For most people who write articles or content for SEO purposes, it is faster and easier to write short articles that can be posted quickly to keep content fresh and hopefully exciting. The trouble is, in trying to keep up with Google’s forever shifting algorithms – one can never truly know what they like for more than one moment to the next. This can end up causing your keywords to rank poorly, and trouble with attracting an audience. While it might seem like shorter content, but more of it is the right answer, it has been shown that long-form content converts better and is far more likely to be given the thumbs-up from Google.
AUTHORITY AND INBOUND LINKS
Long-form content is even better for inbound links, and Neil Patel made a graphic that depicts just how many more you get based upon your word count here, but this doesn’t mean that you should just blindly type until you hit your word count either, nobody wants to read filler. Be sure what you’re writing is quality and can be used as an authority on the subject matter, or don’t bother posting it at all. The entire idea is to build your site and content up to become an authority and a go-to source that Google is happy to list and rank because you deserve to be there.
WHAT IS LONG-FORM CONTENT?
Though there are many different definitions of what constitutes long-form content – a general rule of thumb to follow is that anything less than 1,200 words wouldn’t be considered long-form content. Aim higher at closer to 1,500+ and try to hit 2,000 as a standard regularly. Obviously, if you can write more easily and you can find plenty of research to back your article for pages upon pages of content, DO IT! The more words you have that aren’t filler, the better your site will perform in every capacity.
KEYWORD & WORDCOUNT STUDIES – PROOF!
In 2012, a leading SERP site did a study that involved over 20,000 keywords. Their results were groundbreaking in regard to word count and the impact it makes on how a site performs in Google rankings. All the average content found in the top ten placeholders had over 2,000 words as a standard. If in doubt, test it yourself and check who is ranking above you and why. Chances are, their word counts are much higher and content may be better. Long-form content works well in ranking and keeps you looking like the authority you’re supposed to be.
INSIDE INFO FROM PANDA
According to Pandu Nayak, the person responsible for the Panda algorithm that was launched from Google, users are looking for in-depth articles, not an article that is just a general or broad topic and not actually helpful at all. Panda is geared toward finding users the best content that meets their needs to a point that is precise to the extreme. This tells us that Google, specifically Panda is looking for long-form content, but not just any long-form content. It needs to see that the content is worth reading at all, so another reminder is not
remiss in saying not to use fluff and filler to swell your word count artificially. This method may take more time overall, but you’re going to get a much better result for your time spent.
WORD OF WARNING!!!
Keep in mind however, that Google is a finicky creature at best, and what they love today may not be what they love tomorrow. Unless you’ve got an ear within their corporate headquarters you’re not going to know any more than the rest of us what’s going to work tomorrow without trying it and seeing. It’s all a game of hit and miss, and capitalizing on the hits as they come. Ranking within Google takes many factors into consideration and long-form content is just one of many… so if this fails to get you a good ranking you might look at what else might be wrong, which is a subject for another post entirely. Saying that converting your site to fully long-form content does not guarantee you’ll get good placement on Google, and ranking your keyword within that content only means that you’re increasing the probability it will get better odds with Google.
MORE TESTING ON LONG-FORM CONTENT
An original case study that was done on behalf of High-rise Marketing, shows just how effective long-form content is in generating additional conversions. They sought to gain sign ups through their site and contracted two professionals to work on making this happen. Those people did some split tests to find out what the changes would do for the site, and their results speak for themselves. The home page with long-form content showed an increased conversion rate of more than 37%. Other sites also saw increases of 30% or more by using long-form content which ended up on average being 20x the length of the previous content.
CLASSIC MARKETING STRATEGY
Marketing has long known that the longer the material is, the more likely one is to make a sale. Think back to when people went door to door to make sales, or sending their pitch through the postal service. Brochures that were pages long, or contained a lot of information yielded much better results than ones that were just snippets of information. Dr. Charles Edwards, the former Dean of the Graduate School of Retailing at New York University said, “The more facts you tell, the more you sell.” People want to be fully informed before they
part with something as important as their money, and they don’t want to hunt the information down themselves to find it out.
SOCIAL MEDIA MEETS LONG-FORM SHAREABLE
Don’t forget social media when writing your content either. Social media works best with shareable long-form content, showing results that it has consistently outperformed shorter content overall. Neil Patel, mentioned earlier, also discovered through testing that over the 327 blog posts he wrote, his posts under 1,500 words got about 174 tweets and 59 Facebook likes. His content that was over the 1,500 word mark was much higher at 293 tweets and 75 Likes. Why? Because when people share something, they do so either because it resonates with them, or will make them look smarter, better, or wiser. The longer the content, and the more authoritative it looks and sounds, the better it’s going to make the sharer. It just makes sense.
WHAT GETS SHARED?
News sites have also researched which of their stories gets shared the most, to find out how to better reach their intended audience and provide better quality writing that will be noticed. One of the most widely shared articles was a speech that had been transcribed by an author regarding how important reading is. The article got shared over 220,000 times and had 3,535 words of supremely quality content. This and other examples just further prove how much stronger long-form content can be, especially when it is shareable on social media and can help others look like the “pro” when they post it.
CHOOSE ONE OR THE OTHER
Some things to keep in mind when writing long-form content however… if you’re going to use it, do it right and don’t make some posts 500 words and others 2,000+. It depends on what you’re trying to do with your site. If you are looking to be an authority, a site others can seek with purpose for clarity and instruction, then long-form content is all you should be using, period. If however, you have a site that contains subjects that can’t be written about over 500 words, say for something very specific, like the benefits of putting a roll of toilet paper with the flap on top, versus putting it with the flap below…then you may stick with a lower word count. The same applies for video descriptions or links to other blog posts on your site, they don’t need over 2 thousand words in the description. In cases like those, brevity is best.
QUALITY COUNTS – BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING
When you’re writing, never sacrifice quality for quantity. If your article is too verbose and you are using what my best friend’s mother used to call “5 dollar words” throughout your entire piece, you’ll alienate most of your reader base, and make it undeservedly hard to understand for no reason. Don’t rush your writing, it will show. Always spell-check it and run over it a few times for grammar failings, because no matter how great a writer you might be, you’ll always miss something. If you miss it, Google won’t. You can be penalized simply
because Google prefers to be a grammar goblin, so try to check your work before it gets published to avoid this. Be patient, it takes as long as it takes, and the results will pay out for taking your time.
HOW YOU CAN MAKE LONG-FORM AN EASY READ
Long-form content, nobody reads it… this is a big excuse that is heard often from media and other sites that seem to want people to think shorter is better, and you might be thinking to yourself that reading a wall of text is hard to keep track of, and a boring read at best, but you’re doing it right this moment. This article is broken up by bold headers and is sectioned by subject matter to help it flow easily and be more digestible on the whole. It keeps your eyes focused only on the segment being read, and gives markers to move forward from.
Long-form content does not have to read like a research paper, or a dissertation. It can be organized into neat sections for people to easily scan the writing for the part they’re most interested in, and you’ll find most will stop and read the entire thing at that point.
STILL HAVE TROUBLE WITH WRITING LONG-FORM?
“Listicles” make it easier for someone who has a hard time writing long-form content. What is it precisely? A listicle is an article that has a list of things. Think about headlines like, “20 Tips to Remove Writer’s Block”, and you’ll have the right idea. Your article would then be based around writing and fleshing out these 20 tips, and when you’re finished if it’s done well – you’ll easily have your 2,000 words and a nicely organized way for it to be read by your intended audience. This is also a massive benefit for working, busy people who have very little time in their lives to be sitting in front of a computer reading anything they’re not being paid to read. If you want to snag the attention of these very busy people, make a headline that pops, and rope them in by giving them a quick list of tips they can easily scan and use. They probably will not even read the entire article, but they will have gotten what they wanted from it and will likely return again.
Leaving with this thought, have you ever read a piece by someone whose headline drew you in out of curiosity only to find that once you got to the actual article, it was lacking in content, or information? Perhaps it had no photos, no links to anything to back the claims, or just left you wanting more and wondering where you could look for it, only to decide it wasn’t worth looking for it and closing the page. Every one of us has been let down by a link we’ve clicked and discovered there was nothing to it, and we wasted our time and often learned nothing new. Humans as a species are naturally inclined to be curious and will explore at every opportunity offered, you just need to pique that curiosity. However, once it’s been grabbed, it can be easily lost once someone is let down by the content. The next time the person sees your site name and remembers the last article they read that was 500 words of nothing, they’ll not even bother clicking it, and save themselves the time and effort. It’s no longer enough just to get someone’s attention, you must keep it.