This is a question we get asked alot when it comes to developing content marketing strategies with clients, whether they are just starting out in developing content or have a well developed blog/news area on their site – the question “will short form content or long form content work best for us?”. Well, it isn’t as clear cut as its one or the other, but in this article we will explain the differences between short and long form content, what are the benefits and when its best to use either format.
We recommend that its a good idea to have a clear content marketing strategy in place, how its going to benefit both your site, consumers searching for answers (i.e. your products, services or pain-points/barriers they are facing) and of course help with organic traffic (SEO). Having a clear content marketing strategy in place allows you to prioritise, focus on content to develop, building it into a content calendar, targeting consumers with the questions and queries they have – aligning it to your business goals and objectives.
What’s the Difference Between Long Form and Short Form Content
The obvious difference between long and short form content is word count, but its definitely not just about how many words you can add into a post, or thinking about the best word count for SEO. I wouldn’t advise approaching your content marketing with the view of the longer the content, the more chance it has to rank for certain keywords and search phrases that consumers are looking for. It doesn’t quite work that way – otherwise everyone would be developing content with 3000 words in it, every single time. If brands/blogs develop content with this in mind, then no doubt it will just be watering down the message of the content and probably be very dry to read.
We know there are a million and one blogs out there, some that are short form of circa 400-750 words that will be top of the search engine results, and there will be long form content of circa 1500-3000 words, which never ranks – so lets take a look why and how you’ll decide which content suits you/your brand and website the best.
What’s Long Form Content
Well, just as its says, its long form – usually the word count for long form content is circa 1500+ words, but depending on the topic that its covering, it can be around 3-4000 words. You do need to plan and map the content out, so its a comprehensive piece covering a topic and typically a lot of other sub topics that can be added that are related to it. There isn’t a golden rule, that the maximum word count is 4000, but always go through the content to make sure each sub topic, header and paragraph is adding value and not just waffling on.
Long form content types are usually comprehensive guides, explanations around a given topic – if you think of a high level topic around your product/service, then try to think of all the other questions that a user/consumer may have that is about the same product/idea or pain-point. Its better to develop one long form piece of blog content answering multiple questions and queries, than develop 5 blogs to try to do the same thing – its easier to rank one page than 5 from the off.
The Benefits of Long Form Content
Optimised for keywords
With long form pieces of content, you can target a much wider variety set of keywords for SEO (Keywords are the words, search queries and phrases that as a brand/website, you want to be found for when people use a search engine) – that can be added into your content. With long form content you can also include long tail search queries (so instead of people searching for Car Insurance for example, they may search for Car Insurance for under 25s – these are called long tail search terms). You can also target different keywords for the same type of search, like above, you could use Car Insurance and also Car Insurance for under 25s, both in the same blog post and hyperlink them to the same product page, its does allow you the ability to be more flexible and insert quite a few more keywords and links (don’t overdo it though, no one likes 1000 hyperlinks in an article you’re reading!).
Go more in-depth and more detailed
If you have complex products, or something that does require a lot more detail in explaining what its about, how it works, what the best use or what the benefits are, then long form content can align well with your products and services. As mentioned before, you can cover a topic or theme that you want to discuss and add in various types of different questions that would typically be asked around that topic – making a long form piece of content quite comprehensive in its approach and answers.
You could choose to include some case study “stats”, customer reviews and feedback or any other type of endorsement that solidifies or act as “proof points” for the need and use for the product/service.
Optimise more with sub headers
When you develop and craft a piece of content, there are always instances where you want to break it up using sub headers – these are typically known as H2s in blogging/web content format. Using keywords that we mentioned earlier, make sure to add these where you can to the sub headers/H2s – as its optimises the content for SEO and targeting your keyword strategy. If you are developing long form content, then H2s are a great way to break it up to make it “skimmable” and easy for readers to jump to certain sections.
Make sure you don’t waffle – add value
Where a long form piece of content is broken up into comprehensive paragraphs and “questions have been answered”, it gives the reader a better understanding that the topic and subject matter have been researched or understood more. If you develop a 1500 or 3000 word piece of content, and manage to be concise throughout, not waffling, then you know that it will add value to what a reader is looking for – it will also send great signals to search engines that its well crafted, covers the topics and sub topics and its a good length – plus add in, all those juicy keywords and links and it should be a win, win strategy.
What’s Short Form Content
Short form content is again, just that – shorter in its length. Across the last 12 years of working across content strategies, I consider short form content to be around 450-750 words. Short form content can be a concise answer to specific question, a short news story, explanation of a certain topic – its doesn’t go too deep, have multiple layers like long form content, its easily digested and understood when read.
Both short and long form content need to be crafted well, sometimes its actually harder to develop a shorter form piece of content as you need to focus on the answer and covering/delivering the information more concisely – but remember, if you are creating a piece of long form content, then that doesn’t give you carte blanche to waffle.
The Benefits of Short Form Content
Short, easy to read and digest
When developing shorter form content, you need to make sure that any reader can read it, digest it quickly and easily – make sure to only add the important information, poignant sub headers/H2s to grab attention and that someone can skim the content and find what they want – they can quickly read it and move on to the next thing they want to do.
Remember though – with short form content, really add value to what is being explained – making sure the piece of content “lands” well, as we have all read content in the past and thought, that either added nothing to what I know or didn’t explain it well.
Use keywords in article headline and sub headers
Just because its a shorter form piece of content, does not mean that its any less valuable for targeting your audience and keywords, it just means that you have a little less space to do so. When developing a shorter form piece, make sure you choose a few of your keywords and make it as natural as possible when inserting them, hyperlink them to your product/service page, then you’ll have a rich article that signals search engines of keyword/phrases you find important and the page that they link to.
What do you want the reader to do next?
We always ask this question when working with clients on any content strategy or SEO strategy, where the copy and content is developed on the page and you’ve done SEO onpage optimisation… “What do you want the reader to do next?” – is it click on a link, sign up to a newsletter, add something to the basket, contact you or even read another piece of content. With short form content, you want to try and keep the reader onsite or to take action, if they have read your piece of content and you get them to do something else – that decreases the bounce rate, increases time on site and pages per session – all really good KPI measurements that search engines take into account as ranking factors.
What Type of Content Should You Use – Long Form or Short Form?
It really depends on the type of content that you want to develop, but our recommendation would always be to use both. Sometimes a question and answer can be concise and short, so if that suits your product or service or what you’re trying to explain, then keep it short. Where you want to go deeper into more comprehensive detail and explain more, then its long form content – using both long and short form content aligns well into a robust content strategy for your brand – just make sure its always adding value for the reader and of course is fully optimised for SEO and search engines!
If you would like to discuss how Digital Thrive can help with developing your content marketing strategy for your brand, then get in contact today – we are always happy to discuss and see how we can help.