A hybrid of short-form and long-form is advisable, as they both have intrinsic value. As JD Peterson put it in a 2014 article, “Short-form content is great for driving traffic to your content-dense blog or corporate website, but it’s your long-form content that is going to build the lasting, long-term relationship you want with your future customers.”1 There are many macro-formats for a content marketing strategy, employing the attributes of both long and short, to best facilitate conversion to B2B sales.
If a company is interested in expanding long-form content marketing, but hesitant of the cost, a solution may be utilizing the concept of Minimum Viable Content (MVC), a new form of testing a company’s potential long-form content with short-form trials.2 As CMI puts it, “It’s a simplified version of your long-form content” that you test via social media, ads or blog posts. This allows for internal data research that can gauge the effectiveness and penetration of the short-form before producing the actual long-form. It also helps to refine pre-existing content, or change the focus of the content entirely.
Companies may be employing this tactic to some degree without even knowing it. Longer blog posts, at first glance a version of short-form marketing, can provide a hybrid solution that also utilizes the value of long-form content. Bufferapp.com, which runs a social media and content marketing blog, ran analytics on their 595 posts in August of 2014. They found that long-form pieces of content had more social media shares than short-form pieces. In fact, their top ten articles all came in at over 2,000 words, while the top three were all nearly 2,500 words. The number of people sharing those articles via social media was three times greater for articles over 2,500 words than a piece written at 500-1,000 words.3 Businesses have the opportunity to use longer form blogs as a promotion to their white papers on the same subject, promoting them in the beginning, middle, and/or end of the piece by offering more information via hyperlink. This allows those engrossed in the topic to be further drawn into the company’s services, and has a better chance of conversion.
Hybrids of content marketing on a blogging platform can increase website traffic. Wordstream, a Google SMB partner, published an article in May 2014 that outlines why they believe long-form content works. In the piece author Dan Shewan extols that Wordstream’s practices were “focused heavily on SEO, including keyword optimization,” and receiving a good amount of traffic, but far less return traffic and user engagement. Refocusing on a steady diet of long-form content was a key component in the rise of reader retention and engagement.¹ The article also points to Medium, a well known blog platform, which compiled data on the blogs they support, and reported “the ideal blog post takes seven minutes to read and is around 1,600 words long.”
They focused on several long-form content marketing examples to illustrate their point. Chevrolet had an article packed with specifications for each vehicle wrapped in an attractive presentation of visuals. Patagonia, an activewear apparel brand, chose a detailed, first-person story about climbing a mountain in Iceland. The article remarked that the company “knows that creating an immersive experience for the reader is an excellent way to establish credibility and appeal to their ideal customer’s sense of adventure.”1 Engagement, authoritative voice, and expertise in long form blogs can convert to sales, though it is best to optimize a website with white papers or case studies, enabling search engines to find the content immediately.
1 JD Peterson, “The Power of Long-form Content in the Age of Short-form Content,” Scripted, April 27, 2015, https://www.scripted.com/content-marketing-2/the-power-of-long-form-content-in-the-age-of-short-form-content/
2 Pawnan Deshpande, “The Comprehensive Guide to Content Marketing Analytics and Metrics,” Curata, April 11, 2016, http://www.curata.com/blog/the-comprehensive-guide-to-content-marketing-analytics-metrics/.
3 Joseph Young, “Content marketing will be a $300 industry by 2019,” Marketing Magazine, July 10, 2015, https://www.marketingmag.com.au/news-c/content-marketing-will-300-billion-industry-2019/.