Writing great content takes time. Between generating ideas for content, researching topics, writing, and optimizing for search engines, there are many factors that influence a great piece of content.

Orbit Media found that it can take the average writer as long as six or more hours to complete a typical blog post. According to Authority Marketing, it takes Buffer Marketing Vice President Kevin Lee just shy of three hours to knock out an average post, whereas ProBlogger Jon Morrow can spend two hours just on the headline alone. So, before you commit to writing a 2,000-word article, ask yourself: Is it worth it?

Well-written, highly optimized content can work wonders in terms of search engine optimization (SEO) and driving website traffic. But can the same results can be accomplished in fewer words? Below, we explore whether long-form or short-form content is better for SEO.

Short-Form Content Marketing

Short-form content, typically 700 words or fewer, tends to be easier to digest, compared to long-form content that’s typically 1,500 words or more. With the average human having an attention span of 8 seconds, short-form content tends to be more visually digestible and can help get concise ideas across quickly.

There also tends to be more immediacy with short-form content. Short-form content can help get your readers to where they need to go quicker, whether it’s downloading a whitepaper, filling out a contact form, or moving on to the next piece of content.

Short-form content can be an excellent choice for simple topics or questions that require a concise answer, content that may be part of a series, or content for a more experienced audience that doesn’t require a thorough background and explanation of basic principles.

Long-Form Content Marketing

In examining 1 million Google search results, Backlinko found that the “optimal” content length is 1,890 words. What does “optimal” mean? Content closest to 1,890 words on average had the highest position in Google search results. In other words, content that ranked #1 in Google average 1,890 words.

Correlation Not Causation

Alright, so write content that is 1,890 words and you’ll rank #1 in Google, right? Not so fast. Don’t mistake this data as higher word count causes better rankings. This is an example of correlation, not causation. Higher total word counts tend to correlate with better rankings. Here’s why:

  • Longer content can often do a better job of thoroughly answering the user’s query or providing all of the relevant information related to a topic.
  • The more content you write, the more keyword opportunities you may have to boost your search engine exposure.

But did you know that word count isn’t one of the 200 known factors in Google’s algorithm? As we’ve stated above, a high word content won’t automatically produce higher rankings. Here are some factors where long-term content can present more opportunities for SEO.

Authority

Authority is a factor within Google’s algorithm that analyzes content to determine if it’s high quality and reliable. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a 500-word blog post, especially if it’s a short topic or doesn’t require much research. However, long-form content like in-depth guides, whitepapers, and case studies can give your content marketing efforts the ability to showcase your expertise and deep knowledge on a subject.

Link Building

Along with authority, link building can help build authority and boost your rankings. Link building is great for off-site optimization, as it’s focused on building links from authoritative and relevant sites. This will help drive traffic back to your website, and more importantly, show search engines that your website is reputable.

Long-from content tends to be more useful and comprehensive, so it usually provides more value and attracts more backlinks. According to HubSpot, there is a strong correlation between the length of content and the number of quality backlinks.

HubSpot long-term content helps linkbuilding.

Keywords

The longer the content, the more opportunities there also are to use and optimize for relevant keywords. Keywords are words and phrases that users enter into search engines. Long-from content, as a result, can provide a greater likelihood of providing a more in-depth answer or research that users are searching for. HubSpot shows that word count can sometimes correlate with organic traffic.

Long-form content correlates to greater organic traffic. (HubSpot)

Conversions

Long-form content also presents a great opportunity to nurture your audience. Being that long-form content is perceived as trustworthy and authoritative, it can tend to lead to more conversions (e.g., downloading a whitepaper, filing out a form, calling your business, etc.). According to an A/B-testing study by Basecamp, long-form content on a website’s homepage increased sales conversions by 37.5 percent.

Social Media Engagement

While tweets may be confined to 280 characters, long-form content that is shared on social media tends to be more engaging than short-form content. According to HubSpot, the longer the content, the more likely it is to be shared on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Long-form content tends to receive more engagement on these platforms as well.

Word count correlates to social shares. (HubSpot)

What is the Best Length for Your Copy?

The answer, like most things, is it depends. Ultimately, there is no hard-and-fast rule for content length. This can make it challenging to know if you’ve written too much or too little. Before writing, ask yourself:

How Much Do My Customers Know?

Think about your target audience. Do your readers need to be educated about basic concepts? Or, are they already fairly knowledgeable on the subject matter at hand? Long-form content allows for more information to be shared with your audience and can be more useful to an uneducated audience, as it is typically perceived as more authoritative and trustworthy.

How Engaged is Your Audience?

Anther point to consider is the level of interest your readers have in the topic at hand. Look at the pre-existing content on your website to identify which content receives the most traffic, pageviews, and conversions. Use this data to determine whether your audience prefers long-form or short-form content. Additionally, you can look at your site analytics to see how long the average visitor spends on your site.

What Resources Do You Have for Content Production?

Writing high quality, highly optimized content can be challenging for marketers who likely already have their plates full. Ideating topics, researching, writing, editing, and publishing content all takes time, and it can be difficult to stay on track with your editorial calendar.

Need a hand? Aztek is a full-service digital marketing agency that takes a content-first approach to educate audiences, engage customers, and drive better lead acquisition. Our content marketing team will work with you to establish the right tone and voice for your brand through blog posts, web page content, landing pages, case studies, guides, whitepapers, newsletters, and more. Contact us today to get started.

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