If there is one factor that search engine optimizers and webmasters can agree on regarding content on the web, it is the belief that content is still king. Social media activity, perfect keywords, optimized site navigation and structure, and interactive media are all essential in boosting visibility and ranking for your pages. At the end of the day, though, the content on your site will ultimately make or break your success.
Social media activity, interactive videos and infographics, and easy navigation will garner attention and capture the imagination of your visitors just long enough to get them reading your content. The luster wears off quickly if your content is irrelevant. This much we all agree on. When it comes to the length of articles and blog posts, the waters get a murky quickly.
On one side of the debate are those who believe short, concise blog posts are the best option. The opposing point of view believes that long posts with deeper information are the only way to go. So, what is the solution? Is one really better than the other? Let’s dive right in and answer that question for all the readers.
Arguing in Favor of Long-Form Content
In recent years, 500-word blog posts were held up as the perfect length for articles and posts on any website. By keeping the post short and concise, you engage the reader without boring them to death or running afoul of Google’s standards for content quality. However, over the course of the last year the 500-word blog post has lost some of its luster. SEOs and webmasters openly argue about value of both long- and short-form content.
The truth is that both have benefits and drawbacks. So we’ll start by looking at the benefits of long-form content. First off, long articles are those that contain at least 1,500 words. Examples of longer posts include white papers, in-depth guides, and webinars. According to Search Engine Watch, long-form content offers the following pros and cons:
The Pros Of Long Content Pages
- Google has a special ranking algorithm for longer posts
- Your audience stays on your site longer, boosting engagement
- Introduces readers to broader and deeper views on a topic
- Generates quality backlinks
- Puts a stamp of authority on your site and offers credibility
Pros And Cons Of Long Content Pages
- Not everyone bothers to read long content
- Not shared as frequently as short-form content
- Doesn’t tend to go viral
- Length alone doesn’t result in a higher ranking
Arguing in Favor of Short-Form Content
As mentioned, the 500-word blog post was considered king of all content for many years. In reality, short content is anything under 1,000 words in total. Examples of short-form content include list posts, infographics, and general blog posts on product releases or service updates. Again, we turn to Search Engine Watch for the pros and cons:
Pros And Cons Of Short Content Pages
- Many people tend to scan websites rather than read
- Easily shared
- Mobile-friendly format
- More likely to go viral
- Easily copied by other bloggers
- Lacks depth on a particular topic
- Too little information altogether
What Does Google Say?
The popularity of short-form content spiked when Google released Panda, in particular. SEOs were under the impression that content needed to meet a minimum length, generally accepted as 500 words, to avoid penalties under Panda for generating content that was low in quality. There was little evidence to prove this point, and Google’s John Mueller posted to the Google Webmaster Help thread to try and clear up the misunderstanding. He wrote:
“There’s no minimum length, and there’s no minimum number of articles a day that you have to post, nor even a minimum number of pages on a website. In most cases, quality is better than quantity. Our algorithms explicitly try to find and recommend websites that provide content that’s of high quality, unique, and compelling to users. Don’t fill your site with low-quality content, instead work on making sure that your site is the absolute best of its kind.”
The Real Truth
The dirty, often unspoken, truth on the matter is the fact that long-form isn’t worse than short articles. In order to succeed in boosting traffic to your site and climbing the SERPs rankings, you need to adopt a strategic content approach that makes use of both long-form and short-form content. As you create content for your website, length is just one of the many factors to keep in mind. You should keep all of the following factors in mind when you are generating new content:
- Substance: What message are you trying to get across to readers? What value do you want them to see in it? This is the most important factor in length. If you can provide that value in 200 words, do it. If it takes 1,500 words, do it.
- Style: Your writing style will greatly impact the length of each post. If you have an engaging, interactive writing style, it may be easier to create content that is long and still interesting.
- Frequency: Time is precious. How often you post to your blog or business site will impact length as well. If you provide constant updates throughout the week, there is no need for every piece to exceed 1,000 words.
- Format: Shorter posts are easy to read through quickly and be done. Longer posts struggle to capture the reader’s attention. Using subheadings and bullet points in longer content allows readers to scan the content, boosting the value of long-form pieces.
- Audience: The mindset of the individuals you are trying to reach is critical. If their needs, interests, and passions skew toward shorter content, long-form posts are sure to fail.
- Medium: The type of content you are creating will also impact length. Infographics, by their nature, use graphics, images, and raw data to make a point. You don’t need 1,000 words to explain the information in that infographic.
Whatever you do, always keep the quality of your content in mind. As mentioned earlier, don’t try to stuff more language into a post just to make it longer. If you can make your point in a short, concise post, do so.