The Advantages of Long Form Content

The resurgence of long-form content on the internet is a hot topic at the moment. Last year Jonathan Colman wrote his powerful call to arms for the SEO industry to up their game and create more value with the content it publishes, and I joined the chorus with my own thoughts on how SEO could come to embrace long-form as a legitimate approach to content.

Long-form content, and whether or not it works on the internet, has been an ongoing debate for many years. Nicholas Carr’s alarmist book The Shallows suggests the internet ‘trains’ us to prefer short snippets of content, but the evidence is mounting that long-form is a legitimate publishing approach online resulting in a positive impact on many different fronts.

Last week Co.Labs published the results of their own long-form content experiment, in which they changed their usual quick & dirty tactic of getting stories out there quickly to a different approach, where they revisited and expanded existing articles and turned them in to growing stories.

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The results were significant: while their traffic did not increase as such, the engagement of people with their content showed remarkable improvement – a massively lower bounce rate combined with a much longer time on site:

Co.Labs saw massively lower bounce rates and greatly improved time on site.

This is strongly indicative of readers taking the time to properly consume the content and absorb it in much greater detail. And that is something every brand should strive towards when it comes to their own content. Who doesn’t want a captivated audience taking the time to thoroughly enjoy your brand’s messages?

The advantages of long-form content are not a novel discovery. Many online publications have thrived on long-form content for many years. Take the case of the successful magazine The Atlantic, which is endeavouring to make all the articles they’ve published in their 150+ year existence available online.

And it pays off for them: one of their older articles, a 9900-word piece on the diamond industry written in 1982, regularly appears at the top of TheAtlantic.com’s traffic reports. Ironically Nicholas Carr’s book I mentioned earlier, about how the internet is making us prefer short content, emerged from a long-form article he wrote for The Atlantic entitled¬†“Is Google Making Us Stupid?”.

Recent tools and apps are helping enable the consumption of long-form content online and on mobile devices. Services like Instapaper and Flipboard allow you to save the content you discover for later reading at a more leisurely pace. And social bookmarking sites like Delicious have been around for years, allowing you to save articles for postponed consumption.

Lastly, the SEO advantage of long-form content should be blatantly obvious to all: an abundance of well-crafted, rich content that engages readers; it’s exactly what search engines want to see more of nowadays.

We see it right here on State of Search, where long articles that are properly researched, well-written and illustrated by great images – like this one, and this one, and this one – tend to enjoy the most amount of social shares, incoming links, and comments.

All this on top of the fact that long-form content that adds genuine value will help establish you as a thought leader in your industry… it makes you wonder why more companies aren’t embracing it wholeheartedly.

So, why aren’t you?

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About Barry Adams

Barry Adams is one of the chief editors of State of Digital and is an award-winning SEO consultant delivering specialised technical SEO services to clients worldwide.