Producing and publishing high-quality content is one of the best ways to reach and delight your audience. However, if you want to go beyond the basics of content marketing, you’ll direct at least a portion of your budget toward creating long-form content for your blog.
The truth is, investing in long-form content can benefit your business in many ways.
- It can help you establish brand authority by providing valuable information to your target audience, proving your expertise and your business’ trustworthiness.
- Long-form articles are excellent for SEO. And not just because they allow you to fit in more keywords. Research shows that blog posts that exceed the 2,000-word mark get significantly more backlinks and social shares. Furthermore, the average length of a Google first-page results is just above 1,400. Plus, if you produce high-quality, informative articles answering common consumer questions, you will have a higher chance of winning Google’s featured snippet section, helping you reach more prospects.
- Then, of course, there’s the commonly overlooked benefit of more natural product mentions. With long-form content, you can insert product links and CTAs, encouraging readers to convert into customers while showing that you’re a user-oriented business and avoiding the risk of being perceived as profit-driven by your audience.
- Finally, long-form content gives you a lot of bang for your buck. Sure, putting together a highly informative resource containing new and original data may necessitate a higher upfront investment. Nonetheless, it’s a superb way to spend your marketing budget, allowing you to repurpose it on popular distribution channels by turning it into bite-sized videos you can post on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, or YouTube.
But, as with any other content strategy, there’s a caveat. If you want your long-form blog content to appeal to your target audience —instead of alienating potential customers — you must approach long-form blog post writing differently than with any regular article.
So, if you want to maximize the chances of a long-form post being effective at its goals, here are a few tips you’ll want to implement.
Support Content with Visuals
Another excellent way to boost the engagement factor of your long-form blog posts is to enhance them with visuals.
In addition to taking advantage of the fact that people naturally gravitate towards visual information — after all, humans are far more effective at processing visuals than written text — images, illustrations, infographics, and screenshots also offer a few other high-value benefits:
- For one, visuals are an excellent way to convey information without allowing readers to get distracted by details.
True, an in-depth article is a fantastic medium for presenting original insights or sought-after info. However, exhaustive detail is not necessarily what your audience will be looking for. So, by using an infographic or an illustration, you can communicate the info you’re trying to present without alienating blog visitors who aren’t ready to read a 3,000-word article on a topic.
- Visuals are a great tool for simplifying complex topics and presenting them in an engaging and easy-to-comprehend way.
For example, infographics combine the power of words and visuals. With this in mind, they can be far more effective at helping your prospects understand notions that seem too intricate when only described with text. Just check out how much more successful HostGator is at explaining the different types of web hosting with an infographic vs. just text.
- When writing educational content like how-tos and ultimate guides, using visuals can help you explain the process more effectively than words.
Including screenshots in SaaS guides — as done https://www.going.com/guides/how-to-use-google-flights — can make it easier for readers to follow your instructions. The results include boosting web visitors’ reading experience and improving their chances of perceiving your brand as helpful and customer-oriented.
- Visuals are easy to share and repurpose.
That’s why using infographics, original photos, and illustrations could help you boost your search engine ranking. Plus, it could allow you to unlock new spaces to reach your target audience, including social networking platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
Don’t Be Scared to Give Away Proprietary Information
One of the more popular ways for marketers to utilize long-form content is to create gated resources to generate high-quality leads. And, sure, this is an excellent way to cash in on the challenging and time-consuming effort involved with producing genuinely helpful articles.
But the primary purpose of long-form posts isn’t just to promote conversions. More than that, the goal of publishing in-depth articles is to address and solve readers’ pain points while illustrating the author’s authority and credibility and boosting brand awareness.
With this in mind, it could be argued that giving away proprietary information — instead of keeping it locked away behind a sign-up form — allows businesses to demonstrate their expertise. Moreover, it could also be said that it helps businesses prove they’re fully focused on helping their audience solve their pain points.
Does this approach mean that some readers won’t convert into customers because they’ll learn how to do something on their own? In a small number of cases, yes. However, the more likely outcome is that your readers will see just how complicated or resource-intensive it can be to solve their pain points.
So, by enriching long-form articles with natural, non-intrusive CTAs or product mentions — yes, even if those products are gated resources — you can create a high-converting post that won’t immediately alienate the growing number of internet users unwilling to trade their data for an ebook.
Just check out how effectively SellerPlex implements this strategy in its Amazon Product Listing Optimization guide. The 3,000-word instructional text is an excellent resource Amazon sellers can read to learn about boosting conversions on the platform. But the article also reveals the amount of time and money required to optimize Amazon listing pages. It is for this reason that the included CTAs — the last paragraph of the article, the “Get Started” button in the top right corner, and the scroll-triggered pop-up window inviting users to download an ebook — work so well. Because, in the end, they all represent easier, less resource-intensive ways for readers to accomplish their goals of driving more Amazon sales.
Maximize Readability with Smart Layout Choices
When producing content, especially long-form articles that introduce and explain intricate concepts, you must remember that you’re not writing for industry experts. More likely than not, your readers will be regular people whose experience in your field of expertise will range from zero to some.
With this in mind, you must make the content as approachable as possible by maximizing readability.
When it comes to making a piece of written content easier to read and grasp, there are several techniques you can employ.
The easiest of these will be to run any piece of writing through a readability checker like Hemingway or Readable, then follow the machine-generated suggestions. Another option would be to go through your text and simplify the language by removing niche-specific jargon, using simple words, and shortening sentence and paragraph lengths.
However, if you want to genuinely boost readability while making it obvious to readers that your article is easily understandable and user-oriented — as opposed to a block of text which will only discourage prospects from engaging with your content — your best bet will be to make smart layout choices.
For one, if you know that you’re presenting web visitors with a lot of text, you can employ a two-column layout, as done by MarketBeat below. Research shows that this strategy boosts reading speed, allowing prospects to soak up more information during a shorter period, making it an excellent choice for resources that cover a lot.
Another strategy you can implement is to use bullet lists, like in this article from MailChimp. Seeing that this formatting technique chunks long walls of text into sentences/paragraphs that cover a single concept, it can be a superb method of introducing readers to a process or idea by covering each of its elements separately.
Finally, if you want to improve the readability score of your long-form articles, don’t forget to use negative space. Using it can be as simple as surrounding high-impact sections of the text, like definitions or pieces of social proof, with white space (or framing them with colors or shapes, as done in this Ultimate Guide to Using Video for Sales from Vidyard ). The technique will help you draw user attention to these sections, boosting your audience’s chances of remembering the data presented in such a visual way.
Enable Easy and Intuitive Content Skimming
When allocating your marketing budget to content creation and distribution, you must have an in-depth understanding of how consumers (and your audience) interact with content in the first place.
Doing this won’t just help you create better long-form posts that solve your prospects’ pain points. But more importantly, it will prevent you from making mistakes that could lead web visitors to navigate away from your blog and choose one of your competitors as their primary source of information.
The one thing that almost all internet users have in common in terms of written content consumption is that they won’t read online articles word for word. Research from the NN Group, conducted over 23 years, has shown that most people scan written information, seeking information relevant to their experience.
Of course, with short-form articles, this type of reading behavior is relatively easy to cater to. By utilizing formatting techniques — like aligning text to the left or highlighting relevant keywords — you can help readers find the information they seek without too much effort.
However, encouraging user engagement becomes significantly more challenging if your article exceeds the compressed 700-word format. That’s why you need to employ the following tactics:
How to Enable Easy and Intuitive Content Skimming
- Utilize headings and subheadings. These styles act as dividers within a text, helping readers separate ideas from one another. But, more importantly, they also perform the function of signposts, allowing web visitors seeking specific information to choose which parts of a 3,000+ word article to read.
- Make sure the presented ideas are logically ordered. This tactic allows awareness-stage prospects to grasp the basics before slowly introducing more advanced notions.
- Make use of tables of contents and anchor links. Doing so will allow readers to jump to the sections of the article that cover ideas relevant to them.
- Use formatting to highlight where one idea segues into another. By bolding certain areas of a paragraph or bulleted list, you can communicate to a reader that they’re now seeing an idea that is conceptually separate from the previous one that may not have been of interest to them.
- Bulleted lists also speed up recognizing and ingesting information. Skimming through an article that liberally uses these lists is easy and helps the reader to quickly identify if they need to linger on a specific point.
To see an example of a piece of long-form content fully optimized for skimming, check out Gili Sports’ massive article on the beginner’s guide to paddle boarding. This post comes in at an astonishing 17,000 words and covers literally every single aspect of this increasingly popular pastime.
But, instead of forcing readers to read through thousands of words of potentially irrelevant text, the publishers make use of several UI mechanisms, like the ones we mention above, to ensure that a reader can find the content that matters to them.
Tell a Story
Another excellent way to create long-form content that converts is to employ the power of storytelling.
There are many benefits to weaving a narrative into a long-form post. On the surface, telling a story through an article helps brands intrigue their audience and encourage engagement. But while getting people to read the text does make for a great start when trying to turn blog visitors into customers, it’s not the only way storytelling can help you turn your content into a conversion-boosting machine.
First and foremost, it’s essential to understand that storytelling boosts relatability. A case study that includes a personal touch — like this one by Unbounce — is far more likely to inspire readers to imagine themselves in the client’s shoes than a dull, academically written report relying on nothing more than numbers to present the results of using the brand’s solutions.
Another benefit of storytelling in your long-form content marketing efforts is that it allows you to create memorable articles your prospects won’t forget by the time they’ve finished reading.
Finally, don’t forget that telling brand stories — as long as the heroes of those stories are your customers — inspires loyalty. This not only turns your marketing efforts into a conversion-driving element but also helps you maximize the returns on every single piece of content you publish.
Supplement Your Content With Video
Finally, as you explore ways to create long-form blog posts that will help you reach your content marketing goals, don’t fall into the trap of limiting yourself to the text format alone.
Although written content is still the most cost-effective way to reach your audience, you must understand that a 3,000-word article may alienate some of your potential customers. After all, not all people are willing to dedicate 10 or 15 minutes to reading when there are so many more appealing content formats out there.
For instance, research shows that 91% of consumers are excited to see brands using more video, even if its purpose is to present products/services and drive sales.
So, if you’re looking for the ultimate hack to reach and engage your target audience, supplement your written content with video. Yes, this will deliver benefits even if the video only repeats the information presented in an article.
Of course, if you’re investing in video content to make your articles more attractive or accessible, don’t forget to highlight it in a location guaranteed to be seen by web visitors. A quick look at this post on hiring an MBA admissions consultant shows how you can do this by adding a video player to the first screenful of the page, where it’s sure to be noticed by readers.
If you’re investing in long-form content for your blog, you’re already on your way toward reaching your marketing goals. However, to guarantee that your hard work results in success, it’s a good idea to employ content-creation strategies that have specifically been proven to work with long articles.
The tips covered in this guide are all excellent ways to boost the performance of your blog. So don’t hesitate to play around with them. Try them out for yourself and measure whether they lead to an increase in reach, lead generation, or sales. Then, take the tactics that worked, and apply them to all of your long-form content to get as much out of it as you possibly can.
About Author: Travis Jamison, founder, angel investor and search engine mega-nerd.