Long Form Content or Short Form Content: Which One Should You Use?
Long Form Content or Short Form Content: Which One Should You Use?
Let’s start by asking the one fundamental content marketing question every content marketer has asked at one point or another. What is the ideal length for content?
This should be easy, right? Just come up with one, magical word count number and you win content marketing. Surely, there are many more technical/difficult aspects to SEO and content marketing than this – it’s just a word count number after all, right? Right?!
No necessarily. Deciding on the length of content is one of the most common questions that content marketers come across in the digital marketing industry. Some experts will go on and on about the benefits of long form content, while others say that short form content is better. So, how do you know what type of content to include in your content marketing plan? Well, the real answer is: it depends.
That’s probably not what you wanted to hear. However, as with many components of marketing, the best practices for your content marketing strategy (including whether to utilize long or short form content) are based upon your own unique business goals, the product or service you’re selling, and the interests of your audience.
So, how can you figure out which type of content works best for your business? You’ll want to start by looking closely at a few key elements:
- Your audience and their expectations
- Your business goals
- Your industry and products
- The interest and education of your customers
- The customer experience and journey
- How your customers use the information
- The platform
What is the Difference Between Long Form Content and Short Form Content?
The best place to start is by first understanding the differences between long form vs short form content. What is the difference between long form and short form content? The main difference is the length or total word count of the article. Typically, long form content is defined as more than 2,000 words, while short form content is closer to 1,000 words or less.
Along with the different word counts, there are also different formats and content types that lend themselves to either long or short form content. Some long form content examples include whitepapers, blog posts, how-to guides, webinars, e-books and similar in-depth material that typically requires lengthier content in order to be a valuable resource. Alternatively, short form content examples include social media posts, product and category descriptions, emails and similar content that generally do not need as much depth to get the point across. These short form content examples also stay simple because those who read these content types on these mediums don’t want to invest too much time reading in order to find what they need.
What are the Pros and Cons of Long Form Content?
Longform articles have many benefits. One major benefit is that they provide a lot more visual reading space which allows for more detailed information to be provided to customers. Technical industries, such as legal, medical or financial, can use long form content to their advantage to help educate their consumers without worrying about providing too much information.
In recent years, longer in-depth articles have become more important because Google and other search engine algorithms rank them higher than short form content, especially those that answer people’s questions in detail. Consistent, long form articles have become a keystone to effective blogging strategies, proving that longer content that provide lots of value has staying power on the web. Additionally, long form content provides a way to establish your expertise and authority in an area while nourishing engagement with an invested and interested audience.
One of the biggest perceived downsides of longform articles is that many people simply do not have the time or attention span to actually read all of it. However, good formatting and properly used headers can help those in a hurry to easily skim the content to find what they are looking for.
What About Short Form Content?
Short form content‘s biggest benefit is that it is conducive to a short-attention span. Additionally, it can be more mobile-friendly; an important consideration with the continual increase in media consumption on mobile platforms.
Additionally, short form content is much easier to create and requires much less time to develop, which equals less cost for marketers, especially if you rely on a content creation company to create it. This short form content also makes it easier to post more articles more frequently, which also helps your search engine rankings because you continually have new content for the search engines to crawl more often.
One of the biggest perceived downsides of short form content is that it has the potential to become too formulaic or too shallow, which can turn some people off. You might get people onto your page reading your post, but if it doesn’t actually answer their questions or engage them, then you risk having them leave the page. These shorter posts are also not as productive when it comes to organic rankings. This is because shorter blog posts often take a back seat to larger, more in-depth content that answers questions more thoroughly on the search engines.
How Do You Decide Which Type of Content Is Best For You?
As you can see, both short form and long form content serve their purpose, and in your content marketing strategy you should use both for maximum results. There are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine which one to focus on more or to help you develop the right ratio for your company:
- What is the purpose?
- How often do you want to post content?
- Who is the audience?
- What information does the audience want?
- What do you want to say to that audience?
- How informed is the audience?
- What are your resources for content creation?
These questions may help provide you with some insight into how in-depth you wish your content to be, or what type of articles to order from a content marketing service.
What Elements of Your Business Affect Your Choice of Long Form or Short Form Content?
Every business is different, but these are typically the main factors to consider when choosing between creating long form or short form content:
- Your business goals
- Your budget
- Your resources
- How technical your goods and/or services are
One of the most important factors to start with is your business goals. For example, you might wish to create a voice of authority in the industry to build a reputation of trust and respect. If this is the case, then you will want to have more long-form content that gives you a platform to demonstrate your expertise in a specific area/industry. Alternatively, if you wish to increase your following and attract more clients via social media, then you might wish to do more short-form content that has great potential to go viral.
Your budget and resources will also greatly impact your ability to create long form or short form content. Longer content typically requires more time, energy and money to produce, whether you use in-house talent or rely on a content writing service. If you have limited resources, then you might need to focus your content marketing strategy on short form content temporarily to build your business.
Finally, you have to decide whether or not your goods and/or services lend themselves to one type of content naturally. For example, people in the health and wellness or medical industry have the potential to write engaging and interesting long-form content that connects with readers just by nature of the products and services they provide. However, other industries might not have as much detailed information that customers need/want to know.
In addition to your technicality of the industry, the topic itself will help to determine the length the content should be. For example, a topic about how to repair a leaky faucet doesn’t need to be as long as a topic on comparing health benefits between differing health plans.
How Does Your Audience Impact The Length of Your Articles?
Your audience plays a key role in determining the length that your content should be for your content marketing plan. You have to decide whether or not your audience is actually interested in reading a lot of information about your industry, business or a particular topic. It also helps to look closely at your audience’s intent behind the search for the content. Do they require lengthy answers to complex problems, or does the information they want only require a few paragraphs to detail?
You also want to determine how invested your audience actually is in getting the answers they seek. This is closely related to how informed or educated your audience is about a particular topic in general. If someone wants to learn more about your products or industry, then they might be more willing to read long form content. Similarly, experts in the field who would be interested in learning more about a particular topic might appreciate long-form content. However, those who are looking for a quick answer or some amusement will often prefer short-form content.
What About the Platform?
Although the connection between you and your audience’s needs and expectations will play the biggest role in which is the best length of content for your business, it is also important to remember the platform you’re using to disseminate your content. Some platforms are better built for short form content. For example, social media posts, email, and mobile marketing content lend themselves to shorter posts. However, long form content tends to work best when people read it on a blog using a computer or tablet.
The most important action for when you come up with your content marketing plan is to not force your content creators to develop content that is longer than necessary. You likewise do not want to try to condense something that is really complex into just 300 or 500 words. It is important to find the right length for your audience — and for the topic to achieve maximum results.