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Why Your Site Needs Long-Form Content

Why Your Site Needs Long-Form Content

Hello folks. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

I’d like you to settle down and make yourselves comfortable because this blog post is going to be a bit of a long one. Well, it’d be rude not to be: it is a blog all about long-form content, after all. So grab yourself a cuppa and shut the rest of the world out while we spend the next 10 minutes or so looking into why long-form content should be an integral part of your content strategy.

Now, if we are to believe the digital age scaremongering, the mere thought of a long article or blog post is enough to put users off. According to statisticbrain.com, research conducted in 2016 showed the average attention span in 2000 to be 12 seconds, dwindling to a shocking 8.25 seconds by 2015.  Have I lost you already?

So are we to accept this notion, that any content taking 10 seconds or longer to read, just won’t get a look in? If it’s ‘too long’, apparently, we as users, don’t want to read it and furthermore don’t have the capability to read it, with our less than satisfactory attention spans. Are we now all a nation of goldfish brains with an inability to read, consider or absorb any more than a couple of sentences without losing interest?

Surely not! Long prose really doesn’t have to put users off and doesn’t have to be a drag!

Naturally, the content needs to be well written and interesting to read, so considering how it’s going to be received by the reader is key. The trick is to write long content without it being, well, boring.

In addition to thinking about the reader and keeping their interest, primary consideration needs to be given to how the content will fare in search engine ranking. So we’re going to look at these two factors but first we should establish exactly what long prose or long-form content is.

Long-form content

There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to how long long-form content should actually be. It’s generally taken to mean more than 1,000 words but can be as long as you need it to be. If you’re writing a user manual for a product or a welcome pack for a particular service or client group, it stands to reason it’s going to take a lot of words to make sure you have included everything that needs to be shared.

So long prose or long-form content can be applicable to blogs or articles but also other, more lengthy content. Some argue long-form content only truly becomes this at 4,000 words plus. But, as we’ll see a little later, content doesn’t need to be quite this long to achieve the desired results.

The reader

So, what does the reader want?

  • Compelling content
    The content has to be interesting, informative and useful. I know this probably goes without saying but I’m going to say it anyway because it’s worth bearing in mind, particularly when writing a longer piece. Always consider the reader and ensure you are writing something worthy of holding their attention and worthy of their precious time.
  • Relevant
    Make the content relevant. Relevant to your sphere of business, relevant to your readership and pertinent to current market trends or topical conversations.

If the content is relevant and the subject matter requires 1,000 plus words, the reader will engage with and finish reading because it is a subject which is relevant to them and their life. It’s not that we don’t want to or can’t concentrate long enough to read lengthy prose; we just don’t want to read irrelevant lengthy prose. So make it relevant.

  • Succint
    Content should be succinct and precise. Don’t waffle and use unnecessary words. Think about the words you are using and make sure they are essential. This is not to say that content shouldn’t be enhanced with personality or a voice. Bringing a personality to your writing is essential and will make it interesting to read; however, consider carefully throughout the piece, that you are writing to hold the attention of the reader, so avoiding going off on irrelevant and confusing tangents.
  • Structured
    When structuring your content it will largely depend on what type of content you are producing. An old school approach, for example, is best when writing an article or longer piece: start with an Introduction, cover the key points, break up the text into suitable sections with pertinent headings, include visually pleasing content such as a pertinent infographic and end with a Conclusion. Job done. This method works because it holds the content together; gives it structure and flow; and makes it easier to read, digest and refer back to.

    If you have a decent infographic that will enhance your content, it always helps to throw this in. According to research by Buzzsumo, content containing infographics gets the most shares across social media.

Content that can answer ‘How’ and ‘Why’ search queries is one popular route when structuring long-form content. According to one study undertaken by Brafton.com in 2014: List-posts, “why” articles, “how-to’s” and video, bring in the most shares across the social media networks.

Search Engine Ranking

Long-form content, contrary to general perception, is liked by readers: it gets read and it ranks excellently.

In 2012 some research conducted by serpIQ threw up some interesting statistics about long-form content. More than 20,000 keywords were analyzed to find out the average content length of the pages coming up in the top 10 results for each keyword. The findings are perhaps surprising: every page reaching the top 10 for each keyword search had a content length in excess of 2,000 words. The average number of words, for the content in the page ranking the highest for each keyword, was 2,416. The average number of words for the site ranking in 10th position was 2,032.

Another study undertaken in 2016 by Backlinko and Clickstream came up with similar findings: longer content leads to better rankings. Not only do search results tend to favour long content, Backlinko’s research also indicated that in-depth, authoritative content also has “a direct relation with search engine rankings”. This is basically backed up by Google with a statement in 2013, saying that “To understand a broad topic, sometimes you need more than a quick answer.” Based on their own research, Google stated that 10% of people’s daily information needs fit this ‘in-depth’ category which is what led them to roll out a new feature to help users find relevant in-depth articles in the main Google Search results.

So what do these findings tell us? Basically, your website will benefit from long prose/content. If these results are anything to go by, along with countless other insights into what ranks well, longer content ranks better (this kind of research settles my mind somewhat – I’d be horrified if we really were a planet full of impatient readers incapable of digesting anything over 140 characters – but this is by the by and perhaps bordering on going off on one of those tangents I so righteously advised you to avoid).

How long-form content can benefit your website

Search Engine Ranking

Long-form/lengthy content is a must for any website, whatever your business. Blogs, articles, guides, brochures and any in-depth prose you regularly include on your site are a perfect platform to target niches, engage customers and most crucially, boost search engine rankings. Search engines appear to big up long-form content. Although the powers that be are a mystery when it comes to the rankings game, this has been accounted to a Google algorithm update back in February 2012, named Google Panda, which seemingly had a negative effect on sites with “thin content”.

An extra SEO benefit from writing content of 2,000 plus words is increased backlinks. These extra backlinks will help your site rank well with the SERPs, as well.

The bottom line is that regularly posting long-form content will set your site in good stead for being noticed and ranked well.

Kudos/Experts in your Field
Putting lengthy, reliable, well-researched and expert content out there – particularly if it’s useful, helpful or informative – will set you up as a business that’s ‘in the know’. A trusted and turned to expert, providing invaluable resource in your area of expertise, leading to future good relations and future sales/business.

User engagement

Providing regular informative, lengthy content, offering advice and ‘how to’ guidance will create a good relationship between you and your customers because they are turning to you as a resource: as information providers who know what they’re talking about. It’s a great way to engage with your client base. Long-form content gives the reader both value and reward.

Regularly posting such content will continue to boost your kudos and also your altruistic standing in the community (you are, after all, offering something for nothing, as it were, and something which is useful). This continual kudos building provides more proof of your standing in your business market and testament to your industry expertise and a chance to build on your business profile and user engagement, as you build your business.

Online Presence

Long-form content gets more user engagement and shares on social media. There’s plenty of research out there indicating this. A recent study conducted by Buzzsumo found that 3,000-10,000 word content gets the most average shares.

So producing informative, interesting and innovative lengthy content gives your site more online visibility and user engagement via social shares and link interaction. This can, of course, all lead to future sales and business.

This ties in with being known as experts in your field who provide useful information. People are turning to your site and interacting with the content because you are regarded well in your field (due to the name you have gained from this type of useful and ‘expertise’ content). Regularly providing this type of content will continue to attract more potential customers as users share articles/content published on your site, on their favourite social media spaces. This is exactly the cycle you want to be caught up in. The potential ripples are mind-blowing! Take Pinterest, for instance. There are an average of 2 billion searches on Pinterest each month. Each user busily going about their business pinning away. Each pin, on average, leads to 2 page visits and 6 pageviews. That’s something to think about.

(If you’re still with me, we’re at 1,756 words and 10,500 characters. That’s 6 minutes and 23 seconds reading time. Thanks for extending your so-called 8 second attention span this far…)

Blog all about it

The upshot is, some long-form content should be a feature of every business’ website.

If you haven’t already got a blog that’s regularly updated on your site, sort this out and set up a blog! Anything from 1,000-7,000 words is acceptable, provided every inch of this content is relevant, useful, topical and pertinent. One particular subject area may warrant an in-depth discussion that justifies many more thousands of words than another subject which may happily be covered in 2,500 words. It’s good to mix it up and offer a range of content of varying length but to bear in mind this content will only tick the ‘long-form content’ box of the rankings lottery if it is actually long! We’re talking at least 2,000 words to stand a chance of being ranked on this (remember those figures we looked at earlier? Every page reaching the top 10 for each keyword search had a content length in excess of 2,000 words).

Go that one step further

Introduce more long-form articles into your content strategy. Consider producing a guide, brochure or handbook that will contribute to knowledge available in your field. A proper long-form content project like this could be as many as 20,000 plus words. This is a large undertaking, amounting to a great many more words than your average blog post, but will help your online presence and business kudos immensely if you do it right. Do this periodically, becoming known for the expert literature you are sharing, and there’s every chance you will be the site your market base turns to, not only for information and advice, but also as loyal customers.

Play the long game

Don’t fear long-form content. In-depth long-form content is one of the best ways to go about getting your site featured in search results when a user searches for a product you sell or for information or advice about a problem they have which is in your area of expertise.

Useful, considered and in-depth long-form content will remain relevant for months and years after publication: a resource that can be accessed again and again. This is most definitely a feather in its bow, essentially, long-form content can carry on producing traffic to your site, shares on social media and rankings for years after its creation.

So what are you waiting for? Get stuck in! It’s such a great opportunity to show the world the business you’re in, that you’re a market leader, an authority and expert in your field, while at the same time, bringing more users/customers to your site and setting you up to stand a chance at being ranked up there in the top 10, bringing more users and customers to your site.