Long-form vs Short-form Content: How and When to Use it

Ah yes, here it comes. The great debate that has daunted countless content marketers since the beginning of time. The everlasting battle between two mighty warriors. The one you’ve all been waiting to see who will conquer the battleground. Yes, I’m talking about the battle of all content writing battles there is: long-form vs short-form content. 

Was I a bit too dramatic? 😁

If you’re a content marketer, you’ve probably heard many discussions about how long or short a content piece should be. The truth is that both short-form and long-form content are great when you plan them smart. 

Both types of content are needed in a successful content marketing strategy and both have their place and role in it. Because there is no definite answer to the question of which one is best, there is no one-size-fits-all rule for your content length. 

So sit back and get ready as we take one last look at the final battle between the long-form and short-form content warriors. ⚔️

long form vs short form

The Battle Begins: Short-form vs Long-form Content

Before we witness the first exchange of blows, we need to clarify why the length of a content piece is important and what both of these content forms actually are.

Content length is important in relation to who the content is meant for, what purpose it serves and where that audience interacts with it. Also, both content pieces are better than the other in different circumstances.

For example, if you’re a B2C company, the best way to reach your audience is probably on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, etc. Now imagine publishing a post with a 2000-word text 😬. Do you think anyone would read it? Would you read it? 

Here’s another example. Do you think an article with 500 words and not a single image or example in sight are enough to explain every step of a topic as vast and complicated as a SaaS solution for cold outreach? 

With that said, the content piece should be as long as it needs to be in order to leave the audience feeling like they’ve had their questions answered.

Now that we have that cleared up, let’s dive deeper into the characteristics of these content combatants.

What is Short-form Content?

Up first, coming to power with the rise of social platforms and online media outlets, affirming its authority through the shortening of attention spans worldwide, weighing in at 1000 words or less, we have the short-form content. 💪

Many experts and organizations debate where to draw the line when it comes to how short should short-form content be. For now, let’s identify which content formats would be considered in this category.

short-form content

This type of content allows you to explore a specific area of a topic without diving too deep into it. It is also relatively easier and faster to create than long-form content.

Short-form content is lightweight, it’s easy to consume and digest and it doesn’t require too much of your audience’s time. No wonder 75% of B2B companies are still publishing in this content form. 👀

The point of short-form content is to stick to one idea, simplify it and use it to engage with audiences quickly. 

There is, however, a lot of power in saying more with fewer words so you would need to be more strategic and have witty wordplay when creating this type of content.

Short-form Content Pros and Cons

Now that you have an idea of what short-form content is and what its main points are, let’s take a look at its pros and cons. As I mentioned before, neither long-form nor short-form is better than the other, it’s just a matter of what, where and to whom you share it. 

Pros ✔️:

  • Gets the message across in a simple and effective way;
  • Does not require a lot of time to read through; 
  • Easy to consume and digest for the reader;
  • Takes less time and resources to produce; 
  • Very effective for social media;
  • Easier to make mobile-friendly (54% of all web traffic comes from mobile);
  • Engages with your audience in a cheerful way;
  • Works best when you already have an established relationship with your audience.

Cons :

  • Lacks depth and detail; 
  • Can become quite predictable if you’re not creative with it;
  • Its performance decreases over time. 

We’ve got all the details on our short-form fighter and now it’s time to take a look at our second combatant of this epic battle.

What is Long-form Content?

Up next, rising from the ashes of the Internet, deeply rooted into the SEO fabric of the digital marketing society for decades, weighing at about 2000 words, some subheadings and a couple of images, here is the titan: long-form content. 💪

As with short-form content, there is no single definition of what long-form content is and how long it should be. However, we can always have an idea.

long-form content

Long-form content gives you the opportunity to deeply explore a topic, making it informational and educational for the reader. It should answer the audience’s questions and leave them feeling like they’ve learned something new. It is also not meant as quick-to-consume content or something you can read on the go. 

Because this content is in-depth, it requires much more time and resources to create. It usually contains factual information, statistics, case studies, which requires intensive research and a detailed presentation and explanation of the findings. 

The main point of long-form content is to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise while providing value to your audience and creating a solid SEO foundation to build upon. 

Long-form Content Pros and Cons

Long-form content shouldn’t be your go-to in every case. Some situations require shorter content and you don’t want to waste precious time and resources if it doesn’t bring any results. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

Pros ✔️:

  • SEO favours long-form content. Articles with around 2500 words get the most organic traffic and the most backlinks;
  • Ranks better in search engines;
  • Helps you include more keywords specific to your audience, generating more conversions;
  • Connects with your audience on a deep and meaningful level;
  • Gives you the opportunity to position yourself among competitors as a brand with expertise and authority;
  • Creates space to be creative with your content, including subheadings, charts, images, infographics, etc.;
  • Stands the test of time and brings results long after it’s published;
  • Works best when you want to establish a relationship with your audience.

Cons :

  • Takes a lot more time and resources to create;
  • More difficult to optimize for mobile;
  • Tricky to keep up with shortening attention spans (which is why it needs to be creative and engaging);
  • Most people don’t read the full article or just skim through it (which is why including subheadings, charts, images, etc. is crucial).

Choosing the best content length 🤔

So far, we have discussed the abilities and shortcomings of both sides of this endless content war. Now the time has finally come to choose your fighter! 🤼‍♂️

A successful content strategy should incorporate both short-form and long-form content to meet the audience’s needs and achieve its marketing objectives. As I said at the beginning of this article, the content piece should be as long as it needs to be in order to leave the audience feeling like they’ve had their questions answered.

So, how do you achieve this? You’ll need to do some research. There are many things to consider when choosing the length of your content. Your topic of discussion would be the best thing to start with.

#1 Your Goals

Your goals should always be a priority when creating any kind of content. Be clear on what you want to achieve from the get-go. 

If your goal is to create excitement about a product launch or you want to share some updates on your product/service, there’s no need to write a 3000-word blog post about it. Instead, a short social media post and a quick email update would be the best thing to do. 

On the flip side, if your goal is to increase your Google ranking to generate more organic traffic and conversions or you want to boost your authority amongst the competition, a shot social media post is not gonna cut it. You’ll need lengthy, detailed long-form content to achieve these goals, like an in-depth blog post.

#2 Your Audience

The insights you get from analyzing your target audience can help you shape your content marketing strategy in great ways. It’s of vital importance to understand what your audience likes and what their search intent is.

To figure out what content works best, analyze your audience in relation to your content and how they interact with it. For this, you can track metrics like traffic, engagement and conversion rates to determine what type of content you need more of. For this, you can use tools like Google Analytics.

engagement overview
google analytics engagement 1

In terms of intent, you can research this in multiple ways. Take a look at the most searched keywords on a topic and what is the search intent behind those keywords, see what comes up in the SERPs for a specific search query. 

Another way to look at this is to see what questions the audience needs answers to. If they’re already informed on a topic, you might consider sending out an email or posting an infographic. Or if they’re looking for an in-depth take on a particular subject, you can publish a detailed guide or how-to blog post.

#3 Your Competition

With so many businesses vying for attention, it’s challenging to come up with a unique content strategy. But you don’t want your competitors to have all the attention, so you need to do some research on them too! 🔥

Looking at which keywords are driving traffic for the competition is a good way to find out what topic they cover and if there are any gaps you could try to fill in with your work. Analyze the pages that rank in your niche and compare their target word count. You can also use tools for this, like Ahrefs or just go straight to Google.

ahrefs keywords explorer

As length is considered an important ranking factor in SEO, you can’t expect to beat the top-ranking pages with a 5000-word count with a simple news article or social media post. You have to be as good, if not better!

Summary

We’ve been spectating and analyzing this intense content battle of the ages and at last, the end is upon us. To quote Herbert G. Wells “If we don’t end the war, the war will end us.” 🏳️

All jokes aside, it’s safe to assume that when it comes to content, both short-form and long-form content are necessary for a successful content marketing strategy.

Your short-form content will help you with the social aspects of your strategy while engaging audiences with light, diverse and creative content pieces. 

Your long-form content pieces will help you build a solid foundation for the future. It requires a detailed analysis with a critical approach, thus educating audiences, establishing a relationship on a deeper level and boosting your SEO efforts. 📈

When choosing the most adequate content length, don’t forget the goals you want to achieve, the preferences and intent of the audience and the steps your competition is taking to climb the ranks.

At the end of the day, both short-form and long-form content are not inherently good or bad. One is not better than the other, they’re just different. They’re content marketing tools. It’s how we use these tools that give the impression they might be good or bad. 

In the end, it’s safe to say that they’ve both won. 🤝

Author avatar
Neda
An SEO Content Writer and Growth Marketer that enjoys any kind of creative endeavour. ✨