This is the first installment of a five-part series on long-form content. Stay tuned on the ClearVoice blog in the coming weeks for more in-depth resources, as our series explores examples of brands who rock long-form content, how to write an ebook, how to master a creative brief for ebooks and major content assets, and strategies for promoting and maintaining gated content and ebooks.
Do people really take the time to read thousands of words? (Hint: Yes!)
Remember sitting in front of a blank computer screen in college, tasked with writing a 5,000-word paper on some obscure topic (e.g., “The Merchant of Venus: Love, Passion and Conflict in the ‘Perfect Friendship’ of Shakespeare’s Antonio and Bassanio” or “How Schrödinger’s Cat Can Explain the Mechanisms of Extreme Partisanship in a Digital World”)?
You were probably cringing, much like you would be if you were told during a marketing conference that long-form content is the go-to method for collecting leads and engaging new readers. Your boss, who is sitting nearby, nods to give you a subtle cue to start producing a piece of long-form content in Q3. On the inside, you’re shaking in your boots.
You’re cringing for a few reasons: Nostalgia takes over as you think about the wave of emotion you felt while pulling that all-nighter — to writing that 5,000-word paper. You may ponder the following questions:
- Is it worth the effort?
- What goes into producing a piece of long-form content?
- What type of long-form content should my brand produce?
Scan brand websites and you’ll see long-form content everywhere. And there’s a reason why… It’s one of the best brand assets out there.Scan brand websites and you’ll see long-form content everywhere. And there’s a reason why... It's one of the best brand assets out there. #contentmarketing #content #leadgen Click To Tweet
There is a place for long-form content in every industry, from technology and finance, to travel and hospitality. It offers a way for your brand to extend your branding, to be positioned as a thought leader, to boost your SEO, and so much more.
“If you are not taking advantage of some sort of ebook to help your customers with their business, I highly suggest you start development today,” says ShiftNote COO Larry Struckman. “In fact, since we released our first ebook (‘TIPS to Increase Restaurant Sales And Profits‘) five months ago, there has been a dramatic improvement in traffic driven to our site as well as an increase in closed sales.”
Keep reading to enlighten yourself on what long-form content is all about and why it’s effective…
What is long-form content?
Long-form content comes in many forms, but accomplishes the same things: to educate, inform, and inspire audiences with in-depth content exceeding 1,200 words, to upwards of 20,000 words. Ebooks, whitepapers, case studies, or even meaty articles all typically fit the bill of this type of content marketing. Here are some additional elements of long-form content:
- Has a long and robust word count
- Can be gated or non-gated content
- Covers one central theme, typically broken up with multiple sub-topics related to your business
- Typically includes graphics, visuals, and pictures to support the reader’s retention and understanding of a topic
Advantages of long-form content
While people’s attention spans are dwindling to that of a goldfish, the common assumption is that short-form “sound bite” marketing is the only way to roll. Otherwise, a marketer risks losing the attention of an audience, right? Wrong.
While many marketing channels convert well using short, pithy messages — think social media, display advertising, landing pages, and home pages — long-form content can fit into many marketing strategies.While many marketing channels convert well using short, pithy messages – think social media, display advertising, landing pages, and home pages – long-form content can fit into many marketing strategies. #contentmarketing #leadgen Click To Tweet
As a brand, long-form content can be a leading asset to your marketing mix because it:
1. Offers readers more information to make a purchasing decision
“Despite what some content marketers might think, many readers crave meatier articles,” notes marketing guru Larry Kim on Social Media Today. Long-form content gives detailed information to readers, helping them better understand a topic. Long content seeks to educate readers, and with education aims customers closer to a purchasing decision.
2. Results in better search rankings
“Long-form content can also have a positive impact on a page’s rank in the SERPs” notes Kim. Google’s M.O. is to provide searchers with the most relevant, detailed responses to their queries, which often times is supported by long-form content. Long-form content inherently supports this by providing robust resources for readers. Beyond this, one of the major contributors to Google’s search algorithm is “time on page,” which is higher with long-form content. Do a quick Google search on any keyword, and you’ll see that many search results render lengthy articles, wikis, and web pages. The theory that long-form content benefits search rankings is confirmed by Google Webmasters Central Blog:
Users often turn to Google to answer a quick question, but research suggests that up to 10% of users’ daily information needs involve learning about a broad topic. That’s why today we’re introducing new search results to help users find in-depth articles.
Beyond this, serpIQ published a data study on word count and ranking and found that top-ranked content is around 2,450 words. Not light reading! The study involved tracking 20,000 keywords and found that the average word count for position 1 was 2,416, and the 10 spot was still high at 2,032.
3. Can boost conversions
“Long-form content can play a role in your conversion rate,” notes John Lincoln for Search Engine Land. Many long-form content pieces are gated, or protected by a form field where readers have to give up personal details — a name, address, professional title, or email address. This helps brands ignite the lead-nurturing process through other forms of content, like newsletters and social media. (Just make sure you’re brand is using a CRM software to capture and nurture leads.)
4. Helps express authority
When you ask a specific question, a novice might offer a shallow and short answer, but an expert would explain in rich and deep detail to help you understand the topic. Ergo, long-form content helps show authority as a brand.
If you’re able to explain a subject in great detail, and even give away trade secrets, it exhibits thought leadership in a particular subject. Lengthy guides, how-tos, and other long-form content helps position brands as a knowledgeable educator, subliminally offering proof that you’re brand is worthy of a customer’s share of mind and money.
5. Maintains evergreen value
With content substantial in length, it’s less likely you’ll be writing about current events, holiday content, fads, or other topics of fleeting value. Choosing a topic that has long-term interest will help generate interest in the long term, plus you will continue to build social media shares and external links in the process, thus continuing to grow the content’s search position.
Going deeper is better
Who said the golden range of content should be 500 to 700 words? That quickly became the mainstay for brands, yet today more brands now understand the value of going deeper. According to Kevin Delaney, the editor in chief of business news site Quartz, articles ranging between 500 and 800 words are least likely to be successful, reports Search Engine Land.
Content around the mid-length range of 500 to 700 words can only go skin-deep in helping readers understand a topic. Plus, you may not rank as high as content with word counts in the thousands… Beyond this, with a basic blog post, you may not have the capability of hooking readers to the next step — making a conversion.