Why ‘long reads’ are a critical part of your content marketing suite

Natalie Ticehurst

Content Editor

Yes TikTok ticks the snackable-content box – but are you missing out by keeping your copy short and sweet?

It’s no secret that attention fades after a matter of seconds – eight, to be exact – so, it would seem smart to keep online articles to a short and skimmable 500-800 words. Join the throng of short, snappy content competing for people’s attention. However, recent stats show that features between 2,250-2,500 words earn the most organic traffic, while 2,500-word articles are most likely to be shared on social media.  

So, if you’re keeping your word counts capped and steering clear of long-form content, you might just be missing out the many benefits of long reads: positioning yourself as an authority, garnering visibility online and establishing strong brand positioning. Here’s why…

Increases your search rankings 

Who hasn’t fallen foul of ‘clickbait’ – an article with a come-hither headline that falls short once you start to read? The copy equivalent of fast food, quick-hit articles with no real substance can leave the reader feeling empty and likely to leave the other articles on your site unread.   

By contrast, a feature that thoroughly dissects a subject, that offers real value to the reader – be it entertainment or education – is more likely to be thoroughly consumed and thought about long after they finish reading. As such, they’re less likely to click ‘back to Google’ – and this spells good news for your content. The longer the reader stays put on your page, the better quality the search engine believes your words to be, thereby sending a whole lot more traffic your way. 

Positions you as an authority 

Long-form content acts a shop window for customers and provides a way for you to show potential clients that you’re truly under the skin of your area. Sharing your knowledge and expertise positions you as a valuable source of information and builds trust.  

Take, for example, the recent work Hearst Content Agency created for Asda Baby & Toddler Club – a hub for new and existing parents, covering everything from baby food safety to toddler tantrum tips. iCrossing – our strategic partner – provided an SEO-first framework for each article to maximise search engine visibility. Plus, while search is always at the heart of our digital content, and a key component to drive performance, once this structure was in place, we approached every article as we would a print piece.  

This meant commissioning thoroughly researched articles with an average copy count of between 1500-1800 words, written by journalists who are experts in their field. Peppered with information and advice from leading doctors, psychologists, nutritionists and personal trainers, the hub provides a wealth of information for new and expectant parents, positioning Asda as a real source of valuable information for this audience and therefore giving them a reason to return.  

Boosts shareability  

If you’ve read something that has a real takeaway and seems like it’ll improve your life one way or another, you’ve more than likely popped the link in an email and forwarded it – you may even have shared it to social.  

If you create life-changing or educational content – which often comes with a higher word count – it’s much more likely to be shared on social. If something is well-written, upweights research and quotes several experts, it can become a trusted source that people are happy to quote from, pass on or reshare on social.  

Increases lead generation  

Let’s be clear, content isn’t just a nice-to-have – it’s a powerful marketing tool designed to effect change, encourage new behaviours and, ultimately, boost sales. Whether you’re an athleisure brand wanting people to try your leggings over a rival’s or you’re a beauty brand with a serum to sell, one KPI of content is whether it’s drumming up new business. 

As opposed to product-led galleries and listicles, long-form content allows for a softer sell. It’s content that benefits the reader in some way – teaching them a new skill, or providing a source of entertainment, for example. This means they don’t often feel like they’re being sold to, rather that they’re winning by reading it.  

A longer word count also allows you to write around a subject, slot in CTAs and even weave in products without it feeling forceful or alienating prospective clients. In fact, stats have shown that long-form content generates on average seven times more leads than short-form posts. 

So, while it may be tempting to churn out short and snappy digital stories in the hope that more actually does equals more, you may want to factor in some thorough, impactful articles filled with expertise and information into your strategy, too. After all, as the stats show, Google likes it, it’s easier to subtly weave in products, and people might just be more likely to share it on social if it has real takeaway. And isn’t that the goal of great content? More eyes, more clicks, more shares, more sales. 

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