Any seasoned content creator is likely familiar with the industry’s “gold standard” when it comes to word count.
The majority of articles published on the internet falls under short-form content and are roughly 500 words long. Depending on who you ask, short-form content can be anywhere between 0 to 1,200 words. For the sake of this article, we’ll consider short-form content to be anything under this 1,200 word range, and long-form content to be anything above 1,200 words.
Although it still makes up the majority of articles on the Internet, short-form content is beginning to lose ground against long-form content, and for good reasons.
In the past, long-form content has received a negative reputation due to the assumption that the average reader’s attention span is dropping considerably. Further still, long-form content became even more unpopular with the release of smartphones. I mean, who would want to read a 2,500 word article on a 4.3” screen?
The assumed answer: nobody.
Although these assumptions were correct to a certain degree, recent studies have shown that long-form content is more efficient in engaging users, and leads, in most cases, to higher conversion rates.
Furthermore, long-form content can help websites rank better in the SERPs.
What you can expect from this article:
Long-Form Content Defined
First and foremost, it’s not 500 words + fluff, and if that's what you're doing - stop!
Whether you write 500 words, 1,500 words, or 5,000 words, always remember
- quality beats quantity -
Especially, if you want to give your followers relevant content that will keep them engaged.
On the technical side, if you want to rank well based on Google’s search algorithm. the quality of your content is highly important.
The SERP Benefit
An SERP, short for “search engine results page”, is the webpage that is displayed whenever you search for something online. Nobody - except the very few who work on it - know exactly how Google’s algorithm ranks pages in the search results. There is of course, a lot of speculation, and even some tested "facts", but we can't be 100% sure.
Fortunately, bloggers, webmasters, SEO consultants, and many others are constantly experimenting with content in order to find the most impactful ways to break through the deep sea of Google search results and communicate their message to the masses.
Let's take a look...
The serpIQ Study
In April 2013, Kevin Espiritu from serpIQ, published an article regarding the importance of content length in SERP rankings.
For their study, they researched over 20,000 keywords. The results were impressive, especially because most content creators believed that short-form content was still the “gold standard”.
What serpIQ managed to show with their study, was that the top 10 search results were all in excess of 2,000 words, with a word drop of approximately 400 words between the 1st result and the 10th. This was one of the first studies that showed that the best ranking articles, based on different keywords, were all long-form content.
Furthermore, the same study also showed that older websites tend to have longer articles in the SERPs. Based on a simple <1 year old, 1-10 years old, and >10 years old ranking, the results showed that newer websites had an average of 1800 words on the SERPs, while website that were more than 10 years old had an average of 2800 words. Although this result leaves a lot for interpretation, it can be said that there is definitely a trend towards more long-form content articles based on the age of the website.
The Moz Study
At the end of 2012, John Doherty from Moz, published a well-documented research report that analyzed the amount of backlinks an article had, based on several factors.
500 articles were subjected to a thorough analysis. Part of his report showed that there is a direct correlation between the number of words and the number of links.
Take this article for example, we passed the 500 word mark a long time ago. Does it feel like you’ve learned a lot about long-form content?
I’m betting the answer is “No”.
That’s because, at least in this case, there is a lot of information that needs to be analyzed and presented, in order to correctly understand the bigger picture. More often than not, this applies to various niches. In order to convince users of the accuracy of your article, you need to provide a very thorough explanation.
Long-Form Content & Conversion Rates
As defined by Google itself, the conversion rate is “the average number of conversions per ad click”.
In order to calculate your website’s conversion rate, you simply divide the number of conversions by the total number of ad clicks in a given time period.
For example: if you have 150 conversions from 1,000 clicks, your conversion rate is 15%.
Keeping track of your website’s conversion rate will help you improve your marketing strategy.
If your business relies on conversion for revenue and profit, it’s safe to assume that you want as many conversions as possible. There are various ways through which you can increase your conversion rate, however for the sake of time, space and relevance - we’re only going to talk about the impact that long-form content will have on it.
The Highrise Marketing Study
The owners of Highrise Marketing, conducted a study to see whether long-form content affected their website’s conversion rate. In order to do so, they created a separate landing page that featured a longer article, covering the same information as their site, but providing more details.
The results reflected an increase of 37.5% more people that converted to leads via the long-form content page!
Any researcher worth their weight knows that one off studies are not enough to provide a complete undiputable picture. It’s only when the results can be replicated, that the value of the information can be trusted.
So, let's take a look at...
The Crazy Egg Case Study
This is a well-known case study that researched and revealed the benefits of website optimization. Although there’s more to it, rather than just long-form content, the latter did play a key role.
According to the results, after the original landing page of Crazy Egg was revamped into a long-form content page (that was almost 20 times longer than the original), the conversion rate increased by approximately 30%.
An important aspect that deserves mentioning: outsourced articles.
Most any website or agency owner is all to familiar with the process of outsourcing content creation. Currently, the majority of outsourced content is however, short-form because its providers only offer 500 word articles.
The impact of this deserves to be taken under consideration and the "strategy" under revision by those who utilise outsourcers for their content creation.
The reason being, because Google’s algorithm can easily identify the difference between - outsourced material added to the net for the pure purposes of gaining rankings, and original content written with the user’s interest in mind.
If the majority of articles on a site are short-form content, it could potentially hinder the authority of that website.
Lost authority = lower rankings.
The Role of Long-Form Content in Social Media
The Statista Study
You'd be living under a rock if you were oblivious to the impact that social media has on everything published on the Internet.
According to an updated study published by Statista in January 2018, Facebook has approximately 2.19 billion monthly users worldwide, while Twitter is getting close to the 350 million mark. These numbers are valuable to anyone who wants their content seen because they show that more than 28% of the entire world’s population currently has access to at least one social media platform.
Moreover, the same study showed another interesting fact, that Facebook users access the application a minimum of 8 times a day, while Twitter users access the app at least 5 times a day.
So why is this important for online websites?
Because the majority of communication between your followers and customers will happen on social media and if you're not there to connect with them - you're missing out.
Neil Patel’s Study
Leaving social media statistics to the side, Neil Patel, a world-renowned marketing consultant, has published his own study on how long-form content is distributed on Facebook and Twitter.
He used his own 327 blog posts for the study. For the purpose of the study, Patel considered long-form articles to be those that had at least 1,500 words. The result was that long-form content attracted more likes and tweets than short-form content.
From the 327 blog posts that were included in the study, Patel found out that, on average, the short-form content articles were receiving an average of 59 Facebook likes and 174 tweets. On the other hand, his long-form content articles were receiving an average of 75 likes and 293 tweets. To put the results in perspective, long-form content received an average of 68% more tweets and 27% more likes.
How to Create Long-Form Content
Congrats! You've made it to the last section of this post!
Your grasp of long-form content has, hopefully, improved considerably since the beginning of this article. Assuming it has and that you now understand its benefits, it’s time to talk about how to create it for yourself - the quality kind anyways. Because let's be honest, just about anyone can throw 2000 words of nonsense down on a page.
There are only a handful of tips that you need to have in mind when creating your own long-form piece of content.
- Don’t Do It Because I Said So - You shouldn’t be creating long-form content just because you read some interesting statistics. The ultimate goal of your blog or company website should be to bring information to your followers and customers. In order to do so effectively, you must present quality information in a user-friendly manner.
Long, but easy-to-read articles are always a success to an interested audience. Take the time to find subjects that you can write about without needing to add fluff to make the article seem longer. Your users won’t appreciate it, and ultimately, you won’t see any financial and social gains.
- Don’t Overdo It - Whenever people get excited about new knowledge, they tend to exaggerate when applying it to their business or systems. In the cases of blogs and websites, there’s no exact “good” and “bad”.
However, if you only put out mega length content and you neglect shorter posts for your site and social platforms, you'll miss out on connecting with a portion of your audience who gets value from your succinct stuff. You should always have a balance between short-form and long-form content, simply because there are certain subjects that can ( probably should) be more concise.
- Make It Easy To Read - Long-form content should not be difficult to read. It is already packed with a lot of information, so it’s your job to make this information easily accessible.
A massive paragraph of text will not appeal to your followers. Always use headings and subheadings to define the content that your user is about to read. Some of your users are interested in the whole article, while others will only scan the paragraphs that they need. In order to make it an enjoyable read for both, your text must have a clear structure.
A great tip here is to write a short summary of the article in one of the starting paragraphs. This will not only attract more visitors, but it will allow them to read exactly what they need, without feeling frustrated about not finding the sought-after information.
All of the above studies have shown that integrating long-form content has many benefits to your brand. Depending on how you use it and what you use it for, it can increase your conversion rate, your social media reach, and your SERP ranking.
Short-form content will generally engage your audience on a regular basis, while long-form content will help to establish your business as an “authority” in the niche. However, just to be clear, neither will happen over night.
Regardless of the length - the bottom line is that whatever content approach you take on, you must always, always, always produce high-quality stuff.