It’s no secret people have shorter attention spans than ever. Some may think that readers don’t have the time or patience for lengthy blog posts, but research suggests that long-form content remains favored amongst readers and an essential strategy for content marketers.
Content marketing strategy involves helping your target audience solve problems and introducing them to your brand. But it takes more than a good idea for your next long-form piece. Content creation takes time, but the payoff is worth it. Your content can connect with your readers on a particular topic and take a small step toward converting them into a customer.
If you invest time and money into your content marketing program, it is essential to understand how to do it right. Don’t worry! I’m here to help with the 3P Process: Produce, Publish, and Promote. Let’s start with the first part of the long-form content marketing process: how to produce long-form blog posts. And here is an overview of the process: 6 Steps To Produce Long-Form Blog Content (Infographic)
What is long-form content?
A helpful way to look at long-form content is in comparison to short-form. Long-form content thoroughly examines a topic, typically 1,000 words or more. While there is some debate over the official word count, this is a good rule of thumb.
Long-form blogs focus on an audience that wants in-depth content covering a complicated issue.
In contrast, short-form content is brief, under 1,000 words, and easy to digest. Short-form content goes into far less detail, and by the nature of shorter pieces having fewer words, the probability of appearing in specific search results decreases.
Longer content’s greatest strength is its ability to drive traffic to your site and push your content to a higher ranking in the search results. However, long-form content can also come in various forms, making it flexible and adaptable to your brand’s needs.
Some examples of long-form blogs include:
- How to Guide – These serve as a breakdown of how to execute a task or action. Like most long-form content, How to Guides are useful when completed with pertinent graphics.
- Ultimate Guide – Long-form articles that include the best information on a given topic and provide the most relevant and factual information compared to other top results.
- Tutorials – Unlike a how-to guide, a tutorial is an educational tool. Rather than guiding someone through how to complete a task while in process, it teaches someone how to do something.
- Resource Lists – Another way to establish your business as the authority on a topic; these lists include industry recommendations with click-through links that have the potential for monetization.
- Interviews – a Q&A with relevant industry or professional experts on a topic.
- Comprehensive FAQs – content formed around the most asked questions on a particular topic, naturally guiding the reader through the learning process with questions.
Why does your target audience love long-form content?
Long-form content appeals to an audience that is already interested in the topic. While your long-form content may not appeal to all readers browsing, it will appeal to the audience you’re trying to attract.
People who need or value the information you provide will spend more time digesting your content and browsing your web pages. Conversely, your target audience won’t stick around if they don’t see your content as applicable. With six helpful steps later, I’ll ensure your content is as valuable and relevant as possible.
What are the benefits of long-form content for your brand?
One of the slow-burn effects of generating specific long-form content is setting your brand up as an authority. A robust series of long-form blogs on your area of expertise will make your web pages a one-stop shop for intrigued readers and potential customers.
Readers spend twice as much time on pages with long-form content (Pew). As your long-form portfolio grows, you can use internal linking to reference other relevant long-form posts on your site.
A benefit of establishing your authority over a topic is that people will see you as one and be more inclined to share your content. Whether their reason is to help others learn more or to prove they are an expert themselves with great sources – both are to your benefit. Studies also show that long-form posts get more shares (Buzzsumo).
Once you’ve established yourself as an authority on a topic, other sites will also refer to you. Creating excellent and informative content increases the probability of being linked to other web pages, ultimately driving more traffic to you. These inbound links, also known as backlinks, increase your domain authority (Neil Patel).
Long-form content drives more organic traffic than short-form content (Hubspot). This is because long-form blogs lend themselves to including more long-tail and short-tail keywords.
Leads and Conversions
There are many ways long-form posts can generate new leads and conversions. An easy way to generate leads is gated content. With gated content, you can get the reader’s email address before they proceed to the web page and build a list of relevant contacts.
Long-form blog posts can also help nurture conversions as potential customers seek the information you’re providing in their consideration phase.
If you are looking for marketing leadership and a team of freelancers to produce long-form content for you brand, reach out for more information about my fractional content director services.
How to Produce a Long-Form Blog Post in 6 Steps
Effective blogging will help attract your target audience and make it easy for them to access information about your company’s products and services. As a result, your website blog may become your brand’s most impactful traffic source if done correctly.
You can follow these steps to produce high-quality long-format copy for your website blog as part of the 3P Process: Produce, Publish, and Promote. And here is an overview of the process: 6 Steps To Produce Long-Form Blog Content (Infographic)
1. Brainstorm the Idea
All content creation starts with an idea. Below I’ve come up with a few questions to help you begin brainstorming your piece.
What is the problem that you are trying to solve?
Asking this question will help narrow down your focus topic. The problem and issue should be related to your industry and valuable information to your reader.
How will this piece of content help the reader solve it?
The piece you’re writing can be great content simply by providing your reader with a solution to their problem. We’ve discussed value propositions and their importance in your content marketing strategy. Think of longer content as a way to show that value without it coming across like a sales pitch.
Is there a repeatable outcome that is the takeaway from the long-form blog post?
Nothing establishes rapport like a proven methodology, especially in ultimate guides, how-to guides, and tutorials. Great content is accurate, provides valuable information, and is an excellent way to show your readers you create results.
2. Research the Topic
Start by googling the idea and reading popular posts on your topic. Researching what pieces currently exist will help shape your idea and narrow in on your focus topic. Once you’ve looked at relevant articles, you’ll need to work on your keywords. I recommend using third-party tools like Dashword and Headline Studio.
You’ll also want to utilize as much data from reputable sources as possible. You may have to click many links to get to the original data set. Although it may be obvious, I will note that the more recent the case studies, the better.
3. Create Content Brief
Even if you choose to write the article yourself, a good brief can help narrow down your content strategy and focus your long-form piece. There are a few key elements to include in a content brief:
- Word Count: This can be an average based on the word count for the popular articles you found in your research. As mentioned before, longer articles will be at least 1,000 words, with the top results between 1,500-2,000 words.
- Audience: Define the target audience for your piece – a line or two about your target demographic, their reason for seeking you out, and any other pertinent information.
- Subtopics: If there are any subtopics you feel absolutely must be included, this is the place to list them. Subtopics are especially helpful if you’re outsourcing your content to someone who may not be as familiar with your industry or area of expertise.
- Keywords: Listing the keywords pulled from your research in one place can be helpful as your writer works on the piece.
- Relevant Articles: Like with your keywords, it’s a good idea to keep all the information you’ve gathered in your research phase in one easy-access document.
- Outline: An outline can be created during the content brief phase or after, but it is best practice to create a strategy before you start writing the base copy. This allows your writing to focus on going into greater depth on your talking points rather than figuring out what you’re trying to say.
4. Write the Base Copy
Once you’ve outlined your goals and ideas and thoroughly researched your topic, it’s time to put all your knowledge to work. Here are some critical elements of a successful long-form blog post:
- Magnetic Headline: A good headline is the first hook for your reader. Headlines with the guarantee of a list or that pose a question do better in promising your reader a definitive answer (Buzzsumo). Studies also show headlines between 14-17 words in length generate higher shares across social media (Backlinko).
- Compelling Lead: The start of your content should be exciting and enticing to the reader. Show them why they don’t just want to continue reading but need to.
- Engaging Body: Just as your lead draws the reader in, the body of your piece will work to keep them there. It’s also important to note that a casual tone works best in blog posts, as jargon-heavy content can dissuade less informed readers.
- Scannability: Research shows that readers continue to lean towards scannable content (NNG). Breaking up your content with listicles, short paragraphs (three sentences works best), and valuable subheaders help keep your reader’s attention.
- Powerful Call-to-Action: If you’re writing long-form posts to help bring awareness to your brand, there’s likely an action you’ll want your readers to take. You can ask the reader to do something specific, like subscribe to a newsletter.
- Write with Graphics in Mind: Images trend better on all social shares. It’s also vital to consider readers who might be more visual learners. Either way – media always enhances content.
- Relevant Internal Links: Links are always a good idea and even better if they can increase traffic on your other web pages. Having relevant internal links can decrease the bounce rate and raise brand awareness.
5. Review the Work
As the concept and copy develop, it is essential to identify any spots where the writing is awkward or too wordy. A quick review can ensure the blog post is on brand voice and meets the content brief’s goal. Before moving forward, review the copy through an editing resource tool like Grammarly.
6. Optimize for SEO
Once you’re happy with your content, you will optimize to a specific long-tail keyword phrase without affecting the people’s experience. Placing the keyword phrase in the blog post’s title and using relevant keywords strategically will provide the best SEO for ranking visibility on the search engines.
Creating long-form content is a research and data organization exercise that can yield a great payoff. If you’re ready to take on the world of long-form content, check out this Checklist for Publishing a Blog Post on WordPress.
And here is an overview of the process: 6 Steps To Produce Long-Form Blog Content (Infographic)