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Short-Form vs Long-Form Content

We are all aware of the importance of developing a solid content strategy and the exponential growth that this can deliver when you get it right. But there are also a whole host of misconceptions in the content marketing world.

You have probably been given advice at some point in the past that says that the longer a piece of content is, the better it will perform. Or that every piece of content on your site should be at least 2,000 words.

And the reality is that these aren’t true, and they are also not untrue — if that makes sense?

“Setting goals (for each specific piece of content that you create, not just your overall strategy) is the first step to choosing what format and length to produce.”

Both short-form and long-form content have their place in a successful content marketing strategy, and both can be very powerful tools in your marketing toolbox.

You just need to choose the right form of content in the right context.

There is no generic answer to the question of, “how long should a blog post be?”; neither should you be setting minimum word counts as a blanket rule across every piece that you produce.

Short-Form vs. Long-Form Content

To help you determine your content length, you first need to know a clear definition of what constitutes short-form content and what is considered as long-form.

You are probably used to creating different content formats — from video and infographics to social content, interactive content, and others — but just as you have likely established a process for determining the right one to use, you also need to figure out how long your content should be.

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What is Short-Form Content?

Short-form content is typically considered to be content of fewer than 1,200 words in length, although some marketers draw the cut off-point at 1,000 words.

It is typically quick and easy to digest content that covers a specific area of a topic, rather than going too in-depth or detailed.

Common formats of short-form content include:

  • Short blog posts
  • News articles
  • Infographics
  • Social content
  • Emails

This type of content isn’t too heavy on your audience, won’t take long to consume, and is typically relatively quick and easy to create. The goal of short-form content is also often to get a single message across quickly and effectively. It is all about sharing one idea and keeping things simple.

What Is Long-Form Content?

Long-form content is typically more than 1,200 (sometimes 1,000) words.

It is content that dives deep into a topic and covers it in great depth and covers formats including:

  • Detailed and lengthy blog posts
  • Evergreen pages
  • Guides and tutorials
  • Whitepapers and eBooks
  • Webinars and virtual events
  • Pillar pages

This is the type of content that truly engages audiences due to the depth of the topic that it covers. It is not intended as quick-to-consume content, rather content aimed at educating and informing those looking to answer a specific question or learn more about a topic.

The Pros and Cons of Short-Form Content

Short-form content has a place in every content strategy, but many of the benefits of creating simple, straight-to-the-point content are often overlooked.

The pros are:

  • It is an effective way to quickly and effectively get across a single point without requiring a lengthy time commitment from an audience. It helps communicate to those with a short attention span, hence why it is so effective on social media.
  • It is quicker and less resource-intensive to produce in comparison to long-form content.
  • It is easier to read and consume and, in many cases, is easier to make mobile-friendly.

The cons that are often associated with short-form include:

  • It is harder to cover a topic in-depth with short-form content.
  • This type of content can easily become very formulaic if you are not careful, something that, in itself, can put off your audience.
  • Short-form content often isn’t evergreen, meaning that interest and performance decrease over time.

The Benefits of Long-Form Content

Just like short-form content has a place in every marketer’s toolbox, so does long-form.

In fact, it is quickly becoming commonplace for marketers to jump straight to the creation of this type of content to drive growth.

The benefits are:

  • It typically ranks better on the search engines, assuming that the search query demands detailed results.
  • This type of content also typically ranks for a higher number of keywords due to covering more depth of a topic.
  • Long-form typically earns more backlinks than short-form content, further increasing the page’s performance and rankings. The SEMrush titled “The State of Content Marketing Report 2019” revealed that pages that are 3,000+ words in length earn 3.5x as many links than those of an average length of between 901 and 1200 words.
  • The conversion rate of long-form content is typically higher than that of short-form content, largely due to the attention given by a reader and the intent of their visit. A study from Conversion Rate Experts and Crazy Egg saw that the conversion rate of a page increased by more than 30% when increasing landing page length by 20x.
  • Long-form content helps to position you as thought-leaders in your space and a voice in your industry. It is only natural that your audience sees you as a market leader if you regularly produce content that educates, informs, and helps them make decisions.

Always remember that the benefit of different types of content usually goes way beyond SEO.

On the other hand, the cons of long-form content are:

  • It takes far more time and resources to produce long-form content, which usually means a larger financial investment is needed. This can mean that the returns from this type of content need to be significantly greater than short-form content. However, when used as part of a solid strategy that justifies why long-form content is right and should be invested in, these returns will typically come.
  • It can often be difficult to display long-form content nicely on mobile devices, which adds creative complexity — while also keeping in mind the fact that the attention spans of on-the-go consumers are changing.

The #1 Golden Rule of Content Creation

What works for one business isn’t what works for another.

While it is important for you to consider and analyze what your competitors are doing, both in terms of the formats they are using and the length of the content that they are creating, you need to figure out what works for you. Once you determine this, you can double-down on what is driving success and scale up your efforts.

The likelihood is that your strategy will call for a mix of both short-form and long-form content across multiple formats, and ongoing analysis and measurement of your efforts will help you to determine the areas that are working and driving success.

You must also remember that content creation should be an ongoing process of optimization. The beauty of digital content is that you are able to publish, analyze, and optimize on a continual basis to improve performance.

Things to Remember

  • If you create a piece and it doesn’t perform, analyze the data you have available, figure out why that was, make changes, and promote that piece in its updated form.
  • Use the insights at hand through your data and third-party tools to inform your strategy and acknowledge that there is no set length that your content should be.
  • Focus your efforts on creating content that is the right length to serve the purpose that you need and want to serve — this is the best place to start.

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