Long Form Content or Short Form Content: Which One Should You Use?

by | Oct 28, 2019 | Content Marketing | 0 comments

Long Form Content or Short Form Content: Which One Should You Use?

by | Oct 28, 2019 | Content Marketing | 0 comments

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?

Pros Cons

Longform articles have many benefits. One major one is that they provide space for imparting detailed information to customers. You might long form branded content to educate potential customers in the early stages of lead generation before you heavily promote your own goods or services. Certain industries, such as those with a lot of technical information, also might prefer this format in order to explain a complicated process or idea.

Recently, longer in-depth articles have become more important because Google and other search engine algorithms rank them higher, especially those that answer people’s questions. 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, it provides a way to establish your expertise and authority in an area while nourishing engagement with an invested and interested audience.

The biggest downside of longform articles is that many people simply do not have the time or attention span to actually read it. They need to be really invested and interested to read more than a few sentences or paragraphs. This type of content is also less shareable, so it does not help you capitalize on your social marketing efforts.

What About Short Form Content?

Short form content‘s biggest benefit is that it is conducive to a short-attention span, since it makes it easy to quickly scan through and understand the information. Additionally, it is more mobile-friendly; an important consideration with the continual increase in media consumption on mobile platforms. It is also easier to make short form digital content more engaging than long-form content, which is one reason why it has higher share rates.

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 marketing service. This also makes it easier to post more articles, which also helps your search engine rankings because you continually have new content.

The biggest downside of short form content is that it has the potential to become too formulaic or too shallow, which turns people off. You might get people onto your page reading your post, but if it does not actually answer their questions or otherwise engage them, then you risk losing them. There are also are downsides for organic rankings, when shorter blog posts take a back seat to larger, more in-depth content that answers questions more thoroughly.

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 might use both depending on the situation. There are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine which one to focus on or to help you develop the right ratio for your company:

  • What is the purpose?
  • How often do you want to post?
  • Who is the audience?
  • What information does the audience want?
  • What do you want to say?
  • How informed is the audience?
  • What are your resources for content creation?

These questions provide you with some insight into how in-depth you wish to write your articles, or what type of articles to order from a content marketing service. There are two main sides: your business and your customers. It is important to look at both sides in depth to determine which type of content works best for your content marketing plan.

What Elements of Your Business Affect Your Choice?

When you start with the business side, you have a few main factors to consider:

  • Your budget
  • Your resources
  • Your goals
  • Your goods and/or services

One of the most important factors to begin with is your business goal. 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 space to demonstrate your expertise in the area. Alternatively, if you wish to increase your following and attract more clients, then you might wish to do more short-form content that has the potential to go viral.

Set Goals

Your budget and resources will also greatly impact your ability to do long or short form content. Lengthier content typically requires more time, energy and money, 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 for the moment to build your business. Then, occasionally expend some additional resources for a good white paper or e-book.

Finally, you have to decide whether or not your goods and/or services lend themselves to one type of content. 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. However, other industries might not have information that customers want to know.

In addition to your industry, the topic itself will determine the length. You do not want to go into minute detail about something that will lose the interest of your readers by the third sentence.

How Does Your Audience Impact The Length of Your Articles?

Your audience plays the other key role in determining the length of your articles 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?

Who's Your Audience

You also want to determine how invested your audience actually is in the answers. This is closely related to how informed or educated your audience is about a particular topic. 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 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 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.

Shaundra Cragun

An avid writer, speaker, musician and five-time elementary school spelling bee winner, Shaundra knows the ins and outs of all things content. When she isn’t managing projects for BKA, she’s either binging baking shows or pulling weeds in her garden.

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