Of course long is better than short! For SEO AND readers!

March 28, 2013 •
Short copy vs long copy

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:

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 articles get more links

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! 😉

Longer isn’t better; better is longer
Feel free to comment...
comment avatar
Karen Christian wrote on May 25th, 2013

Firstly, kudos to a great article. You have compelled me to comment. I think there is a time and a place for both long and short blog posts so long as they provide genuinely useable information and they don't ramble on. The real focus should be about writing in a direct and concise fashion. With that in mind the word count is only relative to the type of information you are trying to convey. If bloggers want to create short posts then maybe they could mix them up by making them more visually appealing. For example infographics or creating creating PowerPoint presentations and submitting them to Slideshare. I don't think I am the only reader who takes short posts with a grain of salt but has more respect for those posts that require more effort on the part of the author.

comment avatar
Glenn Murray wrote on May 26th, 2013

Hi Karen. Of course, you're right. Definitely a place for both. I think the bigger problems are that too many people: 1) think long is good (instead of good is long); 2) write short posts because they can't dedicate the time or resources deep analysis requires; 3) don't have the required expertise for deep analysis; or 4) pay shoddy ghost-writers peanuts to write long articles without giving them the time or information they need to write GOOD long articles.

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