When talking about the ideal length for content, most of the time we hear the same thing: Shorter is better. We’re constantly being reminded about users’ short attention spans, and how they will click away if you don’t get their attention in a few seconds.
So when we start talking about long-form content, it’s easy to dismiss it as a bad idea, and a waste of time. If no one is going to read a 5,000-word whitepaper or a blog post that’s longer than 1,000 words, why even bother creating them — even if they are relevant, useful, and engaging? The fact is, though, that there are actually a few very good reasons to focus on creating long-form content, not the least of which is that your audience actually wants it.
SEO, Backlinks, Lead Generation, and More
To start, let’s clarify what we’re talking about when we say long-form content. While definitions vary slightly, most content marketers define long form content as anything that’s over 1,500 words. Obviously, this can encompass a wide array of content forms, including everything from detailed blog posts to whitepapers to e-books, but the main criterion is that the content is longer than the typical post.
Writing longer content can benefit your marketing efforts in a few key ways:
1. SEO Value. Several SEO experts argue that longer content actually ranks better in search results; one study found that on average, content that ranks in the first few spots in search results ran 2,000 words or longer. This is in line with Google’s stated objective to reward useful content with higher positioning, given that longer content is often more detailed, more comprehensive, and better at answering questions and solving problems than shorter pieces.
2. Backlinks. If you are relying on backlinks as part of your marketing strategy, longer content gives you more content to work with for backlink potential.
3. Lead Generation. Long-form content is a powerful form of marketing collateral. Not only can you use it as a follow-up piece to reach out to leads, but long-form content (think reports and e-books) is ideal to offer behind the paywall. Most people will not convert to subscribers for a blog post, but will for a longer piece of content they find useful.
4. Additional Content Generation. Long-form content allows for more content repurposing than other types of content. Not only can you consolidate and revise your existing content into a longer form, but a newer long form piece can inspire additional content, such as videos and infographics.
The bottom line is that your audience will embrace your longer content, and it can give your marketing efforts a boost — but only if you approach it right.
Developing long-form content doesn’t give you a license to be long-winded, redundant, or boring. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Not every idea you have is going to lend itself to a longer piece, and a 500-word blog post may be all that you need to make your point.
If you determine that a longer piece is appropriate, you need to remember a few key points to keep it interesting and keep your audience reading.
1. Choose the right type of content. The best long-form content tends to be of the how-to or instructional variety. Roundups are also a good choice for longer content; “best of” posts, insights into trends, and other lists lend themselves well to more detailed content.
2. Refine the writing. Most people don’t like to read big blocks of text. A 2,000-word post or even a 5,000-word whitepaper feels less overwhelming when the writing is crisp, to the point, and broken up into short two- to three-sentence paragraphs. If you aren’t confident in your writing, consider hiring a professional to draft the content for you. Use plenty of subheadings so those skimming the long article or e-book can still understand — readability is key.
3. Use photos. Further break up the text by adding graphic elements throughout. Photos, infographics, even video clips or GIFs will break up the text and make it easier and more enjoyable to read.
4. Use examples. Offer examples and case studies to back up your points. This will help bump up your content’s value, while also providing you with links you can use when doing content promotion and outreach — what better way to get a blogger interested in your content than by pointing out that you quoted him or her?
Writing long-form content will take more time, but instead of turning yourself inside out to create short pieces, you can devote more energy into creating a few longer pieces that may give you more bang for your buck in the long run.