Content Marketing November 15th, 2018
Should you still be writing long-form articles for your blog, or shorter pieces between, say, 600 and 1,000 words?
A more important question is should you invest in written content marketing at all, given the prominence and growth of video marketing? Or given the fact that we all, apparently, have shorter attention spans than a four-month old puppy?
On the one hand, we’re told that people’s attention spans are getting shorter, with some preferring not to read at all. On the other, there are dozens of SEO pros out there who’ve done the research, analyzed the data, and conclusively show that long-form ranks well in Google search engine result pages (SERPs).
The short answer is yes; investing in long-form content is worthwhile because it will help your website rank higher on Google.
Fundamentally, long-form works because it provides the reader with some kind of value. The value could be in an in-depth analysis, usually on one area of focus. Value might be in the unique perspective or information in the post, or perhaps it’s a detailed how-to, with strong listicles.
Notice how I focus on the value to the reader first? It’s where we all need to begin with our long-form content marketing strategies. Throwing words on a screen and padding articles with fluff to increase a word count is, in my view, the worst thing we can do. Value for the reader comes first, with the SEO strategy built around that.
Your content needs to be fascinating and engaging, outmatching any similar content. This is because you’re competing against billions of web pages and e-newsletters published every day, as well as a reader’s (often diminishing) precious time.
Do visitors read long-form? Some do, voraciously. Others scan, and you can make your content scannable by inserting powerful subheads so scanners can find what they need, read quickly, and leave with a fast takeaway.
One of our 2017 posts covered the basics of long-form writing, which still hold true today. We’ll explore long-form content marketing a little more in depth, and then get into how to optimize your content to benefit in the long-term.
Long-form content is actually getting longer. A few years ago 1,200 to 1,500 words sufficed. Today, 2,500 to 3,500 is classed as long-form. Gone are the days when you could bang out pithy, 500-word blog posts week in and week out. Don’t get me wrong; in no way am I saying that there’s no place for short-form. But you do need to mix it up and find the best subjects on which to create in-depth articles, as well as short form articles.
Don’t forget to include video, which works well with visual topics, product demos, or in-action posts. This may sound obvious, but a series of talking head shorts with a dull presenter won’t win any fans. In other words, don’t produce video simply for the sake of it.
Producing great long-form content isn’t easy or quick. According to marketer Neil Patel, if you wrote non-stop you’d have a 2,300 word piece in about an hour. But, unless you’re writing about something you know intimately or a very personal piece, that’s not going to happen.
The first step is to think about your approach. What are the one or two key points you want to deliver? When that’s clear, do the research — ideally you’ll have three to five sources. Then plot out the logical structure, noting where subheads and visuals will fit.
What’s a logical structure? It’s not so complex or difficult — and follows the traditional storytelling process. Humans have loved stories for eons. Stories reassure, give something new, and, usually, point to a better way or brighter future.
So your post needs a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning should describe the problem or status quo, with a paragraph about how things can get better. Include something here about what you’ll tell and structure — though that’s not obligatory.
The middle needs to ramp up the theme. Do this by heightening the tension between what is and what can or will be. For example: “In the last few months the performance of our outbound marketing was below target. But in the coming quarter, with the changes we’ve made, we expect a much higher return on investment.”
Every part of your article should be strong, but the ending must be particularly powerful. Make the reader respond to your call to action, or give easily actionable tips. Acknowledge where things are at, especially if there’s a struggle involved, but present the new world as one with rewards and payoffs.
Writing like this isn’t easy. It’s going to take up a chunk of your time when you might need to be focusing on business. Writing strong, colourful copy that engages and includes a call to action is a skill — something that most professional writers have honed over the years. If producing stellar long-form content isn’t your strength, hire a good freelancer to do the work for you.
Writing an in-depth piece is a lot of work, but a series of good in-depth articles will yield many benefits.
Business leads are one of the more valuable aspects of long form; it generates more business leads for a greater period of time. This is because it’s likely that the article will attract backlinks and gain organic traffic from Google. Longer content also generates more shares across social media — readers may share it for the full post, or for a section containing key information.
Above all, in-depth articles rank well with Google. Of course, there are other factors such as site speed, coding, and linking. But all things being equal, long-form enhances rankings.
In the ‘60s and ‘70s, Father of Advertising David Ogilvy was one of the first to note that the more facts you include, the more likely a reader is to rate your product highly and actually purchase it. When it comes to content marketing the result is identical; readers rate publishers of long-form as authorities in their market or on a subject.
For more information about how you can leverage your content marketing strategy, speak to a digital marketing expert at TechWyse by calling 866.288.6046, or contact us here