It is no secret that when we go online, we yearn for instant gratification. We want to view content that answers our questions or solves our problems in some way. What we don’t want to do is invest time checking something out only to discover that it doesn’t give away much information or guidance.
When we search for things online or frequent our favorite websites, we expect to find content relevant to our search queries and interests. It used to be taken as fact that website owners should curate content that is quick and easy to digest. After all; who wants to spend ages reading a blog post or article online, right?
The truth is, things have changed. Today, we still want relevant content – but if we find something “juicy”, we will take the time to explore that content in-depth. It seems that the change of landscape in reader retention is something reaffirmed by Google; that’s because they reward publishers that write longer, relevant content.
In the beginning
During the Web’s infancy, pages generally had 500 words of content or less on them. For some reason, many people believed that most of us have the attention span of a goldfish! With that in mind, most site owners curated content that was brief and seemingly easy to understand.
After all; most of us lead busy lives, and we don’t have time to go online! At least, that’s what people assumed back in the 1990s. These days, anything with less than 500 words is usually considered a “snippet” or a “short” – i.e. a brief story, much like the ‘skyscraper’ articles you might read in a newspaper.
As you may have deduced by now, things have changed. Search engines like Google are making publishers deliver useful and detailed content to searchers. Otherwise, they could incur the wrath of the algorithm! Did you know that since Google’s “Panda” algorithm update, anything with 200 words or less is considered “thin” content and potentially spammy?
Just in case you weren’t aware, thin content is where you have a page packed full of keywords that seldom flow well in conversational English. It’s like the difference between saying “plumbers New York” and “plumbers in New York”!
Nowadays, Google prefers that publishers stick to writing content on their pages that are a minimum of 1,000-1,500 words. Such content lengths are considered “long form.”
If you run a blog, or you post content to several blog sites, you might be wondering what the sweet spot is for content length. According to a study from serpIQ, the average number of words on the Web’s top-ranking pages is 2,416. As you can imagine, that’s quite a high jump from say 500 words! So, why are we now advocating the “longer is better” concept when it comes to Web page content, especially blog posts?
Google says users want to read more about broad topics
A technical staff member working for Google once commented on their Webmaster Central blog that more than 10% of us want just more than quick answers. Because of that fact, the Panda algorithm update means that searchers can now easily find content that talks about topics in greater detail.
Yes, there is still 90% or so of people that don’t need to spend time researching how to figure out a problem. Despite that fact, Google doesn’t want to alienate the minority of searchers that demand in-depth answers to their questions.
The way that the Google staff member expressed their comment about the Panda update hints that long form content tends to rank well. And given that there are hundreds of millions of blogs out there, blog posts should also reflect that fact if they are to rank higher in SERPs (search engine results pages).
Long form blog posts attract more backlinks
Let’s face it; when you’re writing an article about something, there will be times where you wish to link to external sources of information. You do this because you believe your readers may want to learn more about a particular fact or topic.
It doesn’t make any sense to link out to a page on the Web with just a couple of paragraphs of information. What you would rather do is link out to something authoritative that also explains the topic in-depth. So much of our link building campaigns for clients depends on having high quality content to pitch within the context of an article.
As you can appreciate, blog post content often gets linked to by website publishers and even other bloggers. Sometimes, facts and statistics don’t appear on “official” sources but rather in an organization’s blog. Google is a prime example of that, as they have many blogs dedicated to different departments; the Webmaster Central blog is one of them!
In 2012, Moz published an article where they analyzed their blog content and each post’s popularity. They determined that the posts with more content on them attracted higher amounts of backlinks.
You get more conversions
Blog owners need to get conversions. Sure, some people use their blogs as outlets for their thoughts and musings. But, even they need people to do something, such as subscribe to their newsletter or download an e-book perhaps. Other blog owners might promote products and services on their sites; affiliate marketing works well on blogs.
Bloggers must get people to commit some kind of action on their site, whether it’s signing up for a newsletter or clicking through to buy something. You may not have known this until now, but it’s a proven fact that long form blog posts get higher conversions than those with little content on them.
You might think the KISS (“keep it simple, stupid) school of thought is the best approach when publishing your blog content. However, many studies have concluded that 1,500+ word articles tend to garner higher conversions than ones with 500 words or less.
Here are a couple of examples:
- Internet marketer and entrepreneur Neil Patel did some A/B split testing on his website using two variants of his homepage. One had 488 words, the other had 1,292. His testing showed that the long form home page generated more leads and conversions;
- Highrise Marketing concluded that from their A/B split testing that creating a long form version of their homepage resulted in a whopping 102.5% increase in conversions;
- Crazy Egg achieved 30% more conversions with a new long form home page on their website.
Long form blog posts offer more internal linking opportunities
One of the basic facts that anyone will take away about website marketing is that internal links are just as important as external ones. It’s well-known throughout the SEO (search engine optimization) world that the “authority” of a page can carry over to other related pages on a website.
The thing is, creating thousands of pages with just a few paragraphs of text isn’t going to boost the site’s popularity as a whole. The only way that can happen from an internal point of view is linking between long form blog posts and articles.
An advantage of long form content on your blog is that you’ve got plenty of opportunities to link out to related content on your site. Some bloggers even divide up their posts into sections or sub-pages, referring to specific content for increased relevancy to their readers.
The idea of long form content isn’t anything new
You might think that one day, somebody came up with the notion that we should all write longer blog posts and Google thought it was a cool idea. What you probably won’t know is that the concept of long form concept is not a new one.
It’s actually a tactic used by offline marketers for direct mail campaigns. Even the late advertising tycoon David Ogilvy once said that “long copy sells more than short.” Of course, you don’t have to take the word of an advertising millionaire; there is a plethora of case studies and statistics to back up that claim!
It’s easier to explain complicated topics
The issue that some bloggers have is they tend to condense the subjects they talk about in their posts. When they do that, they leave their readers with unanswered questions, many of which they have to respond to in the comments section of their posts. In some cases, blog article readers end up with more questions than they first had before they started reading the posts!
A distinct advantage of long form blog post articles is that you’ve got the opportunity to explain complicated topics to your readers. You have the chance to talk about each facet of your chosen subject and answer the questions most of your readers are likely to ask.
As you may have gathered, that is one of the reasons why search engines like Google prefer websites that have a plethora of long form content on them. Their mission, if you like, is to make the Web a useful and educational resource for all of us to enjoy. Plus, they want to rid the Web of all the spammy content that some folks curated in the past!
Big content is a big deal for social media
Social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn allow users to share URL links with their followers. All one has to do is just type in or paste the URL of their choosing, and they can write a short note about the link so they can offer their followers a brief synopsis of the content.
Another interesting fact about long form blog content is that long form content is likely to achieve higher shares and more “likes” on social media than posts with 500 or fewer words. NewsWhip once conducted a study and found that its long form content was the most shared of all their articles.
Readers prefer quality articles
Nothing irks the reader of a blog as much as looking at content that is just written garbage! If someone takes the time to read your blog posts, they want to know that they are digesting engaging, informative and well-researched, fact-backed content.
If people want to read snippets of information, they’ll do so by looking at their social media feeds. When a topic piques a person’s interest, they would prefer to spend time reading a quality blog post than one that a blogger knocked up in five minutes!
Better opportunities to naturally fit in keywords
Most people are aware of how search engines work. They return relevant content based on their algorithms and predefined search criteria. The keywords that people type into a search engine are always going to be in the most relevant results shown from the top of the first page.
Blog authors will no doubt want to ensure that their content ranks well for their chosen keywords and phrases. The thing is, it can be hard to fit in keywords to a short article of just a few hundred words. More often than not, those keywords could end up sticking out like a sore thumb!
The good news is that long form blog posts give authors the chance to incorporate their chosen keywords without disrupting the natural flow of the articles they write. What that ultimately means is both human visitors and search engines will not flag up the posts as spam or “thin” content.
Long form blog posts can also be quick reads
Last, but not least, if you run a blog, you might worry that long form posts on it are going to bore your readers to tears. Well, they probably will if you talk about a subject that they or others don’t care about! Let’s assume that you are writing about topics that are relevant to them. After all; why else would they be visiting your blog?
You might fret that some folks will get put off by the need to read through a 2,000+ word article. But, it IS possible to make long form blog posts quick reads! One clever example is to use bullet points to offer a summary to your readers. Assuming your description of the post gets them hooked, they WILL want to read on further to learn more about what you’re talking about!