I had a discussion the other day with a prospective client about some blog writing he wanted us to do. It was a subject I enjoy, the client was a nice person? and we got on well. Until he said he only wanted long form blog posts because short form doesn?t work any more. Wait, what?
Short form no longer works? That?s news to me!
Short form vs long form
Short form writing is usually regarded as anything under 2,000 words. So most blog posts would be classified as short form. Long form is anything over 2,000 words. Long form is usually reserved for more involved pieces such as white papers, case studies, analyses and e-books.
Long form does have a place in blog writing, but to say that it?s the only way to go is a mistake. Here?s why.
A tale of two audiences
As most of us know, the average internet user has a shorter attention span than ever. That user skims rather than reads and likes all their information packaged up in neat little blog posts or infographics. We all know this and we use it because it works.
Long form doesn?t appeal to the average user. When they see a lengthy blog post, even if broken up with sub headers and images, they see a wall of text and just move on. However, if you?re appealing to more invested readers or those wanting detail, long form is ideal. It gives you the word count to really get into your subject and cover it in much more detail, which is exactly what this audience is looking for.
So, the average internet user isn?t going to be interested in long form as it isn?t what they are interested in. However, the average long form reader will engage with short form if it?s entertaining enough. So if short form can appeal to both audiences but long form only appeals to one, which one is more powerful?
Google and long form
Google might have something to do with some SEOs and content marketers favouring long form copy. It apparently has a special algorithm that assesses long form and will favour long over short every time. We know from recent updates that time on page influences search engine rankings, so will inevitably favour longer blog posts over shorter ones. Long form blog posts also get shared more, according to BuzzSumo anyway.
So where does this all leave us?
To my mind, short form is most definitely not dead as it appeals to too many users. Long form is the ideal place to build authority and show your audience that you know your stuff, but that audience is smaller. So to my mind, a successful blog or content marketing campaign includes both if there is an audience for it.
Long form, like any blog writing has to be done well or not at all. Writing for word length rather than going where the subject takes you will not win you any new customers. A combination of many types of content that your target market will find engaging is the best way to run a strategy.
To favour one type of web content over another is to favour one audience over another. Fine if that?s the industry you?re in or what your target market demands. But if it isn?t, you not only miss out on early scannable content that can hook the curious fish.