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Long Form Content vs Series of Blog Posts

long-form-contentLast week I was involved in a number of conversations with readers about blog post length and whether it was better to write long posts or short ones.

My short answer to the question was to write ‘useful’ posts, and to use as many words as were necessary to do so.

Having said that, I have been experimenting over the last few months with the two extremes of short and long posts.

If you’ve been paying attention here on ProBlogger this year, you’ll have seen some of what our team have called ‘mega posts’.

For example here on ProBlogger we’ve published:

Over on dPS we also experimented with longer posts including on a post titled The Ultimate Guide to Learning How to Use Your First DSLR (4202 words).

These posts have all performed well above average compared with other posts on my sites over the last 12 months (in fact they feature pretty heavily in the most-read new posts on my blogs in 2013).

What About Series of Posts?

When I recounted the above examples in conversation this week the question that came each time was whether the same content could have been delivered as series of posts.

Wouldn’t it make sense to break a 7000-word post down into 10 700-word posts?

The answer, of course, is that a series of posts is definitely an option.

I’ve certainly created my fair share of series over the years, and will continue to do so, but I also think there is a place for longer-form content. In fact, I think good long-form content has some distinct advantages over series of posts.

For me, I think the main advantage of long form content is that its just more useful and convenient for readers to get it all in one go.

A series of blog posts is great for page views and helping you to fill a week’s editorial calendar, however if you put yourself in a reader’s shoes, it can also be a little (or a lot) painful.

Readers following the blog have to wait for new posts to be published before getting the full information in the series.

Readers who come across the series later have to follow links between posts to get each installment.

Neither of these problems are enough to stop me writing a series of posts, however, there are a couple of good reasons why I think long-form content is attractive to readers.

The other thing I’ve noticed about good quality and useful long-form content is that it gets shared – a lot.

While I’ve had great search traffic to each of the above posts this year, they have each been shared at a higher rate than the average post on my blogs in the same timeframe.

While I do find my series of posts can get shared around too, I’ve never seen a series that I’ve written shared as much as some of the long-form content I’ve created (the only exception might have been when I first ran 31 Days to Build a Better Blog as a series many years ago).

Choose the Best Length for the Topic At Hand

Let me finish by saying that I am not suggesting creating longer-form content just for the sake of publishing longer-form content.

The key is to choose the appropriate length and style of posts for the topic you’re covering.

Long form, short form, series of posts or other formats can all work.

Have you tried longer-form content?

I’ve love to hear about your experience of longer-form content. Have you tried it? How was it received?

Please share a link in comments below – I’d love to see your longer posts.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. I have not tried long-form writing at this moment. I feel like it just wouldn’t get read as much because of both my niche and personal view. If I find a post too long I tend to scan and/or simply quit the post all together, and so I apply that to my content.

    Should I be focusing less on how I view larger content and more on how potential readers view it?

  2. Jeremy Myers says:

    I have tried longer content, and many of these long posts (5000+ words) consistently get more pageviews than my shorter posts. But as you say, they are not just long posts for the sake of being long. I run a Bible and Theology blog, and these posts are sermon manuscripts and Bible commentaries on sections of Scripture. It takes 5000 words to teach and explain them.

    I have experimented with taking a sermon on say, 10 verses, and splitting it up into 10 posts on 1 verse each, and they seem not to show up in SERPs at all, but maybe I am not linking them properly….

  3. Drewry says:

    personally asking me, I would assume that longform content is pretty good in addition to mixing it up with short blog posts and videos. We really can’t tell what the search engines are looking for. That said, we as bloggers and Internet marketers should strive daily to create unique content not just for search engines to index and rank us for, but most importantly, for people to enjoy reading and hopefully share links on their favorite social networks with family, friends and coworkers. At times, I feel like I don’t want to write longform pages and just stick to YouTube videos a short blog posts, as I hope I’ve contributed something meaningful to the Internet for that particular day.I wouldn’t write a longform webpage or discussion forum thread of 7000 words. I think that’s way too much! LOL :-)

  4. Josh says:

    Wow, I thought I had written a long post with that 1100+ word post I just wrote. Doesn’t compare to your 7,000+ post. I think I like to mix it up a bit. Some posts are shorter–around 4-500 words. And others are much longer at 1,000 words. I agree that it is a good thing to get all of the info to your audience in one shot.

    However, one of my other blogs tells stories and I tend to tell a story over a few weeks. It reads like a TV show and leaves people hanging. I haven’t had a good response with it yet, but writing the stories are fun!

    Thanks,

    Josh

  5. William says:

    I have been wondering this for a while now. I write a healthy amount of longer form content. My latest post is over 5000 words. I am noticing similar results for engagement. People tend to share and thank me more for longer-form content.

    I have also noticed that they tend to do better from an SEO perspective. It gives you a greater oportunity to rank for a particular keyword but that is still based on many other factors. A short post on a less competitive keyword can still yield better results.

    Overall I like in depth content but I see purposes for both short and long. I recommend that Bloggers find a balance of both.

  6. Earlier this year, I wrote a tutorial on one of my blogs. It did win me a 3% increase in traffic under a 3 week testing period.

    I later edited it into an 8 post blog series. The decision was indeed silly. I pulled it off.

    Thanks for this post. I’ve now got new ideas to A/B test.

  7. Bobby says:

    I do a lot of technical how-to guides, so my posts can end up being pretty long. The nature of how I’ve developed my site rarely lets me post a short one. They probably average 2000-2500 words. My longest so far is about 3300 words – http://tiptopsecurity.com/how-to-use-spideroak-to-securely-synchronize-your-files-between-computers/

  8. Alex says:

    Hi,

    great article as always, informative and straight to the point.

    Personally, I think that series of blog posts or any type of content that is created in several different posts is more appealing to the premium type services.

    A good example would be me creating an article on the best tools for marketing, socializing on Twitter. Because there is such huge availability of these tools I decide to create a series of blog posts, putting them all in one article would seem like I am trying to list all of the Twitter tools on the web.

    My next step is to create a landing page that will promote my list of articles on Twitter tools. I can easily gives this page a title of the keyword I am looking to rank for while also having a lot of relevant content linking to it.

    Just my take on content that’s published over several articles/posts.

  9. S Emerson says:

    “I think the main advantage of long form content is that its just more useful and convenient for readers to get it all in one go.”

    I agree with this.

    Some do not do a very good job of providing navigation between posts in a series which I find very frustrating when wanting to get the “whole” deal of the topic.

    Your 31 Days to Build a Better Blog series was a bit different. That series had daily tasks so it made sense to break it up. Yes, I have been following this blog that long… (smiles)

  10. Since I write on genealogy and history quite a bit, people are more willing to read a little longer post but I have only crossed 1,000 words twice personally. I remember some of the posts that Darren referenced. I remember reading some all the way through and scanning the rest. I think if you are writing long copy, it is even more imperative to grab the reader’s attention in the first paragraph. I know a few blogs that write long copy. If they catch my attention, I will often read it through but if they don’t I will drop off it. I give shorter copy more of a chance because of our old enemy, time. Just my two cents.

  11. Madhur Dutta says:

    Over the past six months, I have been trying to write more long-form articles (haven’t gone beyond 3,000 words yet though). In my experience, readers tend to prefer such articles. I think the effort is recognised by readers, and is definitely appreciated. I am getting the same results through 2 long-form articles in a month, than 10 quick write-ups.

  12. Darren,

    I appreciate you writing this post mucho! But I have to be honest — I’m a fan of the short-form posts. I suppose that may just be a “journalistic tick” I have, but I feel Google giving leeway to long-form posts in the SERPs is a bad idea. It’s only going to make people become bullshit artists and pad their articles unnecessarily just to rank.

    So, now, instead of having lots of short-form “half-ass” articles floating all around the Web, we’re now going to have the same bullshit just in longer form. However, that being said, I do understand Google upped the word count for in-depth articles to deter those bullshit artists from attempting to rank. But I honestly feel it’s not going to dissuade someone from bullshitting their article like a college paper.

    People are going to cheat no matter what deterrent you set in place. What do you think?

    Other than my little rant, it’s good to know that people share long-form articles more than short-form. But I wonder if that’s sometimes because people mistakenly believe the person knows what they’re talking about based off pure heuristics and not off actual knowledge?

  13. As long as those long form posts are well written readers will appreciate them and share. I guess that is the same reason teenagers are willing to spend hours on end reading exciting long novels. Personally I would prefer to have all the information i want in one post other than in a series.

  14. I’ve recently started to write longer posts and add more photographs to each one. I read that it helps reduce the bounce rate so that people stay on your site for longer. If I’m writing quirky stories, I’ll generally write shorter posts then SEO the longer ones. This is a test so far so I’ll keep you posted with the results.

  15. Darren, what about content marketers who feel the need to get a piece of content out on a daily basis? I think this is the allure of a blog series for me, at least. Also, once a series is written the content can always be combined and developed into an ebook or infographic (more content).

    For marketing purposes an ebook is easier to email-gate than a blog article. I’ve seen some sites try the whole, ‘here’s the intro, give us your email address to read the rest’ thing, but found an ebook landing page is more accepted by most visitors.

    Do you think that the emphasis on daily content is over-exaggerated? I’d actually be interested in your opinion (and anybody else’s!) Thanks!

    • Darren Rowse says:

      James I think it really depends upon your goals as to how often you publish.

      If you’re marketing a business/service or selling a product then I think Quality is paramount and frequency can be less to keep that quality up.

      If you’re monetizing through selling advertising then you need lots of page views and so higher posting frequency is probably something you’d need to do.

      That’s completely generalized and won’t cover all situations but I think daily isn’t always best.

  16. I have not actually written extremely long posts. I am known for writing very short posts actually and I often recommend it.

    Having said that, I love a longer post if it’s long because it needs to be. Some posts are OK to be very long, some are not and many people get bored to read so much content, so they leave.

    I love most the long posts with lots of useful information that I can refer to over and over again – I usually bookmark those or search through on the site I found them. This includes the problogger blog :)

  17. Great post, Darren! :)

    Your 30-day blog series actually inspired me to do it a couple of times for my blogs. On my blogging blog, I did a 31-day article series on making money with blogs. On my forum tips blog, I did a 30-day article series on forum promotion. I’ve learned quite a bit from each longer article series I have done – and even made a few mistakes. However, I have a lot of grand ideas for my next big series of course ideas I don’t mind sharing at all. :) I think it would be neat to have each article display the content of that article in the series along with ‘tip blocks’ for major ‘take away points’ of the content and then concluding the article with a video on even more about the article’s subject. I think with those kind of tactics, a series could really go viral in no time.

  18. scott moore says:

    I think you have a point on making your posts whatever length is necessary to get the point across.

    I don’t make my living blogging as of yet, but I like to think I am improving my posts as I go at this point by adding personal experience to the content I research.

    I have written more short posts than long ones as of late because of time constraints and I had an idea that most people have time limitations themselves and would appreciate a quicker point being made in a short post.

    I will keep experimenting with both long and short, but mostly will try to keep the posts centered on a point and make sure I say enough to make the point clear.

    Thanks

    Scott Moore

  19. Alison Diven says:

    This post comes at the perfect time for me! I was just debating whether or not to break up a 6,500+ word post into smaller installments (and it’s already part of a series). I’m going to stick with the long form for this topic. It’s important and I’m hoping to reach people who are hungry for lots of information and real tools. That’s what I’m going to give them!

  20. poorblogger says:

    the long form content is good for SEO especially in bounce rate but I’m still can’t do it.. to write more than 400 words is still hard for me..

  21. The same question came to my mind once while writing an article. Long posts are lengthy for readers to scroll down, blogs looks like a newspaper and if we break pages readers might skip and get bored.
    So I stuck to less than 1000 word posts and more the post more the chance of getting a search traffic.
    Am I right?

  22. Erin says:

    I also think it depends on your niche. Are you telling a story or posting a tech-related article? Is it a lengthy opinion piece or factual representation of data? It’s an interesting question. Being new at this, it’s yet another thing to keep an eye on.

  23. Samuel says:

    There should be valid reasons for publishing both kinds of content.

    I’d say to publish both kinds to see and watch the results of both.

    This article made me think about the series part. If I was a person not interested in the topic of the series, I would hate to see it last for a few days or the week.

    What I was thinking was maybe put other topics withing the blog series and make things more interesting for the others not too interesting.

    It all works uniquely for each individual.

    - Samuel

  24. Your information is good and accurate, long post will always help for generating more page views. Long term content helps to improve more seo. You have providing great information, it is very useful. Thanks for sharing.

  25. I never published long from posts except a few articles of about 2000 words. Now I am experimenting with series posts, I have to see the response.

  26. Brand Arrows says:

    Either it is long or short doesn’t matter but content should be unique,clear and must be in simple words so that it will be easy to understand.In my my personal view article with 500 words is good enough.

  27. Sahil says:

    Hey! Darren,

    You have written a great post again, But I need to be true about my perception and observation of the post.Well I like to read and write long post as they are having the capability in giving us more information at a time. So, we only need a cup of coffee and start reading whats next in the post.

    Have a nice day.

  28. metz says:

    Choose the Best Length for the Topic At Hand- I really like this one and you spotted it on! Nice! I couldn’t agree more. As a writer, you yourself can identify if you need to make it short or long. It depends on the topic and the share takeaways are worth to be remembered.

    I found this post shared on Kingged.com, the Internet marketing content aggregator site, and I “kingged” it and left this comment.

  29. I never published long from posts except a few articles of about 1000 words. Now I am experimenting with series posts, I have to see the response.

  30. Sunitha says:

    Another awesome post! I was also researching the exact reason why longer content always gets higher ranking in SEO. It was really worth stopping by your post.

  31. Robert Fahey says:

    I used to think that any post over 1000+ words was a long one, but now realize that by todays standards of blog posting this length is becoming the norm. I wonder what the norm will be next year, 1500 words. I guess as you said, you need to write whatever length it takes to either make the point or to educate or whatever. The longest post I have written is now over 10,000 words and I am not done yet. I did break it down into a series though since it made a nice step by step series, that allowed my readers to follow along with me as I built a project. Going from my own experiences I do not like to sit in front of my computer reading something so long in one go, so I will group my series or the long post into a pdf file that a reader can download to read whenever they like to.

  32. Rajat says:

    I never tried writing content of more than 1000 words. I will surely try writing content of more than 1000 words.

  33. Daryl says:

    I haven’t published any long form content on my blog…

    Yet

    But after seeing people like you and Jon Morrow, and seeing the data on how long form useful and valuable content gives your blog posts wings, I’m currently scheming a schedule to mix up long form content, regular content, “mini posts” and infographics into one delicious rainbow swirl of content.

  34. Varun says:

    In Technology niche I’ve noticed that we don’t have topics on which we could write posts of 4000-5000 words, because tech niche mainly covers news, software reviews and How-to’s tutorials.
    so for me short content works best.
    but as you’ve to write a longer post, I’m thinking of giving it a try :) will comment about the results for sure :)

  35. Kevin says:

    I think readers are the one to decide as to the length of an article. Many readers prefer short content articles due to time, while others might enjoy a lengthy article. I think the best alternative is to do what you suggested and mix it up a little. Give visitors and readers variations.

  36. George Njogu says:

    The longest post I’ve written is 1,200 words.
    I’m just afraid of boring my readers with long posts.

  37. Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing
    this post and the rest of the site is also really good.

  38. Shamsudeen says:

    It all depend on the niche you’re into, news and entertainment bloggers mostly don’t have much to write about in a single post that take up to 5,000 words.
    They delivered the story just the way it is, if it takes just 100 words to publish the event, so be it. Otherwise, they loose the credibility in the story.
    Writing lengthy post or series is good when you’re planning ahead to publish an ebook. It makes the writing process less tudious and give an advantage to have more content ready for your ebook.

    Though, I have not writing more than 1,500 words in a single post but am planning to have something more than that on my blog in the near future as am planning to publish an ebook very soon.

  39. Saqib Razzaq says:

    Darren, You may not get a better example of inspiration. I started to write a gigantic post immediately after reading this post. Yes, immediately. It took me a lot of time to complete, but I finally got it published. And, I want to tell the world that everything that you said in the post is true.

    I have never revived so many comments on any other post as the latest one that consisted of nearly 5,000 words. Thank you so much for being an inspiring role for me. May your blog live forever.

  40. Darren,

    This is a topic in which not only you will derive a great long-form piece of content around, but as will many others. In my opinion — long form is the only way to go.

    -Greg Smith

  41. Thanks so much for this! I was just about to write a post series to sum up the end of year! Usually I write a longer post but I decided to switch it up but now I am not sure . I just started a new newsletter and I thought the series would help readers. The only thing that worries me is people have short attention spans

  42. As the owner of a website I find it very difficult to write all the time and when I do write my mind set is always on keeping it short and to the point. I will start doing what you did, just write a full long form article and break it up. I think mind set is the key here, at least for me because I can just express my thoughts and not worry about the length and come back later and break it up into different parts. I am glad I found your website I will be following and sharing your work as often as I can thank you.

  43. Pijush Mitra says:

    I never tried a longer-form content but hope to write someday :)

  44. Great post Darren. I have often wondered about the significance of blog post length. However, like you say, I think it makes perfect sense to write whatever words are necessary to be able to convey all that you want to convey to your reader in any given blog post. Interestingly some of our longest blog posts have received the most traffic when compared to much shorter blog posts and they continue to get a good level of engagement.

  45. I have had the same experience as you. The most-read and most-linked post I have ever written (nearly 10,000 page views) was 4600 words.