One of the most important questions that any copywriter asks themselves when planning a blog or a series of them is, ‘How long should the content be?’ – for an obvious reason. The longer the content, the more time it’ll take to write and the more you’ll want to charge.
While the question is obviously important, the answer isn’t so clear-cut. Certainly, there are some compelling factors that make copywriters lean more towards being concise.
One reason is that people generally lead very busy lives, where time’s always at a premium. Ergo, they don’t have time to read through a long form of anything and prefer short and sweet.
Another is that because we are in the digital age, people have developed shorter attention spans. Most people don’t have the patience to read through big blocks of information and switch off when faced with this kind of challenge.
And up until 2013, the conventional wisdom was that writing blogs with short-form content (400 – 600 words) was the way to go. They were quick and easy to write, ranked well on Google, and if you wrote 2 or 3 per week for a client, they’d generally be getting a great ROI.
Then, in a relatively short space of time, short-form blogs weren’t ranking so well on Google. The history of blog writing can simply be summed up into two periods – pre-2013 and post-2013.
2013 – the year when everything changed
A quick search of the internet will show you that since 2013, the number of long-form blog posts (with word counts from 2,000 up to 10,000 words or more) on the internet has sky-rocketed.
So, what was so important about 2013?
Google’s Panda Algorithm
Google initially launched this algorithm in 2011 to penalise scraper sites (websites that copy content from other websites) and content farms (poor quality content, written to satisfy algorithms and maximise search engine results) and to reward high-quality content.
In February 2013, Update 24 was a modification that placed even more emphasis on quality. While there were several quality criteria, one of the major ones was having content that was thorough and comprehensive.
In May, Matt Cutts, the head of webspam at Google, unveiled Penguin 2.0, the fourth update of this algorithm, which had an even bigger effect on SEO than Panda Update 24.
Sites that produced content for specific markets and industries were given an ‘authority boost’ – which meant that if you could demonstrate that you were an authority or had expertise in a particular area, you’d receive a ranking boost for being that authority.
The biggest change of all occurred in August, 2013 when Google introduced a new search results paradigm that focused on rewarding high-quality, in-depth articles.
Fast-forward to 2018. Now, when you ask Google to do a search for you, it’ll highlight the highest quality content it can find, which will often be long-form content.
Does this mean that in 2018, copywriters should only be writing blogs with long-form content?
The short answer is, ‘No’. There are still situations for copywriters where writing blogs with short-form content is preferable.
o You’re writing blogs to an audience that already has a very clear understanding of the topic. Because of this familiarity, including a lot of reasoning or examples may come across as unnecessary, or even overkill.
o If you’re writing blogs to your ‘tribe’ (a group of people that subscribe to your regular blog posts), you already have a rapport with them, so using long-form content as a way to establish credibility or expertise is unnecessary.
o Through research, you’ve established that a specific topic doesn’t warrant massive amounts of detail. Or a specific audience is too time-poor to read large chunks of information – and you write your blogs accordingly.
While the debate about the merits of blogs with short-form content vs long-form content still continues all over the internet, the proponents for each side often look at the issue only from their own perspective, which doesn’t necessarily address the specific parameters you might be facing.
The priority should be to write a quality piece – and this can be done with 500, 5,000 or 50,000 words. Value should always be calculated in the quality of the writing, not the quantity of the words.