One 1,000 Word Post vs. Two 200 Word Posts: Which Has Better ROI?
Content Marketing

A 1,000 Word Post vs. A 2,000 Word Post: Which Has Better ROI?

The argument over long-form content and short-form content is one which has been debated from behind keyboards since the advent of the Internet, and one which will doubtless carry on for the foreseeable future.

How Do You Measure ROI on Content?

There is no definitive method of measuring ROI on content, as each company/brand/site will be looking for something different. Whether you’re writing to bring more people to the site, increase conversions, establish credibility in your sector, or are just writing because you enjoy it, you’ll measure ROI differently.

There are often long lead times on seeing a direct conversion from content marketing (except perhaps in the retail and fashion sectors where this is probably less true) but there are some easier short-term ways to measure ROI if direct sales are not forthcoming. To measure ROI, consider using the following:

  • Organic search positions and SERP visibility (and backlink analysis)
  • Traffic to site
  • Time spent on site and/or bounce rate
  • Social shares and engagement metrics

Now, let’s take a deeper look at each of these metrics and consider when using them to measure ROI would be most appropriate.

Organic Search Position

Getting higher positions in the SERPs will benefit any company, and having high-quality content is the best way to do this. It’s no secret that Google prefers content that answers a question, and will rank this content higher. A higher search position will inevitably have an impact on your online ROI (as long as it’s for a relevant key phrase). That is why many people engage in content marketing and why SEO, online PR, and content marketing are essentially one and the same in 2014.

Good visibility in the SERPs will get your site in front of more new users and increases your opportunity to increase ROI from content. Publishing two posts means you have the opportunity to rank for more terms, but only if these are relevant, worth reading, and good quality.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they will rank well long-term. In a study conducted by SerpIQ, blog post pages with over 2,000 words ranked higher than shorter blog posts, which makes sense. If you’re looking for an answer to a question, it’s likely a 500-word post may not have enough useful phrases users are searching for.

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CoShedule undertook similar research which proved the same. However, it should also be noted their research found content length was not a defining factor for the top positions. It appeared that domain authority was ultimately more important in this respect, but longer content had a significant impact on SERP positions overall.

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Moz also found (in an old study dating back to 2012) that longer content and number of links to said content was directly correlated. This is evidence that people like longer, more informative content enough to link to it, and everyone knows more high quality backlinks has a positive influence on SERP positions. If this is still true, there’s no question that longer posts will be more likely to have a more significant impact on ROI.

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Traffic

Generating more traffic is important to any site, and one way to do this is with high quality content. In B2B organizations, traffic is imperative for sales. The more brand awareness you generate, the more leads should hopefully come in. If, of course, your content establishes you as an authority.

From my experience, technical guides which talk you through how to deal with an issue — something you wouldn’t be able to do in 500 words — are most popular and continue to rank highly in the most read content reports from Analytics. These may be years old, but because they are still relevant and very informative, they bring in large volumes of traffic month after month. Traffic which hopefully is qualified, interested in your sector and that includes your next customer.

Time Spent on Site

Time spent onsite is a factor used in the Google algorithm, meaning the longer a user spends on your site, the more authoritative it will appear to Google. Makes sense.

While there is no doubt a longer article takes longer to read, which would potentially increase the amount of time spent onsite – but what if your post is too long? People want an answer and they want it now. The key is to give them the answer they want in as many words as it takes–don’t overcomplicate or undersell it.

The longer you can keep their interest, the more exposed they are to your site and the more likely they are to check out other content – making them more likely to turn from lead to customer.

The first ten seconds are key to engaging the reader and splitting content up into bite size chunks with headings and sections increase your chances of maintaining the reader’s attention during a longer piece of content. Research by Buffer into this very topic has proven that the ideal length of content from a readers’ point of view is actually seven minutes (that’s around 1600 words depending on how fast you read).

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Social Shares

Social shares are the currency of content, and the more yours has the better. There’s no better way of getting your content in front of people’s eyes than by having it shared across relevant social networks. Your content can be the best in the world but if nobody’s reading it, it may as well not exist.

Social shares are an easy method of getting more eyeballs on your work, and they have a definite impact on rankings. Although exactly what impact is still relatively misunderstood. We do know this has an impact on ROI in the long run. Recent research by OkDork indicates the average number of shares increases with content length.

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So Which is Better for ROI?

The research seems to suggest that 1,000 words isn’t quite enough – it needs to be 2,000 before it becomes worthwhile. Investing time in insightful and truly useful content is likely to deliver better ROI.

While we are repeatedly told about the mobile revolution and desperately trying to engage audiences with short, snappy content, research (both old and new) still tells us that long content has more traction both in the SERPs and with audiences, and thus is responsible for returning better ROI.

The answer is in the data – longer content seems to perform better on almost every metric. However, one thing to remember is that content marketing is all about the user: you need to write what’s relevant, interesting and unique, and not get too preoccupied with set formats, lengths, or the ultimate resultant: ROI.

 

Featured Image: Roobcio via Shutterstock

 A 1,000 Word Post vs. A 2,000 Word Post: Which Has Better ROI?
Ian Harris is the CEO and founder of leading multlingual search marketing agency, Search Laboratory. He is a specialist in search engine marketing for global websites and has successfully helped companies such as British Airways, IBM, HSBC and Novell tap into new markets and take their websites abroad.
 A 1,000 Word Post vs. A 2,000 Word Post: Which Has Better ROI?

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7 thoughts on “A 1,000 Word Post vs. A 2,000 Word Post: Which Has Better ROI?

  1. Ian,

    I’m not sure the answer is in the data. Sure a 2k-word article on average does better than a 1k-word article, but the real question is this: Is a 2k-word article a better investment than writing TWO 1k-word articles if it takes the same amount of time?

    It all comes down to experimenting for yourself to see what is a good template for you. In fact I’m actually tracking my word counts and how long it takes to write each post so that I can circle back and start answering this question definitively for my own audience and content.

    Here’s my current process if interested. 5 Personal Writing Metrics Every Content Marketer Should Track: http://blog.raventools.com/5-personal-writing-metrics-every-content-marketer-track/

    Nate

  2. I think 2,000 words post is better than 1,000 if there is full detail about its topic.If it contains unnecessary words and sentences which are not relevant to the topic then 1,000 words post containging only necessary words is better then 2K.
    It was my thought and i am waiting to see responses from experts.

  3. I’ve experimented with long detailed posts (2000+ words) and I have to agree with you. In fact, most consumers have this perception that more detailed articles are useful, even before they read it. Most of the time, they might not even read the whole thing, but they can scroll down, scan the post for interesting subheads and bullet points. A potential customer might just make up his/her mind to subscribe or buy the product, simply because the post is longer.

    On the other hand, I’ve read a couple posts recently that were less than a thousand words, and still made a lot of sense.

    Thank you so much Ian Harris for this awesome post. I really enjoyed it. One of the best here at SEJ.

  4. I don’t think that word count is a defining factor of ROI. The content should be informative, unique and should be easy enough for the user to understand to drive sales. Just making it a 2000 word article without focusing on key points doesn’t help at all.

  5. “Moz also found (in an old study dating back to 2012) that longer content and number of links to said content was directly correlated. ”

    Even if peoples’ attention spans are getting shorter, you have to remember that some information cannot be shrunk down to 140 characters and have it still be useful. Long form content has it’s place and you can put so much more useful bits when you give yourself more room to work in.

  6. Thanks for all the valuable and insightful comments – I totally agree that a one size approach doesn’t fit all. I think we are all agreement each post should be written with the user in mind and not be forced to be long unless it warrants it. This is certainly not an exact science and different topics require different approaches. From the performance of our own content however we do see that technical content (which is often longer by its very nature) is consistently more valuable. It attracts visitors over longer periods and often remains in our top viewed content in Analytics for months and even years after it is first published (as long as it doesn’t date/is still relevant). Picking the right topic, one that’s interesting, useful and genuinely unique is key. Solving people’s problems or providing useful tips and tricks is massively valuable. Length of posts however shouldn’t be forced by any means – write only what it takes to explain your point clearly. No one want to read something that is unnecessarily drawn out or unnatural.

    Nate – keep us posted with your experiences, your article is very pertinent and will help people determine how best to use their time, although you’d probably need to be writing ALOT of content and tracking its performance to make the data wholly meaningful. Not everyone will spend as much time content writing as you, (I’m thinking of marketers for example whose content is only a small part of their wider role) however if that’s your core function this seems like a very scientific way to determine where best to spend your time. More people would benefit from adopting the granularity you do in terms of trying to determine ROI from their content marketing efforts.

    Thanks again for all the input, would be good to hear what others thought of this too!

    1. Ian, I’ll have to check back in after analyzing some data. Very true. Tracking things this granularly doesn’t make sense unless you’re cranking out lots of content, either as a person or brand.