Over the past three years, studies have continued to demonstrate that Google is rewarding well-crafted, relevant long-form blog posts, with one of the earliest studies concluding that, “comprehensive content significantly outperformed shallow content.”
In this post, we’ll define long-form content as a post containing at least 2,000 words, or 500 or more words than what your competitors have written on the topic, whichever is longer.
Ten Benefits of Long-form Content
It’s true that creating long-form content takes more time, energy, and resources than shorter blog posts you can quickly write and post. So, it’s important to first understand why you should dedicate your resources to writing in-depth content. Here goes!
- Customers and prospects want to turn to the experts whenever they have a problem, and in-depth content positions you as an authority.
- Longer posts, overall, are ranking more highly in Google, and therefore have more online visibility, allowing your website and company to be more easily found.
- Site visitors spend more time engaging with longer content, especially if you strategically include internal links:This can cause people to delve more deeply into your site and what your company has to offer.
- Engaged user behavior can have a positive effect on rankings.
- Longer content is shared more often on social media, adding additional visibility to your site and business.
- More in-depth content typically gets more inbound links, which still play a key role in Google rankings.
- Long-form content provides you with an opportunity to provide information to site visitors with varying degrees of knowledge about your products and services. This allows you to provide value to people who are newly researching your industry to those who are more well-versed and need to know what to do next.
- Long-form content is ideal for when you want to reach out to influencers and develop a relationship with them. Some of them may share your content with their networks, which by definition tend to be more extensive and engaged.
- You can use long-form content as the basis of an email campaign and draw upon material that’s already been well researched and written.
This material can also serve as social media fodder for quite some time.
- As people read your long-form content and engage with it, you’re naturally building a community of like-minded people. As you become increasingly trusted by them, they will continue to link to and share your content.
How to Budget for Long-form Content
In general, there are two approaches. If you’re able to add long-form content into your publishing mix while still writing more standard-sized posts, then do that. If, on the other hand, you can’t afford to increase your content creation budget right now, consider writing a long-form post instead of, say, three shorter pieces. The “why” of that recommendation is described above.
How to Actually Write Long-form Content
First, you need to strategically choose a broad topic and then right size it in scope. If it’s too broad, then you won’t be able to cover all key points in a useful way; if it’s too shallow, then you’ll soon start repeating yourself or otherwise pad your content in a way that will cause readers to lose interest.
Let’s say you own pest control companies and you’ve decided to provide long-form content:
- Too broad: Everything You’ve Ever Needed to Know About Pests
- Too narrow: Eating Habits of the Brown-banded Cockroach
- Just right: 10 Ways to Protect Your Home Against Cockroaches
You’ll already know plenty of information on this subject because that’s your area of expertise. You can increase the chances of your post’s success by chatting with people in your company who talk to customers to find out what questions they ask and what information they need.
Directly talk to your customers yourself. Conduct surveys. Read reviews.
Research relevant studies and present info from, say, two of them in a way that hasn’t been done before. Interview experts outside of your company and see what other bloggers have written on the general subject.
You can also check Google Analytics to see what posts have performed well for you in the past. Why is that so? Do the more successful posts have helpful videos? Useful infographics? Include checklists that empower readers and help them to solve commonly-held problems?
Analyze the best posts written by your competitors on the subject. How can you make yours more comprehensive? More useful? More user-friendly? What resources can you link to on your site that will add even more value?
Here, you can see detailed reverse engineering of two long-form posts in significantly different industries. How can you apply these tactics to your cockroach post?
Also note that you don’t necessarily need to present information in a chronological order. You may, for example, start your post with the ways in which cockroaches pose health threats; and then, after setting the context as to why the information you’ll be presenting is important, you can then explain the lifecycle of a typical cockroach and then move into ways people can protect their homes against this invader, ending with what they should do if an infestation occurs.
Elements you can include are:
- Context and history
- Expert quotes
- Statistics, including from surveys
- Relevant images, ideally original
- Helpful videos
- Predictions about the industry
- Helpful resources
If you find that you need to link out to certain resources that are helpful to your prospects and customers, think about whether you can write a page or post on that subject and then refer site visitors to that resource, rather than sending them off-site.
You may need to experiment with how you present your information and in what order. And, don’t forget to work in the best call to action (CTA). After all, if you’ve provided site visitors with valuable information, this is when they’ll likely be most open to deepening their relationship with you.
If you want to build your email list, your CTA might be to download a helpful report. Or, you may want site visitors to request a free pest control inspection.
Before You Publish
Make sure your post is organized effectively. To test yourself, print it out and jot down a phrase next to each paragraph. If you read just your jottings, is all logical? If not, fix. Make sure the piece is easily scannable, using subheadings, bullet points and more.
Is the piece well-optimized while also reading naturally? What about your title tag? Is your meta description tag compelling and clickable?
Make sure all of your links work and check to see if you can add more internal links that boost the value of your post.
Is your title the most compelling one possible? Use Buzzsumo to see which ones have worked well for other sites.
Is your promotion plan in place? Well established and ready to go?
And, finally, proofread your longform post carefully. You sure don’t want to invest all these resources in a piece that contains confusing or even embarrassing typos. If you’ve got other people on year team who are killer proofreaders and/or subject matter experts, ask them to review the content before it goes live.
Publish. Promote. Repeat.
Bio: Chris Gregory is the founder and a managing partner of DAGMAR Marketing, a local SEO company based in Jacksonville, Florida. The agency’s work was recently recognized in Search Engine Land’s international search marketing competition, garnering the Best Local SEO Initiative award.