The mere thought of producing long-form content is enough to make some marketers and business owners break out in a cold sweat.
That’s understandable; it seems there aren’t enough hours in the day as it is.
However, although creating long-form content might sound like a big hassle, the efforts can pay off exponentially, which brings us to;
Why Does Long-Form Content Matter to Your Marketing Strategy?
Long-form content matters to your SEO and content marketing campaigns because it offers many competitive advantages including better search results than shorter content.
BuzzSumo’s analysis reveals that long-form content gets more social media shares.
This type of content is more in-depth and well researched, the type of material Google loves, which makes it generate more traffic and improves user engagement than short-form content.
Some of the competitive advantages and SEO benefits of longer content are:
- Higher search visibility
- Increase social media shares
- Improve conversion rate
- Quality link building opportunity
- Better search rankings
- Credible website authority
A recent study by Moz found out that long-form content often receives higher social media shares and backlinks when compared to short-form content.
What Is Long-Form Content?
With no end-all-be-all definition of what classifies content as “long-form,” different people have different ideas of the word count that puts articles into that classification.
Some blogging authorities consider 1,000-plus words as long-form. Others, such as Neil Patel, set the bar at 2,000 words or higher.
When asked to write long-form content, I usually find clients request a minimum word count within the range of 1,200 to 2,000 words. Occasionally, a client will ask 2,000-plus words.
Ultimately, what a publisher considers long-form content is driven by the word count an SEO specialist has determined to be the sweet spot for achieving better online visibility.
How to Write Long-Form Content
1. Get organized
Before you start writing long-form content, have a process in place to help guide your efforts.
- Establish target completion and publication dates.
- Identify who will be involved in the content process and what their roles will be (e.g., brainstorming topics, keyword research, subject matter experts, writing, SEO optimization, uploading into your content management system, promoting on social media).
2. Determine the topic you will cover.
First and foremost, tap into what your target audience wants or needs to know more about.
A few ways to figure that out include:
- Review your website analytics to see which past blog posts performed well.
- Glean inspiration from your company’s FAQs.
- Ask your customer service and support teams for comments.
- Post the question on social media and encouraging followers to chime in.
- Create a survey (via a tool like SurveyMonkey).
Also, use online tools to help explore the “legs” and possible angles of a subject. One of the most effective and easiest to use is Google’s search results page.
Using Google SERP for Fine-Tuning Long-Form Content Ideas
A quick search on a prospective topic can unearth ideas about the angles you might explore and the key points you might include in your long-form content.
The SERP offers insight in three ways:
- The top search results: Observe the articles that appear on page 1 to get a feel for what they cover and how you might “up the ante” by providing more in-depth or better-quality content in your long-form articles.
- PAA: About one-quarter to halfway down from the top of the SERP, you’ll see a “People also ask” box that shows other inquiries users have made about a topic. These can generate ideas about what sub-topics you should cover in your article.
- Related searches: At the bottom of the SERP, you’ll see related terms that users searched for on Google. These can also help you flesh out what you might include in your content.
To prove, suppose I’m going to write a long-form article about interior design. If I do an online search using the phrase “interior design tips,” I see the top-ranking articles.
I also see the people also ask (PAA) box, which offers some food for thought on different sections I might include in my article.
The related searches at the bottom of the page provide some additional insight into what I might cover in either the article at hand or in future articles.
3. Do Keyword Research.
To maximize SEO outcomes for your long-form content, you’ll want to conduct keyword research to help you find words and phrases that will help your articles rank higher in the SERP.
With lots of competition to rank using general keywords, you’ll want to incorporate relevant long-tail keywords.
Granted, they don’t generate the same search volume, but they will be more targeted to your specific audience’s interests and give your content a better chance of ranking prominently in searches.
Image Source: Wpbeginner
The graph above shows that long-tail keywords generate 70% of search traffic, which makes it a must use for your content marketing and search engine optimization campaigns.
Some keyword research tools you might use include:
Also, consider how people use voice search technology.
According to a Gartner press release in 2016, “By 2020, 30 percent of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen.”
As Google fine-tunes voice search, and more homes and businesses buy devices such as Amazon’s Alexa and Echo and Google’s Google Home and Google Home Mini, the number of voice searches will increase.
Moral of the story: You will need to think about what people will say, not only what they will type.
Here is a list of the best 15+ SEO website audit tools of 2018
4. Create an outline.
When you’re writing long, you need to make sure you structure your articles logically. Failing to do so will cause readers to get lost and tune out.
Identify main points, sub-points and the order in which they should appear to guide readers fluidly through your content.
This will also serve you well from an SEO perspective because it will help you decide the headings structure (i.e., h2, h3, h4 and so forth)
Revisiting my earlier example, if I were writing a long-form article focused on interior design tips, components of my outline might look like this:
Title — Room-by-room Interior Design Tips for New Homeowners (h1)
Main point 1 — Kitchen design tips (h2)
- Kitchen counters
- Kitchen cabinets
- Kitchen flooring
- Kitchen lighting
- Kitchen appliances
Main point 2 — Living room design tips (h2)
- Living room furniture
- Living room flooring
- Living room walls
- Living room window treatments
- Living room lighting
The outline would go on to cover the other rooms and offer a roadmap for what I will want to research and write about in the article.
Recommended Post: 6 Powerful Steps to Help Non-Writers Write Terrific Blog Content
5. Write like a pro.
Here are some tips to help make sure your writing puts your best foot forward:
- Whether you’re writing your content in-house or using a freelancer, make sure it reflects your brand voice and writing style.
- Write meaningful content, not fluff. Quality matters more than word count.
- Use bold headings (h2, h3, h4) to showcase the main points that you’re covering.
- Break text into bite-sized chunks for readers. Use short paragraphs and numbered and bulleted lists to add eye rests and make content easier to follow.
- Use a conversational tone and use “you” rather than third-person pronouns to make content more relatable.
- Don’t use excessive jargon that might confuse your readers.
- Review and fine-tune what you write. I find that reading content out loud enables me to detect mistakes and weaknesses that I miss all too easily when only visually viewing what I’ve written. Also, consider using Grammarly. Its free version offers basic proofreading and editing, and Grammarly Premium has enhanced features to step up your game.
6. Optimize for SEO.
After writing your long-form content, you can improve its chances of getting found online by optimizing it for SEO.
Below are some things to pay attention to:
- Revisit the long-tail keywords you identified in your keyword research efforts, and (if you haven’t already) add them into your article, with particular attention to your blog title and headings.
- Use your focus keyword in the first 100 words of your article.
- Create a compelling meta description to piqué reader interest and make them want to click-through to your post.
- Keep your page’s URL short and make it keyword-rich.
- Use images, videos, and other visual elements to increase visitor time on the page and cut bounce rate.
- Add several internal links to relevant articles and pages on your website.
- Incorporate outbound links to relevant content on reputable websites.
7. Put it out there.
Don’t adopt a “build it and they will come” state of mind, thinking that because you’ve published and optimized your content, people will find and flock to it.
You must take an active role in sharing your long-form content on social media platforms and in emails to your subscriber list.
Also, have social share buttons on your blog to make it convenient for readers to share your posts on the social media platforms they use.
Go Long or Go Home
While some blogs, such as that of marketing expert Seth Godin have gained vast exposure and immense popularity with short posts, most businesses need to publish some long-form content at regular intervals to gain traction.
Make no mistake, doing so will need a bit more of everything involved in the content creation process:
- More brainstorming
- More keyword research
- More time to write
- More time to optimize for SEO
- And more
If you find yourself feeling lightheaded at the thought of all that, realize you don’t have to go it alone.
To reap the optimal benefits from long-form content, consider enlisting resources to help you do it right.
SEO specialists, writers, social media consultants and other professionals with content marketing expertise can offer valuable insight and lighten your load.
Dawn Mentzer Author Bio – Straight North
Dawn Mentzer is a contributing writer for Straight North, a leading digital marketing firm in Chicago that provides SEO, PPC and web design services. As a solopreneur and freelance writer, she specializes in marketing content — and collaborates with clients nationally and globally. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.