The Real Truth About Long-Form Articles

Long-form articles or short-form articles? That is the question (to paraphrase Shakespeare).

Ok, so you’ve probably held the belief at some point that longer articles were a fundamental key in procuring backlinks to your site. While that might have been true a year or two ago, the playing field has changed, and it’s largely thanks to one big platform. (Hint: it’s the noise a clock makes.)

We recently looked at an analysis of 10,000 articles from Ubersuggest, and it revealed some really prudent insights on the nature of long-form content for content creators and marketers.

This (ironically short) blog post delves into the relationship between article length, backlinks and content performance, which I hope will provide actionable advice for optimizing your content strategy.

Kim Cooper
Director of Marketing, Amazon Alexa

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The Study: Article Length vs. Backlinks

Our goal in looking at the word count here was to understand how the length of these articles correlated with the number of backlinks they garnered:

Image1

The findings challenge the once-popular notion that longer content automatically leads to more backlinks. So, drawing from the above graphic, we found that:

  • Articles ranging from 1,001-1,500 words got, on average, 1,750 backlinks.
  • Content with a word count between 1,501-2,000 words saw a slight increase, averaging 1,798 backlinks.
  • Surprisingly, articles exceeding 3,500 words did not perform as well for generating backlinks.

Contrary to the traditional belief, very long articles (more than 3,500 words) did not garner the most backlinks. This suggests a point of diminishing returns, where additional length does not equate to a proportional increase in backlinks.

The data tells us the sweet spot for content length to generate backlinks is in the range of 1,000-2,000 words. 

In other words: articles that are comprehensive enough to be informative and valuable, but concise enough to maintain the reader’s engagement.

But remember, content creators should always consider the scope and complexity of the topic to determine the appropriate length that delivers value without overstaying its welcome.

Factors Influencing Backlink Acquisition

Content length alone does not dictate the number of backlinks an article will receive. So don’t fill your article with fluff just to hit the 2K word count; likewise, don’t cut valuable info just to get it down to 2K words.

Several factors play crucial roles in making content more link-worthy:

  • Quality and Depth: High-quality, in-depth articles (aka 10X content) that offer unique insights and valuable information are more likely to be cited by other content creators.
  • Relevance: Content that is highly relevant to a specific audience or industry tends to attract more backlinks from related sites.
  • Visuals and Structure: Well-structured articles that include engaging visuals, such as images, charts and infographics, can enhance shareability and backlink potential.
  • Original Research and Data: Content that presents unique data or comprehensive research that provides new value to the discourse do very well, encouraging citations and backlinks from those looking to support their own content with solid data.
  • Authoritative Sources and Credibility: Articles that reference or are endorsed by authoritative sources in their field gain credibility, making them more attractive to other sites as a backlink source.
  • Timeliness and Trendiness: Content that taps into current trends or provides timely information can garner more backlinks because it aligns with what audiences are interested in.
  • Utility and Practical Value: How-to guides, tutorials and posts offering practical advice or solutions are highly linkable since they provide direct value to readers and are often referenced by others.
  • Social Proof and Community Engagement: Articles that have already gained traction on social media or have a high level of engagement (comments, shares) appear more authoritative and are more likely to attract backlinks.

infographic listing the elements that go into creating 10x content

Adapting to Content Trends

The influence of platforms like TikTok and the general trend towards shorter attention spans have substantially altered the way users want to consume data.

a middle-aged man in a tailored charcoal gray business suit dances on TikTok

They’ve grown more satisfied with less (not in terms of quantity, but in terms of highly truncated, succinct nuggets of content).

The average word count of articles that make it to the first pages of the SERPs has been decreasing, with recent median word counts dropping to 1,447 words. This fits exactly with the Ubersuggest study that suggests between 1,000-2,000 words is the ideal length.

At one point, filling in thousands of words in content on a subject was what people wanted. They figured that more content meant more depth. But we’re seen a turn in the way people perceive and digest content now, as they crave reading material that gets straight to the point and answers their query in the quickest and most straightforward way possible.

To that end, here’s what we recommend you do with your own content:

  • Embrace Brevity: Focus on delivering clear, concise messages that communicate value quickly to the reader. Target the 1,000- to 2,000-word range for your articles, and make sure they are packed with value and insight.
  • Focus on Quality: Prioritize depth and quality over sheer word count. A well-researched, insightful article is more likely to attract backlinks.
  • Adapt to Your Audience: Pay attention to your audience’s preferences and content consumption habits. Shorter, more visual content may perform better for certain demographics.
  • Optimize for Mobile: Your content should be easily consumable on mobile devices where a significant portion of digital content is accessed.
  • Incorporate Visuals: Enhance your articles with relevant visuals to increase engagement and shareability.
  • Experiment with Different Writing Formats: Try different content formats, such as listicles, short guides or Q&A posts, to deliver information in an easily consumable way.
  • Stay Flexible: Be prepared to adapt your content strategy as trends and audience preferences evolve.

Final Thoughts on Long-Form Articles

The relationship between article length and backlink generation is complex and influenced by multiple factors. While longer articles have the potential to delve deeper into subjects and provide comprehensive insights, they do not automatically guarantee more backlinks.

Content creators should aim for a balance between depth and conciseness, prioritizing quality and relevance to maximize backlink acquisition and overall performance. Adapting to the new ways people want to consume and staying attuned to audience preferences will be key to successful content strategies.

If you’re ready to deliver a conversion-driven content marketing strategy, Single Grain’s content marketing experts can help!👇

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For more insights and lessons about marketing, check out our Marketing School podcast on YouTube.

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