Should you write long form content?
There’s been fierce debate amongst content marketers about this for years. Some swear by long form content, while others say that people on the internet don’t have the time or the attention-span to read long articles anymore.
However, studies and statistics have shown that long form content tends to rank higher on Google and attract more backlinks than shorter forms of content. And while your audience may not read your long form content word-for-word, they can still benefit from it, and it can still attract a lot of traffic to your website.
When it comes to content marketing, variety really is the spice of life, and you’ll find that your digital marketing strategy will benefit from a healthy mixture of long form and short form content, as well as pictures, infographics, and videos.
What is Long Form Content?
Content marketers all seem to have a different definition of long form content. Some believe that it’s anything over 700 words, while others say that it doesn’t count as ‘long form’ until it’s over 4,000 words long. Whatever post-length you subscribe to, the general definition remains the same.
Long form content explores a topic at length, offering more substance and more information than short-form content can deliver.
Long form content comes in many different shapes and sizes, from blog articles and e-books, to guides, reports and studies.
Typically long form content should be ‘evergreen’, meaning that it’s written to last, with facts and advice that people will find just as useful today as in ten years from now. For this reason it tends to be written on topics that have a long shelf life. For example, queries such as ‘how to lose weight’ are typically evergreen. Even when the specifics change over time, people will always be looking for advice on weight loss.
Is Long Form Content Dead?
You may be wondering if there’s any point in writing long form content at all. After all, haven’t studies already suggested that people’s attention spans are getting shorter as they grow more and more used to the ‘instant gratification’ of the internet?
It’s no surprise. With so much information at our fingertips, and with our minds constantly bombarded with advertisements, news and social media, it can be hard to focus on any one thing for long.
However, while many digital marketers once believed that the rise of social media spelt the death of long form content, reality seems to be proving something different.
In a study performed by Backlinko, not only was it found that the average word count of content on the first page of Google sat at 1,447 words, but longer form content was found to attract more backlinks as well. And seeing as the study also showed that there was a correlation between the number of backlinks and how well the piece ranked online, long form content seems to come out on top. In fact, number 1 results on Google were found to have an average of 3.8x more backlinks than the numbers 2-10 results.
A study by Hubspot further stressed the benefits of long form content when it found that content with a word count of 2,250 to 2,500 attracted the most organic traffic online.
Do People Read Long Form Content?
So we know that people are finding your long form content easier, but are they actually reading it? In short… yes. In fact, a study performed by Pew Research Centre indicated that readers spent more than twice as much time with content that was over 1,000 words, than they did with shorter form content.
While recommendations regarding word count seem to vary, there’s certainly a lot of statistics backing up the case for long form content.
Of course, it’s not all about length (as men all over the world will agree). How you use what you’ve got is just as important, (if not more important).
At the end of the day, people aren’t going to read content that isn’t interesting, engaging or relevant. If you simply try to draw your word count out to 1,000 words you may find yourself disappointed.
If you want people to read your content, you have to offer them content worth reading.
Tips on How to Write Long Form Content
Here are some of the top tips for writing long form content that will not only draw your reader in, but keep them glued to the page.
Make Your Content Scannable
There are two types of people, readers and scanners. A reader takes the time to read your content word-for word. A scanner does just what it sounds like they do; scan over your content looking for the key points.
When you write long form content, you’ve got to cater to the scanners and the readers. That means offering high quality content that’s structure makes it easy to scan. Your audience is full of scanners and readers, so make sure you write long form content that pleases them both.
Here are some ways you can make your content scannable:
Scanners are looking for little golden nuggets of knowledge. Make their lives easy with big bold sub-headings that tell them exactly what you’re talking about throughout your piece.
By providing lists, you’re giving scanners the opportunity to pick up information quickly and easily without having to read every single word.
3. Short, Single-Point Paragraphs:
Try to keep your paragraphs short and with one idea per paragraph. Scanners like to cherry-pick information as they scan through your content, and it’s a lot easier to do that when your paragraphs aren’t muddied up by multiple points or ideas
4. White Space:
Give your audience a breather. White space gives your readers and your scanners a place to rest their eyes. By providing plenty of white space in your content, you reduce the chances of audience fatigue.
How many times have you been met with a great wall of text that you just couldn’t be bothered reading?
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s no less true when it comes to writing long form content. Offering relevant pictures that explain your ideas can be a great way of conveying information without having to breathe a single word to an audience of scanners.
Take Care When Choosing Your Topic
Don’t try to stretch a topic into a long form piece when it’s more suited to short form. Long form content needs to be valuable to your readers. They’ll be able to recognise the difference between a quality long form piece, and a piece that’s been padded out.
Instead, take the time to find the ‘bigger’ topics, something you can really sink your teeth into and explore in detail. Writing long form content is about offering your audience more value, not just more words. When setting up your content marketing strategy, you should consider targeting broader ‘evergreen’ topics in your long form content. You can then flesh them out further in shorter, snappier pieces that are connected to your longer pieces by internal linking.
The one thing to keep in mind is that if you’re struggling to come up with enough ideas and points to fill out a long form piece, then perhaps you’ve chosen the wrong topic.
Create Lots of Links
Long form content usually attracts a lot more external links than short form content. But it’s also fantastic for establishing internal links that connect various sections of your website and blog.
When you write long form content there’s a lot more room to reference previous articles. A strong internal linking strategy is excellent for SEO, and can help you guide your readers deeper into your content.
Many content marketers use a strategy known as ‘pillar content’ which gives their blogs a solid structure and a clear hierarchy. Long form content can be used as a ‘pillar post’ which links to shorter form content ‘clusters’. This establishes a ‘hub’ of related content that’s all connected with the clever use of internal links.
Pillar posts can offer an in-depth overview of an entire subject, while cluster content dives deeper into a single specific point. Think of a pillar page as the foundation upon which all related posts are built off.
Follow Through on Your Promises
When writing long form content, it can be easy to get a little lost. Remember that the heading at the top of the page is a promise. A promise to your target audience of what they can expect in your article. It’s your job to ensure that you actually deliver what you promised you would.
No one likes clickbait , so whether your title was ‘how to write long form content’, ’why you should be eating brussel sprouts’, or ‘ways to grow the perfect pumpkin patch’, you need to follow through on your promises.
That prospective pumpkin farmer doesn’t want to click on your article and find themselves reading about the benefits of tubers.
As Gold Five says in Star Wars ‘Stay on target!’
Write What you Need To
At the end of the day, your content should be as long or as short as it needs to be. You shouldn’t be trying to stretch or compress anything to a point where it’s no longer valuable.
While writing long form content certainly has its benefits, the strength of your content marketing strategy shouldn’t be the length of your content, but the value of your words.
Never lose sight of your readers. That’s all content marketing is about, after all.
So get out there and start offering your target audience the content you know they want!
Need Help With Writing Your Long Form Content?
As a professional SEO content writer, it’s my job to get your business noticed with a strong content marketing strategy. If you’d like any more information, or want to improve your online visibility, send me a message. I’m always up for a chat.