A frequent question we get from clients is about long form content vs. short form content, and which is better for SEO?
The answer is both simple and complex. The SEMrush report “Ranking Factors SEMrush Study 2.0“ states that there is a 45% difference in content length between the top three and 20th position of a given web page in SERP, with longer content ranking higher for more frequently searched keywords. The report also stated that pages that rank higher for popular keywords “have on average 1.5 times more content than the pages in the low-volume segment.”
These findings would seem to point to long form content as the obvious answer to how long your content should be. But there are other considerations you should take into account before blindly adding words or pages to your articles, blogs and web pages. Here are some considerations.
SEO Content Must Be Relevant and Valuable
According to Moz, Google cares as much about the quality of your content as the length. At the end of the day, a 400-word article that contains relevant, valuable content to inform, educate, motivate or help readers is more strategic than a 1500-word article that misses the mark in connecting with your audience.
Google preferentially ranks content that deals with a lot of different related topics, because comprehensive content that incorporates related keywords is deemed to be a more valuable as a reference. For complex topics, it makes sense that that content would be longer and more detailed.
Keeping your content up-to-date helps with relevance. Before you dig into a topic, Google it to find out if there is interest as measured in search results volume. You might even find some related target keywords for your content where you could do a better job than the top three results. Google Trends can be a good tool for determining if your topic is timely and can also be a good way to identify trending keywords.
Ideal Article Length Should Match The Content Goal
If your goal is to tap into a trend, offer tips or best practices in a list, or try to get a conversation going or comments on your blog, there is no reason you can’t keep your content short. In this case, short form content such as a 400-word blog can accomplish your goal. Some bloggers post shorter articles more frequently because their goal is to get as many eyes as they can to their platform and stay top-of-mind.
Life sciences companies may use short form content in the form of an infographic or buyer FAQ article. In this case, the goal is to offer quick and easy information to their audience to spur further engagement. This is a good approach for awareness-level buyers who may not be familiar with you or your company. Conversely, if you want to establish thought leadership or provide comprehensive perspective on a topic, long form content is probably ideal, and can take the form of more on-page content or a whitepaper or guide. The goal of the content is of equal importance as trying to figure out the ideal article length and format to create engagement.
Should You Worry About Audience Attention Span?
You hear it all the time; people have short attention spans. Some say we simply multitask too much to devote dedicated time to any one thing. Others say our mobile and device obsession has made us more impatient, demanding that content provide instant gratification to warrant our attention. This may be true, but I would argue that if you do your job right in uncovering your buyers’ pain points, needs and values, you should be able to write content that your audience really wants to read.
People make time to read information useful to them. And the more complex the topic, the more in-depth you should be in order to provide true value. What does this mean for the content length debate? Short form content can expect a short attention span; long-form content can expect a longer attention span. More importantly, if all your content gets the same high bounce rates, you should work on understanding your buyers and what they want to know more about.
The Best Word Count For SEO
The bottom line is that your primary concern should not be the best word count for SEO but rather, about your content strategy. Be less fixated on content length and more dedicated to your content strategy. Strive to provide information that is compelling, informational, not otherwise available, or that offers a new or updated perspective. Importantly, seek to understand and design a buyer journey on your website for different levels of engagement, including opportunities for gated content and lead generation. Techniques such as dedicated landing pages with PPC directing to them should be considered as options, too. The more you know about your audience, the more you will understand their particular preferences and what content draws them in, engages, and converts them. Strategy before tactics, as a rule.
If you need help figuring out how to attract and engage your audiences, or a better understanding of who your audiences are, contact us. We do that.