As the popularity and effectiveness of content marketing continue to grow, more and more businesses are looking to get involved. One of the first questions they face is what type of content to create. Should they go with long-form publications? Or keep things small and sweet with short-form posts?
The answer, as you might expect, is that it depends. Let’s dive into the key differences between long-form and short-form content and when you should use each content type for your business.
What is long-form content?
Let’s start with long-form content, which has been getting more attention in recent years. This type of content generally refers to any article over 1,000 words. The word count may vary from one publication to the next, but anything over 1,000 words can generally be considered long-form content.
This category includes the likes of:
- Blog posts: Published on your or someone else’s website, blog posts are versatile pieces that you can use to discuss almost any topic related to your industry.
- Case studies: These stories detail how your customers used a particular product or service to solve a problem. Case studies usually include data and quotes from customers.
- E-books: E-books are typically downloadable PDFs that take a deep dive into a specific topic. E-books are often used as lead magnets, meaning they’re offered for free in exchange for an email address.
- Guides and tutorials: These are step-by-step pieces that show the reader how to do something. They can be as simple as a recipe or as complex as a guide to fixing your car.
- Pillar pages: Pillar pages are comprehensive, evergreen guides on a specific topic and are permanently posted on your website. They’re designed to rank highly in search engine results and drive traffic to your website.
- Whitepapers: These are in-depth looks at a particular topic, but they tend to be more data-driven than e-books. Whitepapers are also used as lead magnets.
“You can take a long-form article and break it down into a series of shorter blog posts or social media posts as a way to get more mileage out of your content investment and reach a wider audience.”
Pros of long-form content
Long-form content has several advantages. For one, it allows you to dive deep into a topic and cover all the bases. This comprehensive approach can make you an expert in your readers’ eyes, establishing trust and credibility. If you want to be seen as a thought leader in your industry, long-form content is a great way to achieve that.
Long-form content is also great for search engine optimization (SEO). In general, longer articles tend to rank higher in search results than shorter ones. That’s because they give you more opportunities to include keywords and other SEO features like headings and internal links.
Repurposing content is another significant benefit of long-form writing. You can take a long-form article and break it down into a series of shorter blog posts or social media posts as a way to get more mileage out of your content investment and reach a wider audience.
Finally, long-form content is highly shareable. People are more likely to share an in-depth article they found helpful than a short social media post. And each time your article is shared, you have the opportunity to reach a whole new audience. Backlinks are a crucial ranking factor for SEO, so the more shares your article gets, the better.
Cons of long-form content
Of course, long-form content isn’t perfect. The biggest downside is that it can be time-consuming and expensive to produce. Writing, editing, and designing high-quality articles can take weeks or months. Considering you usually need more than one piece of long-form content to keep your blog or website going, that can add up to a lot of time and money.
Another downside of long-form content is that it’s not always the best format for every topic. Some topics lend themselves better to a short, snappy treatment than a comprehensive one. In those cases, trying to force a long article will only result in something that’s padded and uninteresting.
Finally, long-form content can be intimidating for some readers. As our attention spans continue to shrink, some people may not be willing to commit to reading a 2,000-word article. In those cases, you’re better off sticking to shorter pieces. Of course, different niches will have different preferences, so it’s always important to know your audience.
When to use long-form content
Don’t write long-form content for the sake of it. You should use this format when it’s best for the topic you’re covering. That usually implies complex or sensitive issues requiring more exposition or topics that benefit from an expert deep dive. You should also ensure you have the time and resources to produce high-quality, long-form content before committing to it.
If you’re trying to improve SEO and want to publish long-form content on a simpler topic, consider the skyscraper technique—Find a popular article in your niche and write an even better, more comprehensive piece. Add a new angle, more data, your opinion, or extra helpful information to make your article the go-to resource on that topic.
If you’re selling a product or service, long-form content can be a great way to establish yourself as an expert in your field. You can use it to write how-to guides, explainer articles, or even comprehensive product reviews. If you have the time and resources, case studies are also a great way to show off your product or service in action.
What is short-from content?
Next up is short-form content. As you can imagine, this is the opposite of long-form content. Short-form content is under 1,000 words but often much shorter. Short-form content is faster to produce and more lightweight than its longer counterpart. That doesn’t mean it’s any less important, though. In fact, short-form content can be essential for driving traffic and engagement.
Some examples of short-form content include:
- Social media posts: These can be anything from a 10-word tweet to a longer Instagram post. Social media posts are great for engaging your audience where they spend time, promoting content, and sharing company updates.
- News articles: These are usually around 500 words and focus on timely, breaking news stories in your niche. News articles are a great way to keep your audience up to date on the latest developments in your industry. These also build trust by showing that you’re monitoring the industry at large.
- Short blog posts: Blog posts can also be under 1,000 words and can be used to share new ideas, start a conversation, or promote your long-form content. They may not go into as much depth as a long-form article, but they can still be informative.
- Product descriptions: E-commerce websites use 150–200 words to give potential customers all the information they need about a product or service. Product descriptions are essential for e-commerce websites and can be a great way to showcase your products while earning search engine visibility.
- Email newsletters: A growing number of businesses are using email newsletters to stay in touch with their customers and promote their content. Email newsletters can be short or long, but they typically don’t go in-depth. Instead, they offer headlines and links that lead to longer-form pieces.
Pros of short-form content
The most obvious benefit of short-form content is that it’s quick and easy to produce. You can usually knock out a social media post or a news article in an hour or less. As a result, you can pump out a lot of content in a short amount of time. This is great for businesses that need to publish content regularly but don’t have the resources or staff to produce long-form articles regularly.
Short-form content is also more versatile than long-form writing. You can use it for various purposes, including promoting your brand, driving traffic to your website, and engaging with your audience. And because it’s so easy to produce, you can experiment with different types of content to see what works best for your business. A/B testing is great for short-form content.
Finally, short-form content is generally geared towards a more casual audience, making it perfect for social media, where people typically look for short, bite-sized pieces of information. It’s also great for capturing attention from busy professionals in your audience who don’t have the time to sit down and read a long article.
Cons of short-form content
Short-form content does have its drawbacks, though. The most obvious is that you can’t go in-depth with short-form content. If you’re trying to explain a complex concept or write an in-depth review, you will need more than 1,000 words.
Another drawback of short-form content is that it can be harder to rank on Google. The algorithms seem to favor longer, more comprehensive articles. So if you’re trying to get your website to appear in search results, you’ll need more than a few tweets or social media posts.
When to use short-form content
Use short-form content when you’re not necessarily looking to go into depth on a topic. Short-form content is perfect if you just want to share a quick update or start a conversation. It’s also great for startups and small businesses that need to establish an online presence fast.
You can use short-form content to supplement your long-form pieces. For example, you could use a short blog post to promote an e-book or a long-form article. This is a great way to drive traffic to your website and get people interested in your content.
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of social media. Short-form content is perfect for platforms like Twitter and Facebook, where people look for bite-sized content.
“Not every business can afford to split its budget between short-form and long-form content.”
Choosing between long-form and short-form content
As you can see, both types of content serve different purposes. There’s no right or wrong answer when choosing between long-form and short-form content. Ideally, publishing both kinds of content would be best to get the most out of your content marketing strategy.
That being said, not every business can afford to split its budget between short-form and long-form content. If you’re on a tight budget, you’ll need to decide which type of content is best for your business. To do that, ask yourself the following questions:
What are my content marketing goals?
Figure out your content marketing goals, and then choose the type of content that will help you achieve those goals.
For example, short-form is probably your best bet if your goal is simply to gain more followers on social media. On the other hand, if you’re trying to increase web traffic or get people to sign up for your email list, long-form content will be more effective.
What is my target audience’s intent?
Before deciding which format to publish, you must understand your target audience’s intent. What are they looking for when visiting your website or social media pages? Are they busy professionals who are looking for quick visual content? Or do they have time to learn everything about your industry?
If you’re unsure what your target audience’s intent is, look at your Google Analytics data. It will give you an idea of the keywords they’re using to find your website. You can also use social media listening tools to see what topics are being talked about the most.
What does the customer journey look like?
Your target audience’s customer journey will also play a role in deciding between long-form and short-form content. If you’re trying to attract new customers, you’ll need to produce content that’s at the top of the funnel. This means creating content that’s informative and educational without being too salesy.
As they move further down the funnel, you can start producing content that’s more targeted towards conversion. Content typically becomes shorter and more persuasive the further down the funnel your leads get.
What are my competitors doing?
Finally, take a look at what your competitors are doing. Use SEO tools such as SEMRush or Moz to see what your kind of content your competitors are creating and how well it ranks or generates backlinks.
You can decide to follow their lead, or you can choose to do something different. If they’re all producing short-form content, you might assume that this format works well in your industry. On the other hand, you might want to consider creating long-form content to stand out from the crowd and fill the gap.
The bottom line: Quality over length
At the end of the day, content length doesn’t matter nearly as much as quality. Your goal should be to produce content that’s helpful and exciting, regardless of whether it’s long or short.
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