In the battle between short-form and long-form content, which one helps you rank higher in SEO?

One of the biggest debates in the content marketing community is over the effectiveness of short-form versus long-form content. That’s why it’s time for a definitive answer backed by real facts.

After reading this article, you can decide what strategy is best for your own content marketing campaigns, and start producing content that engages your readers.

Time to Bust Some Myths

Short-form content gets a lot of hype, and for good reason. It’s easy to digest and gets your point across quickly. Not only that, but short-form content is often visually appealing – it’s easy for readers to digest. What’s more, with the average human attention span estimated at 8 seconds, visitors may not want to read much more.

However, it may come as a surprise to you that studies show long-form content is actually more effective than short-form content. Why is this? Let’s explore.

Building Authority

When it comes to building authority, long-form content trumps short-form content. There’s nothing wrong with the average 400-word blog post, especially if it’s on an exciting topic that doesn’t require much in-depth writing. That being said, nobody will take your content seriously if that’s all you’re offering.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a B2B company or a fashion retailer, authority is what makes you stick out in a crowded field. It means that people not only trust your opinions, but they look to you for direction and to set trends. With long-form content like whitepapers, e-books and educational webinars, you’re demonstrating your expertise on a whole new level.

This authority often translates into more conversions, with one A/B-testing study finding that long-form content on a website’s homepage increased sales conversions by 37.5 percent.

SEO for the Win

When it comes to SEO, long-form content wins hands down. A study from serpIQ found that the average length of every top 10 result on Google was more than 2,000 words. That means that when you search for a keyword, you’re more than likely going to get results featuring long-form content. The reason for this is that Google is looking for unique content that informs readers. Short-form is great for grabbing attention, but it often leaves readers with only a surface-level understanding. If you want to rank high on keywords, long-form content will increase your chances.

There’s another reason why long-form content is so important for SEO, and that has to do with backlinks. One study by Moz and another by HubSpot found that long-form content is much more likely to generate a large number of backlinks. Not only does this help directly drive more traffic to your website, especially if your content is linked by a popular site, but it also helps build your content’s credibility with Google and other search engines. Backlinks are one of the most important SEO factors that Google takes into consideration, and it’s a sign that your content is worth reading.

Get Your Content Shared

What gets shared more, short-form or long-form content? You may be surprised.

A study by BuzzSumo of 8 million articles on social media also found that long-form content gets shared much more than short-form content. In fact, they found that the top 10 percent most shared articles were dominated by long-form content across Facebook, Pinterest and other social media platforms. Media giants like Buzzfeed and The New York Times also seem to replicate this trend on their own sites.

Despite claims that long-form content would die due to mobile phone users who can’t be bothered to read anything longer than a tweet, the data is showing the opposite is true.

There’s no doubt that you can boil down content down to a 200-word blurb or even a funny cat picture, and sometimes that can even be effective. However, this type of content is ubiquitous, which means one individual piece of this type of short-form content has trouble breaking through and really getting traction across the web.

Get More Eyeballs on Your Page

Short-form content gets shared and read all the time. It’s especially useful for sharing across mobile, where many readers don’t want to put in a significant time investment. That being said, a lot of websites don’t want people to just read an article and click away. Smart companies want readers to come to their website, stay a while and come back on a regular basis.

Well-written long-form content not only helps stay in the head of the reader, but it also gets visitors to stay on a page 40 percent longer and visit 25 percent more pages than short-form content. A study by Medium found that the best performing posts were 1,600 words long and took about 7 minutes to read. This means more eyeballs on your website, more traffic and potentially more ad revenue if that’s one of your goals.

At the end of the day, there’s a sea of short-form content out there, some of it not much better than click-bait. This is not to say short-form isn’t vital to a content marketing strategy. Short-form content is key for product descriptions, tweets and keeping your blog updated on a daily basis.

That being said, long-form content holds an edge over short-form content. If you do it right, you’ll definitely notice a positive difference.

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