Back in the day, it was so much easier to rank on search results. You could just throw in some words on a page, stash in those keywords, and build a boatload of spammy backlinks and get away with it. In fact, after a few months, those spammy initiatives brought your page to the top of the search results.
But today, Google has become much more intelligent in spotting content that’s valuable. Their only focus is to serve the user, therefore, they encourage business owners to produce value-crammed content if they want to rank.
Plus, our reading habits online have changed big time. Poor or mediocre content doesn’t see the light much. We’re always looking for the most qualitative – the most specific, and most comprehensive solutions to our problems. And that’s where long-form content comes in and takes the crown.
And for the record, long-form content is a journalism term that means long articles with a lot of content. In the scope of content marketing, arguably, content pieces over 1,200 words are called long-form.
In this article, we will look at 6 data-driven reasons why long-form content is necessary to rank on search engines. Let’s go:
Backlinko and its data partners went over 11.8 million Google search results to determine which factors help rank on the first page. Among them, they found that the average Google first page result contained 1,447 words. So if you want to rank on that first page, writing long-form content will increase the likelihood by a lot.
In another analysis, Brian Dean from Backlinko went over 912 million blog posts to better understand how factors like word count, content format, and headlines impact backlinks and social media shares. And they discovered that long-form content, on average, gets 77.2% more links compared to short articles. And in terms of social shares, longer pieces tend to perform better than short blogs. Ultimately, giving you another rock-solid reason to write detailed pieces.
2. Buzzsumo and Moz
In 2015, Buzzsumo and Moz conducted an analysis that found:
- 85% of published content is below 1,000 words (excluding quizzes and video)
- Long-form content usually attracts more referring domains and shares
So if you’re looking to land more backlinks and social shares, therefore, ranking higher in search, then long-form content is your go-to.
Ahrefs analyzed 2 million keywords where they found a link between content length and search result rankings. They discovered that the median content length for the pages sitting at position 1 was actually under 800 words.
And once again, long-form content beats short-form.
In 2013, Medium conducted a study to measure the most reading time spent on stories based on their length in minutes. They found that the stories that got the most reading time on average are 7 minutes long. The majority of readers read 250 words per minute. Entailing that, articles of about 1,750 words get the most reading time. Image-heavy stories tend to average down to even under 1,000 words.
For longer articles, although they mentioned the time spent goes down, but they usually end up being incredibly well-performing posts.
So if you’re looking to get the most on-page time and want your posts to perform the best, then long-form content is your answer.
5. Orbit Media
Orbit Media does a yearly survey of 1,000 bloggers to come up with a blogging statistics post. According to its latest reports, the average length of a blog post went up to 1,269 words in 2020 from 808 back in 2014.
Meaning, companies are now writing more comprehensive content pieces. So if you want to slice through the noise and find your place in the search results, it’s crucial to produce long-form pieces.
6. Buzzsumo and OkDork
Buzzsumo and OkDork conducted an analysis of 100 million articles, where they found that long-form articles consistently land more social media shares compared to short-form.
The data relating to long-form content is very apparent: long-form is ideal for attracting search engine rankings and social shares. But let’s take a quick look at what Google has to say about it:
Bonus: Google’s Opinion on Content Length
In short – Google never discusses the word count in its guidelines for webmasters. In fact, John Mueller, a Search Advocate at Google once mentioned that:
“Word count is not indicative of quality. Some pages have a lot of words that say nothing. Some pages have very few words that are very important & relevant to queries. You know your content best (hopefully) and can decide whether it needs the details.”
If we take the fundamental approach to search engine ranking factors, it all boils down to one thing only: serving the user. Thin content with no value is a no-go. Aim to meet the searcher’s goals via your content as quickly, efficiently, and effectively as possible.
Long-form content is capable of maximizing your website traffic, website authority, and social shares. Plus, when you put out such comprehensive content, your chances of impressing the reader, thereby, converting them increases.
If you haven’t had long-form as a part of your content strategy till now, then do that now. It’s never too late to add it to your marketing strategy. The world can never get enough of such qualitative comprehensive guides.
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