Is the “long copy” back?

A few weeks back, I was at a B2B marketing panel discussion – “So, what’s going to stick on the Marketing Dartboard?”. Content being one of the core elements of marketing it was obvious that it had to be discussed at length. One of my senior colleague in the panel, who is quite passionate about content marketing believed that the long copy is back in the business – that triggered this blog. I would love to hear your thoughts. Here’s what I think…

Until now, in content marketing we all believed that “less is more”. We are inundated with content across channels – social, blogging platforms, innovative content delivery apps and what not. This combined with the increasing attention deficit – “less is more” – still feels perfect.

Look at most of the B2B company websites and you’ll see flashy stock images (a few will haunt you as well), punchy headlines, phrases and just a few sentences as the copy – this is changing. There was a notion that no one reads pages and pages of content, instead everyone likes to surf through it, picks only nuggets which gave rise to the “snackable” content. So content marketers started coming up with just the nuggets and direct to lengthy documents as required (which they believed no one reads) – this notion is now proving to be false.

So what’s driving the long copy?

My senior colleague at the panel discussion gave the example of how everyone is flocking to Medium – an online publishing platform developed by Evan Williams (Twitter co-founder and former CEO). This platform was developed with an objective of publishing writings and documents longer than Twitter’s 140-character maximum. Launched in 2012, currently it has over 60 million daily active users. According to this research, articles on medium with 6-7 minutes read time is the sweet spot which can get you 20% higher ‘claps’/recommends. 6-7 minutes of read time translates to ~ 1900 words. According to medium read time is based on average reading speed of an adult – roughly 275 WPM and they add 12 seconds for each inline image.

Before I go ahead and profess about what’s driving or why long copy, I must admit that, whether to use long or short copy solely depends on the content type and the channel you deploy it in. For example a whitepaper must be long enough to be credible while a social media message copy must be brief and catchy for it to be consumed on the go.

I believe there are three primary reasons that’s driving the long copy:

  • First and foremost: SEO – Every content marketer wants to expand their outreach and engage their target audience. Appearing high up in search engine results means more people have access to your content and will hopefully engage as well. My SEO expert friend tells me that to get Google’s attention (appear higher up in the searches) a web copy must have at least 2000 words – now that makes sense! With that additional copy you can always weave in the right keyword and phrases in your content with all the permutations and combinations that is hot as indicated by your SEO keyword tool.
  • Secondly, Depth – Longer but superficial content won’t get your audience engaged. Writing content that goes deeper into the topic and is substantiated with in-depth research fascinates your audience. There are different marketing writing models out there, the one I like and use the most is SCIPAB. If you use a content framework, I’m sure you’ll analyze the topic in different dimensions to convey the message holistically and therefore, will need the long copy. And of course this too has its SEO benefits, in addition to content length and right keywords, Google search results are ranked algorithmically based on many signals that look for high-quality, in-depth content.
  • Thirdly, Snackable Content Fatigue: Everyone today is constantly browsing and flipping through content without really going deeper into one topic – this leads to dissatisfaction and hunger to know more. I believe this is driving us towards the content that is fulfilling.

We’re seeing long form writing making a comeback and that is evident from the popularity of publishing platforms like Medium. Having said that, I believe short copy still has its place in the form of sponsored ads and social media that teases the audience richer and deeper content. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Thanks a lot, Sowmya Moni‌ for your valuable thoughts on this blog and an insightful discussion at the …marketing dartboard event.

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  1.  An excellent and thought-provoking blog! With SEO changing focus from just keywords to the relevance of the keywords in the copy blocks, the long copy (~2000 words) definitely has come back into the picture. Also, I find a lot of audience leaning towards whitepapers and point of views with in-depth content rather than short ones that leave audience hungry for more.

    Completely agree with your point on marketers using nuggets to direct them to lengthy documents, I do see it happening with web copies becoming short and too snackable to leave audience searching for more information. This tactic works only well when using nuggets as a trailer/teaser on social media channels and redirecting the audience to the content on your webpage. However, the content on the webpage should be elaborate and detailed instead of being yet another nugget.

    I feel it is imperative to find a balance and use both short and long copies to the optimum advantage.

  2. Thank you  !

  3. Very well written Amit Vaish. The snackables, which are touted as the preferred content format, are only like ‘teasers’ – important to get more eyeballs but not buy-ins. Once the reader has ‘bought’ the ‘teaser’, it is essential to have relevant and effective long copies – like you rightly put it. And hence RankBrain’s expectations on this crucial element I suppose. 

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