On average, attention spans are shrinking, and it’s on a steady decline. Measurements indicate that we’ve gone from a two-and-a-half-minute attention span (150 seconds) to just 47 seconds in only two decades. That’s a profound difference, and a lot of online content seems to lean into it. Where does that leave content that demands people focus on one screen for an extended time?
There’s no straightforward answer to that question, but rest assured that long-form content still has a place online going into the new year. Short, brief bursts of a few hundred words or a few seconds of video can only convey a small amount of information. That works in some situations, but others will always require more.
When Does Length Matter?
It’s a popular myth that search engines favor pieces of a certain length. Google stated multiple times that word count doesn’t determine rankings, however, so adding extraneous or unnecessary words doesn’t guarantee a spot on the front page. In some situations, it’s detrimental.
Quality matters when creating content and isn’t bound to (or guaranteed by) any particular length. When producing content, determine why you’re doing it. What are you trying to say? How much information is necessary to get it across?
A blog article listing theater releases in March might require 500 words or less to summarize the basics. On the other hand, an article explaining the intricacies of user interface design possibly needs thousands of words. Rather than length, create content that tells your audience what they want to know.
Generally speaking, if you can showcase your expertise and say something new in 300 words, don’t stretch those 300 words into 2,000 for the sake of having more. Fluff and pointless filler won’t hold anyone’s attention.
Determine Your Audience
Content creators knowing their audience is pivotal for many reasons, and determining content length is one of them. Know who you’re talking to and why they’re there. Why are they looking at your page and consuming your content? If your target audience is used to short-form content like TikTok videos and micro news snippets measured in character count instead of word count, they won’t stick around to read an eBook’s worth of material on the same topic.
On the other hand, if you write in a niche space or your target audience is well-versed in the subject, surface-level work won’t make the cut. This goes back to the question of why people are on your page or viewing your content at all. What are they looking for? What are you providing them?
Know the Platform
The chosen platform or medium is critical in determining content length. Some (like social media) are predisposed to short-form content. Technical and industry-specific spaces have audiences looking for more in-depth pieces, so long-form content is more appropriate. You can mix and match, but remember that what works on one platform might need more or less length elsewhere.
Tips for Creating Better Long-Form Content
After determining that long-form content is best suited for your audience and platform, there are still some important things to keep in mind. After all, not all content is equal, regardless of length. Here are a few tips to get the most out of longer content.
- Find the purpose – This ties into the idea of knowing your audience. Figure out the purpose of your content, whether it’s answering a specific question, delivering news, or solving a problem. Be clear about the intent.
- Entertain and engage – The attention span statistics mentioned earlier say it all. People don’t pay attention for long, so entertain them if you want them to stay. Grab their attention and feed them great examples, regardless of your audience.
- Less is more – Keeping this in mind doesn’t mean there’s no place for long-form content, but that everything produced should count. Don’t create content just to achieve higher rankings. Say something, teach something, share something valuable, or answer people’s questions.
- Don’t keyword stuff – This is a more straightforward tip, but it goes hand-in-hand with good-quality writing. Don’t keyword stuff your pieces. While keywords matter in SEO strategy and search engine rankings, they’re not everything. Don’t let them eclipse the purpose of a piece or drag down its quality.
Don’t ditch the long-form content yet. There’s no magical word count that boosts search engine rankings, but there are certain topics and platforms that merit a higher one.