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45 Comments

Short Writing is the Future of Writing

Google still rank long content higher, but I think it will change soon. Because when searching, we want the right information ASAP, not long content.

There are 2 types of reader:

The first type enjoys reading. It’s like enjoy a video game, a movie, or a song. They enjoy a good experience, a type of content that opens their imagination. Then sail them through any details the author intended. Those types of content use descriptive paragraphs, transitions, with fancy words. It makes readers feel great.

The second need to search for a specific piece of information. They prefer a straightforward and simple answer. Which means minimal, concise sentences, with no fancy words.

I used to enjoy reading long content. But recently, I'd spend 5 seconds scanning relevant headings. Then another minute to find the relavant information, or go back and look for another search result.

It's a horrible reading habit. I realized my attention span getting shorter.

As our reading habits changed. We need a better format to diggest information. For example, video content is getting more popular. One reason is, it required less effort to diggest.

More concrete example for short form contents:

  • Medium (a blogging platform) rolled out a new model for short content. They found that readers spend more time on good and short content
  • Seth Godin, well-known for finding out what's next for marketing. His daily posts are in between 50 to > 300 words.
  • Successful products that provide sumarize service: Blinklist (sumarize books service) or TrendsVC (a newsletter summarize recent trend in many categories by @dru_riley), or I Lazy To Read (summarize any article into 5-sentences)

That goes with the search results. When someone needs an answer, it should be minimal, concise, and straightforward.


Original posted on Short writing is the future of writing

  1. 6

    It depends...
    Let's say you need a short answer: How to change desktop banground on Windows 10?
    What about this: How to rebuild Honda Integra B18C4 engine?
    Some questions just can't be answered in short.
    As a writer you must decide what topics/themes worth writing 300 words and which 3000 words or more.
    Actually Google many times now pick up answers from a long form articles and show as a featured snippet,- because AI is super smart and you get right answers straight in your face :)

    1. 1

      So appreciate the reference to a Honda Integra and a B18C4 engine. My high school and early post-high-school days were filled with tinkering with Hondas.

      1. 1

        Back in the days I always was dreaming about Integra DC2, but could afford only civic 4gen (owner for ~10 years). Now I could get it, but don't think I need one :)

    2. 1

      Great spot. The featured snippet is something I missed out when writing this post. Something Google realized users need short answer, maybe?

      Besides, I agree there are things that can't be short. As my answer to analyticalmonk

      1. 1

        There is downside for content creators talking about snippets as well IMHO. People searching for a phrase can see exact answer- so where is the credit for author? I mean visitors not coming to your web even your content ranked as #1 for a query.

        1. 1

          That's true.

          That's another story that we content creators get headache with Google. And in the long term, if Google push away content creators, the internet will have less content.

          On other hand, every app creators want to make the best experience for their users. And the snipped is pretty convenient for people who search.

          Tough situation. Not in my knowledge to deal with it.

          1. 2

            I'd say it is not in our power, coz Google create rules.

  2. 3

    People should upvote this post.

    Did you notice any number increase since you adopted this approach on your blog?

    1. 2

      Thank you.

      I didn't measure. I think having a comparison from my own would be more convincing.

      It's more from my reading experience, and I try collect the examples to support the points.

  3. 2

    Now people are used to perceiving information very quickly, and no one will waste their time reading unnecessary text. As a result, authors waste their time writing long essays. I read articles on the educational service https://ukwriting.info/ here everything is short and clear. I like this format very much, and I agree with you that the future belongs to short writing.

  4. 2

    I agree completely about the two types of readers. I have a tech blog and my most popular posts are Q&A type posts. Questions like "How can I download my iPhone photos to my Windows PC?". Those types of posts don't require a lot of verbiage.

    The questioner is looking for a quick step-by-step answer to his/her question. And so do the folks who find that page on Google.

    It would make no sense from a user's perspective to write a 2,000 word post in answer to a question of that type.

    1. 1

      I drag me back when I was in school or university, we ran out of ideas to write but keep making stuff up to fill the length required

      You site is great. I'd absolutely prefer to stay on somthing like that over the lengtly one.

      *ah, your site got photography too. Thanks for sharing the tips. I'll check them out

  5. 2

    Maybe Google actually wants to keep the longer posts because there's more content there for them to index, and from more content they can better distill the appropriate answer for their search page.

    Having said that I think you're right - people do tend to scan very quickly for information in 'answer hunt' mode.

  6. 2

    Yes! Most medium articles could be 75% shorter. It seems many writers there feel the pressure to write long pieces; that’s a common piece of advice and I guess the payment model encourages this.

    Stratechery is a great exception though. I often find myself truly immersed in his long-form articles.

    1. 1

      This exactly the most frustrated thing I have when I decided to write this post.

      Other than Medium, I think any posts that intentionally write for SEO will be lengthly.

  7. 2

    I couldn't agree more. About 2 years ago I realized how annoyed I was with something as simple a recipe on the web. Generally I'd have to scroll through 700 words of some story about the food when I just want to know the essential information. Search engine algorithms have long prefered this type of keyword stuffed content, but as a reader I find it time consuming.

    That was actually the inspiration for my startup. My team built a list publication network in anticipation of this shift of reader preference. We believe it's the next evolution in blogging. Short form, high quality, structured content that is SEO optimized. So my little plug is to check it out (sorry, not sorry : )
    Yada Yada Yada - Get to the point, lists and guides for everything you need.

    Our aim is to create a network where authors are compensated for their work (much like Medium).

    Also here's a quick guide on how to syndicate your original blog content as a list.

    Thanks for the post @hieunc (upvoted)

    1. 2

      Great project you got. How is it doing (growing)?

      I have a thought (ignore if not important to you). The domain is kinda hard to get right. One way to remember is Yada x 3

      I think it's not gonna be a problem if the main users are from search results. But might create friction when a recipe showed up on someone's memory but they can't remember the address

      1. 1

        The project recently crossed 100 registrations and we are pivoting to focus more on authors and content producers to keep building momentum. The aim is to become the ‘Medium of lists’ and also allow for the localization of content so users can get local guides. In addition we want to pay the authors based on the quality of submissions (which will be tough, but worth it).

        The name came from the use of the phrase to skip over “fluff” which is what we hope to provide readers, just essential info. Also somewhat inspired by the famous Seinfeld show about it. Hopefully it’s memorable enough that users will recognize it, but if not we are always open to other ideas!

        1. 1

          I’ve thought maybe the name was a slang, and I wasn’t in the field.

          That’s great. Wish you and your team all the best with it :)

  8. 2

    avoid medium, if you can. there are better ones out there.

    1. 1

      Medium, and I think posts that written by SEO gurus too

      1. 1

        eww. those still exist? :P

        1. 2

          Ahaha. Yes, unfortunately!

          SEO gurus like Neil Patel, or posts from moz blogs are well over 2k words. Sure they have great posts but I too hard to read

          1. 2

            they are long and hard to follow. my adhd is bad.

  9. 2

    Hmm, true. I have the same issue. All the online content I consume is mostly scanned. The only content I actually read are books. I hope short writing becomes a trend. Thnx for pointing out the change in Seth's writing!

    1. 2

      I hope so. Apps and products nowadays are dying to simplify things. I think the same should go with writing. There are exceptions of course

      It's much easier to create short content too :)

      1. 2

        "If you can not explain it simply you don't understand it well enough" 🧐

        1. 2

          — Albert Einstein 😆

  10. 2

    I agree with the sentiment that short content is gaining popularity and may end us as the dominant form on the internet. Quality control is an issue though. I associate long form content with thorough research and thoughtfulness, not just fancy language.

    A case in point. I developed a healthy reading/listening habit in the past one year (props to Audible!). This also includes technical and startup books. An amusing realisation is that many popular blogs are simply modified versions of book chapters, sometimes missing key points.

    To sum it up, there's a quality-time-price tradeoff when it comes to content on the internet. I hope that chasing brevity does not compromise overall quality.

    1. 2

      I wrote in the original post: Either be less biased about short writing, or make the length criteria less important

      I should've make the point clear: Some people make long content when it not necessary (and because of Google)

  11. 2

    Great thoughts; I have seen the decay of my own reading endurance over the years and into parenthood. Quality, of course, doesn't have to be compromised by brevity, and I think you're on to something here. It's such a good habit to trim the fat off of my own writings.

    I'm constantly reminding myself:

    half as long

    -A River Runs Through It

    1. 4

      "Quality, of course, doesn't have to be compromised by brevity" ... this reminds me of the quote:
      "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." -Albert Einstein

  12. 1

    Like you said, there are customers segments for both, long and short writings. One thing I know is that if you're a busy dad (or... just busy), all you want is the short and sweet, no BS, straight-to-the-point posts, tell your story/message in as few sentences as possible.

    With the rise of clubhouse, I've noticed that some bloggers started recording their blog "posts", without written words (except the h1), just audio, not for me - nah-ah.

    Google thinks long posts are "better" as they might keep the user engaged for longer I guess, so it puts a good face on google that they've helped them find something engaging. Google is not always right, remember the days where day ranked sites based on keywords, many millionaires were made during those days... Short posts can be engaging as well so hopefully Miss Google re-thinks the almighty algorithm at some point.

  13. 1

    I think there's a place for both.

    As you said there are those who enjoy and want the details of every single step laid out for them -- they prefer long content.

    Those who prefer the gist and overall guideline -- they prefer short content.

    Also it depends on the type of content as it relates to how useful it is to the person reading it. If the content is on a topic that I place much value and importance, I wouldn't mind reading a long article. But if it's not that important, I'd probably prefer the short content.

    1. 1

      I think the main point I kept repeating here, as I wrote on the original post is, Google should be Either be less biased about short writing, or make the length criteria less important

      Maybe a good question in this case could be, (as a reader) Would you choose to read the shorter version, when it contains the same information?

  14. 1

    Google for me will always favor long post content.
    Short form content there's actually too much of it from social media.

    Short form always need some kind of social or discovery aspect into it to gather audience.

  15. 1

    I'd rate finding a simple answer or list as the most annoying thing to do on the Internet.

    You've read the search result... "18 recipes to cure your dog's diarrhoea"... then you get to read that heading a few more times only slightly reworded as you scroll through adverts in between the mindless background information you don't need.

    "Firstly, a dog is a four-legged animal that usually has fur and barks."

    Until finally you reach that bit of information you've been fighting for only for another ad to load and send it slightly lower down beyond the Amazon affiliate links to buy dog food.

  16. 1

    I agree with the shorter content for the most part, but I think people are also willing to spend more time on long content if it is condensing a lot of even longer content into short digestible bites.

    This is probably why newsletters have grown in popularity because they distill a bunch of information into a 2-5 minute read

    1. 1

      As my answer for analyticalmonk, I agree that not every type of content should be shorter

  17. 1

    Hi Hieu,

    While you may be correct on the front that we need concise information, I do not think that short writing will rank higher than longer format content. With the launch of Googles newest algo, SMITH, it can pull those shorter questions from the longer format and provide answers not only via google snippets but also rank that content higher.

    1. 1

      I read through moneyroad comment and realized I missed the snippet feature.

      But because Google prefers still long content, which pushes people to write long content. Most of the time, it not necessary.

      Though, just my logical thoughts.

      1. 1

        I don't mean to say that your wrong. There are a ton on content writing strategies, such as clusters where you can create one long format article then several short format ones that are topically related and create great interlinking strategies. I have just been doing SEO for a decade now and am working on a SEO SAAS that brings enterprise level software for small to mid size businesses, and wanted to share my thoughts.

        1. 1

          Absolutely, I agree there are places that need long form.

  18. 1

    if google does so there will be total mess on the search page.

    1. 1

      Everytime they changed the algorithm, there always a mess somewhere. SEO gurus go nuts :D

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