The defence of long content

These days, content seems to be getting shorter and shorter; we see more and more customers interested in Twitter (140 characters per post), LinkedIn (700 characters per status update), and ebooks typified by low word counts and lots of visuals. It’s easy to believe that with all these shorter content forms around, there’s no place in the world for longer content such as white papers or lengthy blog posts. This, however, would be a mistake.

For one thing, Google likes longer content. At one level, the reason for this is obvious: the more words you have, the more there is for Google to pick up and rank. But it goes deeper than that. We’ve written in a previous post about how search engine algorithms such as Hummingbird are ranking results based on an understanding of the information the searcher wants; additionally, a number of studies have shown both that people like and share longer content, and that search results are favouring well researched over keyword-optimised content, and directly giving preference to longer content. Therefore, if you had to choose between writing a 200 or 1,000 word article on the same subject, your best bet could be the longer article.

Google rankings aside, longer content can give your audience a fuller understanding of a subject than shorter content. Instead of leaving out some points of the argument or nice bits of detail for the sake of brevity, in a longer piece you have the time to make your point fully, illustrate it with examples, and dig deeper into issues that matter to your audience. You’ll give your audience a better understanding of both your message and your expertise in the subject, and the better they understand this, the more likely they are to pick up the phone and give you a call.

It’s important to remember that whatever the length of your content, quality and relevance must come first. Bad or repetitive long copy will be penalised, both in the search rankings and by readers, so padding your content to bump up the word count is definitely not recommended. But the good news for detail-lovers is that where you have enough to say on a subject to write a good piece of long content, there’s no need to be discouraged or feel pressure to cut or summarise – it may well perform better than a shorter equivalent would.