Everyone knows writing content can be challenging, and writing long-form content can be even more so. And whilst it may seem easier to write a series of shorter posts, if done correctly there are numerous benefits to be had from writing a longer piece.
Long-form content is generally defined as a page or post that clocks up over 1,200 words. There are no set rules for what the post should cover, however typically it is in the form of a story or a more detailed explanation of a subject and may be about a hot topic within your industry or a breakdown of how you tackled a project.
This longer form style of content differs from shorter pieces in that it takes the time to drill down into the subject in fine detail. It stands out against shorter pieces as there is far less of it around. While shorter pieces are more snappy, long-form delivers something unique and offers real insight which builds a sense of trust and credibility in your brand. It is certainly a worthwhile investment of your time and effort, so let’s examine more closely why you might want to create a piece of long-form content.
People share long-form content more
The web is littered with short-form content and it definitely has its place, but whilst there’s no doubt that it gets shared, statistics show that people are more likely to share a piece of long-form content over a shorter one.
According to Quartz the ideal word count for an article to be most “socially successful” (i.e. most widely shared via social media sites) is lower than 500 or higher than 800. While Quartz decided to rule out all content that falls between those two figures, this argument shouldn’t be taken for granted. The important thing to remember is that the content you write must actually be worth reading, let alone sharing.
In 2012 the New York Times published Snow Fall, which ran up to around 17,000 words. By going against the grain with its format this piece caused a lot of buzz at the time. This is a pretty extreme example due to the heavy multimedia application within the article and the sheer manpower that went into it – and while I’m not suggesting that you need to write as much as that – it’s still an interesting example to take some inspiration from.
Connecting with your reader
One of the reasons why Snow Fall was so successful was due to its compelling story, which draws you in and keeps you hooked right up the final word. This really shows that if you put the time and effort into creating great content your users will put the same time and effort in to reading it.
In a lengthier piece of content you have a real opportunity to show off your knowledge and understanding of the subject. In taking the time to craft this content, you are essentially building a connection with your users. This connection establishes you as an expert in your field and strengthens your brand.
Whilst your main aim should also be to create a quality piece of engaging content, don’t forget about SEO. Research and target the best search terms that are relevant to your piece and ensure that the title and URL are optimised accordingly. In addition – and in the words of Michael Caine, not a lot of people know this – but last year Google introduced a new section to its search results page, where for certain subjects it displays in-depth articles. Try searching for ‘investment’ or ‘chess’ and scroll down to the bottom of the page of results to see this in action.
What you may notice about some of the articles featured in the in-depth section is that they aren’t necessarily new. While when doing a Google news search you expect to find the latest articles on a subject, within the in-depth section this isn’t the case. Content featured here has been identified as thoughtful and “evergreen” – i.e. its intended to remain relevant for some time. The benefit of being featured in this area is the longevity of it and also that you are on the first page of results. If you intend to be featured within the in-depth section, Google has published a few pointers for optimising your site. They suggest the following schema.org article markup:
- Alternative Headline
- Date Published
Here’s a full list of Google’s suggestions for optimising your site to be featured within the in-depth section, which also provides information on implementing the markup above.
Long-form content isn’t always appropriate. When writing it you must consider whether it is something you yourself would actually spend time to read, because that is what you are asking your users to do. For certain subjects there is simply only so much you can write about; if, for example, you’re writing a blog post about your favourite make of toaster, you should perhaps consider whether long form is really necessary (unless you really, REALLY love toasters).
The last thing you want to do is pad out something that could be much shorter with waffle – long-form content is about quantity and quality. If you can find that balance, you are set to have a top notch piece of content that should benefit both you and your users.