In recent posts, I have talked a lot about the importance of long-form content. It was an important aspect of my ultimate checklist for starting a blog, which was a long-form content post in itself counting over 4,000 words. I also mention in a recent post that long-form content should be at the foundation of promoting your blog.
In this post, I will dive deeper into the topic of long-form content itself, exactly why long-form content is so important and the benefits it will provide to your site. But it is not all sunshine and meadows, there are reasons why I (sometimes) profoundly hate long-form content. This post addresses all aspects and aims to improve your overall content strategy as a whole. To conclude I have added several actionable tips to help you to write better content.
Long-Form Content – The Good
I would not have mentioned long-form content so often if I would not have experienced good results with it. For those that are reading Tropical U.P a little bit longer, know that my first points were not that detailed, quite superficial and short to say the least. That post is still available in my archives, not because I am proud of it, but because it marks the progress I have made until today.
Many of first articles actually were on the shorter side, not much more than 800 words in most cases. After I started writing longer articles, typically a minimum of at least 1,500 words, I noticed my audience started to grow faster, I was feeling more confident in my work and more people noticed the value I provided.
Creating long-form content has a positive effect on your website, below I will address some of the main benefits.
Long-form content shows authority
Anyone can briefly research a topic without really understanding and write a short summary in a 300-word post. But how many have the experience and knowledge to dissect a topic and truly transfer knowledge to an audience, not many. Aside from being a decent writer, this also requires you to actually possess the knowledge you preach.
A large part of the blogs that I see consist of superficial, very broad and generic content. There is no sauce, and in most cases no meat either. All too often you see spammy looking websites without detailed content but claiming miracles. That is not going to cut it.
Being able to write long-form content shows authority within your topic, it shows that you know what you are talking about and that you have valuable information to share.
Long-form content shows commitment
Publishing long posts not only shows that you are an expert in your field, it also shows that you are serious about what you are doing. You are not looking for any shortcuts and you don’t mind to put in the work. Your audience will notice your effort and it will instantly set you apart from the spammy short articles that look like copy paste.
A very detailed and long post as a first post is an excellent way to make a mark and to get traction for your blog from the start. Look at this monstrous first post from Michael, not only did he show strong commitment and immediately set an audience, he also successfully connected to the people he refers to.
How can you make people follow you, buy your products and/or services, or follow your recommendations, if you are not willing to put in the effort yourself? Showing that you are serious and committed to providing as much possible value is imperative to building a sustainable blog.
Long-form content gets shared more
Several studies have researched the topic of long content and if there is a relation between length and number of shares. Digital news outlet Quartz found out that articles between 500-800 words are pretty much useless, they are too long to be considered fast and short content but too short to have any in-depth analysis.
According to the Kevin Delany, the editor of Quartz, the shareability of articles looks something like the V shape above.
The entire shareability of long-form content, on the other hand, makes sense. Well written long-form content that is well researched and delivers substantial value is likely to help your audience. If your audience sees the value in these articles they are more likely to spread the word.
Think of it this way, if you didn’t write the post, are you likely to share it because it contains something valuable and that can help others progress? If you are likely to share something, so are others. I know myself, I like to share funny cat movies on YouTube and insightful articles that solve a problem.
Long-form content gives you a reason to promote
As we noticed before long content is more likely to be shared, but it also gives you more reason to promote. Promoting your content not only in the sense of sharing your content on social media or mention the article in your newsletter. Writing long content gives you an opportunity to promote yourself as a brand and connect to other influencers.
Mention that you have included them in an article, ask them to have a look and share if they like it. But remember, don’t push it. Writing long articles gives you this opportunity and you are more likely to reach out successfully if influencers find your content useful and they see that you are serious and committed.
Long-form content generates more links and higher conversions
A few years ago Neil Patel already noticed the positive effect of long-form content on conversions. On Quicksprout, Neil split tested the copy on his homepage and found out that the version with more copy not only converted better but also generated higher quality leads.
SEOMoz found a direct correlation between word count and the amount of links an article gets.
First they picked 500 articles and visualized them in a paragraph based on word count, as shown above.
Without changing the data, the number of links per article was analyzed, as you can see the longer articles create a lot more links.
This makes sense, especially after having discussed the shareability of articles before. The more value an article delivers, the more the author is perceived as an authority, the more an article gets shared and linked to by people in the same niche.
Long-form Content – The Bad
As we have discussed above there are significant benefits of writing long-form content and the value it could bring to your blog, however, that is not to say that it is all good. Below we will discuss several aspects of long-form content that you should also be aware of.
Long-form content is not THE answer
Simply writing more and longer content is not the magic answer to creating a successful blog, attract thousands of new visitors and become famous immediately. Besides writing long-form (and most of all quality content), you still need to do a lot of other things to be successful.
You still would need to promote long-form content, you still have to hustle for people to notice you and long-form content is only a percentage of what it takes to succeed. Content can certainly help and in essence, a blog is about content, but content is not everything.
Quality still triumphs quantity
The term long-form content would suggest that there is a big emphasis on quantity, in this context the quantity of words that make the article. But words are just words and writing more words for the sole purpose of creating longer content is wrong.
If you can cover a topic in-depth in 1,000 words than there really is no need to write 1,500 words. Be concise, be to the point, take out the fluff and focus on the quality of content first. Be sure that your content and the length of your content fit the topic and your goals.
Long-form content requires writing skills
This may sound very obvious, but it takes time to acquire the skills it takes to write longer content. The reason longer-form content requires more skill is because you need to be able to captivate your readers and hold their attention for a much longer time. It takes skill to write long content that is still precise, to the point and yet interesting enough for your audience to read.
Writing in a language that is not your native language is even harder. English is not my first language and while I feel comfortable communicating in English, it does introduce different challenges compared to writing in my native language. Now I do suggest to make use of resources to proofread and correct your writing, such as Grammarly, but do not underestimate the special set of skills it takes to write long content.
Long-Form Content – The UGLY
Yep, you read that right, writing long-form content can get downright ugly to say the least. Sure there are a lot of positive aspects as well as some potential pitfalls, but there is a dark side as well.
The pressure of long-form content
You had a good idea, worked your ass off and researched every aspect of your topic. After hours, no days, of researching and crafting your first draft, you feel pretty happy with yourself. You check all the facts, build some momentum on social media, reach out influencers, make some final changes to your copy and then you hit publish. As it turns your idea worked out, reception of your post has been great, people share you content and you generate some buzz in your niche. Things are looking up for you and your blog.
But then it happens, the buzz slowly wears off and you realize that it is time for another article, preferably even better than the last one. But what if you don’t have a spark for a good topic, what if you don’t have the inspiration to write, what if you for whatever reason you have less time to write, what if. Exactly this is where long-form content is a curse.
Your audience now has certain expectations of the quality you provide in your posts, now you have to deliver. This pressure can also take form as peer-pressure, as wanting to keep up with what the ‘big names’ are doing.
Actionable tips how to write long-form content
Below I will share my personal methods for writing content and actionable tips that you could use to start writing valuable content consistently. I have grouped these methods and tricks in different stages so that you could identify which stage you are in and to provide you with a roadmap to approach long-from content.
Early research and planning stage
- Write down content ideas – research your topic and come up with a possible list of articles that you could write in the future. Try to put together a list of around 50 possible headlines that give you a good understanding of the broad topic of each article and how these articles relate to each other in the bigger picture. I personally do this in Evernote where I keep a list of ideas of future posts. This will ensure that you always have a topic to write about, even when you feel less inspirational.
- Follow people in your niche – Try to follow at least 10 to 15 people in your niche, see what they write about and study their editorial calendar. How often do they post, what do they post and how does this relate to the topic of their blog. Sign up for their email list and see how they communicate, interact with them and their audience in the comment section. This gives you an understanding of what is happening and it helps you to identify where you could add value.
- Keyword Research – Identify valuable keywords for your posts, Google’s Keyword planner is a good place to start. Try to find long tail keywords with medium to low competition.
- Competitor Search – Before locking down a topic for your next post make sure that you are able to bring something new compared to what is published already. Do a Google search for your desired keyword and see what turns up, what similar articles are published already, by whom and how fierce is this competition. The MozBar is a very helpful tool that shows you details of competitor sites.
Writing your article
- Create an irresistible headline – So tempting people just have to click. This is not an easy thing to do, and personally, I am still honing my own headline writing skills. BoostBlogTraffic has a lot of great articles on how to write better headlines. At the minimum make sure that your headline is clear what your article is about and what people can expect. Also, you want to keep the amount of characters limited and make sure that your headline contains the keyword that you are going for.
- Address the topic – You now want to write a short introduction that presents the premises, problem and/or topic of your post. Make sure to present in such form that you can refer to it at in your conclusion and that people understand what your post is about.
- Outline your post – Now is the time that I make a rough draft of the article that I am going to write, ideally, I would already write draft H1 & H2 headlines that give me a clear understanding what the article is going to look like. Now, for example, this article, I knew the main headlines (the good, the bad and the ugly). The next step was identifying which points I was going to address under these headlines, this formed the framework of which my blog post is built around.
- Write each point – Now it is time to write each point that you identified in the outline of your post. What I usually do is draft point by point while extensively researching what I am writing. So for example, under my first headline ‘The Good’ I want to mention benefits that long-form content offers. I want to make a combination of data from key influencers, my own experiences and trusted resources, all while making sure to study competition so my content is not too similar and offers a cutting edge.
- Wrap things up – I want to conclude with a question and not fully close the topic that I talked about in my post, people should be triggered to leave a response.
- Visuals – Images are very important and I usually start by creating a blog header image. I personally use Canva to create my blog headers. Ideally, your image should not be larger than 100kb, you could use TinyPNG to reduce the size of your images without losing much quality.
- Proofread and final check – Usually I wait some time and let my thoughts simmer for a moment. I read and check my post, mostly while reading out loud to make sure that the sentences sound the way I want.
- Publish – Now that you are confident with your article it is time to publish. Make sure to publish at the time your audience is most likely to read your article. If you are not convenient you can choose to schedule your post, I, however, do not recommend that as you miss a critical moment to interact with your audience as soon as you post.
After publishing your article, it is important to promote your content and drive people to your blog. If you have an existing email list it might be a good idea to send out an update and inform people of your latest post.If you have an active community on your website it is very important to stick around and join the conversation in the comment section.
What works for you?
What is your experience with long-form content and what approach do you use for your blog? I am looking forward to hearing your opinion and feel free to share a post that you feel particularly proud of! Do you agree with the points above, do you feel that something should be added or taken out, let me know. Thanks and stay awesome!