Why Users (& Google) Love Long-Form Content

September 8, 2015 | Armen AkopyanWhy Your Company Needs Long-Form Content

Are you curating great content, but your posts don’t seem to be going anywhere? Are you using long-tail keywords that should be ranking, but you still don’t see a bump in traffic or shares? Are you posting frequently, but still fail to see visible returns on your investment in quality content creation?

If your content seems to be disappearing into the virtual void without doing much to increase your traffic, leads, conversion, or social engagement, it’s possible that your blog posts are actually too short. By producing longer, more comprehensive articles – called “long-form content” in the internet marketing world – you establish your company or brand as an expert in your field and improve your search engine ranking all at once.

What Is Long-Form Content?

Though there isn’t a set word count that qualifies an article as “long-form,” most SEO experts agree that anything over 500 words is enough to make both readers and search engines like Google sit up and take notice. To gain a competitive edge in an increasingly-saturated “blogisphere,” however, firms like Los Angeles Internet Marketing firm Alecan Marketing Solutions recommends publishing high quality content with no less than 1,500 words. (Note: the key phrase here is “high quality” – no reader wants to slog through 1,500 words of fluff, filler, and re-written information.)

Readers Love In-Depth Resources

For years, digital marketing experts believed that Americans’ evaporating attention spans meant that content should be as short as possible; after all, who has the time to scroll through a 1,500-word article on their iphone, much less peruse a 3,000-word exposé on their desktop computer? As it turn out, the “shorter is better” dictum which fueled Twitter’s rise (Twitter limits their “microblogs” to only 140-characters) hasn’t panned out the way journalist doomsayers predicted, and many well-known brands are now luring readers back with extremely thorough, thoughtful, and comprehensive articles. When one considers the way we consume information, this absolutely makes sense – as someone wanting to find the answer to a question, wouldn’t you rather look at one 2,000-word article than five 400-word articles? As consumers, we trust lengthy, in-depth articles more, and are therefore more likely to read these articles and recommend them to our friends.

QuickSprout.com, one of the industry’s leading social media marketing companies, recently compiled data (from a series of studies) suggesting that blog posts of more than 1,500 words receive more shares than posts with less than 1,500 words. In fact, as long as the articles contained quality content, longer blog posts consistently performed better than shorter ones.

SEO Benefits of Long-Form Content

It’s now apparent that long-form content contributes to a better user experience (UX), but what about the SEO benefits of channeling more resources into creating longer, more in-depth articles? According to leaders in the ever-evolving field of Search Engine Optimization, longer content can help boost your business in other ways too!

Long-Form Content Makes Google More Likely To Consider You an Authority (And Rank You Higher)

Though the algorithm Google uses to determine its SERP rankings remains a closely-guarded secret, the theory that long-form content is a boon to SEO efforts in not a new or radical one. Pandu Nayak, a technical staff member at Google and creator of the Panda algorithm update, even posted the following quote on a Google Webmasters Central Blog post in August, 2013:

Users often turn to Google to answer a quick question, but research suggests that up to 10% of users’ daily information needs involve learning about a broad topic. That’s why today we’re introducing new search results to help users find in-depth articles.

To reinforce Mr Nayak’s claim, keyword research specialist serpIQ.com conducted a study involving more than 20,000 keywords. The results of that study found the average content length of each of the top 10 results was more than 2,000 words, and the average number of words for the content in Google’s coveted #1 spot was 2,416. No need for analysis; we’ll let those numbers speak for themselves.

Alecan Marketing Blog - Longform Content 02

Long-Form Content Encourages More Backlinks

Here’s a simple question: Would you rather create a link to a 1,600-word article with tons of great information, pictures, and infographics, or to a 350-word flash-in-the-pan post that leaves you with more questions than answers? Because other websites (and their blogs) want to give readers high-quality information, the webmaster that run these sites are more likely to create a link to a long, comprehensive article instead of a short, quick read. By earning more backlinks, websites send a strong signal to Google that they deserve to be considered an authority domain. In short, long-form content = more links = more credibility (in Google’s eyes) = higher rankings.

Learn why link building is important for businesses in 2015!

Long-Form Content Increases Conversion Rates

While many digital marketing companies still believe that potential customers would rather read a short, catchy paragraph than a 1000-word product description or company ethos statement, several recent anecdotes fly in the face of that assumption. According to one marketing firm, their conversion rates increased by 37% when they employed long-form content on the home page, and the popular website CrazyEgg.com saw conversion rates increase by more than 30% when using the same tactic. In Crazy Egg’s blog, the company stated:

The media would have us believe that people no longer have any capacity to concentrate. In reality, you cannot have a page that’s too long — only one that’s too boring. In the case of Crazy Egg’s home page, visitors wanted their many questions answered and that’s what we delivered.

The “long-form sells” argument is echoed by renowned advertiser David Ogilvy, who said, “All my experience says that for a great many products, long copy sells more than short […] Advertisements with long copy convey the impression that you have something important to say, whether people read the copy or not.” Dr. Charles Edwards, former dean of the Graduate School of Retailing at New York University, backed up Ogilvy’s assertion by saying, “The more facts you tell, the more you sell. An advertisement’s chance for success invariably increases as the number of pertinent merchandise facts included in the advertisement increases.”

Long-Term Performs Better on Social Media

We’ve long considered social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter as the ideal place for short, simple articles that users can scan through in seconds, not minutes. Even on these platforms, however, long-form content typically performs better than short articles or posts that give no real information or inspire no thought. Take the popular digital marketing blog QuickSprout.com, for example — of the 327 blog posts the company surveyed, the ones under 1,500 words received an average of 174 tweets and 59 Facebook likes, while posts over 1,500 words garnered an average of 293 tweets and 75 likes. NewsWhip.com, a company specializing in social media engagement, also found that long-form content is the more shareable than short, succinct articles; of the thousands of pieces the company sifts through each day, one of the most widely-shared articles was a 3,500-word speech by science fiction author Neil Gaiman. (If you’re wondering, that article was shared more than 220,000 times!)

Alecan Internet Marketing Long-Form Content and Social Media
This Graph Shows Social Shares Based on Article Lengths

How To Write Long-Form Content: Quality Over Quantity

If you want to start creating longer, more in-depth articles, you’ll need to allocate the appropriate resources to ensure posts are of the highest possible quality. Start by doing lots of research, using subheadings to make your content scannable, and consider posting a short summary at the top of the page to entice readers to continue. Also, as with any article, a great title and images are a must — try incorporating one image for every 300 words of type.

For more articles about content marketing, visit the Alecan Marketing blog or contact our Los Angeles based internet marketing firm today!