Long-Form Content: How To Use It For Content Marketing
Worried about word count? Should you write 2,000 words or 10,000 words?
Staring at a blank screen, knowing you have to write an article, can be intimidating, especially if you are unsure how long or detailed that content should be.
This is when you need to ask the question - should this be short-form or should you create long-form content? Is it necessary to write a full article or will a concise piece of copy be enough?
I want to share with you my secret trick for creating content fast, but before I do, let's look at what content you should be creating.
Feed your starving crowd
The majority of the time, your audience wants information now. They do not have time to read a full article or a long blog post. So learn to be versatile and use short-form content when you need to.
For example, if your audience is looking for answers then provide them with the answers without going into too much detail.
Start with a paragraph to attract your audience’s attention and then break it down into bullet points that contain the most pertinent points in a short and readable way.
Follow that with sections clearly defined with headers that provide more in-depth information in bite-sized chunks, using multiple short-form sections in one post to make one long-form text. Content marketers use this format all the time.
Having some short content will make people want to read more and stay on the website longer without having to commit to reading an entire article. It also allows you to repurpose that content as short-form content that is easier to share to your social media accounts with apps like Missinglettr and Metricool.
First, figure out your content marketing goals
The best marketers also know that goals are important. You need to know your goal and from there figure out the strategy or format to use.
If you want to raise awareness around a product launch, you will probably want short-form content. If you are trying to rank your blog post for a highly competitive search term and drive traffic, long-form content is more likely what you'll need.
A smart marketer will start with the goals in mind, and strategize on how to reach those goals with different formats.
Does the length of your content really matter?
Let's talk about how the length of your content affects how likely you are to rank on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) with long-form content.
The length of your content piece does have an effect on search rankings. There is a correlation between the two formats; however, the correlation isn't because longer content is better.
Long-form content drives organic search ranking growth, and it might be one of the reasons you're seeing more traffic in your analytics. You can use tools like Surfer SEO to help you determine the exact length of content required to rank highly for your keyword in the SERPs.
Short-Form vs. Long-Form Content
To better understand the difference, let's look at the two types of content.
This is the informational and instructional articles that you typically see on blogs, similar to this one. It provides enough information but not so much that it gets overwhelming or doesn't keep people scrolling down to read more. The goal with this content is to minimize the use of text to keep the reader interested.
Typically you want your short-form content to average between 300 and 1,000 words. Need longer content than that? Move it over to the long-form category.
This is more of a comprehensive guide for any given topic related to your business or industry. It is generally longer in length with more information and instruction but presented in a way that keep the reader's attention.
The goal here is to provide a sufficient amount of information for your visitor to make an informed decision, and then present them with the opportunity to do something more - like sign up for a particular service, purchase a product, or whatever it is you're trying to drive them toward with your sales copy.
Typically, long-form content falls between 1,000 and 3,000 words but can go as high as 5,000 words or more in some instances if the topic requires it.
Some of the best examples of this are blog posts such as:
"The Ultimate Guide to…",
"The History of…",
If you are looking for a good example, just look at the top of any popular blog. Almost all of them will have a "top 10 list" or some kind of long-form content that falls into this category of content length. It is how they get success in the search engine rankings.
How do you know exactly how long your content should be?
If you’re looking for a tool that will help you understand the required word count for your long-form articles, get your keyword research done and create a content plan, Surfer's Content Planner is the solution.
Just a click of a button provides ideas for your whole content strategy to become an authority site for your niche.
From the Content Planner you can create Content Editors that indicate key metrics such as the exact length of the content (word count), how many paragraphs and headings to use in each piece of content, and the number of images (not including video) required for your blog post to be successful.
Surfer can be used for blog posts, website content, and more. It is my tool of choice, but there are alternatives out there, such as Semrush.
How long should a blog post be?
In 2020 Yoast told us that blog posts needed to a minimum of 300 words. Hubspot said 2,100-2,400 words. Neil Patel advised between 300 and 2,700 words.
The answer is that there is no one answer.
Each piece of content has a unique requirement, based upon many factors, not least of all metrics taken from the highest-ranking content that already exists, that has been written for the same keyword, in the same niche, to answer the same question for your target audience.
Once you determine the length of content you need, you can plan your content to fit, whether that is long-form or short form.
Google, and other search engines, will drive the traffic to your site if you feed it content presented in the way they have established people want to read.
Will your long-form content be readable?
People skim, scan, and jump around content anyway, so don't be put off by the thought of writing 8,000 words and thinking no-one will want to read that much.
Help your readers to easily find what they are looking for by structuring your content, include a table of contents for quick navigation and try to answer the main question early in the blog post.
Think about how much content your audience wants to read to get the answer they need and then give them enough to satisfy the need that brought them there in the first place.
Benefits of writing long-form content
Long-form content has become the standard for marketers trying to grow their businesses. It has become the norm in marketing circles and it is routinely used to try to drive growth.
With long-form content, you are you're presenting an authentic point of view for a topic that matters to people. The information needs to be current and must still be digestible and meaningful for your readers.
When you write long-form, you gain your readers' trust. People know that when they're reading a piece of content that's full of facts, it's not going to be something you made up to make money.
By creating great content, backed up by real research and information you are building your own brand authority.
However, the real question is whether it works
The answer is yes - it has benefits and here are a few to consider:
• Longer content gets more organic traffic
• Gives your readers more information to help them make a decision about your product or service
• Helps capture more leads, especially if you have an opt-in form in the content
• Increases time on site metrics for other pages on your website (including all of those juicy call-to-action buttons)
• Can reduce bounce rate which is directly related to CTR and conversion rates
• Can deliver a greater ROI on your PPC or SEO spend
• Helps improve authority and trust through facts and testimonials
Why should you create long-form content over short-form content?
Long-form text content is more engaging for your reader, but it can also be a lot harder to produce. If you have a good understanding of the audience that you are trying to target, you'll be able to figure out which type of content they want and how much they're willing to read.
The trick is balancing the amount of content you produce with what the audience wants and needs.
Again, understanding your audience is key.
When deciding your content length, it's also important to consider your point of view. Long-form copy should be a more personal voice, and it's your chance to be creative and really connect with the audience. The content should have some creativity that you can bring to the table, so keep that in mind when creating long-form content.
When deciding what type of long-form content to create, think about how much time you are willing to invest into those types of projects. If you are going to make the effort of creating thousands of words worth of content, it better be something that will work and bring in some solid traffic.
Can you make money with long-form content?
The best way to increase income through long-form content is by making use of what is called a "long-form squeeze page" - which is essentially a landing page with only one purpose: to collect the visitor's name and email address.
In exchange for their contact information, you offer them your long-form piece of content on the topic they are looking for answers for.
This strategy helps to build a relationship with your audience and now you have their contact information.
Eventually, you will be able to offer them your product or service, but in the meantime, it's important to establish trust and build credibility with your audience.
Long-form content is excellent for building relationships with customers. However, it can often take a long time to create content that lengthy, so know that up front.
If you're looking to get a lot of traffic, it may be worth your while to set aside some extra hours for long-form content.
Short of time?
If you can't spare the time to create long-form copy for a blog post or sales page, maybe short-form content is the way to go. You might find that it's actually easier to write a short-form headline and then use a link that leads directly to your landing page with a longer form of the content.
In the end, long-form text copy is still very popular for businesses because it gives you more control over your writing style and how personable you can make your content feel for the audience.
However, short-form content may be better suited in some situations depending on what you want to achieve. You just have to decide which type of content works best for you.
When to use short-form content?
Short-form content is great for people who need a quick answer to a problem. You can use short-form content to drive traffic from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.
Short-form content should be kept brief and only include the relevant information to your audience in easily digestible bites.
You can combine the two formats - short-form and long-form - into a single piece of content if it suits your objective.
For example you may need to write a long-form blog post for SEO purposes but you can turn it into a great piece of content for social media by formatting it into short-form chunks.
Here are some ideas:
• Top Tips - 10 tips that will solve almost every problem your audience has ever had about XYZ.
As a whole, it is long-form content, but each tip is itself a short-form.
• How To - Step by step guide on how to solve a problem with X product.
This is also long-form content, but each step can be treated as short-form content for social media purposes.
You can mix and match content structure style based on your needs, so don't think that you're trapped into one particular format or another. Instead, just pick what works best for the situation at hand!
Facebook's new algorithm now seems to favor longer content. Using this format means you can expect people to be more inclined to read and share your content.
As with long-form content, there is no one size fits all approach to writing short-form content. Always remember that the benefits of different types of content usually goes way beyond SEO.
How do I write long-form content?
There are no hard and fast rules about how to write long-form content, but there are methods of writing that readers can easily understand. When it comes to creating your content, remember a few things.
Lists are excellent tools to make any piece of text easy to read and get the reader's attention on what you have included. They work especially well for long-form texts because they help break up the information and make it easier for readers to scan what's on offer.
Use numbers such as 7, 8, or 9 in your article copy, rather than spelling them out. This is because readers can sometimes overlook these figures – especially if they're busy reading other points that you've included in the body of the text.
Jargon is a good tool to help you connect with the audience you are targeting, but it may confuse others not familiar with your industry. Use what you know about your target audience to decide on how much jargon – if any at all – you want to work into your copy. Always remember that readers want to find out information, they usually don't want to have to work hard for it.
And finally, make sure your writing flows.
If you aren't naturally a good writer, or if English isn't your first language; then you may find it easier to approach the process as though you are having an informal conversation with someone who doesn't know a lot about your topic.
In the end, long-form text copy is very popular for businesses because it gives you more control over your writing style and how you speak to your audience.
Researching your focus topic
To make your long-form content flow, make sure to do research ahead of time and have the information that answers the questions your readers are asking. This can take a long time and not everyone has that time to spare, so in this case, there are many tools that content creators can use to make this phase easier.
I use Surfer SEO, as - since the brief function was launched - it shows me all the information that I need to include in every piece of content. There are of course many other tools that provide a similar all-in-one function, our you can combine multiple tools.
Content planning consists of three items: the topic, audience and goals. These three things are interconnected. To achieve the best results, you have to be clear on your goals and objectives, as well as how you will reach them - with your content.
Your topic is what you want to talk about. If you are going to write about "a new app", then this should be your topic.
The audience is the people who will read the content and find value in it. Who is your audience? Figure out who they are and what they're looking for.
Then, the last part is planning your content around those topics and audiences that you considered in parts one and two. When you have a solid plan, it's time to get writing!
Knowing what kind of articles will drive traffic to your website is not an easy task, but underestimating this step can have its consequences. So don't just jump into writing. Make sure that your content is precise and well planned before you start making it.
And remember, if you're not satisfied with the results of your first articles; don't give up!
As long as you keep trying, you'll find what works for you.
Don't be afraid of being unique – in fact, that should be high on your priority list.
It may take some time, but putting your own touch on an article can go a long way in the eyes of your readers. Too much repetition is a big turnoff for people, so if you want to stand out from the rest of the crowd; try to express yourself and be as unique as possible.
This may sound like a lot of work, but if you manage to create something that hasn't been published before or even on the web; then your audience won't be able to ignore it.
Quality over quantity
Quality will make your content shine. There are many benefits in having long-form content, but when it comes to making money from the web; quality is king.
A lot of readers don't want to spend time reading short articles that are poorly written or just look like they were a part of some sort of mass production process. Having good content takes a lot of effort and hard work, so the best way to be successful is to focus on the details.
You can also benefit from long-form articles by using them for PR and links building. If you put a lot of effort into your article, you will be able to get some good backlinks and pick up authority in your niche.
Useful content that people want to read is a great inbound marketing technique. Once you start getting positive feedback and good comments; people will be willing to share your articles with others. This is how viral content is born, and then you can see big numbers in terms of traffic coming from other websites.
Target your audience
One thing that I would like to point out before we end this article, is the fact that long-form content is a great way to target people who are in search of information.
They're the ones that usually don't have the time for browsing websites, looking for some sort of useful and interesting article to read. Having long-form can be very useful because this kind of traffic will gladly spend more time reading your articles because they're looking for something specific.
So, if your goal is to attract the right kind of people and convert them into a customer; long-form content can help you with that by getting your message across in a way that makes sense to them .
A good rule of thumb when trying to create more interesting and useful articles - don't try to sell something too much.
People can see and feel when you're trying to convince them to buy something, so instead of doing that – focus on educating or entertaining them. This way you will be able to build trust between yourself and your readers. It's very important to know that if people think you're honest with them; they will do business with you!
Why does long-form content work?
Long-form works as an effective marketing strategy because it allows you some time to educate and inform people about certain products or services. It also helps turn visitors into customers because if people like what they've read – chances are, their next step will be to buy something from you!
The main idea here is for a reader to gain insight into your field and be able to make up their own mind on what they should do in the future. Your customers will see that you're willing to help them by investing time and effort into writing an amazing article about a certain subject.
And if you're writing for a client, this can also make them look good too. If you write great content that has some sort of value – they will be happy to put their name on it because in the end; they know how important it is to get clients rather than just making money from them.
Long-form content makes your business stand out from others who might offer similar products or services as you do. This is the reason why long-form content works so well here because people see that you've put serious effort into it, and they are taking notice of that by wanting to take action themselves.
Where can you find useful information for long-form content?
As a content marketer, your job is to provide something that was previously missing. You need to be able to analyze the web and try to figure out what articles are being read or which ideas are popular at the moment. That's how you will get inspiration for creating some long-form content of your own.
The best thing about this is that you can get useful information from almost any website; if you look for it hard enough! So go through your blog feed and find the articles that were shared a lot, or have some particular likes and shares on social. You can also use Buzzsumo to identify popular content.
It's very important that you read all of the articles and try to understand what makes one popular, but not the other one. That will give you an idea about what kind of content your readers want to see. You can also use free keyword tools like Google Trends, so you can see when a specific keyword was searched for by users in the past.
What is long-form content SEO?
For creating your own content; you have to do learn whether or not this topic is in demand on the web.
You can check that by doing keyword research free with Google Adwords Keyword Planner.
If you want more advanced information about keyword popularity, then I highly recommend using Surfer. This platform provides you with the best keywords within the niche that you have selected, and it also shows how popular these keywords are according to Google search volume.
You can pick up some useful information about your reader's expectations after performing keyword research; this way you will know what kind of articles to write in order to satisfy your audience.
How to find the right topic for your long-form content
This is where you need to put all of your SEO skills to use, while trying to figure out how popular a certain subject can be within your niche or industry. The keyword research is extremely important here; because you will have some really nice ideas about which topics are in demand, and which ones were already covered in your niche.
I highly recommend using Surfer. It has all of the latest data from Google's search console for keyword ranking; including back links to the pages that are ranking well within a particular search query.
I like to repeat this process on a monthly basis so I can monitor trends and find out what's popular at the moment. It helps me figure out which topics my readers are looking for, and which ones they already know about.
That way you will be able to have an easier time creating your own long-form content.
How to use keywords in your long-form content
So, now you have a good idea about the things that people are searching for online – how do you make sure that your article appears near the top of Google's results?
Once you have learned which words and phrases are often searched for, they can be used in your long-form content, which will make sure that they will receive plenty of traffic.
How to pick the right topic for customer satisfaction
Like I said before, it's important to deliver something valuable so your readers are satisfied with what they're reading. It might be hard sometimes; because you won't be writing about a specific keyword.
Instead, you have to discuss your topic in-depth and make sure that it's valuable enough for readers.
There are some ways to figure out whether or not your content is satisfying people; you can use the
likes count and comments section of your blog to see what the audience thinks of your content.
How to come up with ideas for long-form content
That's a great question! I had some problems with coming up with ideas for my own long-form content when I started blogging, but I don't think that anybody will be able to offer a fool-proof method for this.
To tell you the truth; I usually choose my topics based on what's popular in Google at the moment based in the recommendations in Surfer Content Planner. If there are some well-written articles about a specific subject, then I will try to come up with a new angle and present it in my own words. It worked well for me so far but you may have a different approach from mine.
How to use long-form content in your marketing strategy
There are several ways to use long-form content in your marketing strategy, but today we will be focusing on three of them:
First of all, you can create valuable information that will help potential customers solve their problems; and then share it with their friends. A lot of companies use this type of content to improve their conversion rates, so it's probably one of the most popular ways to use long-form content.
Second, you can use a free tool like Canva (I use it for all my images) to create some awesome graphics that will help your customers remember your brand. It might be a little more challenging for beginners; but trust me, it's not that hard to create some nice graphics.
Third, and this is probably the most popular method right now because you can get good results pretty quickly: long-form l