Thoughtful long-form content can be an integral component of your content marketing strategy. Read on to learn more about how you can write engaging long-form content as part of your overall marketing strategy.
Less is more? Or more is more?
There’s an inherent paradox when it comes to content marketing. On the one hand, consumers have extremely short attention spans. Studies indicate that the current human attention span, clocking in at just eight seconds, is even shorter than a goldfish. Their attention span is nine seconds. Social platforms like Tiktok or Instagram reels, where videos max out at 60 seconds, celebrate our shortened attention spans.
So given that we’re all so scattered, why are content marketers doubling down on long-form content? Do people really want to read 10,000 words about the history of apple pie before they bake one? Is that what we mean by “long-form?”
What is long-form content?
Long-form content can include various types of content, including blogs, articles, white papers, ebooks, tutorials, or reports that exceed 1,000 to 1,200 words but are shorter than 10,000 words (those would be considered novellas). Long-form content can include detailed, well-researched, in-depth analysis and insights on topics where the author wants to give the audience something more.
These pieces of content let your readers take a deeper dive into the complexities of any given topic, whether it’s the impact of artificial intelligence on the search marketing industry, or even a video with happy puppies playing in the snow.
How do you write long-form content?
Successful long-form content that will connect with readers and deliver content marketers tremendous results isn’t that different from your typical high school English essay. Here are a few steps to get you started in the content creation process.
1. Start with a focus keyword.
This keyword or phrase acts as a cornerstone when you create content of any length. Research your word and see what others have written about your topic. You want to pick terms that have a relatively large search volume, with relatively low competition from websites with high domain authority. Often, you’ll have more success using a specific phrase than one word, to hone in on the interests of your target audience. So use “dogs playing in the snow” as your keyword, rather than “dogs.”
2. Add a strong topic sentence.
What are you going to tell us, and how will this knowledge improve our lives? Or at least achieve someone’s search intent. Does it entertain, inform, or compel us to make a purchasing decision or other transaction? You want an engaging introduction that tells your audience how much better their lives will be after reading your article.
For example, if you’re writing an article about dogs in the snow, your intro sentence could be something like, “The temperatures are getting colder, but our favorite furry friends are making the most of the season.” While this sentence won’t win any awards, it sets the scene for the rest of the article.
3. State your thesis.
The thesis hones in on the meat of what you’re trying to accomplish. It doesn’t have to be a sophisticated analysis. It could be something like:
- “We all need to look at adorable photos of dogs playing in the snow!”
That way you know that if you keep reading, you should see cute pictures of snow dogs, preferably sprinkled with witty commentary.
4. Provide evidence from other sources that supports your thesis.
This is the part where you let the readers and search engine algorithms who are looking for links to well-established sources know that you know your stuff. Link to academic studies and statistics from credible sources.
This step can be fairly straightforward if you’re doing a more academically-oriented blog post. You might even want to provide points/counterpoints to let the reader know you’ve explored different options that inform your overall conclusion. You can also sprinkle evidence throughout the article in your supporting sections if that’s a better fit for your overall goals.
4a. Make sure you pick relevant evidence that aligns with the overall article.
While there’s no shortage of sources for authority, be sure to choose your statistics wisely. For the dog article, you could say something along these lines, which could work.
- “With an estimated 56% of American dogs considered overweight or obese, it’s important to keep our canine friends active during the winter months.”
Here, we’re citing the authoritative American Kennel Club, which is a leading source of dog information. But that data seems a bit obnoxious. After all, we’re looking for escapism with cute puppies. We don’t want to feel bad about all the extra scraps we’re feeding our dogs from the kitchen table. Instead, you could include information more along these lines.
- “Studies show that even looking a photos of dogs can make people smile, so here are some pictures to brighten your day.”
This citation also comes from a reputable source, Psychology Today, and more closely aligns with the article goals established by the topic sentence and thesis. You could write another article with the “dogs in the snow” focus keyword talking about how it’s really important for them to exercise for their health and wellness. But this one is actually about boosting your happiness by looking at cute dogs in the snow. It’s scientifically proven!
5. Add in additional supporting paragraphs.
Obviously, these can, and often should also include evidence and research if you need it for the purpose of your article. You also want to continue supporting your points with research as necessary.
The snow dog article is a great example of long-form content that’s dependent on photos and visuals. It’s also a great opportunity to engage with your audience and possibly include user-generated content.
6. Wrap things up with a conclusion.
What did you find as a result of your research?
- “Dogs are adorable playing in the snow, and we’re all happier after looking at these adorable photos!”
- “We love these sweet winter dogs!”
Those simple statements, and maybe a supporting sentence or two, are all you need.
If you have more serious web pages or educational content, you might want to wrap things up with a more sophisticated analysis of the material you’ve presented. So frame your conclusion accordingly “In light of all of the material presented these our findings . . .” You could use a bullet-point list here, but it’s probably better to use your own analysis of the data.
7. Call to action.
Why did you write this article or white paper? Why did you make this massive slide deck? The call-to-action can often be part of the conclusion or tacked on a bit at the end.
For dogs in winter, it could be, “share this article with your friends and get our content out to more people. ” For this long-form content article, *spoiler alert* the call to action will be to contact rellify for all of your content marketing needs, or something to that effect. What was the point of your article and how do you want your target audience to respond after reading it? Your call to action might just be one sentence. But if you’re creating content without giving people an actionable way to follow up on the content they’ve just received, what’s the point?
8. Don’t forget to include photos and/or infographics.
It can get pretty overwhelming when reading a long-form post that only consists of black and white print. Add some colorful visuals to your topic that can help illustrate ideas in your core sections. They can also help the reader better visualize complex ideas and make sense of a broad topic.
For the dogs in winter type of article, you can stick with photos. These will also look great if you repurpose them for social media. But for more technical topics, an infographic with a clearly-defined detailed explanation of your arguments can vastly improve your readability.
Why is long-form content important for SEO?
The Google bots want to help users answer the questions they’re searching for. So they’ll often pull up articles that are both informative and of high content quality. The vast majority of the time, you need to write longer posts in order to contain all of the relevant information any searcher might want to know about.
Even seemingly frivolous topics like “dogs in the snow,” can benefit from being showcased as long-form content. Fluffy topics that give you warm and fuzzy feelings don’t have to be thin content, with no citations, content strategy, or clear structure. Instead, you can create them in a way that gives the reader maximum impact or enjoyment.
And as you’ve seen from the earlier example, there’s actually a bit of skill and research involved when writing these types of articles effectively. And, as you can see from SERPs of most topics, articles with a higher word count often perform better.
Is long-form content better for SEO?
There is a strong correlation between content length and SEO performance. Most of the time, long-form content outperforms short-form content on the search engine results pages (SERPs.) Granted, sometimes you’ll see top results with a content length of just a couple hundred words. But the top-ranking articles overwhelmingly consist of long-form content.
If you’re cranking out 2,000-word posts that contain solid insights, are well-researched, and are well-structured, it’s a huge investment of time and resources. A 2021 Obit survey of bloggers found they spend an average time of over four hours to create blogs with an average post length of about 1400 words. But bloggers who spend over six hours per post reported the strongest results.
What do these numbers really mean? Creating effective content takes time and effort. But when done well, it’s an extraordinary content marketing tool.
Do people read long-form content?
Short answer: yes. Granted, our attention spans are pretty pathetic. But just because people love TikTok doesn’t mean they don’t also watch well-produced movies and television shows. If a movie’s boring with a bad script and terrible acting, you’ll probably turn it off. But you might sit for hours watching an insightful or entertaining movie.
Similarly, if your long-form content is well-researched and well-produced, it doesn’t matter if it’s a webinar, video series, article, or podcast. People will read or watch it in its entirety. Or at least they’ll scan the article, reading the sections that they personally care about. According to a study by Nielsen, most people only read about 20-28% of an article. So structural elements like your headings, graphics, and bullet points are extremely important in long-form articles. A reader might not read everything you’ve written, but they’ll read the key headings that matter to them.
Should I do long-form or short-form content?
When considering between long-form or short-form content, consider the following questions:
- What’s my goal for this content? Do you want to show your expertise on a given topic? Long-form content is probably the right choice. Do you want to quickly build brand awareness with visual content? Stick with short-form content.
- What kinds of resources do I have to invest in different types of content? If you don’t have the time and mental space to write a decent long-form blog article, but you could easily crank out a decent infographic that will do well on social, stick with shorter content. Longer-form content can be helpful for your overall content strategy, but if you can’t do it well, it’s probably not worth the effort. There’s no point in spending hours or days on a long article nobody will ever read.
- Am I driving the results I want to see? If the answer is no, look at the content you have. If you’re just writing shorter pieces, try some long-form content. If you’re already writing long-form pieces, consider updating those posts with more relevant content. Or look at your website’s core web vitals to make sure your technical SEO components are solid. You might also want to send your work to someone who will give you honest feedback about your writing.
Is long-form content popular?
From an organic search perspective, long-form content is extremely popular. If you look at the top SERP results for many terms, you will see articles with an average length of around 2,000 words or more. For competitive topics around SEO-related content, you’ll often see up to 3,000 words for top results. That’s the equivalent of about a 12-page double-spaced essay.
While many long-form content pieces are popular, incorporating these articles into your content strategy or editorial calendar isn’t necessarily the right move for your brand. Good quality articles or social media posts, even if they’re short, are much better than bad long-form content. Stick with quality over quantity.
Gated vs. Ungated Content
Because a successful long-form content piece can take a significant investment of time and resources, in some cases, you might consider gating that content. That means your audience needs to give you their email or possibly even pay for some of your fantastic insights behind the gate.
Over 80% of B2B businesses use gated content in their marketing efforts, and it can be a brilliant way to improve quality leads. If someone’s interested enough to download your 10,000-word white paper, they care about you and your business. So creating some friction, by causing them to enter an email to receive your paper or attend your webinar, can be a fantastic way to get good leads.
The question of whether you should or shouldn’t gate a piece of long-form content all depends on your overall business goals. If you want to increase brand awareness or reach the maximum number of people with your article, don’t gate your content. But if you want to convert your existing traffic into solid leads, and you have high-quality content, then gate it.
Create the best content for your audience
Whether you write short-form content or long-form content, if your message is resonating with your audience, and you’re seeing a nice conversion rate after people read what you have to say, you have created a successful content marketing strategy. Great job!
But if, after reading this article, you feel more intimidated and lost, there is hope! (Don’t say we didn’t warn you about the call-to-action a few hundred words ago). The experts at rellify use the best of machine learning and expert analysts to help content creators like you produce as much long-form and short-form content as you need. They’ll help you through the editorial process and set you up with writers so you can just sit back and watch your conversion rate increase.
So contact them to help you create an editorial plan and content strategy that will help create extraordinary long-form content that helps to achieve your content marketing goals.