Posted on August 21, 2023 by Kyle Greenwood Much is written about artificial intelligence (AI) and its effect on content production. Is it a good thing, is it a bad thing, and so on and so forth, and etc., and yadda yadda yadda. Wherever you stand on the issue of AI, it’s still just a tool that helps with your content marketing. What you really need to think about is the kind of content that helps you the most. For example: Short-form vs. long-form content. Which is better? It’s a discussion we have every so often here at Webfor — the pros of writing several shorter pieces of content (constant engagement) compared to one longer content piece (demonstrating authority). One of our illustrious SEO specialists summed it up rather nicely: “The length of the content should be whatever the length of the content should be.” The length of the content should be whatever the length of the content should be. Hmmm. Maybe that doesn’t actually help at all. But it does illustrate the point that the short-form vs. long-form debate isn’t really an either/or proposition. There are several different factors at play, from information vs. transactional content to subject matter, the scope of the content, and so forth. For example, you wouldn’t write 2,000 words for each of the 300 products your website offers, nor would you write a 400-word blog post on the 25 most important things to bring on a cruise. The aim of each task is wildly different from the other, so you need to take a more measured approach. Short-Form vs. Long-Form Content So what’s better: short-form content or long-form pieces? My illustrious content brother-in-arms at Webfor is fond of saying, “It depends.” (Yes, everyone here is illustrious.) Of course, you want to aim high when it comes to search engine rankings, but there are times you’ll have a type of content when rankings aren’t really a concern. For example, the About Us page on your site probably won’t do well in search results because, chances are, people aren’t looking for your About Us page. They’ll get to that page once they’ve found you for something else. So 2,500 words about how you got your start aren’t as crucial as nailing down your service or product pages. Social media posts clearly fall into the short-form content silo, as well. No one is cruising social posts looking to read War and Peace. This content should be mobile-friendly, easily digestible, and tailor-made for the short attention spans of social media users. Social posts are part of your content marketing strategy designed to get people to your site, not necessarily give them all the information they need or want. Long-form content, on the other hand, is designed to engage the user and help answer any and all questions they may have. The thing is, you have to get that information in front of them, and this is where word counts come into play. Social posts are part of your content marketing strategy designed to get people to your site, not necessarily give them all the information they need or want. Long-form content can also be referred to as pillar content, where one huge piece of content (blog post, video, podcast) can be broken into several smaller, more precise pieces of content. And, really, that’s the answer right there. As I alluded to before, this isn’t a zero-sum game. There are benefits to both long-form content and short-form content, and often the two work together to help your website. When done right, you can appease both Google and your users. Pros and Cons of Short-Form vs. Long-Form Content This is where I get into the “it depends” portion of the program. Here are some quick hitters when it comes to deciding between short-form vs. long-form content. Consumability Focused Content Regular Engagement Variety Authority Search Engine Optimization Consumability Short Form Pro In the digital age, we have access to more information than ever before. Our attention spans, however, have become shorter, so this is where short-form content shines. Whether it’s a tweet, a short blog post, or a 15-second video, it provides quick, easy-to-digest information that plays to a variety of audience preferences and consumption habits. Some people prefer quick, bite-sized information. Some people don’t have the time or patience to read lengthy content, and short-form content is perfect for them. As they say in the music biz, “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus!” Just make sure your chorus is catchy as heck! Long Form Con Obviously, long-form content is more of a commitment to reading than short-form. Even with cool infographics, pull-out sections, and neat images, a few thousand words can seem like a lot of work. For those that want all of that info, however, this is the way to deliver it. Focused Content Short-Form Pro You can zero in on specific points to reach specific audiences. Where a long-form piece is designed to get as many eyeballs as possible, shorter blog posts are good for those looking to drill down. We do this a lot for our clients, starting with a hefty service page and then writing several smaller pieces to support that page. In an odd sort of way, writing shorter content allows you to write more about a specific topic. You can produce several 700 or 800-word blogs and really get into singular points that may not be possible in a massive, overarching piece that covers many topics. Long-Form Con The point of long-form content is to be found for as many relevant searches as possible. But when you include everything, you can’t really talk about everything in any meaningful way. If you’re writing a piece about roofing, trying to talk about maintenance, repairs, installations, tear-offs, and other services for every type of roofing material could be a lifelong endeavor. Taking snapshots of each, and using short-form content to dog a little deeper, makes more sense. Regular Engagement Short-Form Pro To maintain a loyal audience and keep your website or blog actively ranked on Google, writing shorter content more frequently will help immensely. By producing multiple posts in a shorter amount of time than one long-form piece, you’ll be able to keep your readers engaged, encouraging them to return for more content in the future. However, simply posting new content every week (or even more frequently) won’t help over the long run — unless it’s quality material. Search Engine Journal has a good piece on this very topic and gets answers from Google itself to help explain why posting more often is a good idea. Just make sure it’s quality content. Long-Form Con Speaking of engagement, some readers will find it difficult to get through a single piece of long-form content, much less several of them in a month. You can only eat so many full meals a day; the occasional snack in between is much healthier. Variety Short-Form Pro Ideally, you create content in several different forms, whether it’s blog content, social media posts, infographics, white papers, or videos. Even checklists and “listicles” have a place on your site. By creating several smaller pieces like this, you can be more creative and provide many different ways for your audience to pick up what you’re putting down. Long-Form Con Variety is good in long-form pieces, too, if it’s done cohesively. If you’re trying to throw everything about your products or services into a single piece to reach a magical long-form threshold, you could end up losing your way and confusing readers. Concentrate on a single subject, touching on different aspects of that subject. Authority Long-Form Pro When it comes to Google and the cons of short-form content, your authority or expertise can be hurt by a shortage of long-form content. Long-form content helps establish website authority by showcasing expertise, attracting backlinks, engaging users, and providing valuable information that resonates with both readers and search engines. That’s because there’s so much more to take in. When you satisfy searchers’ intent on a number of sub-topics, answer their questions, keep them on the page, and reduce bounce rates — which good content does — that’s a favorable look to search engines. Long-form content is also a haven for backlinking opportunities. If you establish yourself as an authority on a subject, as a thought leader, people will come to you for enlightenment. Short-form content may provide a glimpse into your genius, but long-form content gives them a 360-degree view. Short-Form Con This is increasingly difficult with short-form content. Shorter pieces might not allow for an in-depth exploration of complex topics, potentially leaving some questions unanswered. This means users will go somewhere else looking for that info. If you’re writing specifically for metal roofing, concentrate on writing for metal roofing. You don’t want to bring someone to that page that’s looking for cedar shake or slate roofing. In longer-form pieces, you can cover all different kinds of roofing and provide links to those subtopics. In this respect, It can sometimes be more difficult to write 750 words than it can be to write 1,750. Search Engine Optimization Long-Form Pro While some people may like shorter reads, Google will often prioritize longer content that provides a better understanding of a subject. Featured snippets — those little areas that highlight a webpage at the top of a search results page — often pull content from longer, more detailed articles. There are also more opportunities for H2 and H3 tags, internal and outbound linking, and the ability to naturally incorporate a wider range of relevant keywords and phrases related to your topic. This increases the chances of your content being discovered by search engines for various search queries. Short-Form Con Short-form content probably won’t have the chance to rank in these prominent search result positions. With shorter content, you might not have enough space to naturally incorporate a variety of relevant keywords. Google could also view your content as thin, which means it will be more difficult to establish your expertise and authority on a given subject compared to longer, more in-depth pieces. All of the above — and more! — make it increasingly difficult for SEO types (even the illustrious ones) to do their jobs. Short-Form vs Long-Form Content: Time Considerations I’m guessing you didn’t start your business to write blog posts (that’s where Webfor comes in by the way). You started your business because you were passionate about something. And that passion will come through when you write those blog posts, long or short. But spending too much time away from your business to write a 2,000-word blog post once a week won’t help anyone. Spending eight hours to 10 hours every week creating informative pieces that engage audiences, satisfy Google, and even garner backlinks seems like a small price to pay — until you realize that could be 25% of the work week! Shorter blog posts won’t take as much time, obviously, but you’ll need to write more of them to get any traction. When it comes to writing content for your site, budget that time as you would any other part of your business. Write a short blog piece that can go up now and work on parts of a longer piece that you’ll pull together at a later date. It’s the combination of the two that will best serve your purposes. Regularly evaluating the performance of your content and seeking feedback from your audience can help you refine your content strategy over time. And one final point about AI: Thinking you can take care of all your content needs using AI is one way to make sure your website authority will nosedive. Maybe not overnight, but it will happen. Yes, I use AI to supplement my research, create outlines, and even create boilerplate content. But even then it still takes a lot of editing to make sure the piece reads like it should and incorrect information is removed. We recently wrote about AI and how often it messes everything up. Thinking ChatGPT, Jasper, Bard, and any other AI content generator will be the answer to your content woes is a fool’s errand. And it’s actually getting worse. Until that time, however, develop a content plan for your site and consider both types of content. The short-form vs. long-form content debate will surely rage on even after AI completely takes over. Hopefully, by that time, I’ll be on a sandy beach somewhere (by choice of course).