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These days, everyone understands the role of content in building SEO—from generating backlinks to providing a place to put effective keywords. However, one area where there’s a little bit of debate is exactly what type of content is best. For example, a lot of people fall into the theory that short content is king. After all, our society is fast-paced, people don’t have a lot of time on their hands, so they’re more likely to read shorter content that matches, right? Not necessarily.
If you take a look at some of the average content length of Google’s top 10 results on any given topic, you’ll see that the top results, on average, have a word count of around 2,450. Even as you go back to the #10 slot, the content still stays over 2000 pages even as it gets lower. So, it turns out that a lot of the search-engine toppers are longer, but how does length help with SEO? As it turns out, there are a number of reasons why.
Changing Search Habits
In a way, the growing interest in long-form content is a direct response to the growing amount of short-form content. Once it became clear that content was an essential mechanism to increase SEO, websites in any niche you can think of started putting together their own content programs. For most, a blog was the easiest way to go, so you see a lot of 300-500 word posts.
There’s nothing wrong with a company blog, but over time, search engine users got tired of seeing the same smaller posts on the same smaller topic, especially if they really need a deeper understanding of how that topic works. Remember, the classic 500 blog post was a piece of advice that we heard around 5 years ago. But this can be a lifetime in the world of SEO, which is still in its relative infancy.
This is reflected in new search habits. Long-tail keywords now represent 70% of all search traffic. A major reason for this is that users are trying to break past those initial “simple” blogs and find content that is more specifically geared to their situation, and goes deeper into what they are looking for.
The fact that there’s a glut of the 500-word blog that was all the rage a few years ago means that it’s a lot easier for long-form content to stand out. In this regard, backlinks and social media interaction are part of the same category. For example, if you put a piece of content out there, and someone links back to it, you have a backlink, which will help your Google ranking. The easiest way to make your content link-worthy is to put together something authoritative. This is where long-form content excels. More text and more research mean more value to your readers, and more reason for them to share your content.
The same applies to social media interaction. It’s a lot easier to get shares and discussion going when you post long-form content simply because there’s more to talk about. Long-form content gives you the chance to implement more examples, more visuals, even added stories that may be relevant to your topic and your brand. All of these are points of interaction.
In a way, both of the previous topics lead back to this one. Because of the burst of short-form content that accompanied the initial rise of content marketing, there’s a bit of diminishing returns going on. If every company has a small website blog, how much does it really matter that it’s there? Long-form content alleviates these issues and helps create the perception that you have more knowledge on your niche than your competitors do.
If you look at a lot of long-form content, you’re going to see verbiage like “The Complete Guide” or “Ultimate Guide” a lot. This is no accident, as when you work on long-form content, you want to be as comprehensive as possible. The goal of your content is to try and cover every question a reader could have on a topic, so they don’t need to look at other sources. This is something short-form content can’t do.
With this said, when it comes to long-form SEO content, there are some potential drawbacks and considerations as well. For one thing, when you create long-form content, there’s also more of a higher expectation from the reader. You need to not only provide appropriate and interesting information, but also pay extra attention to the formatting and presentation to make something that’s interesting to read for those 2,000 words or so. This can be done in a variety of different ways. For example, for a more technical topic, you may want to lean on charts and visuals to explain some of the more complex concepts in a different way.
Along with this, all the basic concepts of SEO still apply. You still want to make sure you are doing effective keyword research beforehand to find good searches you want to rank for, and are effectively optimizing your page both on the back and front-end to raise your chances.
It’s important to mention that a large chunk of content creators out there are not writers by trade. Instead, they are experts in various niches who are trying to find ways to communicate their expertise in your audience. When it comes to long-form content, it can be even more intimidating for non-writers to try and get started, but there are a lot of writing assistance tools and resources out there that can help.
Many different blogging and editorial websites put out regular content to help non-writers expand their knowledge of what it means to create effective content. In addition, tools like Grammarly and Hemingway help keep track of grammatical issues and readability as you work. Combine these with some of the SEO basics like an editorial calendar, and even a novice-writer can put together the long-form content that will improve their SEO position.
With over 10 years of experience helping hundreds of businesses succeed online, Paul Teitelman is one of the most respected and top ranking SEO consultants in Toronto & across Canada. A passionate SEO expert that works directly with clients and offers custom white-labelled services to search marketing and digital advertising agencies in Canada and the United States.