Do Search Engines Really Reward Long Form Content?

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June 3, 2024

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Do Search Engines Really Reward Long Form Content?

The Eternal Debate: Long-Form vs. Short-Form Content

I’ve just finished replying to an email that asked me to confirm how many blog posts would be 1,000 words and how many would be 2,000 words in my proposal. My honest answer? “I really don’t know.”

Sure, I preach long-form content as a high-value marketing asset. But don’t get me wrong – writing to a word count is so 2002. Let’s look at what Google says matters most in its latest update, the Helpful Content Update. Spoiler alert: there’s no mention of word count.

So, does that mean getting to the point quickly will be rewarded? Or will we still see blog posts 3,000 words long, including a “What is XYZ?” section when the reader probably already knows what XYZ is? After all, they wouldn’t be Googling something else related to it if they didn’t.

My buddy, Araminta Robertson, made the same point on Twitter. I lost count (a long time ago) of the number of times I’ve seen “What is Microsoft Teams?” at the beginning of blog posts targeting long-tail keyphrases. If I wanted to know how to change a particular setting in the Teams admin center, I bloody well know what Microsoft Teams is. What do you think I did? I clicked back and went to the next article on Google.

Did this make for a “satisfying experience” or is it “content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations”? What people really want is the answer to their question, and Google recognizes this. Have you searched something recently and had the answer displayed directly on Google? It’s clearly from someone’s content, but you don’t need to click it to see the answer. That’s Google understanding what searchers want, and that’s why we’re seeing more featured snippets than ever before – more small boxes of information without needing to click into an article.

The Rise of “Zero-Click” Content

That’s why marketing teams who loaded up their content with irrelevant information have lost their places in the SERPs. That’s why more videos appear on Google. Sometimes you need a five-minute walk-through video instead of second-guessing yourself through pixelated screenshots.

Simply cramming more words into your post doesn’t make your content comprehensive. First up, Google’s only advice is to keep adhering to its original advice of writing for humans, not machines, while applying SEO best practices. And if you haven’t been doing that… why the heck not?

Here’s what “helpful content” entails, according to the experts:

  • Can you demonstrate first-hand experience and expertise?
  • Is there a clear beginning, middle, and end to your post?
  • Would your existing audience find this content helpful?
  • Have you solved the problem the searcher had?

But why stop there? Here’s what the great content includes, according to the LinkedIn pulse:

  • Real accounts from people who used to have the same problem
  • Visuals to aid what your words try to explain
  • Expert opinion from thought leaders
  • An enjoyable reading experience
  • Research from credible sources
  • A reason to stay on the page

The Importance of Quality, Not Quantity

The bottom line is that search engines are getting smarter. They can now detect when content is truly helpful and when it’s just fluff. So, while long-form content can still be valuable, it needs to be well-researched, engaging, and, most importantly, solve the searcher’s problem.

Cramming more words into a post won’t cut it anymore. Search engines want to see high-quality, in-depth content that provides a seamless user experience. They want to see content that keeps people on the page, not content that sends them clicking back to the search results.

So, do search engines really reward long-form content? The answer is a resounding “It depends.” If your long-form content is genuinely helpful, informative, and engaging, then yes, search engines will likely reward you. But if it’s just a bunch of fluff and filler, then no, they won’t.

The key is to focus on creating content that puts the user first, not the search engine. Write for people, not algorithms. And if you do that, the search engine rewards will follow.

MCR SEO is a leading digital marketing agency in Manchester, UK, that specializes in creating high-quality, user-centric content that delivers real results. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you win the long-form content game.

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