Marketing July 20, 2016 Last updated September 18th, 2018 603 Reads share

Long and Short Form Content: Why You Need Both

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The debate in the content marketing world swings from long to short to some magic word count number in the middle: what is the ideal post that will get the most readers and the most shares?

What ranks better according to Google? Evergreen or news and current events? For how long? What’s the magic bullet to content marketing that gets your posts noticed, your site the most traffic, your visitors converting right and left?

The simple answer is there isn’t one, and anyone who has written content, and puzzled over what has gone viral will tell you the same thing. There are some things you can do to optimize the chances your post will be a global sensation, but there are no guarantees.

However, for your site to be well rounded, it must not only attract traffic, but also it must move some of that traffic down the marketing funnel, from someone who is interested in what you have to say (awareness) to someone who buys your product, downloads a free trial, joins your email list, or whatever you consider a “conversion” or purchase.

The Marketing Funnel

A quick refresher, or for those who are unfamiliar, the marketing funnel looks something like the above image, although there are different iterations. Most experts think the top three sections are part of marketing, and the lower two are part of sales, although some argue there is some overlap between the two in the preference section.

Moving someone through the funnel is best done using a variety of content, both long and short form, evergreen and newsworthy. The type and subject of the content you should create is developed through data gathering and analysis. How do you use this data to construct a content strategy and make it work for you? Here are some simple tips.

Create Long Form, Evergreen First

Studies show that longer form content with an “evergreen” theme gets the most likes and shares, and readers spend more time on these pages. But what does that content actually do?

Awareness

Marketing FunnelLong form content builds a reader’s awareness of your brand, or at least of your niche. It should provide them with valuable information about your area of specialty. A brilliant example of this is the MOZ blog. MOZ is a suite of SEO tools, but often their long-form blog content is simply educational, telling the reader about one aspect or another of SEO, content creation, and marketing.

While the blog is hosted on MOZ’s site, not every post even mentions MOZ. Instead, articles seek to solve issues users might have, or might not even be aware of. Any site visitor who takes a quick look around can see what MOZ does, and may choose to try it out. However, it is in no way obligatory to get the information presented.

At this point, the user is simply aware of SEO and some potential issues with it. They may or may not be aware of the tools available to solve them, let alone that MOZ sells them.

Opinion to Consideration

This is another point where long-form content can reach your user, but so can short form, newsy style content.

What you are really doing at this point is influencing the site visitor toward a positive opinion of the products and services you provide. You are trying to move them toward considering a purchase. How do you do this?

  • Present the need. What is the problem your products or services solve? Have there been recent events that illustrate that need?
  • Present a solution. Illustrate in your content that there is a way to satisfy the need mentioned above, and explain how it is effective.

Sometimes this need/solution can be a free tool. For example, you can use a free currency converter offered by Quickbooks on its small business website. The calculator offers a solution to a need:

  • You are traveling or plan to travel, and you need to convert dollars to euros.
  • This calculator does it for you, for free. A simple solution.

If you return to this site to use this calculator, soon you will see other tools offered by Quickbooks that work for you as well. If you find yourself looking for accounting software you will at least consider using their product since you are already familiar with their website.

Preference

This is where marketing and sales overlap. You are working toward a conversion (in the funnel above called a purchase) by not just pointing out the need and solution, but creating a preference for your solution.

For example, Amazon introduced it’s always on, always learning device, the Echo. “Skills” or apps have been developed for the Echo that allow it to control the lights and thermostat in your home (if you have Nest or other similar connected devices) and lets you perform many tasks with your voice that can then sync them with your phone and other devices.

Of course, the primary purpose of Echo is for Amazon to sell to consumers. Google wants in on this market as well and has introduced its Home device. Google is really good at search, something customers want. However, many more people are concerned about Google always listening than they are Amazon, and maybe with good reason. Google has proven they will work closely with the government and law enforcement, complying with 78% of cases where they have been asked for information.

While the two e-commerce giants battle it out for this emerging market, Apple and Siri are also entering the game. Siri will now be enabled on the new Apple TV, and voice navigation and control of the iHome devices and Nest will be a part of the next generation of devices.

How will any of these devices win? By creating preferences. This is something Amazon does well, with its Prime membership acting as a <cough> prime incentive. Of course, as the world’s leading search engine Google has a large following as well, including users of Android phones who are not part of the Apple addiction.

However, Apple has a huge “preference” following as well. The idea may be that whoever does best in this area may further develop a following for their other devices. Amazon seems to be leading the charge, allowing outside developers to create “skills” for Alexa, and releasing it for use on other devices. Apple and Amazon are both working with car makers, and of course, Google wants to be the go-to mapping for the self-driving cars of the future.

This stage is fueled by more than one type of content: short, newsy pieces about your brand and what you are doing is very effective. For examples simply search for the Google Home or Amazon Echo, Alexa, or even Siri. You will find several articles both on and off the sites of the retailers talking about the capability and future of these devices.

Long, evergreen pieces that are instructional and explain how the device works and what capabilities it has also fit well here. A good mix of both makes your site both evergreen and relevant to current events.

In the example above, there is certainly room for more than one big player, and each has created their own preferences. The final win, though, is the purchase.

Purchase

The final step in the funnel is the purchase or conversion. It is just as important that this page is as well written as the rest of your content. Just a short description with a buy button is certainly not the answer, although that will work when the buyer is already fully committed to purchasing your product.

A great landing page contains several important elements. There is no room for long-form explanations or instruction here. They key elements are:

  • They should be short and sweet.
  • Have confidence inspiring, excellent content.
  • Don’t offer exit points, or hyperlinks that lead elsewhere in your text.
  • Make it easy to convert, and have a clear call to action
  • Make it about the visitor.
  • Incorporate multi-media where appropriate
  • Create Eye Catching headlines
  • Have a flawless design.

This content, combined with the rest of what you have created will result in a robust website that informs readers and provides them with an excellent user experience.

You can’t convert visitors with one type of content, and while certain types rule parts of the marketing funnel, a well-rounded site will have a little of everything, from an excellent mix of content types to superior landing pages. When it comes to long and short form content, you need a little of both.

Images: ” Author’s Own / Content Marketing Strategy Business Concept  / Shutterstock.com

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Troy Lambert

Troy Lambert

Troy is a freelance writer, editor, and author of fiction. As a solopreneur, he has a lot of experience in the area of marketing and management, and new technology is always a big part of his strategy toward efficiency.

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