5 Reasons Why Long Content and Blog Posts Are Once Again the Future of Content Marketing

by Marcus Sheridan

long content

Marketing trends are a funny thing. What is “true” today is often “false” tomorrow.  As an example, when blogging and content marketing really started to pick up speed over these last few years, many claims were made as to the most effective size and length of blogs posts/content. I’m sure you’ve heard a few of these statements in the past:

  • “People don’t have the attention span nor time to read long blog posts…”
  • “No one watches videos that are over 3 minutes, so always keep your videos short…”
  • “The quicker the content, the better…”

And on and on and on.

At the same time, there have been others in the industry that have stuck with longer content and preached just the opposite of the “always keep it short” approach.

The truth is both styles of communication can work. Seth Godin averages about 200 words a post and Social Media Examiner is typically in the 1500 words range, but both sites are wildly successful models for content production.

This being said, if one looks at all of the changes happening around us and then looks ahead at where all of this is going, longer content and blogs will likely have more relevancy going forward, and here are 5 reasons why:

1. The Content Arms Race Likes Big Weapons:

I started talking about the “content arms race” over a year ago and more than ever I see just how aggressive companies and industries of all sizes are now starting to compete with each other and saturating their markets with content. As this happens, and companies are consistently putting out new articles, videos, eBooks, etc.—there is one main thing that separates the average from those that stand above—quality. And not only is the perception that longer content is of better quality, but generally speaking, length gives writers the opportunity to dive deeper and teach better on any given subject.

Hubspot Pinterest eBook

Because they are in such a competitive space, HubSpot has spent a good bit of time over the last year producing content-rich eBooks to increase their pipeline, something that can be much more powerful than simply writing blog post after blog post.

Plus, ask yourself this question: If you were in a literal arms race, would you rather have 100 grenades or 100 missiles at your disposal? Yeah, I know, it’s not the most romantic analogy but it’s true.

2. The Focus of ROI (Return on Investment):

As those in marketing and sales start to understand the power of content as a sales tool, they’ll also begin to realize how bigger and better content, when consumed, can have a dramatic impact on consumers and potential clients.

Take my eBook here at The Sales Lion for example. A lot of people tell me it’s silly to have a 250-page eBook because it’s too long and therefore turns off most readers. What these folks don’t understand, though, is the fact that I know the eBook is going to eliminate a lot of readers. In fact, I want that. Why? Because the eBook is meant for companies that want to dominate online through content marketing. And because they want to be the best, they’re willing to put the time into learning about how they can achieve these goals.

250 pages may seem like too much content for some, but for me and my business, it’s the key to deeply educating and then finding the right clients.

Because it’s a requirement that my clients read the eBook, it has become my greatest single sales tool, qualifier, and filter. It also ensures I’m working with great companies all the time.

And isn’t this exactly what every business wants?

3. More Visual Capabilities

It has now become an accepted fact that the more visual components an article or piece of content has the more likely it is to draw attention and be read. Going back to Social Media Examiner, you’ll notice that not only do they average over 1500 words per article as I mentioned earlier, but they also have at least 5 photos (and/or video) with every article as well. This is an editorial rule for SME writers and it’s a good one to have, as it ensures that visual and textual learners are able to consume information in their preferred method. This magazine-style approach is very calculated and effective, and it’s one of the main reasons why SME has about 200K subscribers despite the fact they’re just over 3 years old.

Social Media Examiner Images

As master of long content with multiple images, Social Media Examiner has gone from a “blog” to “digital magazine.”

Looking at this more simplistically though, short articles don’t allow for as many photos and videos to be placed within a post. The natural ratio for a blog article/piece of content is this: 1 main idea= 1 main image

This is exactly why you’ll find a photo/image under each number(main idea) of this blog post—a pattern I picked up after guest writing for SME and something that makes a big, big difference in just how visually appealing an article is.

4. Penguin, Panda, and Google like Big Content

When Google updated their algorithm in 2012 with Penguin and Panda, the whole web was turned on its head. Many of the most disgraceful SEO practices were now coming back to haunt companies that had danced with the devil, and a new era of “content quality” was born. Furthermore, when one really understands how search engines work, they also understand that “time on site” and social shares are becoming more important metrics of SEO success.

Look at it this way: If Google has a choice to show two articles for the same keyword, which one are they going to choose:

The one where readers average 45 seconds on the page or the one where readers average 4.5 minutes on the page?

Now granted, this is just one of many factors that dictate search engine rankings, but I’m sure you understand my point.

Google wants to show great content that delivers their users a delightful experience. That’s their goal. And longer content that does a deep dive into a subject certainly has a better chance of meeting this goal. (Again, there are always exceptions, but you get my point.)

To learn more about Penguin, Panda, and where all of this is heading, check out this video from Google’s Matt Cutts:

YouTube Preview Image

 

5. Longer Content Gets More Social Shares

I’m going to ask you a question, and you’ve got to be honest: Have you ever looked at a really long piece of content, skimmed it because you simply didn’t have 10 minutes to read it, but still shared it because you “felt” like there was a lot of value there?

Yep, I bet you have. So have I.

Guilty as charged.

This post took over 8 hours to write and was over 2500 words, but the time was worth it, and was more effective than if I had written 5 other posts of little size and minimal impact.

When people sense that an author has spent a lot of time creating value, they are much more likely to share it than they would if it was a smaller post—even one of equal “quality.”

Here at The Sales Lion, 90% of my most shared posts are more than 1200 words, even though about 50% of my articles here are less than 1200 words. Although I’d like to think the articles I’ve written that weren’t as long were still good, the fact cannot be ignored that there is a direct correlation between length of content and social sharing—a reality that many businesses and bloggers are starting to take note of.

And as I mentioned in #4, because search engines are starting to use social as part of their algorithm (I think this is a dumb idea btw but time will tell), more and more companies are going to do anything they can to get an edge when it comes to search engine rankings, and social appears to be a part of that unending battle going forward.

Your Turn

As I mentioned earlier in the article, I’m not saying here short content is bad, as quality and results come in all sizes and will always be the most important factor. Plus, many industries still have such little content (low content saturation index) that doing anything at all will make a company a frontrunner. That being said, would you agree that the trend in content marketing is that of longer, meatier content? Also, what other reasons would you add to the five above?

Jump in folks, let your voice be heard.

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{ 85 comments… read them below or add one }

Ryan Hanley February 13, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Marcus,

My personal opinion is that longer or shorter makes no difference… The real trend is Value. Penguin and Panda were frontal attacks at crappy content pieced together with technical SEO.

Seth does well because he can deliver value in 200 words.

SME does well because every post is essetially a Wiki on whatever topic they’re discussing.

The Sales Lion does well because every post is honest and well thought out.

I firmly believe that if every post was 500 words versus 1200 words it would make no difference in where you ranked in search or social media because of your diligence to value in your product. The people that read your content and reap the value then give you back the SEO you deserve in the form of shares, links and mentions throughout the Internet.

Longer posts are coming back because people are relating Value to Length. In some cases a longer post does deliver more value (in many cases probably) but I don’t think it’s the length that Google cares about as much as the depth and value it delivers to readers.

My thoughts…

Hanley

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Tom Treanor February 13, 2013 at 11:48 pm

I’m in the same camp as Ryan. I think both long and short posts can (and will) have impact. Seth is the master of the “one point” post and they do incredibly well. I’d say Kristi Hines, Neil Patel and many others do amazing long posts. I do think that long posts have “thud factor” and even if you can’t read it, you know it’s going to contain a ton of great tips, tools and insights (so you’ll definitely archive and share it in social media).

I think (hope) that readers will value both the people who can make one great point clearly (often your posts do this with a great story, Marcus – just my opinion) and those who can really dig deep into topics and produce “mini ebooks on a blog”.

You may be right though. As the content marketing arms race escalates, will businesses turn to long, deep and rich posts as the way to out-content the others?

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Marcus Sheridan February 15, 2013 at 12:58 am

Great question Tom. I’m sure as heck thinking about it :-)

Hope you’re well buddy.

Marcus

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Oz February 14, 2013 at 2:32 pm

I also agree with Ryan. When I listen to the “experts” on “5 things you MUST do.” It’s not so hard to think of exceptions.

When I set up my freshwater aquarium, I read a lot of long articles on crappy websites. That’s not an apologia for being crappy, it’s a testament for

1. Good content
2. Being in action and getting something real into the world.

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Gloson Teh February 16, 2013 at 11:52 am

Yes, agreed with Ryan. Short posts can do well. And so do short videos. Check out the recent Harlem Shake meme on Youtube. Most of the videos are 30 seconds long but are insanely popular, especially the creative ones. Check them out. Insane grenades.

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Sebastian February 20, 2013 at 12:55 pm

At the end of the day, my opinion is that a long post with the same underlying points as a short post won’t necessarily do better because it will contain a lot of redundant information. The key is to make long, information rich posts.

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Scott Chow April 11, 2014 at 8:31 pm

I agree that value is the #1 factor, but people tend to perceive longer content as being more valuable. It is a strange quirk of human perception, because a quality, short blog post is much more efficient and easier to process.

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John Verba February 13, 2013 at 2:34 pm

I liked that you said the length of your book was meant to turn off some (a lot? most?) people (prospects?), because that really balances out statements like, “Anyone can do this… you don’t have to be a pro or a specialist… ”

Sure, but… if the first thing you’re going to be required to do is read a 250 page book, then you do have to have more wherewithal and commitment than, frankly, a lot of pros and specialists. One way or another, the process will separate the wheat from the chaff.

Similarly, the concept of the book winnowing-out the intentional ones from the more casual folks who might dip their toe in the water (process) also makes clear that you’re not really saying, “Hey… everyone who wants to can win at this, the same as if they were high school basketball coaches and I was offering unbeatable plays for offense and defense. Every coach could sign up, and then every coach would WIN!”

Well, no… every team would just be 10 and 10 in a 20-game season. Unless a couple coaches came to you and said, “That’s not right. What do you have that’s DIFFERENT?” And then you said, “Well, yeah… I also have 250 pages of tactics and drills that most of the coaches won’t want to read or use. They’re TOUGH… and you’ll have to be tough to use them, and a bit tough on the kids, too.”

I can appreciate that. That makes sense. That puts things in the context of reading an imagined tweet like…”Wow, the Sales Lion is feeding all 100 of the attendees here some great stuff… that probably 10 of us will remember, 5 of us will try, and 1.5 of us will eventually generate ROI with!”

That’s how competition works. It’s finding the magic formula that works in YOUR case, which takes a lot of work, and a lot of trial and error.

If Disney has blogs that are targeted at getting kids or teens or tweens to move in some direction or other, I doubt many of the posts are long copy. If a international consultancy is trying to impress PhDs, I doubt many of its posts are short. If you’re trying to get a retired couple to commit to a retirement community, I think long copy is the way to go. Once they’re residents and you’re trying to get them to attend the Saturday barbecue, I’d recommend short.

Mostly I’d recommend working hard to adapt to who you’re talking to, and what you want them to do. ; )

John

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Matthew Caluori February 13, 2013 at 3:05 pm

I would add the growing vale of authorship. Authors will start bring more selective and less scattershot when they are being held accountable for their writing.

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Marcus Sheridan February 13, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Good point Matthew. This whole authorship conversation is just beginning…and I’ll be curious to see where it goes.

Thanks for dropping in,

Marcus

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Jamie Alexander February 13, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Long content can also be very dangerous.

I know I switch off after 500 or so words if it’s not engaging. I’ve only tried it myself a few times, but maybe I’ll write longer articles as my writing improves.

I think some people need to watch they don’t scare potential readers/customers away.

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Marcus Sheridan February 13, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Jamie, good seeing you man. To tell you the truth, I’d argue the opposite. I think we “do” want to scare some potential readers/clients away. Clearly not everyone is a good fit, and this applies to every business. And this much we do know– the more content someone is willing to read, the better they’ll be as a customer.

Just my thoughts though ;-)

Marcus

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Jamie Alexander February 13, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Hey Marcus,

I completely understand where you’re coming from, but I think we’re looking at it from two different angles.

You’re talking about the hot prospects consuming content no matter what the length.

I was talking more about scaring hot prospects away because the long content is badly written. (that’s just based on my idea longer content is generally harder to write well without keeping someone engaged)

If hot prospects would read it no matter how well it was written I suppose it makes my argument obsolete. I can probably think of certain instances where this would be the case.

Cheers

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John Verba February 14, 2013 at 12:40 am

Jamie. My knee-jerk response to what you’ve said is that I like your conversational writing style and would think you can easily keep people reading… IF what you’re saying benefits them in some way. And that’s not about being a good or bad writer… it’s just about having something to say.

If you were writing a magazine article or a direct mail letter, you’d also include a little something, here and there, that flags people that they should read the next section (of a longer piece) because it’s going to be about something they’re interested in. That “little something” is a subhead.

Good subheads keep people churning along. So do short paragraphs.

You’re already a good writer. The more you create communications, though, the most you’ll see which creations have the most impact. It’s more about organizing thoughts and presenting them so they best serve the readers. I guess it’s like: Not every great speaker is a great speech writer. Your writing voice is fine. But do you carefully work out what you have to say, and why, and to whom… so, metaphorically speaking, a half-hour speech ends with the audience wanting more? ;)

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Jamie Alexander February 14, 2013 at 7:20 am

Hey John,

Thanks for your detailed response and kind words.

Those are great tips and I think in the future I’ll just have to plan longer articles more thoroughly so it is a good read until the end.

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Keith Laskey February 13, 2013 at 3:37 pm

I wrote a post recently that was about 1000 words and was told that it was too long. Can’t please everyone I guess.

Most of my posts (only about 10-15 in total) are between 500-750 words. I read both Ryanhanley.com and thesaleslion.com. Marcus, your posts tend to be a little longer on average. What I find so great about both of these sites is the passion. Because I listen to both podcasts, I can literally hear you guys speaking as I’m reading the posts. Honestly, sometimes I’m ready to run threw a freaking wall to get back to my computer and start typing.

So although I do think that 750 is the least amount of words to strive for, I don’t think that we should try and fill space and lose some of that passion to get to 1250-1500.

Marcus, I think the reason your posts tend to be longer is because you are so passionate about what you are doing. That is also why it’s easy to read through your posts (and e-book) despite the fact that they are longer than other blogs.

Last thought and I’m stating the obvious here. As long as Seth Godin is writing, there is a place for posts with less than 500 words.

Thanks Marcus.

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Marcus Sheridan February 13, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Keith, loved this comment, especially because what you’re really emphasizing here is quality, quality, quality.

Passion certainly falls under quality.

And quality will always out-do a crappy blog post that is 5000 words.

Again, appreciate it buddy,

Marcus

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Mikel Zaremba February 13, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Great article, Marcus. Thank you for this.

I believe it really depends on who you are talking to. If I am small business owner not in the “internet marketing” industry then I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this thought (while it may be true) won’t impact them for several years to come, if it ever does.

Long copy may rule for B2B when value needs to be proven, but if I’m a B2C person then I’m betting short and sweet are the way to go.

Just my opinion.

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Marcus Sheridan February 13, 2013 at 4:31 pm

VERY keen observation Mikel. It really comes down to the CSI (content saturation index) of an industry. For example, this doesn’t apply to the swimming pool industry nearly as much as it applies to sales, or marketing, etc.

Great points man, and love your URL :-)

Marcus

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Javier February 13, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Long content should be very well written to attract your attention. Adding images is a must, and I would add paragraphs distributed in numbered points (just like you do) as they help a lot, otherwise I personally get bored or overwhelmed easily.

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Marcus Sheridan February 13, 2013 at 4:30 pm

I think we get bored/overwhelmed not by length, but by bad content Javier. In other words, I’ve gotten bored reading a book that was 10 pages. I’ve also been enamored reading a book that was 1000 pages. Ya know?

Marcus

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Andrew February 19, 2013 at 10:52 am

I agree with this completely. I think a lot of readers get overwhelmed and bored easily and people don’t have patience on the internet. The only way the majority of people would invest their time in a long article is if it was either really well written and stimulating or if there were images/graphs to make up for the not-so-interesting writing.

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Steve Sheinkopf February 13, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Marcus,

Seriously? How about being compelling…..For some subjects that could be 200 words others 1500. You want engagement, not parameters

S

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Marcus Sheridan February 13, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Steve, you ding dong, did you read my final paragraph? :-)

Much of this comes down to how saturated an industry is, competition for keywords and such, and the amount of players in the game.

Of course quality trumps all. But this is an article discussing trends.

For that, I’m going to have to beat you in racquetball now.

Marcus

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Walt Goshert February 13, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Marcus,

6. (Kinda ties into #4) Long form content will deliver multiple long tail keyword phrase rankings. If you do a deep dive on a topic, you’ll probably get long tail searches you never even thought about.

In the marketing space, unless you’re Seth Godin, you pretty much have to do long form content because the topic is so over content-ized.

Yeah, also agree about search using social as a ranking signal. Social gaming with fake users and buying Likes, Shares etc. is probably as bad if not worse than all the crap Panda and Penguin cleaned out.

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Marcus Sheridan February 13, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Walt, wow man, that’s a great point and I completely overlooked it. Like you, many of the sub sections of my blog posts have a secondary keyword goal beyond the title itself.

And yeah, Shares as an SEO metric will be an epic disaster in my opinion.

Thanks again,

Marcus

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Rob February 13, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Marcus, so many nuggets here. Thx for all the reminders. I have always wondered about long vs short.

How do you or other bloggers keep or get access to all the high quality pics? I am starting to use microsoft images but they are limited. IStock costs quite a bit,

Where do you go? stockexchange, flickr, …?

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Marcus Sheridan February 13, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Flickr is great Rob, and is the first place you should go. I mainly like to use screenshot though, but that’s because it’s easy to do in my business.

Thanks for coming by bud,

Marcus

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Don Stanley February 13, 2013 at 11:17 pm

Rob, check out search.creativecommons.com. This site will allow you to search a variety of image resources you can use for free including Flickr, Google Images and others. I use it all the time and my clients love it too.

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Rob February 13, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Thx Marcus and Don. I was on Flickr and I was trying to figure it out. Many of the nice pics say “all rights reserved” meaning…? (I can’t use them I assume?)

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Don Stanley February 13, 2013 at 11:45 pm

That’s where search.creativecommons.com comes in handy. You can tell the search tool to only return results that can 1.be used commercially and/or 2. be modified.

My rule is – if I don’t find the image/s using the creative commons search or pay for it using a site like iStock photo, I don’t use it. Marcus might have a different take but I learned this is the best policy to follow from legal contact.

Another site my non-profit clients use is sxc.hu. It’s a European image exchange site with lots of free images.

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Steve Sheinkopf February 13, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Marcus,

I did not read the last paragraph… article must have been too long

S

PS: You crack me up, dude

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Marcus Sheridan February 13, 2013 at 5:27 pm

“Article must have been too long…”

And that is why I love me some Steve Sheinkopf :-)

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Steve Sheinkopf February 13, 2013 at 5:31 pm

MS,

Thought you may like that comment…but I seriously defer to your judgement. As you once told me about making my copy longer: “They will read it if they are seriously interested in you or your product”

We can wax poetic about long and/or short, but at the end did the interested party turn into a prospect then a sale. Long copy shows expertise and people do trust that

S

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cornell green February 13, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Great article Marcus, you really just made me rethink my approach to my sites blog. Love it!!!!

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Marcus Sheridan February 15, 2013 at 1:01 am

I think the key is experimentation and finding what works for you and your audience Cornell. I’m just thinking out loud with this post ;-)

Best,

Marcus

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Don Stanley February 13, 2013 at 11:15 pm

My favorite part of the post … “What these folks don’t understand, though, is the fact that I know the eBook is going to eliminate a lot of readers. In fact, I want that. Why? Because the eBook is meant for companies that want to dominate online through content marketing. And because they want to be the best, they’re willing to put the time into learning about how they can achieve these goals.”

Want to be successful? You speak to and create content for your AUDIENCE, not for the latest trends. Learn about your audience, their desires and needs. If they like long, then write long. If it’s shorter content they want, then write shorter.

One of my good buddies, Cicero once said “If you wish to persuade me you must think my thoughts, speak my words and feel my feelings”. He didn’t mention anything about trends. He spoke about knowing your audience on a deep, real level to connect with them.

And people need to realize once and for all their audience isn’t EVERYONE. Don’t waste their time or yours chasing relationships that aren’t likely to work. As you point out, if someone isn’t willing to put in the time to read your book, they aren’t a good lead.

As we Rhino’s like to say, keep “crashin” it brother!

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Marcus Sheridan February 15, 2013 at 1:01 am

Great additions here buddy, as always. Love it.

Sorry I missed you today btw. Believe it or not, my phone absolutely died. :(

Catch up tomorrow I hope, will try to call.

Marcus

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Don Stanley February 15, 2013 at 9:03 am

No worries. The benefit was it was the first time I got to listen to your “leave a message” please for TSL. It was awesome … had me LOLing.

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Chris Badgett February 14, 2013 at 5:02 am

It’s valuable how you acknowledged that short content isn’t dead, but it’s not “king” either. As with many business practices today, it’s more about integrating ideas like short, long, and multimedia content than holding a position on just one. An integrated approach appears to be the way forward and hedges the risk of uncertainty in the seo, user behavior, and technology preferences.

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Marcus Sheridan February 15, 2013 at 12:57 am

Chris, good stuff man. A balanced, integrated approach will always be a best practice, now and later, I certainly agree with that :-)

Thanks again,

Marcvus

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Marshall Ponzi February 14, 2013 at 9:31 am

Marcus –

Thanks. You’ve helped me realize something about content length. I worry that everything I write or say will be too long and verbose. I just assume I’ll lose people in the first 15 seconds (probably true).

Now I understand short vs. long content can serve different purposes: “Informing” vs. “educating,” respectively.

If I just want to be informed about (made aware of) something, then a short, crisp message is all I’ll tolerate. I get to decide if I want to know more.

When I want learn more about a topic, I’ll invest the time to absorb more info.

Not sure I’ve noticed a trend, nor does this consider the SEO value. But it makes basic human relations sense.

Thanks for the eye opener! Marshall

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Marcus Sheridan February 15, 2013 at 12:55 am

Marshall, great seeing you bud. Without question, I’m just looking forward with this post. I think there are certain indicators happening, but the bottom line is I could be very wrong with my predictions…or maybe even right ;-)

Thanks again,

Marcus

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Mike Kawula February 14, 2013 at 9:52 am

Listened to you the other day on Jon Loomer’s Podcast and really enjoyed the conversation you both had at the “virtual bar”. I understood your reasoning of having a much better qualified prospect who reads all the way through the end or listens to the end of a long video. Personally if selling a high priced product I’d much rather have someone engaged much longer. On the flip side though I find it difficult for myself following 20′ish online experts that I like reading what they have to say and when they each pump out 1000+ word post each day… I sometimes wish I could get the same results with less. Maybe someone will come out with a cliff notes version.

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Marcus Sheridan February 15, 2013 at 12:51 am

That’s true Mike, and I get it man. Following 20 makes it hard. But I also think people like you and me that read that much are the exception to the rule. Most consumers “consume” in bursts (when they’re in the market) but then leave after that. So it’s different in our case…at least the way I see it.

So glad you liked the podcast man :-)

Marcus

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Julia Stewart February 14, 2013 at 9:52 am

Hey Marcus – Thanks as always for great content. I tried to download your ebook, but somehow didn’t get the download. Tried to sign up again, but was told I’m already subscribed. :( Am I out of luck?

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Marcus Sheridan February 15, 2013 at 12:49 am

I’ll try to email it to you Julia!

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Matt Mansfield February 14, 2013 at 10:32 am

Marcus,

Thought provoking post, thanks! I was gonna’ comment on the quality factor (length doesn’t mater – value does), but many of the folks above got there first. :)

The biggest take-away for me is your point about images. I typically use callouts to highlight the most pertinent points throughout my posts, but perhaps some additional images would help as well (a picture is worth a 1000 words after all…).

I’m going to give that a go to see how it works.

-Matt

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Marcus Sheridan February 15, 2013 at 12:48 am

Hey Matt, good seeing you man. We all agree that quality trumps all.

But if a time comes, and two businesses both have rich quality on the exact same post, but one is twice as long, then who wins in the land of search?

That’s the question I keep asking myself.

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Matt Mansfield February 15, 2013 at 8:26 am

Hmm…good question Marcus.

One consideration will of course be all the factors, on-page and off, that Google uses to rank content. These will likely not disappear in the foreseeable future.

However, given that all those factors were equal, which one would win? Great thing to ponder over a glass of beer or two. ;)

-Matt

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Frank Eriksen February 14, 2013 at 11:10 am

I get Seth Godin’s blog via email. 7 days a week he sends out his blog. Most can be read in under 60 seconds. I agree with some previous posts. Quality over quantity.

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Marcus Sheridan February 15, 2013 at 12:46 am

It’s a model that works, no question. But this article is more about the way businesses and brands will be doing their content marketing in the future, when saturation levels are high and it’s a dog fight to get to the top.

I think longer content will be a natural byproduct of that movement.

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Frank Eriksen February 15, 2013 at 12:57 am

Of course this depends on what the content is about. But, I see it getting shorter as our time becomes more valuable. (As if it isn’t already.) Personally I despise those freight train length sales landing pages that take forever to read – you know the ones. They go on and on. With testimonial after testimonial. Telling me how great this is gonna be and how many of my peers will wish they were me once I’ve bought, signed up, or signed on. My brain is screaming “get to point already.” Tell me what it is, how much it is and end the pitch so I can make a decision and get on with my life.

PS. You seem to have really stirred up a few minds on this one. I’m sure that was a total accident…

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Lizzie Williams February 14, 2013 at 11:34 am

Hi Marcus,

I’ve been reading your blog for about a year. Though I’ve never commented, I just can’t go another “read” without saying something.

You have the best “commenters” of ANY blogs I read.

Not to take anything away from you because I’ve learned a lot from you, but I love your commenters because they aren’t the “kissy-feely-everything-you-say-is-solid” type. They respectfully challenge you.

Whenever I finish reading your posts I’ll say, “that makes sense”. Then I start reading the comments and I’ll say, “that makes sense, too”.

It really does all boil down to quality and the audience you’re trying to reach. And that is the most important thing I’ve learned in reading your blog AND the comments it generates.

Thanks a lot and keep it coming!
Lizzie

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Marshall Ponzi February 14, 2013 at 11:38 am

Now, that’s a cool comment!

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Marcus Sheridan February 15, 2013 at 12:44 am

And that, Lizzie, was a heck of a comment as well. :-)

Your observation, as you might guess, was something that took time to develop. I want a community here that questions everything, and speaks frankly while doing it.

Furthermore, I want them to question me…first by reading my stuff, then chewing on it, then look for holes, and then start a conversation.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t proud of the fact that there is constant disagreement here, but in a very healthy and respectful way.

Thanks again,

Marcus

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Cesar February 14, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Hi Marcus,

I began writing long magazine articles, from 600-1400 words and here is my experience, it does not matter if your articles are too short or too long, if people like it they will share it again and again, see my website.

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Marcus Sheridan February 15, 2013 at 12:40 am

We agree on that Cesar. This is a post looking to the future of content marketing, not at it today. I think short and long content will always have huge value, but I think for content to stand out in the future, it’s naturally going to get longer.

Marcus

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Jon Loomer February 14, 2013 at 5:00 pm

This sounds familiar, Marcus!

200 or 2,000 words, three or 30 minutes, quality matters. But I agree with the key point you’re making here around longer content being a great filtering mechanism.

This is not always true, so pardon the generalization. But longer posts are often more complicated. Or to put it another way, it’s difficult to communicate a complicated issue in a short and simple post.

In my experience — and I think yours — it’s the complicated post that often leads to business. If you write a short tutorial, for example, that’s often enough for the reader to then go off and do it themselves. But the more complicated, the less likely they’ll want to do it themselves. And the more complicated, the more it appears the writer knows what they’re talking about. Hence, the business.

Explaining 1+1=2 doesn’t leading to business. But writing a book explaining your theory in a complex issue might.

Or that’s my theory!

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Marcus Sheridan February 15, 2013 at 12:39 am

You shed light here Jon on something I wasn’t able to articulate well enough in the post. Fact is, some stuff ain’t easy to explain in 500 words. That’s just the facts.

But it’s also the stuff that takes more time that will often, as you stated, generate the most leads.

And I want leads…and that other things too….sales :-)

Good seeing you bud,

Marcus

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Andrea T.H.W. February 14, 2013 at 10:59 pm

Surely I agree with you Marcus, and my articles are usually between 500 and 1000 words. Sometimes they should be more but writing in English is a bit exhausting as it’s not my first language. But I have one big article on Motivation which is perfoming well since 2011.

Anyway there is one thing also to consider: how longer articles, let’s say around 1000 words, match with mobile surfing? And, how many 1000+ words article a blogger can write before beginning to repeat himself especially in “closed” niches?

Probably as you say the right way is in the middle. :)

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Marcus Sheridan February 15, 2013 at 12:33 am

I honestly believe the right way is whatever works Andrea. But I also think what works today may not work tomorrow. There really is no secret potion to post length, I do believe that, but I also believe going forward the competition will get more and more intense, which will force all of us to dig deeper.

Great seeing you man, keep up the excellent work on your end.

Cheers,

Marcus

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Matthew Stock February 14, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Not sure I’m buying what you’re selling here Marcus Gump.

As you once told me, name of the game is creating boatloads of content. More content = more titles = more opportunities to rank.

Haven’t commented in a while but figured I’d rattle your cage.

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Marcus Sheridan February 15, 2013 at 12:30 am

Matthew Stock, I should have guessed you’d read the first half of this and then skip to the comments section to tell me I’m wrong :-)

Dude, at present, you’re correct, that’s exactly how I feel about content and SEO and capturing the hill.

But this post is looking way forward, to a time when industries like Basement Waterproofing even have a high CSI.

So put your forward-thinking cap on for a second and tell me I’m nuts. :-)

Marcus Gump

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Wade Balsdon February 15, 2013 at 7:33 am

Personally, I prefer reading shorter posts. That said, when I write, I don’t count the words until my post is completed. Sometimes they can be as long as 700-900 words. I guess if I expect people to read my length posts, I should be willing to read long ones too.

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Praverb February 15, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Marcus Sheridan, Great post! I love how you focused on the impact of longer posts for the future.

The industry that I’m apart of prefers shorter posts, at least that is what I thought. I would just post music videos and singles and neglected writing.

This occurred for about 2 years then I came up with the idea to study business blogs and present thorough content. I learned that post length is not necessarily important. Covering a topic extensively is more important in my opinion.

Do you think that certain industries promote a status quo in regards to blog length?

Patrick

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Markus February 15, 2013 at 6:56 pm

What is your opinion on infographics? I’m always drawn to these regardless of the content, so I think they are a powerful tool although their creation requires a certain set of skills that not all bloggers have.

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Stephanie Sammons February 16, 2013 at 10:15 am

Howdy from Texas Marcus! Look forward to seeing you in San Diego. I recently pondered about this on my own blog when a Chris Brogan post got me thinking about the idea of whether or not blogging is evolving. No matter how hard I try, I’m rarely successful at pulling off the short and sweet post :). I agree that Social Media Examiner has a smart and successful formula. When I write for them it takes me all day to complete the post :)

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Marcus Sheridan February 20, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Stephanie, sorry for the late reply, but it’s great seeing you :-) And yes, can’t wait till SMMW!!!

Talk soon,

Marcus

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Geoff Livingston February 17, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Short term you are right because longer content with more value means something. Long term, I’m afraid you’re wrong.Not that content will be shorter or cheaper, but that more of it will be video and audio, and in particular mobile content will not tolerate text, rather preferring audio or video. Just my $0.02, but a good counterpoint.

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Marcus Sheridan February 20, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Very legitimate point Geoff, but I think mobile and video with both develop in their own way as well, but time will certainly tell what that is…

take care bud,

Marcus

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Ryann Kahn February 18, 2013 at 10:23 am

Hi Marcus!

I just wanted to let you know that I just found your blog and enjoyed your article.

I think you are right that in the long-term future, content will be longer, meatier and better. But I don’t see most industries trending that way just yet. I think there are a lot of companies out there who are very behind where the content marketing community is – and are still experimenting with sprinkling seo keywords into mediocre content.

But, here’s to the future!

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Marcus Sheridan February 20, 2013 at 8:26 pm

No question Ryann, this isn’t something that is going to happen overnight, especially for those industries that need to catch up, which are many.

But eventually, it will happen, I suspect ;-)

Marcus

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Andy Kuiper February 18, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Great article Marcus :-) I totally agree. 750+ words (quality) and engagement objects (images, videos, UGC, etc.) are good for users (those who ‘want’ to scroll down and read the content), and are especially good for search engines.

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Marcus Sheridan February 20, 2013 at 8:24 pm

Yep, that’s exactly it Andy, and glad you liuked the article sir :-)

Marcus

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Gavin February 20, 2013 at 3:31 pm

It’s good to remember that there is no absolute right and absolute wrong, especially with length of articles. The safest way that I’ve found is to talk to fellow bloggers and ask about their experience with different types of content.

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Typing Test WPM February 26, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Interesting I thought that the search engine ie google only reads the first 20 or so kb of a page anyways? So what purpose doe’s the long blog post serve again?

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Marcus Sheridan February 27, 2013 at 8:49 am

Time on site, bounce rate, etc.

And where did you get that stat anyway? Got a reference handy? :-)

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Typing Test WPM February 27, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Hello Marcus I just got an email that said you left a comment response to my comment. I actually do have a reference. Their is a site called reaction engine here is url: reactionengine.com . I agree that bounce rate and time on site are crucial for seo. But I have created some really long pages before not for reasons you stated which are good ones but I did this to try and show my visitors I was knowledgeable to a topic at hand. You never heard that google will only cral or cache a certain amount of words on a page? It may be a myth as anyone can post stuff online but It is what I always have been told.

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Marcus Sheridan March 4, 2013 at 9:31 am

The reason why your report is inaccurate is because, to give you an example, Google indexes/crawls the comments on these blog posts. In fact, a blog comment can optimize an entire article for a keyword phrase. I’ve had this happen to me many, many times, and it’s not because Google sees it as a “comment,” but rather just some more text to crawl and potentially optimize.

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Mitch Mitchell March 3, 2013 at 11:58 am

Hey Marcus,

I’m sure you’ve missed me. lol Anyway, time for my take on things.

I’ve always been told that I write long content too often. I have lots of articles that are more than 800 words on the site; yeah, people consider those long. Frankly, when you’re talking anything under 1,000 words if the content is compelling enough even people who gripe about long posts will stick with you through the end.

However, my posts over 1,000 words have had mixed reactions. When I’ve told stories people have stuck with it. When I’ve done tutorials people tend to not check it out at all. I did a two-part pillar post on blogging in 2011 and hardly anyone wanted to deal with it. Other posts that have been really long, over 1,500 words, also have failed unless, as I stated before, I’m telling a story of some sort.

What you wrote here was also written back in January by Neil Patel. I asked him whether it was his long posts that attracted people and got them to share his content or was it the fact that he’s Neil Patel, millionaire, interviewed on TV a lot, etc. He wrote back that he wasn’t sure but hoped it was the content more than the other. I could ask you the same question; is it because you’re Marcus Sheridan, who’s spoken at some conferences, that helps your long posts get read and shared in great numbers.

Final words. It’s difficult to compare the solo blog writer with someone like Social Examiner, Copyblogger, etc. Not only do those sites have multiple bloggers but some of those folks are paid for writing that content, thus have more time to develop them, find those great references and images, and when all else fails create them. Not saying it’s impossible for us “regular people” to do it but to do it on a consistent basis… not if we’re not generating a pretty good income from it, that’s for sure.

Goodness, why do my comments here always feel like blog posts? lol Anyway, those are my thoughts on it. Of course, I do agree with having images in the posts to help break things up some. BTW, has anyone else ever told you that your CommentLuv doesn’t work properly? It shows other posts one might want to select but really only gives the option of one’s most recent post, whether they have the premium version or not. Just thought I’d share that as well. ;-)

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Marcus Sheridan March 4, 2013 at 9:12 am

Mitch, I always love it when you stop by my friend. You’re thoughtful, experienced, and not afraid to be you. I dig that.

I think there are so many reasons to explain why things work, and why they don’t. Often times, the answer is “it depends,” but I do think there are some strong ties to all of this.

But we’ll see, as stuff changes in this industry from one day to the next it appears.

Stay well brother,

Marcus

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content marketing April 7, 2013 at 12:49 am

Since Google’s Penguin algorithm update the focus of internet marketing has been turned to content but a great deal of this new content is not very much better than the keyword stuffed pages of gibberish that Penguin was designed to eliminate from the SERPs. The problem is that many businesses are outsourcing their content marketing to freelance writers with the lowest price per word being the deciding factor in choosing a writer. Obviously someone that is willing to write 500 words for a dollar isn’t going to produce much value in their content. The focus of a successful blog post, long or short, is the value of its content.

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Smileyy Johns March 10, 2014 at 7:27 am

Thank you for such a nice blog.It has described the important points which are required to make an attractive longer blog post.Yeah, contents and presentation must be unique to create a valuable blog post.

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