Long Form Versus Short Form Content: Understanding the Key Differences

long form versus short form content

When it comes to creating content for your company, there’s sometimes a struggle with the decision whether to produce long form or short form content. With 79% of content marketers rating their traction with content marketing as very or extremely successful, it’s clear that it works, so which one you choose really depends on your company’s specific needs.  

Producing high quality content is an essential part of any marketing strategy, and your content marketing is a way to establish a strong identity for your brand, create trust with your audience and help increase your conversions. 

When it comes to content marketing, a common struggle is trying to decide whether to focus on writing long-form or short-form content. While both options have pros and cons, no matter which one you choose, quality always should be prioritized over quantity.

When deciding which one to use as part of a content marketing strategy, many companies will go with a mix of both. The driving force behind the decision will come down to which length supports the overall goals you’re trying to achieve. 

To help you make the best choice, we’re breaking down the differences between long form and short form content and sharing some of the benefits and drawbacks of each type.

Characteristics of Short Form Content

Short form content is usually 1000 words or less and most frequently used for social media, email marketing, case studies, and small blog posts. It’s designed to be simple and consumed in under five minutes.

Key Benefits

One of the most obvious benefits of short form content is that it saves time — both for the creator and the reader. It’s much faster to read and absorb, which appeals to people’s short attention spans. Plus, content creation can be a time consuming, so if you have limited time and resources for content creation, you can still gain some traction with shorter, more impactful content.

Short form content is exceptionally useful when you want to to try and ensure as many people read your message as possible. If you want to deliver specific information about products, services or events, short form content is a solid way to capture attention.

When it comes to creating content, short or long, consistency is critical. Your audience expects to hear from you, so if time is a concern, creating shorter content gives you the opportunity to publish with better frequency.

In the time it takes to write and research a 3000 word blog post, you can likely create three or four pieces of short-form content, so if you’re concerned about how your company will squeeze in content creation tasks, short-form may be the best place to start.

Finally, shareability is an important factor in effective content marketing, so consider where you plan to promote your content. If you exclusively plan on using social media as your channel, then shorter content that makes the point quickly may be more effective.  

Possible Drawbacks

One of the main drawbacks of short form content is, simply put, the length. The lower word count means it can be challenging to dive into more complex content, or share a large amount of information on a complex topic.

If you’re trying to attract readers who aren’t as familiar with your products or services, it may be difficult to explain everything they require in one short piece. If your purpose is to educate the audience, the little details matter. Only scratching the surface of a topic when your readers want more may lead them to seek out the information they want elsewhere.

Keep in mind that short form content also doesn’t perform as well on Google, so if your goal is for your content (especially blog posts) to rank well in search results, short form content may not be the best option.

Tips for Creating Short Form Content:

  1. Focus on the headline. With so much competition for reader’s attention, a headline may be what makes them decide to read or not, so it needs to capture their curiosity. 
  2. Be clear and concise. Short form content isn’t the place to try to explain multi-layered concepts. You need to get to the point quickly and let readers know off the top exactly what they’ll get out of it.
  3. Edit, edit, edit. Short form content shouldn’t have sentences that are overly long, or concepts that are complex and need multiple paragraphs to flesh out. Write the piece and then edit it. And then have someone else do it again.

Characteristics of Long Form Content

Long form content is usually 2000 words or more and most frequently used for blog posts, whitepapers, or ebooks. Its purpose is to provide in-depth, valuable information in one place. 

Key Benefits of Long Form Content

One of the big draws for publishing long form content is to create brand authority. You want readers to see your company as a leader or expert in the industry, so long form content provides the opportunity to showcase your company’s subject matter expertise. While short form content can be effective for communicating information in short snippets, long form content gives you the opportunity to round out each subject to its fullest potential.

When you create a content marketing strategy, your goals may include improving your conversion rates, and long form content supports that goal. Not only does longer content mean visitors spend more time on your website (which improves your chance of conversion), but the more information and education you provide, the more secure they feel in moving ahead with buying from your company. 

Search engine optimization (SEO) is also a key component of a content marketing strategy, and it’s easier to create keyword-rich content to improve your SEO when you’re creating long form blog posts. Improving your SEO means more people are likely to discover your content through a search, so the more keyword targeting you can do, the better. 

Given that long form content is time consuming to create, fewer people can commit to doing it regularly, so if you can do so, it can work in your favor. With less competition, your opportunities to differentiate are greater. 

While it may seem counterintuitive, long form content is often easier to read. With some thoughtfully used headlines, images, bullet points and bold text, readers can quickly scan the content to glean the key points or hone in on the specific areas of the content they’re most interested in.

Finally, long form content is ideal for repurposing. You can take one long piece and make it into a smaller series, use snippets on social media, or turn the content into series delivered by email. Given that content creation requires such dedicated time and effort, creating content that can be then reused in other ways is a must.

Possible Drawbacks

It’s likely no surprise that two of the biggest drawbacks to creating long form content are time and money. It takes more time to create long form content, and that often means paying someone to do it. If you don’t have an internal resource that can create your content, it’s something that can be outsourced, but this cost would need to be accounted for in your marketing budget.

Because of the time required, it’s also more challenging to be consistent with long form content. That said, it’s far better to publish two strong long form content pieces that are rich in keywords and offer valuable content than to sporadically create short form content.

As you’re competing against the short attention spans of readers, long form content does run the risk of not keeping the readers hooked. That’s why ensuring your content is scannable is key.

Also, long form content may not be as suitable for websites that get the majority of traffic from mobile users. Even if your website is mobile responsive, reading a long article on a small screen may seem like too much for your website visitors. While they may decide to save the link to read the content later, there’s always the possibility they’ll forget about it and never go back. 

Tips for Creating Long Form Content:

  1. Know the goal of the content. Are you looking to inform? Educate? Share a new point of view? Knowing your purpose before you start means you can ensure that what’s being written supports that broader goal. 
  2. Do your research. If you want readers to see your company as an authority, getting the facts straight is critical. Ensure you’re using reputable sources for any statistics or data, and that the information is relatively recent.
  3. Create an outline. Long form content can easily spin out of control with length, so an outline where you nail down your key points will keep the piece on track and ensure you include critical information.
  4. Make it visually appealing. To help keep readers engaged, break up long stretches of text with images, infographics, charts or videos. 

How to Decide on Long Form or Short Form Content

As you make the decision about which makes the most sense for your company (and often, it’s a combination of the two), there are some important questions to ask.

If you haven’t already mapped out your customer journey, that’s an exercise that should be completed before you dive into your content marketing strategy, as that will help determine the answers to some of these key questions. 

#1. What is the intent of your content? 

  • What are your company’s goals? 
  • How does your content support those goals? 
  • Are you looking to:
    • Educate and inform?
    • Build your brand?
    • Generate leads?
    • Establish authority?
    • Convert sales?

#2. What do your potential and current customers know about your company? 

  • Are you educating them on something new?
  • Are you a new company that hasn’t yet built authority?
  • What questions do they have?
  • What do they need to know in order to be ready to take the next step in the customer journey?

#3. Who’s your target audience?

  • Where do they hang out online?
  • What kind of content are they more likely to consume? 

#4. What is your user intent?

  • What are the common words or phrases that users search for?
  • Are your users’ searches informational, transactional or navigational? 

#5. What resources do you have available?

  • Do you have an internal resource or would you need to outsource?
  • How much time can an internal resource dedicate to content creation? Do they have experience?
  • Do you have a marketing strategy that includes content marketing?

Ease Into Content Creation With Short Form Content

If content creation is a new endeavor, short form content is often the easiest place to start. Once you’ve got some short form content ready, you can then take the next step and build out your long form content from there.

Whichever format you choose, remember your purpose: to most effectively meet the needs of your potential and current customers. Your content marketing has a job and that’s to create authority and authority that leads to sales.

By understanding which type makes sense for your company, you can begin to create content that meets your marketing and goals, whether it’s to increase website traffic, improve your conversion rate or build your brand’s authority. 

Need help with your content marketing strategy or your content production for 2021? The Scoop team can help.

Click here to learn more about how we can work together.