If you spend any time in Google Analytics, here’s something you probably already know: 55% of visitors spend less than 15 seconds on a page.
With this kind of engagement, you can see why most content marketers are doubling down on blog posts that come in under 500 words. But should they be? Content marketing guru Neil Patel thinks otherwise. His reasoning: data on Google’s top 10 search results shows a preference for longer content.
In addition to citing the above serpIQ research, Patel also references this BuzzSumo and Moz study. Patel zeroed in on the 15% of analyzed articles that were greater than 1,000 words. He noticed how longer content is consistently shared and linked more frequently than the 85% of articles under 1,000 words.
iQ by Intel
As a frequent visitor to Intel’s iQ blog, I recently noticed it underwent a fairly major redesign. From its earliest days, iQ was a densely packed grid of stories. In its latest incarnation, iQ is putting more of an emphasis on select posts and, for the first time, is grouping related content into thematic “containers.” This design shift happens to reflect a change in the brand’s overall content strategy.
According to Luke Kintigh, Intel’s global content and media strategist, iQ’s editorial team has scaled back its output. At its peak in 2015, iQ was publishing more than 60 original pieces every month. Kintigh says iQ now publishes three to four articles a week, many of which are over 1,000 words. Why the drastic reduction in content? Intel noticed the majority of its traffic came from a minority of its stories. In an effort to lean into what’s working, Intel is laser-focused on the type of content that’s most likely to grab reader interest — thoughtfully written with custom photography and video. It’s a smart strategy. With as much as 40% of iQ’s traffic coming from returning visitors, it’s important to make sure their needs are being served.
The 12 or so pieces that iQ posts seems plentiful compared to what’s happening over on Microsoft’s Stories property. Created to the highlight the innovative work of its employees, Stories publishes no more than five in-depth pieces a month. To get each story right, Managing Editor Steve Wiens say that his staff can sometimes take up to seven months (which makes sense given the multimedia aspects).
While the company’s marketing and PR efforts happen at breakneck speeds, Stories’ content is meant to complement versus compete. This slow-and-steady approach may be winning the race, too. Averaging between 2,000 to 3,000 words each, it’s not uncommon for Stories’ stories to rack up over 3,000 shares. One post was even shared over 16,000 times!
Is long-form content right for you?
While embracing long-form content was a great move for Intel and Microsoft, it may not make sense for every brand. In fact, here are a few instances when long-form likely isn’t best:
- When your audience wants quick answers
- When your audience is more general vs. specialized
- When your topic is a lightweight one
- When you don’t have a human or data-driven story to tell
- When your audience is predominately using a mobile device
As it does with so many things marketing-related, A/B testing can provide the clear-cut answer to “will my long form outperform my short form?” To determine if lengthier content has a place on your blog, this is what you’ll want to measure in a head-to-head comparison:
- Ranking on search engine results page [same topic, different lengths]
- Number of social shares
- Time spent on site
- Number of referral links
- Percentage of return visitors