The rise of long-form content and what that means for your business

Matter Solutions previously wrote about “how many blog posts should I write for my business”, analysing several HubSpot studies and looking at how much time is dedicated to writing the blog posts. Since writing this, Orbit Media Studios have released their 2016 data, which could have a big impact for businesses who have a content marketing strategy in place.

How long does it take to write a blog post in 2016?

In 2015, Orbit Media Studios found 48% of bloggers spent two hours or less per post, with only 16% spending more than four hours per post. This was only a small increase from data collected in 2014.

However, in 2016 there has been a huge increase in time spent writing, with the average blog post taking 3 hours 16 minutes to write, this is 26% more time than in 2015. Twice as many bloggers now spend over six hours on their average post. In 2015, half of the surveyed bloggers spent less than two hours writing a post. In 2016 that has decreased to a third.  

Source: Orbit Media Studios

So why is there an increase in time spent writing?

The dramatic increase in time spent per article can be attributed to the increasing popularity of long-form content. Orbit Media Studio’s data found the average blog post is now 1,054 words. The amount of blog posts that are under 500 words is strongly declining, while the percentage of blog posts over 2000 words has doubled. Backlinko found pages with longer content ranked significantly better, and the average word count on a Google first page result is 1,890 words.

Source: Backlinko

Long-form content is increasing in its popularity simply because it achieves more results than shorter content. There are a few reasons why it is able to achieve such results:

  • The market is saturated with short content. After all, Moz found 85% of content published continues to be less than 1000 words long. If you search for a particular topic, you’ll notice several articles with similar wording appear. Nobody wants to read the same article over and over again. Stand out from the competition by making your content longer. When you Google a question, the result will be what it considers to be the highest quality answer to that question. Long-form content is going to be of higher-quality, and therefore have a higher search result ranking.  
  • Longer content means you will receive more backlinks and therefore increase your organic traffic.
  • People read blog posts because they find the topic interesting and they want to learn something from it. If readers find the source valuable, they will be more inclined to share it on social media, therefore increasing traffic to the blog post.
  • If the content is comprehensive and interesting, readers will spend more time on your website. Kissmetrics found when you’re writing a long guide, people stayed on the page 40% longer than on the average page, and looked at 25% more pages than the average visitor. The longer they spend on your website, the more their trust in your company increases.  
  • It saves the reader’s time if they are able to gain all their information from one source, rather than having to visit numerous web pages.
  • It will get more shares on social media. Neil Patel analysed 327 blog posts he had written for Quicksprout, and found posts under 1,500 words received an average 174.6 tweets and 59.3 Facebook likes. Meanwhile, posts over 1,500 words received an average of 293.5 tweets and 72.7 Facebook likes.
Source: Quicksprout

In 2015, Moz teamed up with Buzzsumo to analyse the shares and links of over one million articles. Amongst their findings, they looked at the impact of content length on total shares and domain links:

Source: Moz

This data shows long-form content consistently gets higher average shares and links than shorter content. This is consistent with their findings from 2014. This finding is supported by HubSpot, which found articles with a word count over 2,500 words received more shares on social media. Furthermore, they also found a positive correlation between high performing pages and word count over 2,250. HubSpot found posts between 2,250 and 2,500 words earned the most organic traffic.        

Impact on frequency

The increasing popularity of long-form content means content is being posted less frequently. HubSpot’s study found companies that published 16 or more blog posts per month got 3.5 times more traffic than companies that published between 0-4 per month.

Orbit Media Studio’s 2016 data found the percentage of content produced daily is decreasing, with the percentage down more than 50%, with a 7% increase in weekly posting, and a 38% increase in monthly posting.

Source: Orbit Media Studios

As more time is invested into writing high quality, long-form content, the amount of blog post produced decreases.

However, in a disappointing finding for businesses, increasing the word count and quality of a blog post does not necessarily translate to an increase in result. In line with HubSpot’s findings, those who post more content will still achieve higher results, despite the length of the post.      

What are the future trends for content marketing?

Businesses are investing more time in long-form content, which lowers the frequency of blog posts and therefore does not increase traffic to the website. The continual production of 500 word blog shows many businesses simply do not have the time to dedicate to writing a blog over 3000 words. If you don’t have the time to dedicate to a 3000 word long blog article, but short, 500 word blogs won’t get shares, then what is the solution?

Both Entrepreneur and Forbes have predicted that, come 2017, there will be an increase in dense content. Usability Geek describes this as “the ratio of content on a page in relation to the size of that same page.” Content dense posts usually have more keywords, and is easy to understand, and therefore helps to improve a website’s SEO. While the recent trend has been to produce increasingly long posts, people may not read the entire article, as it is too long, complex and requires too much attention. Content density is all about an articles per word value. It’s sometimes better to write a shorter article that has a higher value, rather than produce a 3000 word article that is dull, unnecessarily detailed and convoluted. This means there could potentially be less time spent writing, while the readers will receive more value.  

It’s clear that there is an increasing trend to writing long-form content, and there are many advantages to gain from producing such work. It’s important to consider whether it is better to produce long-form piece of higher value to gain more social media shares once a month, or if it’s better to produce 1000 word pieces more frequently to continue gaining traffic.