Long-form content is an important way to create a deep connection with your target audience.
What is the ideal word count for written content for websites and blogs? It’s a question more and more marketers are asking as they try to drive performance in an online environment bursting with information.
Research shows that over the past five years the average length of published blog posts has increased significantly from about 500 words to more than 1,000.
According to a survey of more than 1000 bloggers by Orbit Media Studios, 63 per cent of bloggers are publishing posts that exceed the standard 1,000-word count. Of these bloggers, between 30 per cent and 36 per cent write more than 1,500 words and report “strong results.” Specifically, they say longer blog posts lead to improved Google rankings, social shares and backlinks. The message is clear: in 2022, longer-form content outperforms shorter posts.
What isn’t so clear is just how long long-form content should be. While HubSpot has pegged the ideal blog post length for SEO at between 2,100 and 2,400 words based on the average length of its 50 most-read posts in 2019, the reality is that hitting on the right word count comes down to two key elements: the complexity of the topic and the needs of the user.
What is long-form content for SEO
Long-form content is content that tries to explore topics in depth. This typically involves writing upwards of 1,000 to a maximum of 7,500 words. As marketers, it’s important to focus on quality and helping users – not the number of words. Long-form content is about writing with purpose, not writing for the sake of writing and padding articles to make them seem important and impactful. When it’s done well, long-form content provides information that readers want and need. This is what will propel your content – and your brand – to the top of search engine results pages.
Benefits of long-form content
- Improves search engine rankings.
- Engages readers and increases the time they spend on a site.
- Increases social shares.
- Drives website traffic.
- Improves conversion rates.
- Enhances a brand’s credibility as a thought leader.
- Builds trust by providing readers with content that teaches them something and brings value.
- Helps build a brand’s backlink profile. Also called off-page SEO, this strategy is about building trust in your brand by earning links on other websites. Your backlink profile is one of the most important ways Google’s algorithm determines quality. The more quality websites your site is connected to, the more likely you are to rank above your competitors on Google.
- Allows brands to repurpose material for future posts and other types of content.
While the benefits are powerful, they are also time and resource intensive. The key is to be strategic and produce the type of long-form content that your target audience wants and that has a proven track record of driving engagement and conversions for your brand.
Examples of long-form content
- Case studies: These are detailed examinations of how a brand helped a customer solve a problem or take advantage of an opportunity.
- White papers: These reports allow brands to showcase their thought leadership by bringing readers up to date on a topic and sharing expertise.
- E-books: These in-depth, downloadable online publications serve as resources to help readers navigate complex topics.
- Definitive guides and tutorials: These are step-by-step tutorials walking readers through how to address a challenge and/or implement a solution.
- Year-in-review blogs, articles or newsletters: These give brands an opportunity to show readers their achievements over the past year.
- Roundups: This includes information and resources a brand’s audience will find useful.
- Webinars and virtual events.
Best practices to create effective long-form content
Establish clear goals
This is critical for any content development strategy. Are you trying to sell a product? Drive people to your website? Improve your Google ranking? Having a well-defined objective will help you determine the topics and types of content that will help you realize your goals. It will also help you develop an effective outline and create the headings and subheadings that will attract Google’s algorithm and readers’ attention.
Keep the narrative informative, readable and engaging
To this end, here are five tried and true professional tips:
- Use headings to move the content from one idea to the next.
- Include images to break up the content. The images should enhance and not distract from the text. The key is to ensure that any images you add are relevant and support the long-form content you’ve produced.
- Use numbered lists and bullet points.
- Add links to take readers to additional valuable information.
- Develop long-form content that sets you apart as a thought leader in your industry by providing expert advice and insights.
Fast fact: About 43 per cent of people will skim through an article to get the basic message.
Be deliberate when deciding on topics
Think about the kind of information your target audience wants. Answer their questions as fully as you can. This will allow you to create long-form content that resonates and, as a result, performs well from an SEO perspective. The only way you can do this is to know your audience, their challenges and needs.
Tip: Update long-form content to keep it fresh and useful.
Optimize content for user intent
Google and other search engines’ algorithms are focused on answering users’ questions and rank content based on how well it achieves this objective.
Tip: Google will highlight content that directly answers a user’s question as featured snippets ahead of the first organic search result.
Make your words count
More isn’t always better – particularly if you’re adding words just for the sake of making content appear more substantial than it is. Avoid repeating the same concepts and facts. Make a clear argument or point, and then move on to the next one. Don’t use 10 words when five will do. Stretching out statements does not help the reader nor your positioning on search engine results pages. Ensure that the information you share is directly connected to the topic you’re writing about and provides value to your target audience. This is how you will build engagement and establish trust.
Long-form content is emerging as an important tool to establish a deep connection with your target audience and drive SEO performance. Brands that develop long-form content that educates and informs their target audience are setting themselves apart.