Usually, we read that long-form content is the way to go for brands trying to establish a good ranking for their website. Interestingly enough, I found a recent study that says that long-form content might not be a good idea. In this blog post, I gather the statistics you might be familiar with and present the study’s findings. I will end with a suggestion. That way, you will have all the information you need when creating your content calendar.

Why your brand should focus on long-form content

There are two studies you might be familiar with. The first one is a 2015 study by Hubspot. Matthew Howells-Barby says that their data clearly shows that “there is a positive correlation between high performing pages within organic search and word counts of over 2,250 words. The sweet spot seems to be 2,250-2,500 words.” In addition, their study showed that a higher word count is correlated with more social shares. Finally, their final word count analysis was about the correlation between an article’s word count and the number of external websites linking to it. They noticed a strong positive correlation towards the content with a larger word count. They concluded that “while this is still only correlation, the results give us a really strong indication of what length of content is earning more links, social shares, and organic traffic.”

Strong results

Three years later, Orbit media conducted another study. Andy Crestodina says that their study concluded that today (well, last year), the average blog post is 1151 words. There was a wide range of responses, and most bloggers (55%) responded that they write less than 1000 words per post. However, a small percentage wrote long-form content: twenty percent of the bloggers write 1500+ words per article. Crestodina stated that “the correlation between length and success was even stronger here.” Over half of the bloggers who write 2000+ word articles reported “strong results.” The phrase ‘strong results’ is somewhat subjective, but after these studies, one tends to believe that blogs posts and other digital content should be long-form content.

The actual effect of long-form content

However, a new analysis from BKA Content from a few days ago shows something else. Something important enough to consider while writing your digital content. Greg Secrist describes the study he has conducted with Matt Bentley from CanIRank. For details and charts, please visit the original article.

One of their findings was that “longer-form content really only makes a difference for Google positions one through twenty, and is not as strong for positions above twenty. That being said, it also does again reinforce the point that, if you want to rank in the first one or two pages on the SERPS, more content is seemingly more beneficial.”

Also, blog posts with higher word counts generate more backlinks, and they cite some sources that support that backlinks are great for rankings. Moreover, Secrist says that if you “look at the charts purely from the perspective of winning top-ranking spots on the search engines, the average word count of content that ranks number one in Google is around 1,900 words.” So far, these findings seem to underline the findings from previous studies.

Why your brand should NOT focus on long-form content

The significant change to BKA Content’s study is that Secrist and Bentley have asked themselves: do readers really prefer 1,900 words? After all, it does not necessarily mean that readers prefer the content of that size. They have found several polls indicate that there is a preference among readers for shorter content when the subject matter does not require longer content. They conclude that “while content with 1,900+ words is favorable to Google, it may not be favorable to your audience based on the type of information being relayed and the types of answers your readers are seeking.” Most of the people responding to these polls prefer 700-1500 words. Even Google has stated over and over that you should not write for search engines but for people. So, it makes sense to focus on something else than merely long-form content.

Social shares

Secrist and Bentley have found other studies that show that “once a post hits about 1,000 words, the average number of social shares increases, as does organic traffic.” They believe that posts that are not targeting highly competitive keywords should still be around 1,000-2,000 words to keep audiences happy, while also ensuring performance. Blog posts of 1,000-2,000 words receive “nearly 56% more shares than content pieces that fall under that 1,000-word mark.”

How long or short should your blog post be?

How long or short your blog post should be depends on “where you sit on the spectrum,” Secrist says. He suggests longer posts if you are a new brand/website. If you are a well-established business with consistent traffic, though, “creating content with a mix of different word count sizes makes the most sense, and is likely the most cost-effective.”

My suggestion is a mix or balance as well. You want to establish yourself as an authority in your field. You need to showcase your expertise, and you need to have good rankings in search engines to make people find you as that authority. Once you have those readers, you can write articles that they actually want to read. The information above shows that aiming for 1,000-1,500 words is useful in that case. And you want to mix those shorter blog posts with longer ones, just to keep attracting new visitors among those highly competitive keywords.