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4 Reasons Long Blog Posts and Content are the Future - 3/26/2013 -

The one thing that separates average content from content that stands out is quality.

By Marcus Sheridan

Content marketing trends are a funny thing. What is true today is often false tomorrow. As an example, when blogging and content marketing really started to pick up speed over these last few years, many claims were made as to the most effective size and length of blogs posts/content. I’m sure you’ve heard a few of these statements in the past:

  • "People don’t have the attention span nor time to read long blog posts…”
  • "No one watches videos that are over 3 minutes, so always keep your videos short…”
  • "The quicker the content, the better…”

And on and on and on.

At the same time, there have been others in the industry that have stuck with longer content and preached just the opposite of the "always keep it short” approach.

The truth is both styles of communication can work. Popular blogger and author Seth Godin averages about 200 words a post, while Social Media Examiner is typically in the 1,500 word range, but both sites are wildly successful models for content production.

This being said, if one looks at all of the changes happening around us and then looks ahead at where all of this is going, longer content and blogs will likely have more relevancy going forward. Here are five reasons why:

1. The content arms race likes big weapons.

I started talking about the "content arms race” and the death of single-author blogs more than a year ago. More than ever, I see just how aggressive organizations and industries of all sizes are now starting to compete with each other and saturating their markets with content. As this happens, and companies are consistently putting out new articles, videos, eBooks, etc. — there is one main thing that separates the average from those that stand above — quality. And not only is the perception that longer content is of better quality, but generally speaking, length gives writers the opportunity to dive deeper and teach better on any given subject.

2. Longer content is real estate for more visual capabilities.

It has now become an accepted fact that the more visual components a digital article or piece of content has the more likely it is to draw attention and be read. Going back to Social Media Examiner, you’ll notice that not only do they average more than 1,500 words per article, but they also have at least five photos (and/or video) with every article is well. This is an editorial rule for SME writers, and it’s a good one to have, as it ensures that visual and textual learners are able to consume information in their preferred method. This magazine-style approach is very calculated and effective, and it’s one of the main reasons why SME has about 200,000 subscribers despite the fact they’re just over three years old.

As master of long content with multiple images, Social Media Examiner has gone from a "blog” to "digital magazine.” Looking at this more simplistically though, short articles don’t allow for as many photos and videos to be placed within a post. The natural ratio for a blog article/piece of content is: One main idea equals one main image. This is something that makes a big, big difference in just how visually appealing an online article is.

3. Penguin, Panda, and Google like big content.

When Google updated its algorithm in 2012 with Penguin  and Panda, the whole web was turned on its head. Many of the most disgraceful SEO practices were now coming back to haunt companies that had danced with the devil, and a new era of content quality was born. Furthermore, when you really understand how search engines work, you also understand that time-on-site and social shares are becoming more important metrics of SEO success.

Look at it this way. If Google has a choice to show two articles for the same keyword, which one are they going to choose: The one where readers average 45 seconds on the page or the one where readers average 4.5 minutes on the page? Now granted, this is just one of many factors that dictate search engine rankings, but you understand the point.

Google wants to show great content that delivers users a delightful experience. That’s the goal. And longer content that does a deep dive into a subject certainly has a better chance of meeting this goal. To learn more about Penguin, Panda, and where all of this is heading, check out this video from Google’s Matt Cutts on how to achieve a number-one ranking on Google

4. Longer content gets more social shares.

Have you ever looked at a really long piece of content, skimmed it because you simply didn’t have 10 minutes to read it, but still shared it because you "felt” like there was a lot of value there? Yep, I bet you have. So have I. Guilty as charged.

When people sense that an author has spent a lot of time creating value, they are much more likely to share it than they would if it was a smaller post — even one of equal "quality.”

Here’s an interesting fact: 90 percent of my most shared posts are more than 1,200 words, even though about 50 percent of my articles here are less than 1,200 words. Although I’d like to think the articles I’ve written that weren’t as long were still good, the fact cannot be ignored that there is a direct correlation between length of content and social sharing — a reality that many publishers are starting to take note of.

Because search engines are starting to use social as part of their algorithm (I think this is a dumb idea by the way, but time will tell), more and more organizations are going to do anything they can to get an edge when it comes to search engine rankings, and social appears to be a part of that unending battle going forward.

To sum up, I’m not saying short content is bad, as quality and results come in all sizes and will always be the most important factor. Plus, many industries still have such little content that doing anything at all can make an organization a frontrunner. In other words, the more content an industry or niche has written about it, the harder it is for a blog to make headway and find success in that field.

Marcus Sheridan is a thought leader and popular social media blogger and speaker.


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