Of course long is better than short! For SEO AND readers!
March 28, 2013 • Glenn Murray
This isn’t a discussion about long-form copy. It’s about whether long articles / posts are more memorable, more noteworthy and more link-worthy.
I say yes. Actually, I say YES YES YES!
Sure, you can whip through a few short pieces and tell yourself you’ve consumed your obligatory content for the day. But how much of it will you remember next week? Next year?
I like LONG articles
Me? There are a few landmark articles that have really done it for me, over the past few years. And I can guarantee none of them were by Seth Godin. (Don’t get me wrong, he’s clearly a smart and very successful guy. But if I want quick, superficial commentary, I go to Twitter or the nightly news!)
No, the articles that really did it for me were long. Really long. Here are just a few that immediately come to mind:
- The Keyword Density of Non-Sense, by DR. E. Garcia (1,898 words)
- Eric Enge Interviews Yahoo’s Priyank Garg, by Eric Enge (5,247 words)
- Deep Linking is Good Linking, by Jakob Nielsen (896 words)
- An eye-tracking study of information usage in Web search, by Edward Cutrell (9,748 words)
- How Google Might Rank Pages Based upon Usage Information, by Bill Slawski (1,770 words)
- Some Opinions on the SEO Myths & Realities Fight, by Rand Fishkin (3,754 words)
- My brother-in-law doesn’t hate me after all. He just doesn’t want to be a copywriter, by Phil Web (690 words)
With an average word-count of over 3,000 words each, I clearly didn’t remember them because they were fast to read! I remembered them because they were thoughtful, thought-PROVOKING, contentious, well-researched, opinionated and/or entertaining.
I have no doubt that long articles are read by fewer people. But the people who DO read them will probably really dig them. And when you think about it, who would you rather? 1000 readers who blow in and out, leaving no trace? Or 20 readers who read every word, leave a comment, tweet, and then write a post of their own that links to yours?
In fact, that’s exactly what I’m doing here! I read a great article this morning: In Praise of “The Long Thought”, by John Doherty. I particularly liked the following quotes:
“Rarely do people put in the work to create a truly compelling, thought-evoking, high-quality piece of content. This is probably why people like Danny Sullivan and Rand Fishkin, both great bloggers/writers, are so venerated – they have taken the time to become experts at what they do, that being content creation.”
“Invest in your writers so that they write better content (pay them well, give them perks).”
“Our current communication constructs make us intellectually lazy. It’s too easy to blurt out what you’re thinking on Twitter and Facebook and then forget you said anything at all.”
This last one is particularly important. If you – the author – forget you said anything at all, what will your readers remember?
Google likes long articles too
Yes, I know SEOs have been saying “write more” for years. Nothing new there. But there was something in Doherty’s article that was new (but not surprising) to me: Quantitative evidence that longer than average articles get more links and strong social activity.
Longer isn’t better; better is longer
Now those of you who know me well will know I’ve always said, “write as much as you need to, and not a word more”. And I stand by that.
Sensational headline notwithstanding, I’m not saying longer is better, I’m saying better is longer. Usually.
More to the point, I’m saying you can’t whip out a blog post in 10 minutes and hope readers and Google will love it. Put some thought into it. Put some effort into your writing. And edit!
Oh, and if you’re paying someone else to write it for you, PAY THEM MORE! 😉