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Magazines > Information Today > March 2020

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Information Today
Vol. 37 No. 2 — March 2020
EContent

Is Long-Form or Short-Form Content More Effective?

by Kayla Matthews

Your content should only be as long as it needs to be. Determine the length of your content by considering the needs of your audience and your brand.
Digital marketing thrives in the presence of high-quality content. Does the length of this content also play a part in converting consumers? Absolutely. Based on an audience and its needs, as well as the brand’s main goals, you can choose between short-form and long-form content. Long-form typically consists of 2,000 or more words, whereas short-form has 1,000 or fewer words. To determine which type is more effective for your needs, it’s crucial to first understand the buyer’s journey as well as the company’s goals. The following are a few questions to ask yourself when deciding which one will have the biggest impact.

#1: WHO IS THE TARGET AUDIENCE?

The first thing to consider is who your target audience is. For instance, if you’re trying to reach high school students who spend the majority of their day scrolling through Reddit or posting to their VSCO account, consider crafting short-form content. Given the length, it’s more appealing to mobile—and younger—users. Thus, brief social media posts, blog posts, and product reviews will be easier to read, sustain your audience’s attention, and encourage your audience to engage with your content.

However, if your content is geared more to those interested in personal development or finances, long-form content is best. These topics generally require more supporting evidence, backlinks, and meaningful, in-depth information. In this case, short-form content prohibits you from explaining a subject in detail, which may lead your audience to perceive your content as untrustworthy and of a low quality (see “What Is Long-Form Content and Why Does It Work?” by Dan Shewan; bit.ly/2NuYnKd).

#2: what DOES THE CUSTOMER ALREADY KNOW?

Once you determine the target audience, you must figure out how much background information the average audience member already has. Long-form content can outperform shorter pieces when readers don’t possess a lot of background knowledge on a product or topic. They require more information, and you must teach them about your brand and gain their trust.

However, if your audience is already well-versed on your company or a certain subject, then short-form content is more effective. Writing excess copy would waste their time, driving them away from your site.

#3: HOW INTERESTED ARE THEY?

Regardless of the length you choose, you’ll need to optimize your content to encourage your target audience to make a purchase or further engage with your brand. Readers have made it to your website because they want to know more—but how much more? Customers who are highly interested in your brand are more likely to spend time on the page and read long-form content.

However, for those who aren’t incredibly interested, your content must be immediately engaging and incredibly concise. To gain several minutes of attention, you must communicate a clear, valuable suggestion in less than 10 seconds. If users don’t find relevant information within this time frame, they’re much more likely to bounce. In fact, the average time spent on a webpage is less than 1 minute (see “How Long Do Users Stay on Web Pages?” by Jakob Nielsen, an older, but still relevant, take on website attention spans; bit.ly/2QY03Oo).

#4: WHAT’S THE END GOAL?

Consider your business goals. Why are you making this content in the first place? Is the goal to generate more leads, retain customers, sell a product, or build brand awareness? Pinpointing a specific goal will help you craft content of proper length to accomplish the objective.

For instance, if your goal is to create a stronger social media presence, long-form content may be more effective because it often reaps higher sharing rates (neilpatel.com/blog/why-you-need-to-create-evergreen-long-form-content-and-how-to-produce-it). Moreover, it seems that content with a word count between 2,250 and 2,500 boosts organic traffic (blog.hubspot.com/marketing/seo-social-media-study). But if your goal is to increase audience engagement, short-form content reigns supreme. Shorter copy allows readers to quickly scan text, which may entice them to read the entire piece.

QUALITY OVER QUANTITY

Your content should only be as long as it needs to be. Determine the length of your content by considering the needs of your audience and your brand. If you must use long-form content to explain a topic or product in detail, then do so. But if you can get your point across in fewer words, all the better—because in marketing, quality always overrides quantity.


Kayla MatthewsKAYLA MATTHEWS IS A BUSINESS TECHNOLOGY AND PRODUCTIVITY WRITER WHOSE WORK HAS BEEN PUBLISHED ON DMNEWS.COM, CONVINCE & CONVERT, HUBSPOT, AND OTHERS. SHE’S BEEN WRITING FOR 8 YEARS AND LOVES TO LEARN NEW THINGS. MATTHEWS IS ALSO THE OWNER AND EDITOR OF PRODUCTIVITY BYTES (PRODUCTIVITYBYTES.COM) AND PRODUCTIVITY THEORY (PRODUCTIVITYTHEORY.COM). TO READ MORE BY MATTHEWS, VISIT HER BLOGS OR FOLLOW HER ON TWITTER(@KAYLAEMATTHEWS).
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