Most of the content marketers believe that you should have at least a few long form contents on your website. Various beliefs have lead to dominance of the long form content even in the age of hasty users and short-form dominance (I have mentioned some of them in my recent post):
- Long form contents have a higher chance of social sharing (Source: Newswhip report)
- Long form contents inevitably lead to longer stay time of the user on the website (Source: Logic!)
- Long form contents have a better chance of getting a great SEO rank (Source: SerpIQ study)
- Long form contents will likely generate more leads (Source: Curata also SignalvsNoise)
- Long form contents outperform a series of shorter blog posts (Source: Problogger)
- Long form contents have a higher perceived authority of the author (Source: Wordstream and Kissmetrics)
- Long form contents cause longer and more engaging conversations (Source: quicksprout)
- Long form contents get more backlinks (Source: Moz report)
But as every belief needs to be evaluated regularly, the reasons behind credibility of the long form content has to be evaluated considering the ever-changing characteristics of the online world. Especially because search engines are not as blind as before.
In the first years of the introduction of the search concept, search engines were more a computation machine considering so many different content parameters such as content length, domain name, domain rank to find the most credible contents. Just check this list of 200 factors in Google ranking provided by Backlinko and separate the factors showing content characteristics from the factors related to the user behavior.
As in the internet old age, it was not so easy (or popular) to trace user behavior, a significant portion of the traditional SEO ranking parameters were related to the content itself, and the length of the content was surely of the most decisive factors in that paradigm. However, as Google and many other search engines have developed the huge human behavior databases, the relationship between content and the audience is a much precise factor in ranking the contents in comparison to the content characteristics itself.
Besides all the above facts, we should not forget that content creation for the sake of content creation or SEO for the sake of SEO is not justifiable in the current content-saturated world. What we need at the end of the day is conversion. We need profitable user action and the relationship between the content length, and the conversion (to the money and not just to the click) is not as straight as before.
So with all respect to David Ogilvy and his famous quote about long-form content, it seems that there are many other factors in choosing content length:
Use long form when you have a rich message
I’m talking about the rich messages, not important ones. Many important messages can be conveyed with a short sentence or small infographic. Your message is rich if you have so much relevant, useful, data which your audience is looking for and S(he) has to find it in other pages just after leaving your page or blog.
Here‘s a sample of not-so-rich content in long form. Even the best SEO rank would not make a serious conversion (subscription in this case) as the content is just long but not necessarily relevant and you feel that the author has made it deliberately and intentionally long just to bait clicks and hold you there.
Consider your subject and industry before deciding about content length
There are many reports (like Viperchill report) which show that the preferred or at least popular content length is highly dependent on the topic. Personal development articles are one of the longest ones and the readers of this category have got used to the long form. However you can’t expect that the reader of the political news be as patient as the reader of the personal development or financial blogs.
Think about your target audience
Statistics says that a longer content has a better chance of receiving a good SEO rank, Ceteris Paribas. But never ignore the last two words, Ceteris Paribas: with other things the same! This condition is not easily met! So, think about your target audience and their preferences. Demographic factors, interests and their previous knowledge can have a serious impact on their preferences about the content length and SEO rank is determined based on users preference and satisfaction more than any other factor.
What are you looking for?
Are you looking for SEO? for user engagement? Or user conversion? Are you looking for loyal users or accidental customers? Are you trying to collect user clicks or aiming to make your visitor delighted? Sometimes these targets do not overlap! Sometimes a short article can win search engines interest by so many happy visitors but a long article can engage a few visitors and leave the others unhappy and dissatisfied.
So, never decide on the content length blind and based on statistics. Statistics is always talking about the average people and average businesses and average contents. Sometimes we need to ignore them if we are not going to be ordinary!