Long Form Writing

Go Long: Why—and How—You Should Include Long-Form Content

February 1, 2017by Lauren Smith

How many times have you heard that humans have a shorter attention span than goldfish? A million, right? We apparently max out after eight seconds, just enough time to read a Facebook post or a tweet or two. How then is it that long-form content—content stretching at least 1,200 words—is still coming up clutch?

Let’s take a look.

Why It Works

Fact: The average word count on web pages that show up on Google’s first page of search results is 1,890 words. That’s because, at its very core, long-form content gives your target the chance to dig deep into a given topic of interest. It also positions your brand in a thoughtful, authoritative way. Here’s why.

Long-form content …

  • Strengthens target connectivity. You cannot just scratch the surface with people and expect to have deep relationships with them. The same goes for content and your target—a deeper dive helps cultivate a deeper connection. The longer your piece of content is, the greater your chance to provide a rich, insightful and emotionally charged experience that produces a meaningful connection and creates loyalty.
  • Establishes your company as a thought leader. A long-form piece of content shows you know more than 140 characters allow. It facilitates the opportunity to inject your brand’s POV on a topic, positioning you as a credible resource and authority in your space.
  • Seizes your search potential. Search engines work to rank a page that answers the search query the best, which means long-form content can improve SEO results. But it’s the quality and authority that gets your page to the top of search engine results. Longer articles infused with relevant research, thoughtful examples and outbound links are better than short write-ups when it comes to rendering your content search relevant. There’s no guarantee your long-form beauty will crack Google’s first page results, but the correlation is definitely present.

Make It Work

“Make it work,” the often uttered words from Project Runway’s sartorial maven Tim Gunn, extends beyond the runway and into the realm of content marketing. In this case, your long-form content needs to be pertinent and informative—don’t create it just for the sake of doing so.

A couple things to keep in mind:

  • “Long” should not automatically correlate with aimless—nor should word count be endless. Stick within the guidelines.
  • The overall goal should be quality. If it’s going to be long, double down and make sure it’s insightful and thought provoking.

Make It Happen

Now that you know why it works and how to make it work, let’s make it happen.

Be unique. This is your opportunity to shine as a storyteller. Storytelling is said to engage multiple parts of the brain, becoming a more robust and immersive experience. Why be vanilla when you can be chocolate—or better yet, blue moon?

It’s more than OK to hook and engage your target by putting forward a fresh perspective on a traditional topic, tackling pain points or digging into the provocative details of a situation. Such approaches help generate that emotional connection that engages your reader, which is obviously what you’re going for.

Make long-form content a quick read. Or at least seemingly quick. Take advantage of subheads, lists, images or pull quotes to break up text. These elements make key points easier to find and content more digestible (vs. providing an intimidating wall of text to climb).

Courageously invest the time. There is no shortcut for quality. Producing a piece of well-thought-out and well-articulated content takes time, and despite having extra word count, there’s no room for fluff. Your target will see right through it, which may cause them to disregard any future content you provide. Invest the time up front to ensure you’re providing something your target will consider beneficial, perhaps using FAQs, search and seasonally relevant topics to inform your content themes.

Go high or go low, but avoid the content dead-zone. Content that lands between 500-800 words is relegated to “the place you don’t want to be” because it doesn’t qualify as short, fast and focused–and it isn’t long enough to be able to dish up any novel insights. This concept, known as the Quartz curve, suggests skewing shorter or longer and avoiding the middle ground altogether. Shorter, snappier content under 500 words and longer and well-researched write-ups over 800 words tend to gain the most traction—especially when it comes to social media and social sharing.

Time to Work, Work, Work, Work, Work

In such a fast-paced and headline-driven world, it’s hard to believe that there’s value in something that requires more than eight seconds of concentration. But there is—and when you put the time in to create quality content, your target will take the time to read it … because the words you have written truly count.

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