What's The Difference Between Long-Form and Short-Form Content?

Content Marketing

Published Jun 26, 2023, 1:40 PM
Approx. read time 6 mins

Whether you're aware of it or not, your business is producing content. Whether you have a website that can be found on Google, or if you're running a social media page, you're creating content that others can find.

If you've been working on marketing in your business for a while, you've probably heard about the dilemma of whether you should be producing long-form or short-form content.

While there is no right or wrong answer to the dilemma, it can be interesting to explore the different points of view before coming to your own conclusion of what works best for your business.

What is long-form content?

Volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica

While this sounds as though it should be straightforward to answer, the jury is out on what is actually classed as long-form content. Some sources say that anything over 1,200 words is long-form, while others suggest it's anything over 2000 words.

You're probably thinking that 800 words doesn't seem like much of a difference, so does it really matter? You might be surprised to find out that 800 words are the equivalent of almost two extra pages of content written on A4 paper without images. Putting it in that perspective suddenly makes it seem like a lot of words.

Typically, long-form content looks like whitepapers, guides, and case studies. They are pieces of content that shouldn't be glossed over with a quick answer and short explanation; you should go in-depth into an issue and show you know your stuff.

When should long-form content be used?

Long-form content is typically used to cover a single topic in-depth; think of it as an ultimate guide to something. Impart of all your knowledge and teach your audience everything you can.

If you want to show your audience that you know what you're talking about, then long-form content is the way to go. Look at it as your chance to show your audience that you know what you're talking about or that your views differ from those of your competitors.

Does it make a difference if long-form content is used?

To put it one way, both forms of content have their place; it depends on what's being conveyed by the content that should determine its length. However, there are several benefits of using long-form content.

  • There are more opportunities to use keywords in the content, which means it can perform better on search engines
  • People who read the content are typically interested in the subject matter, meaning the content can see higher conversion rates
  • It gives you the opportunity to be seen as an authority in your industry and a market leader that can help people make decisions
  • There are more opportunities for backlinks which can further increase the page's performance on search engines

What are the drawbacks of using long-form content?

As with everything in life, there are negatives. Although, with long-form content, there are only two main ones:

  1. It takes time to research and produce, which means you need to see a high return for it to pay off for you
  2. It doesn't always display nicely on mobile devices, which could rule out an on-the-go audience

What is short-form content?

Illustration of a newspaper

Much like long-form content, the jury is out on what's classed as short-form content. Some claim it's content that's less than 700 words, while others draw the line at 1,200 words.

Short-form content is often used to quickly convey an idea; take the example of a news article that conveys a single topic without going into too much depth that readers lose interest. Or if that's still too long for you, think of it as a social media post that's short and to the point.

When should short-form content be used?

Short-form content is the way to go if you need to quickly convince your audience of something. If you've got news you need to spread, like new locations opening or new hires being taken on, then short-form is your friend.

Short-form content is often faster to produce and requires fewer resources than long-form content, making it the perfect type of content for "quick updates" and keeping your audience in the know.

Also, unlike long-form content, it is easier to read and often comes in a mobile-friendly format.

What are the drawbacks of using short-form content?

Depending on the reason you are using short-form content, you may encounter some drawbacks that you will need to overcome.

  • You can't cover a topic in the same depth you can with long-form content, meaning the content may be shallow.
  • After you've been writing short-form content for a while, you might find that all of your content starts to look the same. This is because it can become formulaic over time; for example, your social media posts could all contain similar-looking images and two sentences of content followed by the same hashtags.
  • Rather than being content that needs to be updated over time, short-form content is often a once-and-done type of content, meaning interest in it can fade over time. It also means that after a period of time, the content may no longer be correct and appear outdated.

Does any of this really matter?

A blue and an orange question mark among other grey question marks

You're likely already using both forms of content without realising or putting much thought into it. However, if you can understand where each type of content should be used and its purpose, it can help you plan your marketing and make your campaigns more coherent.

  • If you want to increase your brand awareness, then a viral TikTok video is more appropriate than a whitepaper as it's likely to have a bigger audience.
  • If you want to generate more backlinks onto your website, then a long-form piece of content is the way to go rather than content that's viewed now and forgotten within 10 minutes.
  • Keep in mind the platform you're looking to use too. If you want to post a short, snappy, attention-grabbing video, then TikTok is the way to go. However, if you want to post a longer explainer video, then you might want to consider using YouTube.
  • Keep your audience in mind. If your audience has a short attention span, then long-form content isn't likely to hold their interest, meaning they'll become bored and look elsewhere for the content.
  • Don't forget about your competitors. While your business will be different from them in some way, understanding what's working and what's not for them can help you look for trends within your own content.

And for those interested, this post comes in at 1090 words, meaning it's classed as short-form content.