A Defense of “Small Content”: 6 Shorter Blog Post Types that Still Work

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A Defense of “Small Content”: 6 Shorter Blog Post Types that Still Work

Personally, I love reading long-form content. My favorite sports website is Grantland. My Evernote, Instapaper, and Feedly are all chock-full of in-depth posts on detailed processes. When I write, I tend to create long-form content as well. If I send an email or create a Facebook post that is less than 200 words, my friends think something terrible may have happened. In fact, this very post is well north of 1,000 words.

I think “big content” is valuable and will continue to defy the short attention-spanned crowd. I also think there is still a place for “small” content in your content marketing efforts. With Google repeatedly sending animals out to squash thin, duplicate content and many smart marketers singing the praise of long-form content, some forget that short, useful content can still get great results.

You shouldn’t create thousands of thin pages of content that don’t add any meaningful information, yet you also don’t need 2,000 words in the queue every time you hit publish.

Let’s walk through six specific content types that you can create for your business where you’ll be able to “get in, add value, and get out” in significantly less than a thousand words.

1. Share a Specific, Valuable Tip

It’s ok to create a piece of content that is hyper focused. Instead of writing an all-encompassing guide, you could share one to three specific tips for getting more people to share your content.

You could mine these for your specific industry in a variety of ways:

  1. Drill down to take a brief look at a specific step of a given tactic or process.
  2. Take interesting thoughts that you or someone on your team has shared on Twitter, flesh them out a bit, and turn them into a quick, concise blog post.
  3. Share specific ideas (and save the more thorough examination for longer posts – or your book).

An example of short content with specific tips from Seth Godin.

If you’re worried about not offering comprehensive-enough content, link liberally to meatier resources and let your readers “chose their own adventure”. Again, novella-length posts aren’t the only way to share your expertise.

2. Answer a Specific Question

Not every question requires a thousand-word answer. If you’re regularly creating content, you may be looking at industry forums and polling your prospects and customers get content ideas. Some of the questions they ask and problems they struggle with will be extremely complex and may require a very detailed, verbose walk through.

But many won’t.

It’s ok to point readers in the direction of the right answer, and give a 100-word response that immediately answers the question. After all, Google was supposed to be organizing all of the world’s information and they seem to be moving more and more towards this approach themselves.

Also, in answering a specific question (that you know your audience is interested in) you have a chance to be the best (and often only) specific answer for that given topic.

If I ran a ticket website and we sold baseball tickets and had a lot of fans wondering about the specific days that particular pitchers were scheduled to start (so that they could see their favorite starting pitcher live) we could create some custom pages for the most popular starters that simply listed out their scheduled starts. This type of specific answer would be a lot more targeted than some of the things showing up in search results currently:

An example of a search result with no specific answers to a specific question.

3. Create a Glossary-Style Post

Glossary style posts work very well for overviews. A collection of these pages can be extremely helpful for beginners in your niche. These types of posts can also drive organic search traffic for low- to mid-competition “informational” keywords.

Generally these types of posts need to be slightly longer than a simple definition of the term. You should also add additional context and expertise around the topic other than the information a reader would get on Wikipedia, so these types of posts don’t have to be as “short” as direct-answer posts. They certainly don’t need to be massive guides, either.

4. Publish a News-Oriented Post

Talking about trending news stories in your niche can be a great source of traffic and way to establish authority.

An example of a relatively short post on a trending topic relevant to WordStream's niche.

My former company WordStream, including Larry Kim, does this frequently whenever Google makes a major announcement or there’s an important update in the world of PPC. While WordStream creates a lot of big content, news-oriented posts are typically short and focused. They summarize what has happened, and also provide context for how it might impact readers. This last piece is the real opportunity for businesses. You are not trying to “scoop” news outlets, but as news is breaking, you can offer expertise about why it’s relevant.

5. Don’t Forget About Resource Posts

People love “tool” posts. Everyone wants to be more productive, and regardless of your niche, your audience loves to find ways to be more efficient.

I love a long list of tools that compare and contrast different options in a really thorough way, but there can also be tremendous value in helping your audience understand the single best tool for a specific task. If you’ve spent time building your authority, a lot of people will want to know what you believe is the best… the tool to get a specific job done.

6. Create “Satellite” Assets

If you created a massive asset, there are probably a number of  interesting “satellite” assets nestled within it. Think about all of the different nuggets you can pull out of a big piece of content! Here are some examples:

  • Specific Data Points – Create shorter, individual posts to highlight specific parts within a larger asset. Who knows? An interesting fact might catch readers’ eyes even more so than the long-form post.
  • Quotes – If you published an in-depth interview, focus on an interesting quote and add context or a point of view.
  • Sub-Sections as Posts – If you have a long Ebook that’s available to download, you can pull out an individual section (or even each individual section) and make that its own shorter blog post (and also offer the full download as a call-to-action within that post).

There are many creative ways to repurpose content, and breaking out individual elements of other assets into shorter content is a great way to do this.

If you’re leveraging any of these tactics, keep in mind this: The idea is not to crank out a ton of low-quality content. You do not need to abandon meaty, cornerstone assets. The point here is this: Shorter content isn’t the enemy. If you can create an interesting and valuable content in a few hundred words, don’t let pandas or penguins scare you from producing shorter content.

 

Image Credits

Featured Image: Created by author for Search Engine Journal
All screenshots taken April 2015

Tom Demers

Tom Demers

Managing Partner at Cornerstone Content
Tom is the co-founder and managing partner of Measured SEM and Cornerstone Content. He was also the former Director of Marketing for WordStream, Inc. Prior... Read Full Bio
Tom Demers
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