Web content wisdom has long held that shorter content is better because web users have limited attention spans – something that supposedly applied even more strongly for mobile web users. But over the last couple of years long-form content has garnered significant attention.
Long-form is a fuzzy category, spanning everything from 20,000-word ebooks to 3,000-word blog articles, but there’s one thing that long-form isn’t: the typical 500-word blog post.
Blogging, especially on business blogs, seems to have settled at around 500 words as a standard length. I’m a freelance writer, and many of the clients I work for prefer content of this length. It’s quick to write, doesn’t require a lot of research, and, perhaps most importantly, it’s not as expensive as long-form content.
However, there are definite advantages to investing in longer content, not the least of which of is that there are many thousands of short blog posts published every day, but long, in-depth writing is still something of a rarity in the business blogging world. Longer, more valuable posts stand out from the crowd.
It’s worth mentioning upfront that it’s not the length of long-form that makes it effective, it’s the opportunities having more space affords. Taking a blog topic and research suitable for a short post and inserting waffling filler text so that it looks like long-form content won’t be effective.
Greater Opportunity To Establish Authority
There’s only so much you can do or say in 500 words. If you’re an expert in your subject, or have researched it deeply, 500 words can be incredibly limiting. It gives you no room to make complex arguments and explore ideas fully. The best you can hope for is a simple assertions and a gesture in the direction of some data. That’s not ideal if your aim is to demonstrate expertise and authority to attract users or customers.
Longer Content Ranks Better
According to recent research from Backlinko, pages in the first place on Google’s search results have an average length of 1890 words and longer content tends to rank higher.
Intuitively, that makes sense. Google prefers to send its users to valuable in-depth content, and longer articles are more likely to have those qualities. Longer articles also give Google more information for indexing, allowing its algorithms to get a clearer idea what the text is about.
Additionally, the longer content is – providing it’s of sufficient quality – the longer people will stay on your site.
Long Content Is More Shareable
Which would you rather share, a short and shallow article or a long and considered article that offers novel insights and genuinely useful information? Short content is sharable, but longer content is more likely to be shared by educated, well-off people – exactly the people many businesses want to reach.
Long-form Isn’t the Only Good Content
Although I’m definitely on the cheering squad for long-form content, I should make it clear that there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with short content. There’s a place for everything from tweets to tomes, but each category has distinct advantages, and it’s a mistake for businesses and content marketers to fail to exploit those advantages because short content is “the way it’s done” or because it demands a greater investment.