When you think about Internet marketing, you may think that the kind of content you need to produce on a regular basis is short and to-the-point. After all, the generation we have today is a generation of people who are always busy, always on-the-go, and whose attention span is counted by the seconds. Proof of this fact, it would seem, is the unbelievable popularity of such things as SMS, Twitter, and Snapchat. So, it goes without saying that you wouldn’t attract a good online following if you published long pieces of content, right? Well, not necessarily.
There is what we call long-form content, and this type of content does help a lot in online marketing campaigns. Contrary to what you may think, they do rank well, they do get read, and they do lead to conversions. In fact, a couple of individuals took on the challenge of building a website that published nothing but long-form content, and succeeded in captivating millions of followers. The key is in the quality of your content and the manner in which you use it.
What Is Long-Form Content?
The easiest way to describe long-form content is that it is a long piece of writing, audio, or video content. The exact definition of “long” actually varies from one online marketer to another, but in general, written content is considered long-form only when it goes past the 1,200-word mark. When it comes to audio and video content, you have to go beyond two minutes for it to be considered long-form (there are even hour-long videos that have been very successful marketing tools).
Here’s one thing that may not even have crossed your mind. Movies like The Avengers and The Lego Movie are actually examples of long-form video content. Think about it. After watching any movie featuring Marvel characters, people tend to go out and buy Marvel stuff, right? And after watching The Lego Movie, kids are likely to ask their parents to buy them Lego stuff. You see, the best way to engage in long-form content marketing is to be careful NOT to make your audience feel like you’re marketing to them.
Why Engage in Long-Form Content Marketing?
Common logic regarding Internet marketing would dictate that long-form content isn’t likely to go viral and a company that only offers lengthy content will find it almost impossible to keep a loyal following. However, the success of the website mentioned earlier has already proven that logic wrong. Their most viral post, which has more than 2 million shares to date, is a 1,600-word essay. Even their poorest performing articles have thousands of shares.
Business owners and online marketers are only starting to realize that there are benefits to be gained from long-form content and that long-form content marketing, when done right, actually works! They are also coming to accept that the claims of long-form content meeting its death with the advent of social media were mistaken and highly exaggerated. More importantly, they have come to realize how valuable long-form content can be to both search engines and online users.
The SEO Benefit of Long-Form Content
There is no denying the importance of SEO in online marketing, which is why marketers began to use long-form content when they realized it offers some important SEO benefits. These benefits include the following:
1. High Rankings
A 2012 study by serpIQ, which tracked the rankings of more than 20,000 keywords, revealed that the top ten results had an average length of 2,000 words. Where the number one spot is concerned, the average length was 2,416. Even Google has hinted at the importance of long-form content when the creator of the Panda update posted that they are “introducing new search results to help users find in-depth articles.” Both the study and the post from Google strongly suggest that long-form content is an excellent tool for ranking well on search engine results pages (SERPs).
2. More Backlinks
Moz conducted a study that showed a direct correlation between a content’s length and the number of backlinks it gets. As you very well know, a good number of quality backlinks also helps improve your SERP rankings. It is also a clear indication that there is a good number of people who trust you and look to you for high-quality content. This is not only good for SEO, but for your business in general. And it is further proof that long-form content can be highly valuable to your online marketing efforts.
3. Increased Conversion Rates
When the makers of Basecamp created a long-form version of their Highrise product home page, they saw a 37% increase in conversion rates. When digital marketing expert Neil Patel ran an A/B test with short-form and long-form content on his home page, he saw a marked increase in conversion rates with the long-form content. When Crazy Egg started posting long-form content on their website, they saw an increase in conversion rate of over 30%. These are just some of the numerous compelling evidences that long-form content can definitely play a major role in the improvement of your conversion rate.
The User Benefit of Long-form Content
If the increased number of backlinks and improved conversion rate isn’t proof enough for you that long-form content is something online users have come to appreciate, how about its excellent performance on social media? You know how important social media is in terms of engaging with your online followers, and you also probably know that the best way to increase engagement on your social pages is to post shareable content. You’d be surprised to know that long-form content has repeatedly outperformed short-form content in terms of number of social media shares.
Neil Patel conducted another experiment using his own content, this time on the social media performance of long-form and short-form content. The results of his experiment revealed that content below 1,500 words got an average of 59 Facebook Likes and 174 tweets. On the other hand, long-form content (over 1,500 words) got an average of 75 Facebook Likes and 293 tweets.
Furthermore, columnist John Lincoln, who runs a blog called Ignite Visibility University, analyzed his posts and discovered that 16 of his top 20 posts are over 1,000 words in length. Of the remaining four, one had over 800 words and the rest were niche-specific topics that practically no one else had written about. Even NewsWhip found that their most widely shared article has over 3,000 words in it! This certainly shows that no matter how busy people have become, they still appreciate high-quality in-depth content.
Long-Form Content Reminders and Tips
Now that you know how valuable long-form content can be, all you need to do is adjust your website such that it only contains long-form content, right? Oh, if only things were that simple. As mentioned earlier, the key to successful long-form content marketing is doing it right. And doing it right involves knowing when to use long-form content. No matter how valuable a tool long-form content is, it cannot be the end-all and be-all of your online marketing efforts. There are just some instances wherein it wouldn’t work as well as short-form content will.
When and How to Use It
Long-from content is most effective when you’re using it to establish your authority on certain topics, build long-term relationships with your audience, and generate a good amount of organic traffic that’ll remain stable for the long term. Now, how do you make your content interesting despite its length? One of the best ways is to include actionable tips. It is also advisable to use long-form content to tell a story rather than to sell (Remember our Marvel example?).
When NOT to Use Long-form Content
There are times when you have a very important message that needs to be sent out immediately (e.g. special promos, a breakthrough in your niche, etc.). In this case, short-form content is a better bet. You may then supplement the initial short-form content with long-form content at a later time; what’s important is that you’ve made your audience aware of the latest news and caught their interest. You can use your long-form content to provide further details.
Bonus tip: You can go from one extreme to the other, but try to avoid the middle when you decide on the length of your content. Kevin Delaney, editor-in-chief of Quartz (a business news site), says the type of content that is least likely to perform well is content that ranges between 500 and 800 words. It is best to stay away from that length.
Whether you use short-form or long-form content, always remember to maintain high quality in every piece of content you publish. At the end of the day, quality will always matter more than length and quantity when it comes to content marketing. It is quality that people read. It is quality that people link to. It is quality that people share. And it is quality that can give you the kind of SERP rankings and conversions you are aiming for.