Short-form Or Long-form Content: How Best To Use Them

Short-form or Long-form content? This is one the first questions that a blogger has to answer before writing his blog post. Now if you search Google for “short or long content” (which you’ve probably done already) it’ll throw 4.35 billion results at you (as of now). If you go through all the results on the first page you’ll see conflicts everywhere, even regarding what length can be considered short or long. Typically short-form blog posts may have less than 300 words and long-form posts more than 2000, considering average post length having a thousand.

Using short-form or long-form content is usually according to the purpose of the blog post. There are advantages to both forms of content mixed along with your average length content.

Advantages of Using Short-form Content

  • Short-form content probably addresses the most severe problem your readers are having right now – not having enough time. It effectively stresses on one or two important things that you want them to know without demanding longer time commitment from them. This quality of short-form content makes it very popular, especially in social media platforms.
  • As they are shorter in length, they take less time for you to produce. If you’re a serious blogger then you know time is one commodity always running low. Having some short-form content planned in your mix will help you keep up with your expected content calendar.
  • A large part of your audience will be other bloggers, both established and aspiring. Since they’re on a time crunch on a pretty regular basis, they don’t read whole content but rather scan through them. Short-form content is the perfect dish to serve for them.
  • Short-form content is also more mobile-friendly. People may consciously avoid reading lengthy posts while on their mobile devices. Shorter blog posts will then hook them onto your site for longer. Ironical, right?
  • Since short-form content is more likely to be read in its entirety, it frequently gets more engagements from your audience. This could be a good scope for you to further elevate your marketing efforts. This is why corporates are switching to shorter blog posts to attract new traffic and interact with them.

Advantages of Using Long-form Content

  • Probably the biggest advantage of long-form content is that you can use your focus keywords in a more generous way. Too many uses of keywords in your short-form content will seem like stuffing. But on the other hand, a lengthy blog post has ample opportunities to address not only your focus keyword but also some long-tailed versions of it. Having more keywords in your content helps to rank it better in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), effectively bringing in more traffic for your site.
  • Good, comprehensive long-form content almost always will build your authority on the topic covered. Moreover there’ll be less competition for you as producing long content requires hard work.
  • A long blog post, with a few tweaks, can be repurposed into a series of YouTube videos, an e-book or even a short online course. It can serve multiple purposes for your overall digital marketing goals.
  • When a visitor to your site finds a long post and goes through it, you can be sure that he understands the topic covered and is ready to consume more similar content. He can be turned into a happy customer too if or when you have something to sell, by following some pretty basic strategies (more on that later). It is seen that long-form content significantly increases retention and conversion.

When to Use Short-form or Long-form Content?

Deciding on whether to use short-form or long-form content comes from two primary observations.

Understanding Target Audience

Your target audience will determine whether to use short-form or long-form content
Your target audience will determine whether to use short-form or long-form content

First, you need to understand who your potential target audience is. If your target audience demands short-form, you’ll produce short-form and vice versa. Have you noticed how celebrity news and sports news articles are almost always on the shorter side? Because their target audience wants quick information, without fluff.

You may primarily be writing for an audience on the younger side, an avid consumer of information but also busy as a bee. You need to use more short-form content to capture their attention, build your brand awareness and quickly answer their exact query, hoping to earn some engagement from them if you’ve done everything right in your post.

Or you may be writing mainly for a highly targeted, older decision-making audience who comes to you to know more about what you’re offering. They want to know about the uniqueness of your brand as they’ve already finished researching your competitor offerings. They want a lot of questions answered if they want to chose you over your competitors. Use long-form content to elaborate as much as possible, answer every questions and help them decide in your favor.

Understanding Intent

Understanding the searcher intent will take you one step closer to decide whether to use short-form or long-form content
Understanding the searcher intent will take you one step closer to decide whether to use short-form or long-form content

An young audience doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll always be satisfied with consuming shorter form of content. Sometimes they too want to know all there is to know about a certain topic (what if it’s only about the next Marvel movie). That’s why we need to better understand the intent of our audience when they visit our site.

If you’ve studied a bit about Search Engines, you know how they find out (or try to find out, with pretty high success rates) the intent of the searchers. For example, “How to make tasty pizza” presents a searcher with a lot of recipes in his SERPs and “Best pizza in {location}” suggests him a lot of places where he can buy the “best pizza”. Now the articles around those two keywords will need two very different strategies for best serving the searcher. We’ll need to deploy similar tactics when choosing whether to write short-form or long-form content.

Based on intent, how-to guides and similar educative posts have better chance of success when they’re written in the most elaborate way, pausing every now and then to answer every odd question a reader might have. These posts make excellent candidates for pillar posts for your blog, easily over three to four thousand words and linking to a lot of internal and external resources. On the other hand, listicles, checklists or personal stories need a lot less words. Driving the point/s home is more important than explaining every tidbit.

How to Write Short-form Content?

  • Try to be as minimal as you can with regard to post length. The sole goal of short-form content is to effectively drive one or two points home with your readers.
  • Having a truly catchy headline is an absolute necessity. Take as much time as it takes to hone out the perfect headline. You can try my suggestions for that here.
  • Using rich content on the flashier side alongside your text will give you more brownie points and make your short blog post irresistible to your visitors.
  • People tend to bounce off when they finish reading the shorter content. You can provide links to more internal content to make them stay on your site.
  • Think like an advertisement copy writer when writing your short-form content- brief, easy on the eyes but with a greater impact effortlessly delivered.
  • Always be prepared to answer further questions in the comments section. If possible, give out more links. Engagement should be at the maximum if producing shorter content seems like an appealing idea to you.

How to Write Long-form Content?

  • Headline is still important but the introduction is even more so. Lay out exactly what you’re going to cover in your post. Handle any misunderstandings arising out of your headline. Be clear and concise to get the goal of your post on the front. You can read my other blog post about writing a happy introduction to a blog post here.
  • Identify all your main points for the article and then arrange them by using headings and subheadings inside the content. An user might come to your post to find just one particular answer to his query. He should be able to find it quickly and efficiently. There’s more to properly using headings and subheadings in your writing in this post.
  • Long-form content has the obvious advantage of using your keyword/s more generously. Simply for this reason alone, longer posts usually get ranked more on the search engines. Plan your keyword strategy and try to use as many long-tail variations as well as semantic variations. Anything that can give you a competitive edge, implement.
  • Use rich content in strategic places to effectively break up those long sections of text. Just make sure they’re relevant to the content though.

Short-form Or Long-form Content: Last Words

There's no right or wrong when deciding to use short-form or long-form content
There’s no right or wrong when deciding to use short-form or long-form content

Deciding to use short-form content on your site isn’t wrong. Throwing gigantic long posts isn’t wrong either. It all depends on the context.

Produce short-form blog posts but write some long ones too. And there’ll of course be some of your average length posts. The topics you cover on your blog will require different word counts to get your point across. Do what it takes to fulfill your purpose with your writing and then simply stop.

The golden rule of content marketing states that “No particular strategy works for everyone”. Shorter posts may attract new readers but longer content doesn’t necessarily scare away readers either. Bad, purposeless writing definitely does. Copyblogger’s Michelle Russell suggests “writing with a knife” to “cut every bit of unwanted fat from your prose“. Chose your topic, plan what you’re going to say and take as many words as needed to get your points across. The ideal length of your blog post is thus basically “as long as it takes”.

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