Recent insight indicates long form content performs better with readers & search engines. We look at whether long form content creation should be a priority.
When writing a blog about an in-depth topic, it can be tempting to cover as much ground as possible. With digital attention spans increasingly short, you may not think that’s a wise approach. However, there’s growing insight that long-form content is both popular with readers and beneficial for SEO.
Whatever the length of your content, to be successful it must remain relevant to your reader; addressing a topic / challenge / solution that offers value. It’s also increasingly important to map related content (such as a range of posts on aspects on ‘Account-Based Marketing’) back to a comprehensive topic pillar page; creating a topic hub or cluster of related content assets.
SEO is now shifting to a topic cluster model, where a single “pillar” page acts as the main hub of content for an overarching topic and multiple content pages that are related to that same topic link back to the pillar page and to each other… Take note that pillar pages need to broadly cover the topic you’re focusing on so that it makes sense to tie to all of the cluster content linking to it. - HubSpot
So how long should your content - and especially blog content - be? In the past, it has made sense to produce short, easily digestible content. But is that still the case?
There are a range of considerations to make when it comes to assessing the ideal length of a blog post. On one hand, you want to give visitors all the relevant information they may be looking for - readers are increasingly looking for informative, authoritative and easily digestible content. But on the other hand, you don’t want them to lose interest or be buried under information.
Considering SEO, in the past, Google did not especially consider the length of a post, as long as it contained relevant keywords throughout. However, with the introduction of algorithms like Hummingbird, the role and effectiveness of keywords has become much smaller. Now, the context of a post (and the semantic relationships between your other page content) is increasingly important to influence rank.
Following the above, it would make sense that longer posts should have a natural advantage, as they can contain more meaningful indications about the context of an article - giving Google a stronger indication of the relevancy of the post.
This theory has supporting evidence - recent research by Backlinko confirms the benefits of longer blog posts: when analysing over 1 million Google search results, articles appearing on the first page of search results appear to be an average of 1,890 words long, with shorter posts scoring less strongly.
“Based on SERP data from SEMRush, we found that longer content tends to rank higher in Google's search results. The average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.” - Brian Dean, Backlinko
However. This does not mean that content must be unnaturally long, or that keywords are unimportant. Rather, it underlines the shift within Google from a keyword-centric, to a semantic focus. As a result, we can infer that good rankings are likely supported by quality extended content - although of course, nobody but Google knows the precise range of criteria that decide good rank.
With longer content, you have greater capacity to share in-depth information. However to see success, it’s important to structure content in a way that grabs and holds reader’s attention throughout.
Here are some useful tips from Neil Patel for producing long form content that will keep readers interested:
Other factors to consider when creating long-form content include:
Lastly, make sure there’s a structure and sense to what you’re writing. Do not write just for the sake of it! Keep purpose in mind and make sure you’re not drifting. As you will typically be addressing the key challenges of your reader - these can often form the structure of your content.
Regarding keyword inclusion, it’s still important to include the semantically relevant short and longtail keywords in your copy that your audience will be searching for. However, it’s wise not to try to cram them in - if you’re writing naturally and your content is relevant, the right terms should occur.
Based on data released by Hitwise, we are starting to use longer tail search queries when searching. 8-word search queries are up by 34,000%.
It does. Looking at social sharing statistics, it seems that longer content outperforms shorter posts. For example, in this post from Neil Patel discussing the best blog lengths for social shares, he has concluded that content of more than 1,500 words works best. Moz have also produced statistics supporting this:
“We can see that long form content consistently gets higher average shares and significantly higher average links. This supports our previous research results.” - Moz
Why might this be? Well, a longer post offers greater insight that your readers may be interested to share. When you're actively sharing content on platforms such as LinkedIn where there is a savvy and often highly specialised audience, it’s common to find that insightful, in-depth content does especially well, as it provides real value.
Looking again to Neil Patel, after performing an A / B test on his homepage, he found that longer content not only resulted in more leads, but in greater quality leads.
So should you only publish long-form content from now on?
Not necessarily. Long-form content is popular because it scores well with Google and often with defined audiences. But this content must also be of a very high quality; creating long form content is a time-intensive approach that may require more time, resources and research. Because of this, it’s best to focus long form content around topics that are evergreen - giving them compounding longevity.
Ultimately, long form content (if written well) will enhance your visibility, demonstrate industry expertise and place you as an authority in your field, which should, in turn, result in increased business.
An original version of this post was first published on leadstreet here. leadstreet is a Platinum HubSpot Partner Agency based in Belgium.