The power of long form content

By Leon Tranter | Blogging

Nov 27
long form content

I’ve talked about content marketing (and why I think it’s better than funnels and other approaches). And about the importance of blogging to marketing. One of the best ways to really ramp up your blog traffic and authority is by producing some long-form content. I’ll explain what that is, what types there are, and how and why to do it.

Remember, quantity first, then quality

I wrote about the answer to the quantity versus quality thing: do both! But focus on quantity first, to build up your SEO, build up your social presence, and let the search engines figure out what your website is all about. Then move to quality.

One way to focus on quality is to go back and improve your old blog posts. The earlier ones won’t be very good and probably need some love, or at least some internal links. But there’s another way: write a super big amazing blog post. This is called producing “long form content”.

What is long-form content?

There isn’t a hard and fast rule about how long something has to be. But I consider long-form content to be anything over 5000 words.

Again, these are just my arbitrary categories. But I think of 1000 to 2000 words as “short” (don’t bother publishing anything less than 1000 words), 2000 to 5000 words as “medium”, and 5,000 to 15,000 words as “long”.

If you’re thinking about anything over 15,000 words, then two points:

  • It’s a hell of a lot of work. I’ve written a 10K word article and it was a lot of work. 15K would possibly kill you.
  • It probably isn’t a good idea, because Neil Patel did some experiments with I think 10K, 20K and 30K articles (I’m not making these numbers up), and he found that there was very little SEO and traffic benefit from writing articles longer than 10,000 words.

Hooray! That’s good news for bloggers everywhere.

If you really want to write something that long, split it into several smaller articles and publish it as part 1, part 2 and so on.

Why publish long-form content?

You might be wondering, why would I bother writing a 5K or 10K word article? It’s a lot of work, so what’s the point? Well, there are several advantages.

Google likes long-form content

It’s well known that Google likes long-form content. It hates crappy sites with “thin” content (500 words or less). And conversely, it loves articles that go into a lot of depth. Rather than write two 3000 word articles, on a subject, write one 6000 word article. Google will love it, and rank it much higher than either of the 3000-word articles would rank.

Remember, SEO is a winner takes all game, i.e. SEO traffic is a “power law” function. People at spot #3 don’t get one half or one third of the traffic as position #1, they get one fifth or one tenth. If you can concentrate your content and boost your pages up by just a few spots on a few keywords, it could have a huge effect on your organic search traffic.

I talked about how valuable organic search traffic is in my article on free versus paid traffic if you want to know more about that.

Readers like long-form content

It might surprise you, especially since we live in an age where attention spans seem to have become vanishingly small. But readers actually like long-form content.

They don’t want to read War and Peace, but any smart marketer knows that if someone wants to read in-depth about a topic, they will. And those that do are more likely to subscribe, sign up and buy.

So long form content helps your readers and you.

Long form content attracts links

Backlinks are hard enough to come by as it is. Nobody wants to link to short crappy content. Quality articles with lots of juicy content will attract way more links than a bigger pile of shorter content. Especially if those articles don’t go deep enough and really answer questions.

And backlinks drive traffic by themselves, plus give big SEO benefits, which drives more traffic! Read my article on backlinks if you want to know all about them and how they work. It’s not quite 10K words but it clocks in at about 4K, so it goes into a pretty decent level of detail.

Long form content builds authority

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, trust and authority are the single most valuable assets in marketing. If you have those, you can build up any other asset you want. You can create a list, market a product, promote affiliate offers, anything. People will follow you and believe you.

One of the best ways to build trust and authority is to write big powerful long-form content. Writing a 500-word fluff piece won’t impress anyone. At best, they’ll have a quick browse, forget what they read and then move on. At worst, they’ll assume you’re paying Bangladeshi students $5 to write your articles. Or even worse, pumping them out of a content spinner (software that turns existing articles someone else wrote into your “new” articles).

So don’t be that guy. Write big powerful pieces of content that impress the pants of people and make them want to subscribe to your email list (read our guide on building a list if you want to know how to do that with a popular WordPress plugin).

Types of long-form content

So now you’re convinced and you want to write some long-form content. What can you do? Luckily, there are quite a few options.

In-depth product reviews

You can do a really detailed review of a product. This might sound like a great idea, especially if you are an affiliate of that product, it’s a good one (you shouldn’t be promoting it if it isn’t), and you can earn a commission by people clicking the links in your review article and buying it.

And it will help you rank for what is a potentially competitive keyword or set of keywords. So that could get you a pretty profitable article.

But keep in mind that 10,000 words is quite a lot. Unless the product you are reviewing is quite large and complex (i.e. a car, or a complex piece of software), you might struggle to find things to say about it. I’m pretty sure nobody could write a 10,000-word review of an ergonomic chair without lots of crappy spam and repetition.

Product comparison articles

This is a better idea than a product review. You review a whole bunch of similar products, compare and contrast them, and recommend the best one or two products. In fact, a lot of people do this on affiliate sites and make a lot of money from such articles.

So this could definitely be a good way to go. It won’t go far in attracting backlinks or building authority, because the article will clearly have commercial intent. But depending on your niche, your competition and your SEO skills, you could rank a good comparison article and do very well out of it.

Roundup posts

A roundup post is where you do a short interview (over email should be fine) with a bunch of influencers in your niche. And you collect all their ideas and put them together in an article. These can be very good for backlinks, since the influencers themselves may want to link to the article, to show people that they are appearing on lots of different websites.

However, this could be a lot of work. You’ll have to find influencers, reach out to them, convince them to take part, and put together their thoughts. And you could struggle to fill it out to a big article. If you get ten influencers and they send you two or three hundred words, you’ve got a lot more writing to do to get this to be a piece of long-form content.

Ultimate Guide

I think this is the best type of long-form content. You basically pick a complex or deep topic in your niche and write a huge article on it. If you’re struggling to find one, you can also merge the content of several related articles into one big article.

Someone called Primoz Bozic perfected this idea and I believe built a very successful course and business around it.

I wrote an Ultimate Guide for one of my other blogs, and it really helped boost the profile of that site. It basically went from 4K visits per month to nearly 10K visits per month, a few months after I published that post.

My article is also ranking #2 on Google for the keyword for that topic, over some very serious competition (including some major multinational companies and organizations). The only thing beating my piece is an article by a multi-billion dollar international software company with a Domain Authority in the 80s.

Ultimate Guides suffer from none of the drawbacks of the other types of long-form content. They don’t have obvious commercial intent, you don’t have to chase down ten people for their thoughts, and it is perfect for attracting backlinks, building authority and driving traffic.

They are a lot of work but so are the other types. And if you pick the right topic, you’ll have no problem filling out an 8K or 9K word article.

So I would definitely recommend doing an Ultimate Guide for your blog or website, once you have quickly built up a base of smaller articles. At the time of writing this article, I haven’t published an Ultimate Guide on this website, but I have one in mind and will start working on it soon.

Summary

I hope you liked this article on long-form content! Do you still have any questions about this strategy? Or do you have any experiences with this type of content that you would like to share? Please leave them in the comments!