OK, before we get into the gritty details of how to use long form content to achieve your company's goals, let's start with the basics: just what is long form content?
Essentially, long form content is content of over 2,000 words. It can include blog pieces, landing pages, eBooks, white papers or pretty much anything you set your mind to. It's really as simple as that!
But how does writing long pieces of content actually help your company online?
There are two answers to this:
- It will help you rank higher on search engines and promote your website to more potential clients
- It will present you as an expert in your industry, giving new (and old) clients a sense of trust and confidence in the services/products you provide.
But wait a minute - aren't people's attention spans worse than ever? You've probably heard the news that the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8 seconds in 2017 (that's less than a goldfish's attention span by the way).
With the likes of Time Magazine, the New York Times and USA Today all publishing this click-worthy information, you'd think that short, to-the-point content would be the way forward.
But if you dig a little deeper, there's some serious flaws in the study quoted (check out this piece by the BBC for a full run-down - we're not going to waste your attention span with that here!).
In the online world, it turns out that content is still king and longer pieces of content out-perform shorter pieces at every hurdle.
For your website, as with everything, it completely depends on what you’re trying to do with your content as to how to get it to work for you.
Now before you start banging out those 4,000-word blogs, let's just clarify something - your content needs to deliver quality. There's absolutely no point in writing pages of drivel/unreadable nonsense - this will harm your expert reputation AND your search engine rankings.
There's still a place in the online world for shorter, concise content on web pages, as well as the longer form content that is basically the deep dive.
Think about it like the larger magazines and newspapers do; giving you the option of a "digest" version and the ability to go deeper in a longer feature piece.
When it comes to people reading your content, they're looking for information. They're looking for answers.
Think about it - when you browse for information online, do you find the answers you need in a 300-word blog post? Probably not.
Put yourself in your client's shoes. They lie awake every night worrying about the problem you can solve for them. They might have a mortgage to pay, they might have staff that depend on them for their wages.
They're worried and confused about their business. So they Google the problem. They search for advice on their issue. This is where you and your long form content come in.
One of the links they click on is your blog post/landing page/eBook that explains everything they need to know about their problem. They've found an expert! This company can help solve all their issues. They can sleep at night again!
When they decide to take that next step and purchase the product/service you sell - who do you think will be their first port of call?
They'll go to that expert company who helped solve their problems with an informative, easy-to-understand blog post: you.
But surely you can do that in a 500 word blog post, right?
Not really. Short content delivers little actual value. If you're trying to set yourself apart from your competitors, you need to connect with your audience.
The web is full of noisy content all competing - to stand out your website needs high quality content that speaks to your target customer. Keep your content formatted in a user friendly form - you can even use a table of contents to help readers navigate your piece.
Sticking a bunch of keywords into a 300-word landing page is not going to answer anyone's questions. Which also brings us to the next way long form content will help your company online: search rankings.
Why does long form content perform better on the search engines?
You can thank Google's algorithms for this! With more of a focus on readers' interactions with your website (browsing times, bounce rates, social shares), your content needs to captivate, entertain and inform your audience. Basically, in order to rank well, the content on your website needs to be relevant to what people look for and hold their attention.
But it's not just down to someone reading your blog for 20 minutes! There's many reasons why the search engines love long form content, including:
- The longer the piece you write, the more opportunity to use relevant and natural keywords/phrases
- There's more chances to link to well-respected websites and background research on your topic
- Well-written, error-free content is actively promoted over poor quality, error-laden content
- A piece full of detailed information persuades people to share it; to share the knowledge - Google loves social shares
- Long pieces of content can include multiple strategically-placed CTAs (Call to Action) that readers can click on if they are interested in a product or service - Google loves websites that have high interaction rates
And when you perform better on search engines, you get more traffic to your website. More traffic means more potential customers and clients.
So how can your company benefit from long form content?
By using long form content as a part of your digital strategy, you're setting yourself aside from your competitors as the experts in your industry. You're gaining serious traction on search engines and increasing your visibility online. Ultimately, you're gaining potential new customers and clients.
But let's not forget: your content needs to deliver value. You need content that benefits your customers and prospects.
There's still a place in the online world for short form content, let's not strike that off completely. Concise, descriptive pieces that complete their objectives are absolutely necessary in your online strategy.
Ultimately, the basic rule of content strategy still applies: give your readers what they need, when they need it and optimize those conversions to see the real benefits from all your effort.
Sound good? Let's get started.