Should You Publish Shorter Posts More Often?

Does the thought of writing a 3,000-word blog make you want to curl up in a small ball and rock back and forth?

What if I told you a recent study said writing shorter posts, more often, is a way to gain more social shares — even if that copy was written by a machine?

Recently, Steve Rayson from BuzzSumo wrote a post called, “The Future is More Content: Jeff Bezos, Robots, and High Volume Publishing.

The article throws out stats detailing how publications like BuzzFeed and The Washington Post are cranking out more short-form (under 1,000 words) content than ever before. Heck, even robots are jumping in the game and assisting with content generation.

Is more content, more often, really the key to content marketing success?

Are we back to the “bad old days” of low-cost content mills?

Let’s unpack this and talk about the opportunity.

Keep calm and ignore the robots (for now)

Hearing “computers can create content now” can strike fear in even the most experienced freelance writer’s heart. Why? Because many freelancers already complain how writing is a commodity (don’t believe me — check out typical writing fees on Freelance.com.)

Are writers now competing with content-writing robots as well as offshore writers?

The reality: Not necessarily (unless you’re a journalist, in which case you’re unfortunately living in your own hell.)

Yes, computer-generated content is a “thing.” However, computers aren’t evaluating micro-moments, researching keyphrases and developing reader-centered content. They won’t use, say, textural metaphors or employ other neuromarketing techniques.

That’s what humans do.

Will there be an uptick in computer-generated content? Yes. Will the average business have access to their very own writing robot? Not for a long time.

So, let’s put this fear aside and talk about another important point…

Brands are not publishers

Yes, we’ve all heard the “content is king” mantra. And yes, publishing quality content is important. But, does that mean the average company should turbocharge their content volume?

Newsflash: Brands are not publishers. Publishers are publishers. The average company is ill-equipped to crank out more content.

I couldn’t say it better than Ronell Smith from a recent Moz post:

“Publishing content no more makes you a publisher than running 26 miles makes someone a marathoner. Newsrooms are built to produce lots of content.”

For the average business, a sudden increase in content quantity will make the quality plummet. No one (including Google) wants to go back to the days of content mills, keyphrase-stuffed articles, and thin content.

Yes, many companies need to publish more often. Especially companies that only release one big piece of content every few months — leaving their blog a cold, empty place in the meantime.

But, does the average company need to crank out multiple pieces of content a day or week — even if that content is “just” 1,000 words or less?

Unless there is a solid reason to do it, I say no.

So, what’s a company to do?

It’s easy to chase your tail with the word count studies. This is because:

– The “perfect word count” has changed over time. It used to be 250 words, and now we say 250 words borders on “thin” content.

– It’s important to differentiate between shares and positions. Getting shares is wonderful, but it’s often a transitory bump. Companies also want their content at the top of the search engine charts.

– Different studies may have different findings, causing a WTF reaction if you’re trying to keep it all straight.

So what should you do?

Should you go weeks (or months) without publishing because you’re working on the perfect long-form, in-depth post? No.

Should you publish a bunch of little, crappy posts every day, trying to tease out as much long-tail traffic as you can? Nope.

The answer is so simple.

Instead of publishing content based on what other companies do — why not focus on what your readers want, and what achieves your marketing/brand awareness/sales goals?

That means, stop worrying about your word counts and check your analytics instead. Survey your readers and find out what they want to read.

See what clicks and do more of it. 

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time you write something. Repurposing content is always a smart idea.

For instance, many companies write one big of content every 6-8 weeks. Once it’s created, they slice, dice and repurpose the piece into:

  • A SlideShare deck
  • A podcast (or podcast series)
  • Serialized blog posts (as Steve Rayson suggests)
  • Tweets and Facebook posts
  • Webinar content (don’t forget to include the transcript!)

Plus, you can fill in any “content holes” with other, shorter pieces your readers would love to read.

The key takeaway: Keep calm and keep writing.

Nobody (including Steve Rayson) is recommending you crank out crappy content for Google. Sure, there will always be studies discussing the “perfect” word count and content distribution frequency. But the real test is, what works for YOUR readers (and still gets seen in search results?).

Once you’ve nailed that down, you’re golden.

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9 replies
  1. James Mawson
    James Mawson says:

    This is all especially true when you consider how very few businesses promote their feature content properly.

    If you double your publishing frequency by halving your post length, you’ve doubled the number of posts you have to promote.

    In practice, what actually happens here is that the promotion work gets skipped completely.

    And what little promotion happens, then goes nowhere, because these shorter posts are rarely that noteworthy.

    You might not be able to publish an impeccably researched, tightly edited 3000 word blog post all that often.. but when you do.. you’ve got something that could genuinely find a place in link round-ups and on resources pages and maybe earn some social shares as well.

    It’s such a huge amount of work to promote blog posts that you might as well promote something genuinely significant.

    Reply
    • Heather Lloyd-Martin
      Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      Yes, exactly! Shorter posts are much faster to write, but they aren’t as “promotable.” Having said that, shorter posts can show up for long-tail searches (depending on the query,) so that’s always a wonderful thing. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Amit Patel
    Amit Patel says:

    I think posting a shorter post can be beneficial as it can offer some content to search engine as well as user to visit the website again and again. your blog would look fresh and nice which can be really helpful to get newer visitors too.

    Reply
  3. Charles Laymon
    Charles Laymon says:

    The answer to the quantity versus quality conundrum is different for different publishing models. Steve Rayson’s article pointed to success that a news publisher was having with quantity because it started targeting a broad range of long tail topics. These are consumed by a large audience interested in different things. This model is not practical for niche-focused businesses and freelance writers.

    Hence, I support your conclusion to stay true to your niche and your audience. Repurpose for different distribution channels and learning styles.

    I think the word count issue is a moving target right now. More success seems to be from readership and shares. If you can tell your story and provide value in less words and continue to grow your tribe then do so. Sustaining engagement is the key! But I suspect a mix of lengths will be appreciated. There are many sites I simply avoid opening in my feed when I’m busy because I know the post will be long and involved. But like variable reinforcement in animal training, if posts are variable in length, readers wont know in advance until they open and start reading.

    Reply
  4. Adwait
    Adwait says:

    It always confuses me that what should be the word count if I am writing content for my own blog? Many well known sites wont accept your content if its less than 1500 words. So I am back to square one: What is more important, keeping your website’s content fresh by posting short contents frequently or offering users huge informative content say once in a month?

    Reply
    • Heather Lloyd-Martin
      Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      Adwait — the answer is a little of both. 🙂 Bottom-line, though, it’s all about what your readers love. Find out what they respond to and do more of that.

      If you’re targeting well-known sites, why not write a 1,500 word article once in awhile, see what happens and enjoy the additional exposure?You don’t have to do it all the time — but it would be an interesting test. You have lots of options! 🙂

      Thanks!

      Reply
  5. David
    David says:

    I’ve always liked the idea of keeping your blog as the “sacred” area for longer, more in-depth pieces of content, and then using social media as the space for what you’d usually write shorter blog posts about (in a sense). That way you’re able to continually interact with your readers/audience without having to dilute your blog with smaller, less interesting posts.

    Again, though, this isn’t one-size-fits-all. As Heather said, “See what clicks and do more of it.”

    Reply
    • Heather Lloyd-Martin
      Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      That’s a nice, middle-ground strategy, David. Plus, you can stitch together those “smaller, less interesting posts” and turn them into a in-depth blog post! Why not repurpose the content and make it do double-duty? 🙂

      Thanks for your insight, David!

      Reply

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