Youtube Shorts vs Long-Form Content: Which Should You Focus On?

Are Youtube Shorts Worth Making?

YouTube shorts broke the internet. Well kind of, at least for video creators. Almost overnight there became another platform seriously worth posting on.

Tiktok blew up on shorts kind of content.

So Youtube getting into the ring is nothing to scoff at.

However, it also created a dilemma for longform content creators. To create or not to create? (shorts that is).

This article we'll break down some of the things we've learned from a client's channel around Youtube shorts.

  • How much time should you be spending on them
  • The difference between Tiktok & Youtube & other social media platforms
  • Do they get subscribers, or is it just vanity metrics like watch time
  • Is it a valid way of growing your channel
  • How to repurpose longform content into YouTube shorts

Succeeding with YouTube shorts is the goal, but the question is how to take advantage of this emerging platform?

Can you grow your channel with Youtube shorts? 

OK, so we’re actively growing a clients channel with shorts (more on that below). However we’re far from experts, and there’s better use cases.

We know this because we've researched and found channels that have barely any long-form content, but still managed to get hundreds of thousands of subscribers via shorts alone.

For example this fitness channel has gotten probably 99.9% of all its subscribers (about 500k) from these shorts which get ±200 million views.

Now of course, this is an extremely viral use case, but it does at least prove that there's a possibility of shorts driving huge growth with relatively little effort. And that's a good thing.

So how do Youtube shorts like this go viral? Well… that’s another blog post, but we can tell you one thing you need to maximize a few factors: watch time, engagement, and luck.

But, the real takeaway is that shorts CAN grow your channel. And if you hit a viral shorts, it can grow your channel really fast. 

Which makes it an ideal marketing lever. Something worth pulling on.

Our Youtube Shorts Strategy 

What our experience with shorts hasn’t been viral in nature. It’s been hard work for relatively little results. But… some highlights include

  • 40% increase in channel traffic month over month due to shorts
  • 80% increase in revenue (but we posted long form content as well)

What we can say certainly is that we won’t stop posting shorts to our clients account anytime soon. 

About this channel, which we aren’t allowed to share due to NDA.

  • It has over 50+ videos which were uploaded over the course of YEARS 
  • It’s NEVER done shorts content at all 
  • The average upload frequency was weeks to months (sometimes 4-6 months+)

We’ve been managing it for about 2 months now, with the first month being mostly taking care of strategy and making sense of things like customer persona, market and messaging.

In month #2, we started our video marketing strategy at about 30% of what the target is.

So what did we learn? Hows it doing?

Performance metrics from our Youtube Shorts Marketing Campaign 

Here’s how the channel performed in April. With 12 shorts videos posted. This channel brings in about ±50k views per month on long form content.

Here’s a few insights you might enjoy

  • Youtube shorts drove about 40% of the total monthly traffic 
  • Engagement can vary wildly - some videos gave 0 subs, while others 20+
  • The shorts didn’t seem to rank our long-form content video much more

In this tab we’re looking at just the channel analytics - which are basically the same before and after we posted a longform piece of content.

Aside from the small bump you see there which was mainly due to subscribers watching the video upon release.

What we’ve learned about Youtube shorts style content

The shorts that we ended up making fall into two categories

  1. Repurposing longer form videos which already existed
  2. Creating totally new topics/creative to try new angles 

From what we can understand: the remixes are MUCH more effort worthy.

What we’re measuring is mostly: 

  • Traffic via views 
  • Average time viewed (retention)
  • Overall channel rankings for SEO 
  • Revenue generated (since this brand mostly uses Youtube)

The best performing content is definitely the remixes of long form content and memes. Yes you read right, memes.

However the memes get fewer subscribers. While the remixed long form content gets both views and subscribers.

However creating original content for the channel is more or less a time sink. It takes a lot of effort and consumes our time, without guaranteeing anything (some of our original videos performed quite bad).

Did shorts improve our channel SEO?

There’s a lot of posts about how Youtube shorts are a magic bullet for improving channel engagement. And that once your channel has more engagement all your videos will rank higher.

This hasn’t been the case for us.

It may become the case in this second month (we’ll keep you updated) but for the instance it seems like shorts are within their own universe. At least in our instance.

Most of our subscribers are still coming from the long form content - which makes sense as it’s more value based, time-tested and proven.

Even our best performing short only drove +21 subscribers. About 10% of what the channel is bringing in passively per month.

That being said, I’m sure the shorts AREN’T hurting our video marketing strategy.

And it should be mentioned this particular channel:

  1. Has been asleep for a while, so it will take sometime before YouTube puts it back into the good books
  2. Posting has been spotty while we figure out production pipeline issues
  3. Has had viral videos which generated millions of views & thousands of subscribers

For the moment - we’re keeping a close eye on the shorts.

Shorts or long form content: which dominates?

The obvious answer is both. But it’s not the one which you probably want.

That being said here’s what we did

  • Posted 12 shorts in 1 month
  • Posted 1 long form piece of content

And the result was an 80% increase in revenue that same month. It’s just hard to attribute exactly what is driving those results.

For us though it’s clear that we won’t be stopping EITHER anytime soon.

In fact our current content calendar looks something like this

  • 30 shorts for the next month (1 per day) mostly of remixed content with a few original but easy to make thrown in 
  • 1 long form piece of content per week (following the proven formula on this channel)

Which will give us a much better position to evaluate exactly what and how these things work together to improve the channel standing.

Obviously the economics of all this are an important part of it. And we’re keeping a close eye on our production pipeline because of that.

Repurposing Youtube Shorts to Lower the Cost of Production

Every marketer cares about their budget. Because marketing is about your monetary input and what you can turn it into or in other words output.

It’s about managing a finite amount of resources to get the best results possible.

What we quickly learned is that some shorts take a lot more time (5-10x more) to produce than others, while yielding very similar results. 

So this obviously ISN'T the strategy to follow.

What we’re trying to do now is figure out how to repurpose content in the quickest and most effective ways possible.

To give you some idea of costs here’s our current production pipeline for original shorts content 

  • Copywriter ±1 hour
  • Music producer ±2 hours 
  • Video editor ±4-8 hours 
  • Project manager ±.5-1 hour

When you combine all these costs you’re looking at ±200-300 or more per video. Which obviously makes this very expensive if you want to make 30 per month. (6000-9000 USD).

However with the remix content the total amount of time required is ±1-2 hours of video editor time on top of the long-form content already being produced.

This saves us about 5x the time. And lowers the cost to ±25-50 per short. 

So we’re asking ourselves what’s the best way to structure the Youtube shorts OUT of our long form content? This way we can avoid creating additional work for ourselves, while still getting the benefits of the Youtube shorts platform.

Creating an effective Youtube shorts production pipeline 

Aside from using the long form content and cutting it down (or remixing it). Because cutting it down in most instances is a bit too bland and doesn’t have the desired effect.

We’re also thinking about how to optimize the content delivery production.

  • This means batching content and doing 5-10 videos at once which allows every part of the process to work in bulk without start up/cool-down costs
  • Recording voice overs in bulk = money saved (voiceover artists are easier to negotiate when they have consistent work).
  • Using templates, or effects where possible so not everything has to be custom.
  • Avoiding new topic ideas that sound great but the process/exploration could easily push the full production 3-5x longer then the rest.
  • Creating checklists PER style of video and for every team member. So this way every part of the process is accounted for.

More Youtube Case Studies Incoming

Given this is our first 2 months of working with this client, we have a lot to learn. And we’re planning to experiment with a lot of different approaches and content types.

So everything above is just a starting point. As we gather more data we’ll post and share it.

And we’ll try to structure more of these youtube case studies on how to get more views, retention, and all those good metrics that we all want.

What we can say with certainty though: is that YouTube is driving serious revenue, and putting up videos consistently HAS increased that amount.

How much we can increase it, that’s something we’ll find out over the course of the next 3-6 months as this strategy progresses.