Things change in an instant on social media. One minute the Fyre Festival is cooler than Paul Newman, and the next minute not only does everyone realize it was a big fraud, but even Millenials finally realize they spelled "fire" incorrectly. For years the driving theory around effective blogging was to create short digestible posts of 400-500 words to drive traffic, build domain authority through SEO and stay top-of-mind with your audience. Then one of two things happened: either Google changed their algorithm, or people just started to realize that almost all the first page results on Google weren't short digestible posts. On the first page, the #1 result typically has over 2450 words. That's a seriously long blog post. Why do these posts perform so well on Google? There are multiple reasons including more backlinks, more search terms, but most importantly- longer posts are far likely to contain answers to the questions people are searching for.
It's not just SEO that points to shorter posts. Medium reports that 1600 word posts that take on average 7 minutes to read are the ideal length. Medium found that since most people read at a speed of approximately 300 words per minute, it takes about seven minutes to read a typical blog post. So where does this leave us when it comes to the more short-form content?
Short form content still has an important role to play as a wind checker. Think of your short-form content as science experiments. You can test out headlines, test out topics, and get a sense of the level of interest of the topic you are writing about. I've always taught that by looking at the success of shorter posts, you can evaluate the potential of longer posts. It's much harder to crank out 2,000 words posts, and even more frustrating to pen blog posts of that length that nobody wants to read. Shorter posts can be a proving ground for the longer posts.
Short posts can also perform really well on social media. Consider the impact of a clever meme. People love them because they can be read in just an instant. Short blog posts can be like that. They are a flash-in-the-pan, and they may be read and soon forgotten, but they accomplish a very important task that is completely separate from SEO: they help you stay top-of-mind with your audience. If there is a place to comment on Twitter and LinkedIn posts, then there is absolutely still a place for shorter blog posts, we just don't want to limit our writing to short posts or we will lose out on the major SEO benefits in the long term.
This post may not have been long enough to persuade you to write some short posts along with your more substantial posts, but when I have more time, perhaps I'll write up a 2,000 word version that says the same thing.
Adrian Dayton is the Founder of Clearview Social, an internationally recognized speaker on social media for business development and author of multiple books and white papers including most recently the strategy guide, “10X Your Website Traffic.”