Long-form content: 5 pro-tips that will transform your strategy
Long-form content has made a comeback in the last 18 months. Faced with a tsunami of poorly written short-form content, Google’s search algorithm now places greater weight on content it believes to be of high quality.
In many cases, that’s long-form content (let's define that as being over 1500 words). In fact, the average word count for first-page results on Google is 1890 words.
Sure, your 200-word, snackable blog posts still have value, but if you really want to outrank the competition it’s time to sharpen those pencils and invest the time in creating longer, more valuable content assets.
Three years ago I saw this coming. I’d long worried that a lot of the short-form content being produced missed the point; written solely with SEO in mind, and littered with keywords and not a lot of reader value. The result was (and still is) noise; and a lot of it.
Of course, long-form content doesn’t always mean greater quality. You still need to bring value and relevancy to the party. So, in this post, I’ll walk you through five pro-tips for creating long-form content that not only delivers the page rank you need, but will create value beyond web traffic.
1. Choose the right content
Rewriting your existing 250-word blog post to be 2000 words simply won’t cut it. Some of the most successful long-form content is inspired by a research report, a learning guide (pro-tips), review, or a case study. Essentially something that has inherent value for a reader.
You may worry that your content is too long and detailed to be read, and you’re probably right. However, don't let that deter you. Evidence suggests that this type of content is more shareable (a 2,000 word article generates almost twice the amount of shares than a post containing less than 1000 words).
It is also more frequently bookmarked by the reader. That’s important, as general opinion across the SEO industry is that Google collects Chrome browser data, and uses bookmarks as a ranking signal. The logic being, if the content is valuable enough to be bookmarked, they can infer a high degree of quality and authority.
"Ask yourself; is your long-form content valuable enough to be bookmarked?"
2. Make your content usable
I’ve avoided using the word “shareable” here. That’s content marketing 101, and yes you should always consider breaking your long-form content up into smaller, more digestible chunks (infographics, tweets, shorter blog posts etc). But, making it usable opens up a whole new realm of value.
Think about how your content could be more usable, and the supplementary content assets that you could offer to readers. Perhaps it’s based on some research, and your content includes charts and data? If that’s the case, offer them as individual, separate graphics files or as usable PowerPoint slides (just make sure you include yourself as the source).
OK, there’s limited SEO value, but I’ve been sat at a conference and watched a potential client present market insight that he’s pulled directly from one of our reports / whitepapers. It’s a huge sign of respect and trust – and a great ice-breaker!
3. Think beyond the top of the funnel
OK, so chances are you’re reading this because you want your content strategy to increase organic traffic. However, think beyond that and consider where else in the buyer journey your long-form content has value.
Depending on the type of content you’re producing, perhaps there’s value for your field-sales team in having printed leave-behinds or presentation slides to boot credibility during vendor evaluation. Perhaps you’ve produced a fantastic research report that could attract delegates to your next trade-show booth?
"If you’re investing time in creating high-value long-form content, maximize that investment and think beyond the top of the funnel."
4. Be unique (and confident)
Firstly, strive to be unique. Deliver value that no one else can. Certainly, do your research with a tool like SEMRush to understand the subjects that are ranking well for your competitors, but don’t fall into the trap of re-purposing / plagiarizing content. The competition for broad, high-ranking keywords can be fierce, making it hard to compete. Instead, find your own voice and a unique angle on the subject matter.You might have to focus in on narrower topics; and while that may result in lower traffic volumes, the quality of your traffic will be infinitely higher.
Secondly, remember that you are the experts in your field and you [should] know more about a topic than your target audience. Take confidence in that. You are sharing this content to a) educate and b) display credibility. Show that expertise and be bold in your commentary. No one wants to read “we think”. They want a strong opinion that informs; they want “we know this to be a fact because….”
5. Structure & Process
Creating long-form content takes effort and commitment. The basic rules of SEO don’t go out of the window and you still need to be researching your keywords and formatting with the right tags. However, basic formatting and text structure becomes infinitely more important in long-form content. A densely packed page will only serve to increase your bounce rate.
Keep paragraphs short (limit yourself to 4-5 sentences per paragraph).
Intersperse with bold, attention grabbing headlines.
Keep the language accessible and non-technical (unless that’s what your audience demands).
Bullet-points are your friend; they make your content easier to scan.
Stay visual with relevant imagery.
Make sure you peer-review your content internally. Is it accurate and brand aligned?
Deliver on the promise of your headline. Ignore this and visitors will bounce (and may not come back, or engage with your brand again)
"Well written content has value well beyond
driving web traffic"
I hope this guide offers some pointers to producing stand-out content!
Don't just think about long-form content as a top of funnel traffic generator. Think more holistically. Great long-form content has a valuable role to play further down the demand generation funnel too. Trust me, your sales team will thank you for it!
Share your thoughts below (and, of course, share this article!)