Short-Form Content vs. Long-Form Content: How the Two Can Work Together

By Ruth Hawk, Monday, July 3, 2017
Teamwork Concept

When it comes to meeting any of your website goals, from search engine optimization success to customer conversions to brand awareness, content is king. Consider, for example, the fact that businesses that adopt a content marketing strategy enjoy 6 times more conversions than those that do not. Consider also these statistics regarding the effective use of content:

  • Up to 82 percent of marketers enjoy a positive ROI from their blogging efforts.
  • Businesses that engage in content marketing enjoy almost 8x more yearly growth than those that do not.
  • Content marketing produces 3x more leads than does traditional marketing.

Clearly, producing the right kind of form content for your website can lead to greater brand awareness, more traffic, deeper engagement, and improved conversions for your business.

When choosing content, there are two broad choices you can make.

Where things can become a little bit hazier for businesses hoping to delve into content marketing is what type of content to use. In general, there are two categories into which content falls: Short-form content and long-form content.

Short-form content is any material that is 1,000 words or shorter in length. Blog posts, web pages, infographics, social media posts, and listicles are all examples of short-form content. This type of content tends to be less in-depth, take less time to read, and be easier to skim.

Long-form content is any material over 1,000 words long, although this type of material often exceeds 2,000 words in length. Blog posts and white papers tend to be used the most as vehicles for long-form content. This type of content tends to be comprehensive, take longer to read, and be more difficult to skim.

SEE ALSO: How to Create a Successful Blog Strategy

Identifying the best type of content to use in your content marketing can feel tricky.

Which type of content (short-form or long-form) is more effective for websites looking to reach, engage, and convert visitors?

There are statistics to support arguments on both sides. Take, for example, these arguments in favor of short-form content:

  • Short-form content is less expensive to create.
  • It takes less time to produce.
  • It is digested quickly.
  • People’s attention spans are now only 8 seconds long, on average, making it less likely that they will read all of a long-form content piece.
  • About 55 percent of readers spend less than 15 seconds on a web page.
  • Multiple short articles tend to get more shares on social media than 1 long article.

However, there is also information to support the use of long-form content. Consider these arguments in favor of long-form content:

  • Long-form content gets more social media shares per article (with articles of 3,000-10,000 words getting more than 8,800 shares on average).
  • It can increase conversion rates by as much as 30 percent (or more).
  • Long-form content establishes the business as an industry leader.
  • It is a superb educational tool.
  • In a serpIQ study, the average length of the top 10 search results was more than 2,000 words.
  • In the same study, the average length of the top 2 search results was more than 2,400 words.

Faced with information supporting both types of content, how do you choose the content that will work best for your site?

Both short-form and long-form content can be part of an effective content marketing strategy.

The reality is that both short-form and long-form content have their place in an effective content marketing strategy. Each type is useful in achieving specific goals and communicating with specific demographics. As long as you know when each type of content will work best, using them together can be the most effective and powerful approach to a content marketing strategy.

When to Use Short-Form Content in Your Content Marketing

Use short-form content on certain mediums (such as social media).

Some mediums require short-form content. For example, emails and social media naturally perform better with short-form content.

Use short-form content when communicating with people who are already familiar with your brand.

Short-form content can be a good way to communicate efficiently with prospects who are already familiar with your brand. For example, regular customers and leads you have obtained through your website may not need long-form content to learn about your business, industry, or reliability. They may simply require short, direct communication to encourage them to convert.

Use short-form content to create interest in your business.

People who are not interested in what your business has to offer are unlikely to sit down and read 2,000 words of information. That type of engagement is usually reserved for individuals who already want to learn more.  As a result, use short-form content to stimulate interest. Short, punchy, engaging material can spark further exploration of your business.

Use short-form content when you do not have the resources to produce high-quality, long-form material.

As touched upon earlier, long-form content requires more time, money, and research to produce. As a result, you may want to stick with short-form content when you do not have (or do not wish to spend) the resources that would be necessary to create high-quality, long-form content. For example, if you are an e-commerce website selling boots, you may choose to create a brief infographic about your affordable boot brands, instead of a 1,500-word blog article. The reason? The inexpensive products will not earn you enough profits to justify a long-form content piece.

When to Use Long-Form Content in Your Content Marketing

Use long-form content when you want to educate people about a particular aspect of your industry, business, or products.

Long-form content is ideal for educating others about a particular topic. In fact, comprehensive guides, tutorials, and explanations can help people to make better-informed decisions about your products and services. As a result, it is a good choice when you want to help people learn more about an important topic. For example, if you are a diamond seller, you might choose long-form content to educate consumers about the benefits of conflict-free diamonds.

Use long-form content when you want to reach people who do not know much about your industry, business, or products.

If you identify a target audience that is uneducated about any part of your industry, business, or products, you may want to create long-form content for them. The key is to direct this content to people who are uneducated but interested in the topic you are discussing. This is where both can work hand in hand. For example, you might want to capture the interest of your target audience with a social media post about conflict-free diamonds and then link to a long-form piece about the same topic.

Use long-form content to establish yourself as a leader in your industry.

Building trust with your target audience is essential if you are going to earn their business. One way to do so is to establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry through the use of long-form content. Comprehensive, in-depth discussions of topics in your field can communicate your expertise and reliability to potential customers.

Use long-form content to improve your search engine optimization campaign.

As mentioned earlier, search engines favor long-form content when ranking web pages. If you want to improve your rankings, therefore, you will need to produce high-quality, long-form content. Doing so (with the right keywords, the right topics, and the right amount of research) can help you to improve your visibility in the search results and get you in front of your target audience. 

Always choose quality over quantity when creating content.

At all times, the number one predictor of the success of your content marketing strategy is going to be the quality of your content, not its length. People respond to material that is informative, relevant, well researched, and engaging. This applies to 140-character tweets, 3,000-word blog posts, and everything in between.  As a result, when faced with the choice, choose quality over length. For example, if you find that you have said everything relevant and informative about boot trends for men with an 800-word blog post, leave the post at 1,000 words. Do not try to lengthen it to 1,500 or 2,000 words.

Doing so will only decrease the value of your content overall, which means that a 1,500-word blog post might actually perform worse than the higher quality but a shorter piece of content. Choosing quality over length also means that if you find your website needs longer-form content, you must be willing to invest more resources into producing that content. For example, you may need to spend more time researching, writing, editing, and optimizing a blog post about conflict-free diamonds in order to produce a 2,000-word post that provides value to your reader the whole way through. Those resources will be well spent if the longer-form content can earn you greater visibility in the search results and more conversions from your target audience.

How does the new trend of dense content relate to short and long-form content?

A new trend in content marketing is the use of what is called dense content. This type of content is defined as the condensation of what would otherwise be long-form content into a shorter format. For example, a blog post of several thousand words might be converted into a shorter tutorial, or a long news article might be summarized in a few hundred words. Other qualities expected of dense content are uniqueness and relevance to your particular business or industry.

Dense content is arguably a more effective method of improving your search engine optimization performance because it provides a very high value to those who read it. In addition, this type of material tends to place more information and keywords in a smaller space and to be more appealing to readers because it provides so much information so efficiently. However, dense content does not appear to be so much a new type of content as it is an embrace of the already well-known qualities of great writing. For example, as mentioned above, quality needs to take priority over quantity or length.

Both short and long-form content should be chock full of useful, relevant, and engaging information. And, material that cannot usefully be lengthened should be kept short in order to maximize its quality. Similarly, the practice of converting long-form content into short-form content is simply an example of the already well-known practice of reusing content. For example, you might write a 3,000-word white paper and then turn it into a 1,000-word blog post, an infographic, and a social media post.

Each of these pieces of content communicates similar information, but to different audiences and with differing goals (i.e. you might want to encourage brand awareness with your social media post and seek to pique interest among a new audience with your infographic). Finally, the qualities of dense content—relevance and uniqueness—are ideal qualities for any type of content. Whether creating a short-form email or a long-form blog post, your goal should be to develop material that is useful to your audience, relevant to your business, and unique among the other content pieces out there.


In conclusion, short and long-form content are not at odds with an effective content marketing strategy. Instead, they can work together as part of a well-rounded and diverse content marketing endeavor. The key is to understand when each type of content works best and to create high-quality material regardless of length. In addition, when considering the new trend of dense content, remember that the qualities of dense content are the qualities of great writing, no matter which format it appears in. As a result, by creating high-value, well-written, and engaging material, you can reach your target audiences and meet your website goals.

Posted in: Content Marketing, Marketing, PR/Advertising, Search Engine Optimization, WWW Learning Center

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