In a world of 10-second video clips and short-form content, you might be surprised to hear that there's still space for the legendary long-form content.
It could be argued that attention spans are dwindling, so people want to absorb information in short and snappy formats. But, that isn't always the case.
There are instances where only long-form content works. If your audience wants to dive deep into a particular topic or gain actionable information, you're going to need to write longer posts.
It's all about context and knowing when's the right time to use what type of content.
So, let's dive into the topic of long-form content — specifically, what it is, why it is effective and how to write long-form content that wins.
What Is Long Form Content?
Marketers have long debated the barrier to entry for long-form content — is it 700 words? 3,000 words? Perhaps, somewhere in the middle?
Typically speaking, long-form content refers to any form of written content that is over 1,200 words long.
This could be:
- Interviews with industry experts
- Case studies
- White papers
- Forecasting reports
- Opinion or research pieces
You get the idea, I'm sure.
Long-form posts can be incredibly varied, meaning it's an excellent opportunity to explore a complex subject matter.
The purpose of long-form articles is to provide the reader with valuable information. When writing a longer content piece, your goal should be to make sure that the article is helpful to your audience. Your objective here is to educate and inform the reader.
With this in mind, you should only write longer articles when you know you can add value to the broader conversation and the subject matter is complex enough to go into detail.
Don't just write long content pieces for the sake of it. Doing that will only do more harm than good.
Get the recipe for a long-form article just right, and you'll increase time on site, present yourself as an industry expert, and provide value for your readers.
Long Form vs. Short Form Content
But what about short-form content?
If there is a time and a place to use long-form content, then that means there's also a time and a place for short-form content.
The main difference between short-form vs long-form content is simple: one is longer than the other. By that logic, one allows you to be more in-depth, whereas the other (short-form content) is quick and easy to digest.
Short-form content covers topics at a top level, getting the main message across as quickly and effectively as possible. As such, shorter articles tend to cover one idea at a time and keep things simple.
Long-form pieces are longer (obviously), so you can get stuck into a seriously meaty topic, providing readers with an informative and educational insight.
Why Is Long Form Content Effective?
The power of long content can be transformative for your content marketing strategy. If you're on a mission to write content that cinches KPIs within search engine optimization (SEO) and connects with your reader, you're going to want to add long-form articles to your agenda.
The average B2B blog gets 282 visits from organic search each month. The same report by Backlinko found that long-form articles perform best for driving organic traffic to the site. So, if you want to increase SEO performance, you need to write longer content pieces.
Let's look at some of the ways long-form content is effective for search engine optimization.
Targeting the right keywords is a fundamental part of any SEO writing strategy. Writing longer articles means seamlessly integrating the right keywords into your content. This naturally improves keyword density while avoiding the risk of keyword stuffing.
Mentioning your keyword 20 times in a 600-word article will probably be overkill. It screams "keyword stuffing" and can harm your organic ranking potential. But noting that same keyword 20 times over a 2,000-word article will benefit your SEO efforts as it naturally fits the content.
Another critical component of optimizing organic rankings is to write quality content.
Google says that their Search algorithms look at many factors including "relevance and usability of pages, expertise of sources and your location and settings."
So, long-form pieces written from a position of expertise will help improve your organic rankings.
When you write longer content pieces, you can include more detail and convey more information. You can also add more context by illustrating your article with videos, photos, and graphics.
Not to mention, you can break the content down into subsections and use bullet points or pull quotes to improve readability. Those longer, more detailed articles will help set you apart from the competition by giving you a platform upon which to demonstrate your expertise and showcase the quality of your words — in turn, strengthening your organic position.
Increase time on site
Because these articles are longer than your average listicle, they will naturally increase time on site. Hook your readers' attention in the opening paragraph of your article, then continue to provide useful and digestible information throughout to hold their attention and keep them reading right through to the end.
A long-form content piece split across multiple pages will help drive up page views per session and lower bounce rate. Two more factors that benefit SEO.
The more time people spend on your site, the more they'll trust you and be more likely to return in the future.
Longer blog articles can also be correlated with acquiring more backlinks.
The State of Content Marketing global report by Semrush analyzed over 1,200,000 articles and found that short posts (300-900 words) received 75% fewer backlinks than articles with an average content length of 900 words or more. So, if you want to get more backlinks, you need to offer readers more value in the form of a long read.
And we know that backlinks act as "votes of confidence" for your site in Google's eyes. With this in mind, if you want to increase SEO, you'll need to secure more quality backlinks with your writing.
How to Write Long Form Content
Now that you're aware of the SEO benefits of long-form posts, let's explore how you can write long-reads without spending days at a time writing.
The process of writing longer articles doesn't have to be daunting. Follow this 7 step process and you'll be well on your way to becoming a confident and successful long-form writer.
Outline your goals
Before you start typing anything, stop and consider why you want to write a long-form article.
Knowing the reason behind your writing will inform how you execute the content and help keep you on the right track to success.
Every piece of content has a goal. Whether that is to build brand awareness, generate leads, grow your email list, educate readers, or something else entirely.
To determine your goal, work out who you are writing for. Your target audience will likely have specific objectives they want to achieve. Then work out why you want to write for this audience and how you'll measure the success of your article.
You will likely have multiple goals for writing longer articles. Make a note of each of these goals as they'll help us find the perfect topics for each objective.
Choose a topic
Remember, your goals inform your topics. You don't just want to write an article on a topic because you think it's something your audience wants to hear about.
You want to strategically write about a topic. Go back to your goal, and ask yourself what topics will help you reach your target audience and achieve your goals?
You can find topics by:
- Doing keyword research and reviewing SERPs
- Analyzing your current content performance and user behavior
- Understanding your target audience and their needs, interests, and pain-points
- Researching competitor content and analyzing their performance
Following the above methods for choosing what to write about means you can make sure you write content that people want to see.
Keyword research is fundamental here. After all, you want to make sure that your article will rank for relevant terms that your target audience is actively searching for.
And choose your topic carefully. Make sure you write about something that has long-term potential. Writing a 5,000-word guide on an evergreen topic will be far more effective in the long run than writing 5,000 words on a fleeting trend.
Do your research
We always advise doing research before you start writing. The research phase is crucial for ensuring the success of long-form content.
You want your blog post or page to be the go-to place for your chosen topic. This means making sure your post is a high-quality and authoritative source of information. To do this, you need to do your research first.
Gather recent and relevant statistics from reputable sources, find case studies to illustrate the topic, and get quotes from authority figures within the topic niche. These can be secondary sources such as quotes or data from third parties.
Alternatively, they can be primary sources such as original surveys that you have conducted or interviews you have had with industry experts.
The research conducted at this stage is what is going to set your article apart from the rest. Data and research help bring your writing to life and provide evidence for what you are saying. All of which help strengthen the quality of your long-form content.
Along with gathering data, create a brief for your article. This brief will lay out your long-form article's beginning, middle, and end. You can then use this to logically organize your writing and make sure your article stays aligned with your audience, topic, and goals.
Write great content
You've done the research, and now it's time to write great content.
First, hook readers in with a captivating introduction. The first few lines of your article will define whether or not someone will keep reading. You want people to start reading your post and feel compelled to carry on. You can do this by starting with a personal story or analogy, giving a summary of what they can expect to learn from your post, or by hooking people in with robust statistics.
Once you have their attention, you need to maintain it. Stitch together all of that research you conducted before writing and keep the tone conversational and well-suited to your audience. As you write your content, keep asking yourself, "why am I writing this?" and stay loyal to your goal.
Long-form content that is cohesive and easy-to-read will be far more powerful than a long read that is disjointed. So, get to the point quickly. Follow a logical structure. Keep sentences short. Use examples, share data and statistics. Add some emotion to your writing. Whatever you do, write in a way that will maintain the reader's attention.
Above all else, provide value for your readers and help them with their problems. Write your long-form post to the highest level of quality. It needs to be authoritative and should aim to be better than anything else already out there.
Optimize format and design
Optimizing the format of your on-site pages is key for helping Google understand your content. Plus, it makes long reads more digestible for your readers.
To optimize your articles for SEO, use relevant keywords throughout the post and organize your writing with subheadings.
Link to other pages from your long-form article by adding internal links to relevant pages where people can find more information on related topics. You can also link to external sources. For instance, if you share data from a third-party report, link to the original source so readers can also read the report. These links are going to further enhance the organic performance of your article.
Make sure your post is expertly designed by breaking up text with media. This could be photos, videos, embedded tweets, charts and graphs, screenshots, quotes — anything that helps visually illustrate what you are trying to say.
Having an optimization checklist is a great way to make sure anything you write is well-optimized before publishing.
Create a distribution strategy
What do you do once you've published a post? Hopefully, you have a distribution strategy in place to extend the lifespan and impact of your writing.
This distribution strategy is pivotal for getting your article seen by the right people.
After publishing your post, distribute it across your own channels with social media posts linking to the article and by including your long-form blog post in email newsletters to your audience.
Tap into your network by looking for opportunities to guest post and link back to your article or by developing a PR strategy for gaining backlinks to your long-form post.
You can also use paid channels to promote your long-form post — this can be especially powerful for long-form articles with a lead generation objective.
Have you mentioned someone in your article or referenced work by someone else? Then let them know you have included them in your article and politely ask them to share your article.
Don’t forget to include your post in your annual content strategy so that you can reference it throughout the year, getting it in front of your target audience.
Maintain and update your article
Finally, you need to keep your long-form posts updated. A long-form article is only impactful as long as it is highly relevant.
Improve the longevity of your long-form article by maintaining it over time. Replace outdated statistics with new ones and add internal links to recent posts.
Review your topic and see if you can update what you previously wrote. Perhaps there are new questions that you could answer, or the information shared initially has become outdated.
When updating articles, focus on improving them for accuracy and engagement. If you do make changes, it can be a good idea to add editor notes to let people know when the post was updated and why.
Long Form Article Examples
Now that you've got a solid understanding of how to quickly and effectively write long-form posts, let's look at some examples.
These long-form article examples show how marketers can create different types of long-form content based on their audience, objectives, and topic.
HubSpot’s Customer Journey Map
HubSpot has cemented its position as one of the go-to places for all things inbound marketing, sales, and customer service. As such, their site is overflowing with rich and informative insights.
One such piece is their long-form article "How to Create an Effective Customer Journey Map [Examples + Template]."
This long read is a "how-to" post for creating a customer journey map. The title showcases what readers can expect to gain from the post. Over 5,199 words, HubSpot takes its readers through the logical steps to understanding customer journey mapping and how to create an effective customer journey map.
The objective of this article is clear: to increase downloads of their free customer journey map templates. HubSpot shares call-to-action (CTA) buttons, widgets, and links to their free templates throughout the article to encourage people to download the resource.
The article is well presented with a logical flow featuring clear subsections, numbered bullet-points, and media files to break up the text. A lot of thought and attention has gone into creating a long read that is digestible and easy to follow.
Better yet, this article is deeply educational and informative. HubSpot has gone above and beyond to write something that its readers will find valuable. I’m sure by providing such an informative article, Hubspot managed to achieve their objective of increasing downloads.
Search Engine Journal’s eCommerce Guide
Search Engine Journal takes a different approach to long-form content with their definitive guide to eCommerce marketing.
Search Engine Journal breaks this topic down into chapters rather than presenting all of the information on one page.
Over a series of 10 chapters, they then work through the key interests and pain points that their target audience may have relating to this topic. Within each chapter, they share actionable advice, backing up what they say with relevant research and examples.
The format of this long read offers Search Engine Journal the opportunity to include relevant internal links, strengthening their link structure and improving their organic search performance.
Semrush’s “What is SEO” Article
Answering "What is" questions can be great for providing insightful long-form insights for your target audience.
Semrush, an SEO tool, has produced a long-form article titled "What Is SEO? The 2022 Guide to Search Engine Optimization?"
By including the current year in the title, Semrush immediately lets readers know that this article will be filled with up-to-date information. The article then follows a logical format and has a clickable contents table to let readers skip ahead to the sections they're most interested in.
They then take a big topic — SEO — and break it down into easier-to-understand subtopics, focusing on the what, how, and why behind SEO. They then share examples of various search engine optimization factors before finishing up with answering some FAQs.
Every aspect of this post is focused on one thing: educating the reader on the topic. As such, it's written in a conversational tone and simplifies a complex topic.
The real-time article metrics denote that this post has received 1,600 backlinks from 429 referring domains. These figures alone speak for the success of this post as a long-form article.
Word Count Matters
That's it — everything you need to know about long-form content and how to quickly write longer articles that deliver powerful results.
Not everything you write will be a 1,200+ word masterpiece. Sometimes, articles will be short and snappy. And that's okay. You want to write long-form articles when you have something of true value to share. Choose your topic wisely, and remember word count matters.
If you want to capture people's attention, provide value for your readers, and present your brand as the industry expert, you need to create long-form content.
Have you written long-form posts before? Let us know in the comments about your experience with writing long reads.