Is short or long content better?

Posted on June 14, 2017

 

There is a debate amongst content creators about whether it is better to write short or long content. There is no definitive definition of long content, but many say that content with 1000+ words meets this description.

Short and sweet

The arguments for short content is that many readers have a short attention span and do not want to read long content. Furthermore, as well as readers having to take time to read long content, it is more difficult and time-consuming to produce. The longer the piece, the more likely writers are prone to make mistakes.

It is thought readers will tend not to share long content or copy it to their social media pages, making shorter content ideal.

A longer, in-depth approach

Readers want precise answers to specific questions. Around 70% of Google searches use longtail keywords which suggests that they are looking for detailed answers.

Longer content can provide comprehensive information about the article topic, whereas a short 300-word article is limited to how much depth it can go into before hitting the word limit.

Your content needs to stand out. If your competitors use short content, then long content can distinguish your site. One of the goals of content marketing is to encourage your brand to be seen as trusted and authoritative. In-depth content can help to achieve this goal.

What works for Google?

Although Google does not publish its search engine algorithms, research has found that long content can rank well. SerpIQ researched 20,000 keywords and found that for more than 2,000 of these, the average article length in the top ten Google results was over 2,000 words.

Pandu Nayak of Google is quoted as saying:

“Users often turn to Google to answer a quick question, but research suggests that up to 10% of users’ daily information needs involve learning about a broad topic. That’s why today we’re introducing new search results to help users find in-depth articles.”

Research by Moz found that long content articles, on average, attract more backlinks.

Which one should you use?

There is no definitive answer to this question. It depends on how, when and where content is used.

Many sites have a mixture of short and long content and perhaps that is the best strategy to appeal to all visitors. A page can contain a short article or a synopsis and that links to a longer, more in-depth analysis that provides people interested in the topic with the information they are seeking. BuzzFeed is example of this, with short articles and a separate section for in-depth content.

The website Wait By Why, mainly publishes 1,500-word posts and it is thriving. Its home page has attention grabbing headlines and images that link to its longer posts.

If you intend to use long content, then it needs to provide value to the reader. It is far too easy to waffle and wander off-topic simply to add extra words and this will deter readers from reading your content.

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