hall of mirrors. People, like myself, who write content for a living, are clinging to this information because it justifies us writing more material.
Are we becoming like those pollsters who cling to their data when people’s true voting intentions lie elsewhere?
Is There a Shorter Alternative?
What if your content was only as long as it needed to be?
You needn’t sacrifice quality when you keep things concise. Think in terms of immediacy.
After all, what is the average reading speed of an adult?
It’s about 250 words per minute. Slower readers might be around the 200 mark, but then people tend to scan rather than read screen text.
Most visitors to websites spend around 10 seconds on a page. You haven’t got the luxury of time to capture and retain their interest.
Furthermore, another viewpoint is that long-form content only appears to do well because there is so much poor short-form content around.
So, here are some things to consider about creating shorter content:
- create a dynamic, intriguing headline;
- focus on an important issue;
- make sure that issue is shareable; and
- include a powerful image or visual element.
Don’t feel you must write over 1,500 words to justify your content. Write as much as you need to make your point (but at least 300 words).
And, most of all, write it well.
What are Words Worth to You?
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