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Which is more valuable – long form or short form content?

Posted on 1st November, 2017 by Greg Doyle

Copywriting

One of the most common questions we get asked about content is – how many words do I need for each of my website pages? It’s normally followed up by I’ve seen a study that shows that having X number of words on my pages will help me get more sales. Or I’ve been told that all my pages need to be over 1800 words to get top rankings on Google.

In fact with so many studies and surveys jotted about it’s hard to know whether short form or long form content is best. The truth is it all depends on your business, your customers and your products or services. In this blog, we’ll look at how to make an informed decision by digging a bit deeper.

What do we mean by long form and short form content?

First off let’s take a look at what we mean by long form and short form content. Long form is generally anything above 1500 – 2000 words with common online examples including eBooks, whitepapers and how to guides. Short form content can range in size but generally, tops out around 1000 words and includes things like landing pages, web page content, blog posts and emails.

There is no hard and fast rule that tells you the best length of content but answering a couple of questions will help you see whether short form or long form content will work best for your business.

How much does your target audience know?

The more your customers know about your products and services the less you’ll need to do to educate them. If your brand is well known and customers already know your products then your content can be concise and focused on getting them to convert. If your brand is less well known or your services are unique then longer content will help you build trust, educate your audience and take them on a journey of discovery.

It may seem obvious but taking the time to understand the needs of your audience will really help you target your content to them and find out how much they know about your products or services. The less they know, the more you need to tell them.

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What is the user intent?

User intent is one of the keys to understanding the purpose of your content and also the length of the content. Generally speaking, the more qualified your traffic is the less content you’ll need to help turn them into a customer. You want to create content that is tailored to the intent of your customers and use keywords that match this intent. Splitting up your content and using clear keyword focussed headings can also help people to skim-read and quickly get to the information they care about.

So for the sale of everyday items all your customers really care about is a short product description to make sure that it’s the right product and how easy it is to buy it from you. Whereas someone looking to buy solar panels for their house is likely to want to know everything from technical specifications and costs to government incentives and performance in different areas.

Is your audience engaged?

Are your customers likely to want to know more about your products and services, or are they just looking to take action as easily as possible. If you sell high-value products or services or more technical products then it’s likely that your audience will want to know more and will welcome long form content. For commonly available products a lot of content could put people off with overly long pages and an excess of content with the end goal of purchase lost in the process. The more engaged your audience the more information you can give them.

Do you have the time to create long form content?

Content over 2000 words takes a lot of work to get right. You need to make sure the information provided is informative and engaging while also helping to drive customers into your sales funnel. As well as the additional time to write longer content you’ll also need to do more research, spend more time editing and optimising the content and need additional resources and imagery to back up your content.

Your content needs to be relevant and add benefit to your customers so if you’re just writing long content for the sake of it then that’s not a good use of resources.

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What’s in it for you?

Make sure your content is written with your business goals in mind and your audience. The content needs to appeal to your prospective customers and give them all the information they need without overwhelming. If your content is too short then this may put people off as they don’t have enough information to make an informed decision. At best these customers will get in touch to find out more at worst, they’ll just go elsewhere.

Likewise long form content may miss the mark if you’re targeting qualified leads or channels where short content is the norm e.g. social media or where your products are commonplace items. Customers can feel overwhelmed when too much information is provided and get distracted away from the goal of converting.

Conclusion

Choosing long or short form content for your business is all about understanding your target customers and their needs. For luxury items or those that involve more consideration then customers are likely to want a lot more information than they would for buying an everyday item. Also, remember to take into account the channel being used so if you’re content is going on social media then you’ll want to make sure it is concise and gets straight to the point.

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