Long-form content: overlooked and underrated?
One of the most frequent sources of anxiety in a content marketer’s professional life is word count.
There is a good reason for this, however. After all, there are few variables that will have as big an impact on the overall shape and direction that a given piece of writing takes as word count.
This is something that bloggers, writers and content marketers constantly have to grapple with. Very often, the first question you ask yourself when you are in the idea generation phase of planning a post is, how long should this blog post or article be?
Finding the answer to this question, however, is by no means a straightforward task. The reality is that there are many variables you will have to take into account when trying to hit upon the perfect word count.
Some of these variables include the type of post you want to make, the platform you intend to publish it on, and – perhaps most importantly – the audience you are trying to engage.
What is interesting, however, is that often the conventional wisdom was that shorter posts were better. This was based on the assumption that internet users have a relatively short attention span and are more likely to engage with content that was shorter, punchier, and got straight to the point. Although this certainly might be true in certain contexts and for certain types of content, we should not overlook the potential benefits of longer-form content.
With that said, in this short – or long, depending on how you view it – article, I will outline some of the benefits of long-form content, both from the perspective of SEO and increasing user engagement.
What is ‘long-form’ content?
Although it might seem like a fairly intuitive thing to define, we need to remember that there is no set definition of what ‘long-form’ content will constitute. For some writers, anything over 700 words will be ‘long-form’, while for others, a blog post won’t qualify as ‘long’ until it hits 2,000 words.
This difficulty arises simply by virtue of the fact that writing is always context and audience dependent, and will be shaped by whatever editorial customs are found in a particular field or market.
Based on an industry average, however, we would generally take ‘long-form’ content to begin around the 1,500 to 2,000-wordmark. Although this will obviously depend on the industry and market, you are writing for, this is a good marker to keep in mind.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that word count alone should not dictate whether something is ‘long-form’ or not. Ultimately, it will also depend on the length of time it takes a user to read it.
Why does long-form content work?
While you might be used to producing shorter-form pieces, there are a number of benefits that long-form content can have. This includes benefits from the perspective of SEO, and the benefits it can bring to readers themselves.
With that said, here are some of the main benefits of longer content:
- Long-form content ranks well: According to a now classic-study conducted in 2012 by SerpIQ, which involved more than 20,000 keywords, the average length of the content in the top 10 results was over 2,000 words. What this suggests – although admittedly the study is now somewhat outdated – is that longer content appears to rank well. This has even been confirmed by Google, which has regularly extolled the benefits of longer, more impactful content in terms of its ranking metrics.
- Long-form content is good for backlinks: In addition to Google’s algorithms, longer content also tends to encourage more backlinks. As we have seen on this blog previously, backlinks are an important factor in ensuring that you score well on SERPs. These will also help you to build up your brand authority and increase the visibility of your work. Studies conducted by SEO companies have consistently identified a direct correlation between article length and the number of backlinks that a post will garner.
- Long-form content increases time on page: One of the things you are always looking to increase as a content marketer is the amount of time that an individual user – and prospective customer or client – spends on the page reading your content. After all, the longer they spend on the page, the more likely it is that this visit will convert into a sale or click-through. Long-form content is often more conducive to this, as there will simply be more material to read through. You should note, however, that while this is often the case, it depends on the context. Often, if a user is confronted with a large article, they are put off and won’t give it their full attention. To combat this, try to use formatting to make the post look less daunting and easier to read or skim.
- Long-form content acts like a bigger blank canvas: Perhaps the most obvious benefit of long-form content is that it simply gives you a bigger space to put to use all the SEO and content marketing tips and tricks you have built up. With a higher word count, you can use more keywords and include more inbound and outbound links, which will increase the performance of the post. Writing long-form content is like having access to an extra-large blank canvas you can use to create art.
- Long-form content helps you to build relationships: SEO considerations aside, long-form content gives you the opportunity to convey your expertise to the reader. This will help to establish yourself as an authority on whatever subject you are discussing. Long-form articles are a great way of showing off your expertise and building up the trust between you and the customer.
Quick tips for long-form content
With the benefits of long-form content for both SEO performance and building relationships with your audience in mind, here are some quick tips for creating compelling long-form content that performs well:
- Not everything needs to be long-form: Always remember that not every post needs to be long-form. Try to think about your intended audience, the topic at hand, and what you are hoping to achieve with the post before committing to a word count.
- Go long or short: Generally speaking, while long-form and short-form content tends to perform well, more middling lengths tend to perform less well. Try to avoid the ‘middle’ lengths, and go for either long or short.
- Use formatting wisely: Always ensure that any long-form content is well formatted, has a logical structure, and allows users to skim-read easily if they choose. Use plenty of headings to break up the text, and don’t be afraid to use shorter paragraphs. Bullet points and lists can also be another great option to break up any walls of text. These formatting tricks will help you keep readers engaged with the material.
- Be clear and don’t wander: A big mistake that writers often make when drafting long-form content is that they tend to introduce too many ideas or topics, and often use sentences that overrun or are convoluted. Just because you have a bigger word count does not mean that you can do away with the need for editorial clarity. Be clear and precise in what you are saying, and make sure that you stick to the topic you set out to deal with.
Summing up and moving forward
As we have seen, there is a lot of data to suggest that long-form content is more useful for SEO purposes. It appears to encourage the discovery of content, increases in readership, and sharing. It also gives you the opportunity to establish yourself as an authority on a particular topic or theme, which helps you to deepen the relationship with your readership.
Ultimately, however, the ideal length of a blog post or article will depend on what purpose you need the content in question to serve and the audience you are hoping to engage with. For this reason, bigger is not always necessarily better.
With all that said, if you want some help designing and delivering a perfectly crafted article that will increase engagement with your audience and drive sales, why not reach out to a member of the Purecontent team today? Purecontent has a team of content and writing experts on hand to help you turn your ideas into fully optimised marketing content. Get in touch today for a consultation!