Should You Create Long-form or Short Content?

As someone whose primary job responsibility is creating fresh original content, I’m often inundated by clients who ask a pretty simple question – will the content I create be long or short? Sound’s like a simple question, right? Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

The Way We Were

Guest blogging was huge in terms of the content published online. The optimum word limit for content published online for a long time was 500 words. At the dawn of September 2013, on the eve of their 15th Birthday, Google started using the Hummingbird Update. Considering the scope of this post, the important thing with respect to the Hummingbird Update that we need to understand is that Google evolved from being ‘Just a search engine’ to actually providing users with relevant information and becoming a knowledge portal.

As a result, many in-depth articles started popping up on the first page of search results. Google explained this by saying that "up to 10% of users' daily information needs involve learning about a broad topic." And so we saw an influx of brands publishing upward of 2,000 words per post!

Content Wars:

There are two distinct sides to the whole issue regarding content length – those who prefer shot content and other who like longer, detailed content. Now, creating long content just for the sake of length is a really bad idea. I mean, a REALLY BAD IDEA! Stay away from such content! :)

Long-Form Content:

Content that is around 2,000 words in length is called long-form content. The sheer amount of information that is packed into a piece of this length makes for an intriguing, insightful read. Examples of long-form content include whitepapers, e-books, guides, resources, videos, and webinars. The advantages of having long content include having users spend more time on a website, thereby increasing engagement and providing users with detailed information amongst many others. 

Short Content:

Before we introduce this, here’s a statistic for you – the average post on WordPress is just 280 words long! Blogs, Vine videos, infographics and posts on social networking websites such as Facebook & Twitter, count as short content.

Which One Should You Choose?

So which is better suited for your needs – A lengthy post that contains massive amount of data and information or a small crisp content piece that successfully captures the insights of the topic? The simple answer might by why not both? However, there’s really no right answer for the question above. It really depends on a lot of factors. I’ve tried to list some of the important ones that should play a part in this decision.

1. What Business or Entity is this Content Catering to?

If you have a new business selling greeting cards, you may not have the resources or the online muscle to write a long post detailing your company’s goals or glorifying your products. Hence, a short post that would draw in users and which is more likely to be shared across the digital spectrum makes a lot more sense.

At the same time, an established B2B seller would perhaps benefit enormously from a long post that would give a lot of information about his product to a potential target audience.

2. What about the topic?

The topic that a blog post or a content piece talks about often determines the length of the post. For example, a ‘How to…’ piece will naturally be long. Although for some businesses it makes sense to produce only long-form or only short-form content, for most of us, it makes sense to choose both. Just ensure that you maintain a healthy ratio of the two.

3. What Goals will this content Accomplish?

This is one of the most important, if not the most important factor to consider. The stylistic integrity and composition of the article will change on a fundamental level depending on your goal. These may be engagement, discussion, industry status, ability to share across social media, traffic, search rankings, etc. Phrase your content accordingly!

4. What’s your target audience like?

Are they middle-aged executives in dark suits or twenty-something’s in T-shirts and jeans? Consider this too because the more mature your target audience is, the more meat you want to have in your content. Don’t do the opposite for the younger generation though, they’re a smart bunch too! But it does have to be catchy and draw in users!

5. Tone

The kind of tone you use will differ depending on a client. Think about it, an online retailer of romantic cards cannot possibly have the same tone in posts as a microchip manufacturer, can it? A big part in using the appropriate tone in content is understanding your target audience. You also need to understand what will appeal to them and what they may not like.

6. Platform, Platform, Platform…

With the advent of mobile devices and with the majority of the internet users on tablets and their phones, it would be a wise idea to cater content specifically for mobiles and PC. Hence, if the content you’re going to put out is going to be read of mobiles and tablets, keep it short. For PC, it’s okay if it’s a long content piece.

So, What Content Should Put Out?

As I’ve said in the post, it depends on a lot of factors. There’s no set formula that you should abide by. But, if you follow some of the basic guidelines I’ve suggested, you should have content that will meet your needs. However, there are certain traits that are common to both long-form, as well as short content – it should be fresh, original and engage the users. Just make sure all of these are taken care of and the rest, as they say, will take care of itself! 

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