Long Form Content: Why You Need It

by Keira Murray

There’s a lot of buzz about long form content and just how good it can be for your content marketing strategy, but what exactly is it and why is it so important to your overall content strategy? We take a look at how you can make it work for you.

Long-form content is what it says on the tin. It’s content, usually written, that’s long. There’s no hard and fast set rule as to what medium long-form content can come in: it can be anything from an industry report or white paper to a tutorial or news article. Basically, any type of content that exceeds a certain number of words can be considered long-form content. 

How many words are we talking about? 500? 3,000? 5,000?!

Typically, long-form content falls under the category of a minimum of 2,000 words and can exceed over 10,000 or more! Generating content that’s essentially the length of a short novel may seem like a daunting, and to some, tedious task that will take hours to complete, but trust us when we say, the pay-off is worth it. 

The Case for Long Form Content

Long-form content should always exist for the primary reason of helping serve the user. But there benefits that stretch beyond the obvious - such as assisting your site in helping to rank organically. 

A common tactic used today in Search Engine Optimisation is to target long-tail keywords. They’re attractive because even although they drive a lower volume of traffic, the traffic converts really, really well. Long form content allows you to capture these keywords, along with many other synonyms, strengthening your chances of ranking online for a number of keywords - not just one. For content that is less than the recommended 2,000 word limit, it’s extremely difficult to include all of the keywords that you may want to rank for and therefore limits how highly you can rank for these. 

A study conducted back in 2012 by serpIQ documented that the average length of the top 10 search engine results was more than 2,000 words. Increasing the length of your content and number of keywords within your content will enhance your authority on SERP’s - provided the content isn’t just keyword waffle! Google loves to see content of a high-quality that is unique and engaging, so if you can consistently produce regular content of an exceptional standard, you’ll be making friends with search engines in no time! 

But, it’s not just search engines that love longer form content! Social media users also tend to engage with longer articles much better than shorter ones too - they hold more value. Surveys have shown that content over 1,500 words have significantly higher engagement rates on both Facebook and Twitter than those under it. This is an important consideration as the social media landscape becomes harder and harder to gain traction on.

Users first!

It doesn’t matter if you’re crafting up a strategy for PPC, a new design or investing long form content - the goal should always be to help the user. The reason we create content in the first place is (or should be) to enhance the user experience on our website or social channels - so before you start, it’s important to have these three questions in mind:

  • Who are you producing content for?
  • Why are you writing it?
  • What do you want to achieve from this content?

Understanding clearly what you want to achieve will vastly help you to cater for the needs of your chosen demographic. Whether your objectives fall under driving conversions on site or spreading a brand message, the content still needs to adhere to your reader’s interests - and ultimately help them to solve a problem. Users are online looking for a solution to a problem - be there with the answers when they come looking.

It’s easy to get caught up in the ‘I need to create this many pieces of content this week’ idea, but churning out lots of thin content in an attempt to rank better doesn’t really serve you well. Content created in this way is likely to be poor, lacking in substance and end up driving down your engagement rates, like dwell time. Longer form content allows you to establish yourself as an authority within your chosen field - you have the room to showcase your expertise.

Growing your authority

Statistically, long form content has a higher chance of gaining good quality backlinks. Lengthier pieces of content tend have a longer shelf life than those under the 2,000 word mark. 

Longer pieces of content are seen by the user as authority content, basically content that has that extra added value and therefore becomes more shareable. When someone chooses to link to your article, this acts like a vote of confidence for a search engine, making them understand that the quality of the content that is being shared is high in value and shareable to others. 

So, what is a backlink and why do we want it? When people choose to link to your content within a social media post, blog, newsletter or other platform, this is referred to as a backlink. Even though creating a strong backlink profile is essential in developing your ranking in SERP’s, the quality of the people that are linking to your content also needs to be of a high standard to make the links be deemed worthwhile. 

Great content will tend to generate their own backlinks naturally. It is much easier to establish yourself as an authority figure within your industry with a wealth of good long-form content behind you than it is without it. 

Short or Long form?

The user should always be at the forefront of any decision that is made with regard to content creation. Would the reader benefit from a shortened version of your copy or should you expand your ideas to a lengthier piece? You may want to produce a long-form format, such as a whitepaper or guide, when you are:

  • trying to build awareness about a specific product or service you offer that is fairly unknown
  • selling high end products that may need more up-selling or information directed towards the customer 
  • providing information about a technical product or service 

Cementing yourself as the port of call for a particular topic of interest can also work in your favour. Is there an area that you have a lot of knowledge in that you think would also benefit the user? Taking an idea and expanding it into something that is worthwhile for the user is the first step in creating a content idea that will stand the test of time!

Think about long-form content as evergreen content - you want this content to be accessible in years to come and still be relevant to the user. So certain topics will work better than others in a longer format rather than a shorter format. 

When we produce a piece of content that is always relevant and will never become ‘dated’ is referred to as evergreen content. How do we know what qualifies as evergreen content? 

  • Industry tips - Are big changes happening within your industry? Tell your users how to tackle these head-on!
  • How to tutorials - Take your reader’s though a handy tutorial - why not include video content!
  • Case studies - Easily digestible yet informative content. For example, ’10 Things You Must do to Increase Your Social Media Presence’

Examples such as topics that are trending at that moment, such as fashion and music, and content that is specific to a certain time of year can all fall under the short form content format. Topics like this are used to grab the reader’s attention quickly and also provide them with all of the information they need. 

Beating writer’s block

If you’re planning to spend a lot of time on writing longer content, you’d be best prepared and get it right first time. Before embarking on an epic session of writing, consider these points:

Long form content takes a long time to read! The average time span of a user reading an article online is 15 seconds - yes, really - so consider what is going to make your user stay around. 

Don’t overload your users. Your content has to be engaging. You have to go beyond just writing. Split your content up with stats, imagery, bullet points and even videos. Nothing will make a user bounce faster than massive screeds of text!

Pick your topics carefully. When it comes to getting good engagement from your audience, it is essential to pick the topic carefully. Opt for evergreen content that will be helpful for years to come, or consider commenting on a controversial or trending topic that is likely to provoke discussion. 

Plan accordingly. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Creating long form content will eat up a lot of your time. Make sure you have it planning into your schedule.

One of the hardest things about writing content on a regular basis is that you can run dry on ideas quickly! Writer’s block is inevitable when you’re producing a lot of content. So, how can you beat it?

First of all, create a content calendar of important events or topics within your industry that you can relate back to your brand. For example, Digital Learning Day on February 22nd or Cyber Security Day on 30th November can be leveraged to run alongside a blog about ‘Top tips for a digital marketing novice” or ‘How to keep your website secure”. Begin each day by researching industry news, these can help to inspire your next topic!  Show your expertise! Is there a particular topic that you are an expert in? Share something that users will not be able to find elsewhere. 

Gaining fresh perspectives from colleagues and friends can also be helpful in helping you generate content ideas. The main thing to remember with content, is that it needs to be interesting to the reader. So if you constantly write about topics that are of a similar nature, then your audience will quickly turn off. Are you part of a monthly meet-up group or digital forum? Or have you spoken at an event recently? Creating fresh and exciting content that establishes yourself as an authority source, will quickly transform your brand from a trend follower to a trend setter!

The end result - distribution of your long form content

When deciding your content topic, it’s important to ask yourself what your main objectives are and how you want readers to engage with it. Content doesn’t rank itself, it needs help from users. If your main foundations are good - interesting topic, good formatting and user friendly - engagement through likes, shares and mentions will happen naturally.

Once you have the basics established, there will be no stopping you! Create your content then share it everywhere you can - on social media, guest blogging and company emailers. Include links within your article so that if someone has a question or comment to make, they can contact you easily. 

The beauty with long-form content is that it is a great brand awareness tool not only externally but internally too. Using your blog within training sessions and company newsletters is a great incentive for your colleagues to jump on the bandwagon and start producing content of their own!

Long Form Content: Why You Need It - Key Takeaways

Before you get started creating your long form content, remember these key points to takeaway:

  • It’s all about the user. It’s essential to understand why you are writing your content. Will it bring value to the person reading it?
  • Build up good quality backlinks. Strong content over the 2,000 mark creates more opportunities to be shared, liked or mentioned online.
  • Choose your topics carefully. Does your content have something different to offer? Try to capture your audience’s attention within the first paragraph.
  • Always plan ahead. Circumstances change and time that you may have factored in for a certain task may be lost. Creating a content events calendar will make sure you have those essential dates covered.
  • Promote promote promote! Encouraging readers to share your content across a range of platforms will boost your authority ranking within SERP's.

Need a hand getting started with your content strategy? Contact our Digital Marketing team today.