Long-Form vs. Short-Form Content: Choosing a Path for Your Content Strategy
The long-form vs. short-form content debate has flipped back and forth from one extreme to the other over the years.
At every turn, you’re looking to answer one simple question—how long should a blog post be?
The truth is that there really is no magic word count for your blog posts. However, “as long as it needs to be” is a pretty unhelpful answer to your question.
Let’s be more specific. Choosing between long-form and short-form content is all about playing to each one’s strengths.
What Is Long-Form Content and Why Write It?
Maybe there’s no specific word count that defines long-form content.
But if you’re looking for some kind of guidepost, long-form blog posts are in the 1,200-word to 1,500-word range and longer.
According to a recent study from Orbit Media, this kind of content is quickly becoming the norm for B2B marketers.
That study found that the typical blog post is now 1,236 words with 28% of bloggers writing posts that are longer than 1,500 words.
This is the general trend you’ll notice across the content marketing world. Strategies are shifting away from traditional short-form content toward more long-form blog posts.
Why are we seeing such widespread adoption of long-form content? There are three main reasons.
1. Long-Form Content Ranks Better in Search
If organic SEO is a key part of your content distribution strategy (and why wouldn’t it be), long-form blog posts almost have to be part of the equation.
Ever since Google outlawed the spammy keyword stuffing approach to blogging, study after study has shown that long-form content leads to higher SERP rankings.
It makes sense. Google’s algorithm rewards content that shows authority over search topics and engages those who click through.
From a content perspective, that comes down to two primary things:
- Time on Page: One of the leading indicators of authority and engagement is time on page. This is especially true when you’re writing top-of-funnel blog posts that educate your audience. The longer people spend on your page, the more likely Google will be to identify the article as valuable. And what’s one way to keep people on the page? Make your content longer. (Important side note: this can’t come at the cost of quality.)
- Backlinks: Backlinks play a crucial role in search rankings—especially when you’re vying for position on hyper-competitive terms. Whether you’re running a link building campaign or just looking to grow organically, longer content is proven to gain more backlinks than short-form blog posts.
2. Long-Form Content Shows Greater Authority
There’s a reason why frameworks like 10x content and the skyscraper technique typically generate long-form content.
When you invest the time it takes to create a long-form blog post that’s 10x better than what already exists on the topic, your audience will start to see you as an authority figure.
Generally speaking, authority is all about how much your audience trusts you to educate them about a topic. So, when you write a post titled “How to X,” you need to deliver on the promise. Your post needs to clearly explain how to do what your audience is trying to figure out.
When your audience clicks through that link and only finds a high-level, 600-word overview of the problem, they won’t come away thinking that you’re an authority. They’ll just bounce off the page and look for content that can truly solve their problems.
Long-form blog posts give you the space to elaborate on one topic. That means digging into the main problem as well as all kinds of subtopics to give your audience the complete deep dive they’re looking for.
This idea is at the core of any pillar page strategy that has emerged in recent years. It’s not just an SEO strategy—it’s a more general way to build authority for your brand.
3. Long-Form Content Provides Opportunities to Repurpose
There was a time when content marketing strategies tried to mimic media publications. You’d set your editorial calendar with a focus on high volume. Consistently publishing 3, 4, even 5 blog posts per week was key to success.
Those days are largely gone—mostly because 99% of organizations can’t achieve the level of quality necessary to cut through the noise while publishing that frequently.
You have to figure out how to do more with less. Instead of forcing yourself to run on a content creation treadmill, you can focus on creating long-form blog posts at a slower pace.
But when long-form content is at the core of your strategy, that slower pace doesn’t necessarily mean you end up with fewer assets. Building out those long-form, authoritative articles opens the door for far more opportunities to repurpose content.
That could mean breaking up the long-form article into LinkedIn posts and tweet threads. Or, you could work with a designer to create infographics from that bigger asset.
Get creative with your repurposed content. No matter what approach you take, you’ll be getting more mileage out of that long-form content while improving your distribution strategy.
Short-Form Content Examples and When It Makes Sense
Short-form content is anything shorter than that 1,200-word to 1,500-word range that classifies as long-form.
But that’s not the whole story.
While we focused on blog posts and articles for long-form content, we have to go broader with the short-form content definition.
In the past, the long-form vs. short-form content debate was all about blog post length. Should you write 500-word blog posts or 1,000+ word articles?
Now, we have so many other avenues to make short-form content work. From email newsletters that contain entire blog posts to shorter LinkedIn posts on your personal profile or tweet threads to distribute a longer asset.
How can you get short-form content to work when long-form articles have become the strategic norm? Look at two examples and then think about how you can adjust for your business goals.
Short-Form Content Example #1: Seth Godin
If you’ve subscribed to Seth Godin’s blog, you know exactly what consistent short-form content looks like.
Seth has been publishing daily blog posts for years. They’re delivered to your inbox every morning and they never come close to that long-form range content marketers have come to love so much.
Instead, some of Seth’s blog posts are only a couple of sentences long. Others might be a handful of paragraphs. But no matter what, you’re getting a short thought about marketing, management, and the working world.
It’s unlikely you’ll find a specific Seth Godin blog post ranking for a high-volume keyword. Instead, Seth’s blog is a lesson in personal branding. He aims to build an audience and inspire them on a daily basis. The goal isn’t to build his audience as big as possible—it’s to serve the people who subscribe as well as possible.
If you want to publish short-form content, you can’t expect it to support the kinds of goals that long-form articles do.
This is about building brand awareness, gaining trust, and creating an audience for your business. And social media platforms are the perfect place to experiment with it if you don’t have the kind of platform that Seth Godin has built over the last few decades.
Short-Form Content Example #2: VeryGoodCopy
You can’t exactly look at Seth Godin’s blog and decide you’re going to replicate the strategy for your own brand. You (probably) don’t have that kind of name recognition. And you aren’t building a personal brand—you need to create content that drives shorter term business results.
Instead, Eddie Shleyner’s VeryGoodCopy might be a more practical example of short-form content.
VeryGoodCopy intentionally focuses on micro-articles. Instead of taking the long-form content route, Eddie publishes weekly short-form posts that max out around 350-400 words. It’s a brand built around quick-hitting copywriting advice.
Like Seth Godin, Eddie isn’t tying long-form content goals to his short-form articles. Rather, his whole website and content strategy is built around email subscribers. Visit the website and you see all kinds of CTAs to subscribe and testimonials from people who already have.
Then, you get the latest VeryGoodCopy content delivered right to your inbox.
It’s a lesson in audience building. And even though you might still want to leverage long-form articles for their many benefits, building this kind of short-form content into your strategy will only give your performance a boost.
When Short-Form Content Makes Sense for Your Strategy
There’s a misconception about short-form content that we have to eliminate.
The days of “snackable” content rose on the back of this idea that attention spans have gotten shorter. Marketers thought, “why publish long-form content when our audience only has the attention span for social media feeds?”
It was the goldfish theory—where people only had an 8 second attention span, so they couldn’t possibly want to read long blog posts.
Don’t let this be the reason you create short-form content.
People have long attention spans for things they deem valuable. It’s why Ahrefs can publish massive SEO guides that drive direct conversions for their platform. And it’s why long-form content dominates search rankings.
So, when exactly does short-form content make sense? When it’s:
- Platform-Appropriate: Want to maximize engagement on social media? Don’t just use Twitter, LinkedIn, and others to blast out links to your latest blog posts. Create short-form content that’s native to those platforms—even if it doesn’t directly promote assets on your owned platforms.
- The Easiest Way to Make Your Point: Long blog posts aren’t valuable in and of themselves. Anyone can add an extra 100 or 1,000 words to a post by rambling on and on, repeating themselves, or stating the obvious. Don’t force simple blog posts to become long articles for the sake of long-form content. If the point your making is simple, let the content exist in short form. This could be a product update, a note from an executive, or some other point that doesn’t require great depth.
Outlining: The Best Way to Choose Between Long-Form and Short-Form Content
Understanding the strengths and use cases for both long-form and short-form content is one thing.
But once you get into the day-to-day process of executing your content strategy, it can be tough to determine which format is best on a post-by-post basis.
How do you decide which approach is best for each topic on your calendar? Outline.
Choosing between short-form and long-form content feels impossible when you’re on the content creation treadmill. You sit down the day before the blog post is due to go live and start writing. You research on the fly, write up a draft in a few hours, give it a quick proofread, and then get it ready to go live.
If you’re staring at a blinking cursor wondering what your word count should be, you’re going to run into challenges.
Making a habit of outlining all of your blog posts will give you a better idea of how much information will need to go into the piece of content.
As you outline, create headers for all the main points you’ll want to cover. Only have a couple of main points? Maybe the idea is best-suited for a shorter piece of content. But if you start outlining and suddenly you have a laundry list of related keywords and subtopics, you’ll know a long-form asset is in the works.
There’s no right or wrong answer. That’s why “as long as it needs to be” is the honest-yet-unsatisfying answer to the usual word count question.
As long as you’re focused on making your point as clearly as possible and serving your audience in the right channel, you’ll be on a path to solving the long-form vs. short-form content debate.
For the busy marketer, it might feel like there just isn’t enough time to outline ahead of time. That’s when you start considering freelancer help. Get off the content treadmill and start executing your strategy with more purpose.