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Long-Form Content vs. Short-Form: The Great Debate

posted January 9th 2017, 8:00 am by Nicole Nelson

Long-Form Content vs. Short-Form: The Great DebateThere’s a great debate happening in the content marketing world, and today you’ll get to see the tip of the iceberg. It’s the question everyone who ever blogs ever is wondering: How long should blog posts be? In other words, in the battle between long-form content vs. short-form content, who wins?

There’s a strong argument for both sides of the question, so we’re tackling both sides of the issue. We also have our own opinion on the question, which we’ll reveal at the end of the post. If you’re antsy, scroll to the bottom. Otherwise, let’s go!

Long-Form Content vs. Short-Form Content

Short-form

The general argument for the shorter blog post states that there’s too much content out there on the Web already for you to effectively grab your audience’s attention with a long post. People are used to reading many short articles in an hour. They’re reading on their mobile devices and won’t be distraction-free long enough to finish. Plus, have you heard about the attention spans of humans these days? Shorter than a goldfish's. If you create a long blog post, readers are likely to click off before getting to the end of your content.

Think of posts around 300-1,000 words. For SEO purposes, posts should be no shorter than 300 words. And, once you hit 1,000 words, you’re diving into long-form posts.

Pros

  • Easier to make time for – 400 words vs. 1,500 words
  • Less research required
  • More topics to cover in individual posts (can break up a complicated topic into multiple posts, for example)

Long-form

A study from 2015 found that content over 1,000 words consistently received more shares and links than short-form content. (Check out the study, conducted by Moz and BuzzSumo, here.) Despite that intriguing stat, the same study found that there is 16 times more content with less than 1,000 words on the internet than long-form content.

What's that mean for you? The content-counter is saturated. There’s many, many bloggers writing shorter blogs. Not too many writers take the time to write a 2,000+ word blog, so that’s a market that might just be open for you to dip your toe into.

Wondering the target word count for a long-form content piece? A study by Medium (click here to check out their analysis) found that most readers check out after 7 minutes, which is about 1,600 words. A 7-minute piece makes for great long-form content.

Pros

  • There’s less competition in this category, so it’ll be easier to stand out
  • People are more likely to email and share content that is intellectually stimulating. Yes, they like to share hilarious memes of cats. To promote discussions within your industry, though, the meatier, the better.

So then, how long should blog posts be?

Now comes the time for our own opinion. How long should blog posts be? They should be as long as they need to be to appropriately cover the topic. Is that cheating a little bit? Sure, but it’s the truth.

Another study also found that some of the most popular content on the internet are lists and infographics. If you’re creating a list, you’re probably not going to hit 2,000 words. But, if you’re writing out a how-to article (one of the other most popular types of content on the Web), you might go well beyond 2,000 words. Use your best judgement.

Now for the elephant in the room. What if you just don’t have the time to dedicate to 1,600-word blog posts? Well then, don’t write long-form blog posts. Writing something is better than writing nothing. If you’re stuck between a) writing a short blog post and b) not writing a long blog post, choose a). And, when your team of writers expands, perhaps you can consider working long-form blog posts into your regular content.

The moral of the story – whether it’s long-form content or short-form, keep writing.

One last note: you may be wondering why most of our blog posts fall into the "short-form" category. That is a good question, one that makes us a little uncomfortable. Well, um, because it takes a lot of time? Enough with the excuses! It's time to start writing long-form content here on our own blog. We'll be coming your way with more long-form posts in the near future (February, to be precise). I'll be sure to let you know how it goes...