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Article formatting: a single page vs multiple parts

A recent discussion at SEO Refugee was about having a piece of information in a single article or on multiple pages. Naturally, there are occasions when either is more useful.

Single page articles

What is a single page article? A single page piece of content is just that. Anything you have written, you put on a single page and place a link from your site.

What are the benefits of single page articles over multiple-part articles?

- everyone that links to your content links to one place
This can bring the article higher in the SERPs if you do get links. If not, no difference regarding incoming links
- a huge piece of text has a lot of keywords (related words, synonyms, derivatives/stemmings, etc)
This is one of the factors for getting the Long Tail traffic
- a single page article also has a good mixture of modifiers to your keywords
This makes your article findable by any keyword combinations that you can make from all the words in your article. This is the Long Tail of search itself. Combined with the single place for a large number of incoming links, this could prove a powerful technique, the key to success in which lies in quality content.
- faster scanning
a reader can scroll the article to the interesting points, instead of reading diligently every part of the article. Not what you want your readers to do, really, but why make them read?
- less maintenance on your part
(no need to create lots of pages, research keywords, link them properly, etc)

Due to the single page structure, such articles are generally great for presenting research results, content, small enough to be split in several logically complete parts, or you want your readers to stay focused on your article without being distracted by navigation (if your site is slow).

Multiple-parts article

You create a multiple part article when you split a piece of information in several pages, usually deeper pages having more detailed information.

Opposed to single page articles, multiple-parts articles have some benefits too:

  • you can create pages, targeted at less competitive keyword phrases. This will allow you to get the Long Tail traffic as well and the pages will be more focused for the search query (which means higher conversion rate)
  • easier reading (users will click to read further instead of scrolling)
  • by placing incoming links to targeted pages, you can get higher in the SERPs easier than with a single page article (albeit for one or two less-competitive keyword phrases)

Multi-part articles are very effective on e-commerce websites, where you create a general page, listing all your products, a detailed product page and a very detailed product page, thus making your site findable by a variety of keywords and thus creating perfect landing pages for the searchers.

Ammon Johns described the "Three page optimization technique" a while ago and it can still be used to achieve exciting results. It's about using three different pages to focus on different aspects of a single product, while each of the pages mentions the other aspect and links to it.

What to remember

No matter how long your article, you still need to make sure you create interesting and engaging content and format it properly as well. As people read as long as they enjoy reading, it is in your interest to provide as quality and useful information as possible.

Which to choose?

Generally, you need to suit the content formatting to your readers. If your site is educational and/or academic, your content may as well be structured using longer pages (though it won't hurt to try using shorter pages on such sites, too).

If you simply want to target the Long Tail of search for an online shop, you may as well use multiple pages for your product descriptions. That doesn't mean that you should neglect long articles, though. About 50-100 useful articles on your site will help you get additional search engine traffic and natural (the best kind of) incoming links.

So the choice is up to you, really, just make sure you do provide value to your readers and you'll be alright.

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