The SEO And User Science Behind Long-Form Content

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Lucille Barrett
Lucille Barrett
Future teen idol. Hardcore tv lover. Social media guru. Zombie aficionado. Travel scholar. Biker, shiba-inu lover, audiophile, Mad Men fan and proud pixelpusher. Working at the junction of minimalism and elegance to answer design problems with honest solutions. I'm fueled by craft beer, hip-hop and tortilla chips.

Nobody wants to read long pages of content on the internet, right? Columnist John Lincoln disagrees, providing compelling evidence that this type of content gets read and ranks and converts well.


Are you struggling to rank some keywords that should be easy? Are you having trouble attracting an audience to your site, even though you think you’re offering some great information? If so, then maybe you should consider adding more long-form content.

To put it succinctly, long-form content can make you look like more of an expert in your field, increase the likelihood of engagement and sharing, improve your search engine results page (SERP) rank, and increase your audience; because of your content, you will be viewed as an “authority” on the subject. All of that works to your benefit and translates to better brand awareness, Team Kgs.

What Is Long-Form Content?

Long-form content is variously defined throughout the Interweb. However, the consensus is pretty clear on one point: If you’re just looking to get past a 500-word mark so that the search engines take notice of your content, then you’re not publishing long-form content.

My personal rule of thumb is that anything less than 1,200 words isn’t long-form content. I’d advise aiming for over 1,500 words since 1,200 is (in my opinion) the minimum. That way, you’ll have a competitive advantage with the extra cushion.

But why not go all in? Set a goal of 2,000 words for your long-form content. I haven’t published a post less than 1,000 words for some time. I am generally going for 1,500 to 7,000 words now.

A Recently Recognized Benefit

The benefits of long-form content in the digital sphere have only recently begun to gain recognition. Believe it or not, it was long believed that digital long-form content was a bad idea:

When readers started moving to the internet, media analysts thought long-form journalism was in trouble. Attention spans were going to shrivel. Readers wanted short, they wanted snappy, they wanted 140 characters and not much more (though a listicle on the side couldn’t hurt). Who would want to scroll through an 8,000-word article on an iPhone screen?

Naomi Sharp

Many are now realizing that the inevitable “death” of long-form content was greatly exaggerated, and digital marketers are discovering that long-form content is precious for both users and search engines alike.

The SEO Benefit

The exact algorithm that Google uses to determine which pages should go straight to the top of the SERPs for a given query is, of course, a mystery (at least, it is to everyone outside of a certain corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California).

However, curious engineers can tinker and experiment — as much as the search engines will allow them — to gain some insight about what ranks well.

Long-Form Content Ranks Very Well

Back in 2012, serpIQ conducted a study involving more than 20,000 keywords. The results showed that each of the top 10 results’ average content length was more than 2,000 words. The average number of words for the content in the #1 spot was 2,416. For the #10 spot, the average number of words was 2,032.

That evidence is fairly conclusive. If you want your articles to rank well, consider using long-form content.

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