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It is common knowledge that the attention spans of internet users tend to be woefully low. Bounce rates are high and engagement is low, for the overwhelming majority of the content and social media profiles out there.
People don’t usually go looking online to find a vast wall of text to get absorbed in, particularly when they’re browsing from the tiny screens of their smartphones, as they often are.
It might sound counter-intuitive, then, that long-form content gets significantly more traffic than the typical 500- to 700-word long social media posts that business bloggers keep churning out in vast quantities.
In fact, digital marketing guru Neil Patel claimed blog posts that are upwards of 3,000 words tend to get more traffic and receive more engagement.
What’s more, the top results on Google show a very clear preference for longer pieces of content.
One of the key goals of digital marketers who want to increase readership in the longer term is to build up authority to the extent that they become well-known and widely respected as experts in their field.
When it comes to building authority, a simple list-type article or 500-word blog post simply isn’t going to cut it. Such content has a place in the marketing mix and can make for very useful social media fodder, but it’s not likely to end up as your most popular and successful content.
When it comes to building authority, comprehensive content is essential because it gives something truly valuable to your readers and means they don’t need to visit multiple websites to get the answers they want.
Although, for the most part, the inner workings of Google’s algorithm are a carefully guarded secret, studies have consistently shown that the search giant tends to favor long-form content.
According to the search engine marketing company, Moz, less than 15 percent of all blog posts are longer than 1,000 words. However, those longer articles account for most first-page search results for most queries. After all, longer articles generally offer greater value to target audiences as well as more content for the search engines to crawl.
In addition, studies by Moz also found that longer pieces of content get shared on social media significantly more, which in turn sends strong quality signals to the search engines.
Consumers typically go online to be entertained or educated, but they also have notoriously short attention spans. By contrast, B2B users tend to be more interested in content that provides authority by way of in-depth analysis. For that reason, long-form content formats such as case studies and whitepapers are clear winners when it comes to content marketing for B2B industries.
By comparison, business users are not likely to be interested in short and sensational list-type articles that offer little more than randomly chosen facts or factoids about a niche.
In other words, anyone looking for serious content is likely to be looking for long-form content.
Sustainable digital marketing relies largely on a very thorough understanding of the difference between quality and quantity. As such, the number of views your content receives is not nearly as important as the quality of the views.
Long-form content helps to separate the highly engaged and dedicated few from the fleeting visitors who aren’t likely to bring you any feedback, let alone revenue. After all, it makes sense that someone who has serious interest in your niche will be more interested in reading targeted, in-depth content rather than articles clearly written for the masses.
Studies overwhelmingly point to long-form content earning more engagement, better search engine rankings and greater visibility all round. However, those findings do not automatically mean long content equals good content. It’s not as simple as that.
Every piece of content needs a goal behind it, and if you can reach that goal in 100 words, then there’s no need to stretch it to 1,000 words.
The importance and effectiveness of long-form content also depend on your niche and target audience, but most businesses can benefit significantly from publishing in-depth content on a regular basis.
Dan Natividad, a Stockton native, is a partner at Port City Marketing Solutions along with Kristen Dyke and Erin Diego. Dan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org