Long form vs. short form content

Naturally one would think that long form content is the answer; it provides more information and offers more opportunity to convince the user to continue further down the funnel.

However, according to Statistic Brain, the average attention span of people in 2013 is eight seconds. This is eight seconds to capture your website users’ interest. Does long form content really work?

The answer is yes and no. As mentioned earlier, there are many different types of consumers who are all at different parts of the sales cycle.

Depending on what type of consumer you’re dealing with, the answer to this question will change. It’s important to first understand the different types of content there are.

The four types of content

In a study conducted by Smart Insights, there are four types of content:

  • Entertain: This includes games, quizzes, and other types of material that is primarily meant to engage the user and amuse them.
  • Inspire: Inspirational content is more meant to motivate the user, who is closer to purchase, to continue and actually make the purchase. This can include reviews, success stories, and other user generated endorsements.
  • Educate:This type of content is meant to provide as much information to the consumer as possible. Educational content can material such as whitepapers, press releases, and other informational content.
  • Convince: This type of content is closely related to content that is meant to inspire, however it presents the case with more factual information. These types of content can include webinars, feature lists, demos, and other material that will persuade the user to convert.

All of these types of content serve their purpose and many can come in long or short form. However, when should you use an entertaining quiz or an educational whitepaper? You need to understand your consumer. 

Who is your consumer?

With over 150m of these consumers, there is a large range of people you need to consider. Your industry and product or service will narrow which type of consumer you’re targeting. However, there often will be different consumers looking for the same type of service. For example, let’s take a cleaning service:

On the Molly Maid information page, it is apparent the company is targeting women, specifically moms. It provides informational and entertaining content on the right side and give the consumer a chance to become comfortable with the brand.

It also evokes an emotional response by showing support for women and children who have suffered domestic violence with the Ms. Molly Foundation blurb on the left.


Now let’s look at another cleaning service. On the Chicago-based Corporate Cleaning Services information page, the content displayed is a little different. It provides a list of its professional associations, a quick blurb of the benefits, and another short list of the services provided.

This page is certainly constructed with more educational and convincing content for the busy professional in charge of hiring such a service who wants the facts quick.

Search still matters

You can have compelling, well-assembled and targeted content, but if consumers can’t find your website it will have no impact.

There are more than 1bn queries searched in Google daily, and some of this volume is your audience. While Google Panda forced SEO professionals to focus more on content marketing and providing the right kind of content based on the audience and intent of the website, it didn’t kill SEO.

In the past, one could create a thin page of content focused on a keyword or keywords, and that was enough to make the content visible to the consumer. This traffic didn’t necessarily convert as well or create brand loyalty. It did, however, put the brand in front of the consumer, which is sometimes all it takes.

What needed to happen was for SEO and content marketing to find a way to work together to provide the right kind of content, at the right length, geared toward the target audience, and use the preferred user search language to maximize content visibility.

If you can find out what your audience is interested in, determine how they specifically search for it in Google, and deliver the right type of content corresponding with where a particular consumer is in the sales cycle, you’ve combined content marketing and SEO.

So, which kind of content should I use?

With all of this in mind, you need to consider various things. Is your product or service a more emotional or rational need? Where in the sales cycle do you have gaps in content? What are people in the industry searching for and interested in?

Once you determine the content you need, never forget to test and experiment. It could seem like one form of content should work for your target audience, but if you don’t try out different types of content you will never know if an endorsement from a customer or a simple list of features works best.