Is short-form or long-form content better for SEO?

When you are writing an SEO-optimised blog article, there are lots of things you need to consider. You need to focus on headings and clearly formatted content… not forgetting your carefully chosen keywords.

However, there is one other thing you need to bear in mind – the word count of the article. There is a lot of debate over how long blog posts need to be to rank in the search engine result pages (SERPs).

With this in mind, do long or short articles win out on Google and Bing? Here are our thoughts.

The case for long-form content

The general opinion is that long-form blogs fare better from an SEO perspective.

Why are long-form blogs seen as best for SEO?

  • You have more opportunity to use your SEO-optimised keywords of choice
  • Longer content is seen as higher quality and more reliable
  • There is more opportunity to include internal links, keeping people on your website and lowering bounce rate
  • You are more likely to get social media shares. Buffer found that articles over 2,500 words got twice the shares of posts under 2,500 words
  • Long-form content is 77% more likely to get backlinks

How long is the ideal blog-post length? Different companies have carried out a lot of research, and the answer varies depending on who you speak to.

For example, according to HubSpot the ideal blog post length is between 2,100 and 2,400 words. Buffer advises that 1,600 words are sufficient for an article, while Backlinko recommends that the average Google first page result has nearly 1,500 words.

Moz even go so far as to say that the ideal blog post length does not exist!

The case for short-form content

Short-form blog posts can rank highly in the search engines too. In fact, a well-written 500-word article can outrank a poorly-thought-out 3,000-word piece.

For an example of short-form content done well, check out marketer Seth Godin. He is well known for writing catchy blogs that are short and punchy, and often under 200 words long. One of his most popular articles clocks in at under 70 words!

If his blogs are so short, why do they rank well in the search engines? There are three reasons behind this.

  • Seth posts every single day – consistently posting shows the search engine that your website is relevant and valuable
  • Many people share his blogs on social media and link to them on their own sites
  • Seth’s posts add value – if a post adds value to the web, then the length is irrelevant

These are all positive ranking signals that guarantee a high spot in the SERPs.

Another positive ranking signal is dwell time, the amount of time that visitors spend on your blog. If you write a long-form blog post that is all over the place, visitors will ‘pogo-stick’ straight off your article and go back to the SERPs. This means your content will be pushed down the search engine rankings.

Conversely, people are more likely to stick around for a high-quality, well-formatted shorter post.

Let’s say that you want to find a recipe for brownies. Are you more likely to stay on a clunky 5,000-word page that goes into the history of brownies and the different varieties you can make, or a 300-word post that just gives you the recipe?

We’d go with the short blog every time.

Can content be too short?

Search engines will generally disregard ‘thin’ content. This is content that the search engines see as offering no value to the user. If a short blog adds no value, then it will be seen as being in this category.

There is a consensus amongst marketers that articles under 300 words are at high-risk of being marked as ‘thin’ content. However, like Seth Godin’s articles, not all short posts fall under this category by default.

If you are concerned that some of your shorter articles do not add value, look at adding new info, merging them with other pages or deleting them entirely.

The ideal length can vary from business to business

Optimum article length can vary from industry to industry. What works for one business may not necessarily be right for you.

Viperchill carried out a study and found that posts about gadgets and celebrity gossip can get away with 200 words of content, while the ideal length for a personal development post is about 1,500 words.

One good way to identify your own sweet spot is to analyse your existing blog posts. Look at which of your articles receive the most organic traffic and the most conversions.

You can then review the length of these posts and determine whether long or short articles resonate most with your prospective customers.

In conclusion – are long or short blogs better for SEO?

The honest answer is… it depends!

As a rule of thumb, longer content stands a better chance of ranking highly in the search engines. However, a well-written short post is just as likely to dominate the SERPs.

Rather than worrying about the length of your posts too much, focus on writing content that is:

  • Optimised for relevant keywords
  • Original, unique and engaging
  • Easy to understand
  • Well formatted – including headings, paragraph breaks and bullet points to break up the text
  • Written to contain relevant internal and external links
  • Regularly reviewed and updated to focus on recent developments

As the old saying goes, quality will beat out quantity each and every time.

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