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Long-Form Content: Rankings Booster or Time Waster?

For a long time, short pithy blogs with concise little introductions and a link to another page were all the rage. But then along came long-form content.

It only takes 500 words for a search engine to notice your content. So what qualifies something as “long-form”? Anything over 500 words? That doesn’t seem very, well, long.  There are differing opinions: some folks will tell you it needs to be 1200 words, others say 1500, many agree on 2000, a handful think 4000 and a few steadfastly believe any content piece 7000 or more words on length can be called long-form content. My rule of thumb? I find that 1500+ words is a good, hefty piece of content that allows me the space to really dive into the questions, problems, and solutions surrounding the topic (without writing a quasi-thesis paper).

long-form content
Don’t forget to create an editorial calendar, research, outline and organize!

What it is

Google it and you’ll get “the length of longform articles is between that of a traditional article and that of a periodical.” Or “long-form content is between a short story (under 7,500 words) and a novelette (under 17,500 words) in length.”

Long-form content can be defined as any in-depth content that gives audiences a great amount of detail and information. It includes things like ebooks, white papers, and long blog posts.

Why it matters

The argument against long-form content is that people don’t want to read long pages of content online. People’s attention spans are shortening and Internet users are looking for instant gratification. That shouldn’t hold you back though. If your content is engaging and informational enough, people will read it, no matter the length.

The consensus is that long-form content ranks and converts well. Short posts might be easier to create but the truth is they’ll never get the traction that long-form does.

What the benefits are

  1. Long-form content helps get better rankings.

Evidence shows that there is a direct correlation between article length and rankings. The longer the content, the better the SERP ranking. Who doesn’t want an improved SERP rank, am I right? The graph below shows that a 2012 study by serpIQ found that the first page of search engine result pages are full of content longer than 2000 words. (You can thank Google’s 2012 algorithm update, Google Panda.)

long-form content
Graph from 2012 serpIQ study

2. Long-form content helps with expert positioning.

In-depth articles build authority and are more trustworthy. To be deemed a credible source on a topic is a great thing. And Google will even reward you for it (search engine ranking have been shown to increase).

3. Long-form content increases engagement (and conversions).

According to research, longer content increases the likelihood of sharing. If people find your long-form content useful and trustworthy, they’re have a tendency to share it. Thus spreading brand awareness and growing your audience. Building engagement with readers while increasing your brand’s authority sounds good, right?

4. Long-form content is evergreen content.

What?! Long-form content is the gift that keeps on giving? Yep, long-form content will keep bringing in traffic, shares, and rankings months after it’s created. An authoritative piece will continue being back linked to, as well – a lovely little SEO benefit just from writing a measly 1500 words! Hurray for sustainability!

 

To sum it up, if your brand is looking for better rankings and engagement, incorporate long-form content into your marketing plan – particularly if you haven’t been able to get your website up and running or grow an audience. If you have a lot of existing social media influencers or a large following on a platform, short-form content often does just fine. Most business will find that a strategy that incorporates both is the best.

I’ll tackle the final piece, how to create long-form content, in another blog post. Until then, share what you consider ‘long-form’ below.

 

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Sources: 

Core DNA: How to Create Long-from Content (Backed by Science)

MarketingProfs: Your Customers Like Long-Form Content Much More Than You Think They Do

Search Engine Land: The SEO and User Science Behind Long-Form Content

Small Business Trends: 8 Reasons You Should Be Creating More Long Form Content

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