While definitions vary, long-form content is generally considered content with at least 1,200 words; short-form content is considered anything less than 500 words, with the 500- to 1,200-word range a bit of a gray area. Longer blog posts, white papers, eBooks and blog series could be considered long-form content, while brief articles, infographics, and social media posts could be considered short-form.
Of course, the definition of long-form content may vary with the medium. For video, the threshold for long-form is anywhere from ten minutes to twenty or more minutes, depending on who you ask. Long-form content on Instagram takes the form of captions that push the 2,200-character limit—a tactic successfully used by photographers, journalists, and publishers like National Geographic. Despite the term’s murkiness, we do know that long-form content is considered, well, long—certainly longer than a thirty-second video, a 140-character tweet, or a one-page magazine ad.
Regardless of the exact word count, it’s clear that longer content tends to be rewarded by search engines and on social media. High-quality content of more than 2,000 words frequently earns a prominent, higher ranking under Google’s In-Depth Articles feature.
On social media, long-form content tends to earn more shares than shorter content. BuzzSumo analyzed social shares of more than 100 million articles and found that content from 3,000 to 10,000 words earned, on average, the most shares.
For brands, it’s clear that longer content has advantages—whether it’s a higher ranking on search engine results pages or a greater number of shares.
Like written content, video content need not be short to gain eyeballs. Consumption of long-form video content grew by 50 percent year over year, according to a 2015 report from FreeWheel. And increasingly, users are turning to mobile for longer digital video content. Thirty-six percent of mobile users say they watch videos over five minutes long on their mobile devices every day, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau. It’s a signal, again, that shorter may not always be better.
While mobile may be considered the home of the 140-character tweet and seven-second Vine, it turns out those devices may be helping long-form content to thrive, too.
Buzzfeed’s 6,000-word piece “Why I Bought a House in Detroit for $500” is a case in point. The story earned more than one million views, with almost half coming via mobile devices. Those who accessed the article from smartphones spent twice as long (an average of twenty-five minutes) reading than those on tablets, The Atlantic reported.
Data like this suggests that long-form content isn’t destined for the “too long, didn’t read” corners of the Internet. That’s good news for content marketers. While bite-sized content has its place, long-form has clear advantages: Users like longer articles and videos, and search engines like Google reward that content.
But underlying the long-form revival is one unspoken word: quality. No matter the length, content must be good to capture interest. To build brand awareness, brands can’t think about word count alone—they need to create the content users will want to enjoy.
For tips on creating great content, check out Skyword’s resources on original content creation.