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Mar 04, 2019 BY Patrick Wicker, former Mighty Citizen UX Design & Content, Web Development

Go Long: How Long-Form Content Helps Your Website Convert

No one wants to read anymore. Or at least, they don’t think they do.

In fact, it appears no one’s paying attention to anything.

Human’s attention span: 8 seconds

Goldfish’s attention span: 9 seconds

So, how do you share information that might be really valuable to your audience? Lots of brands shorten their messages, creating digestible posts that max out at 300-750 words.

It’s not a bad strategy.

But avoiding long content denies you the opportunity to take advantage of your deep institutional knowledge—things your audience might find helpful, interesting, and entertaining.

Sharing this wisdom positions your brand as a thought leader. It lets you build trust with people looking for more detailed information. In this article, we’ll discuss when longer content (1500-2000+ words) can be useful, and when you should include it as part of your content strategy.

Long-Form Content Has Its Advantages

There are lots of reasons why long-form content is making a bit of a comeback:

People Do Actually Read Longer Content

According to a study by Medium, 7 minute posts capture the most reading time. Seven minutes works out to about 1,700 words. While people are still reading shorter articles (and there are a lot of short articles out there), people stick with longer articles they find rewarding. That might mean entertaining, or it might mean informational.

Writing the best content on the internet about a particular subject could take 2-3 times longer, but this investment has a much higher chance of producing the results you want.

People Share Longer Content

Think about the last time you shared an article. What was it? Chances are good that it was a research-backed article or some sort of opinion piece.

At least that’s what the research predicts.

Back in 2015, BuzzSumo and Moz analyzed the shares and links of 1 million articles (yowza!). They found 85% of online articles had fewer than 1000 words. Most of these earned very few external links or shares. Articles with 1000+ words received more shares—plus those valuable-for-SEO backlinks. Pieces based on research and opinion-based journalism did especially well.

Longer Content is More Visible in Search Results

It seems so logical—when you search, Google wants to surface the best content related to your search terms. Content with more words gets more likes and links. This tells Google that hey, this content is valued by users.

And the data backs this up. Torque reviewed a number of studies on optimal content length and found that the top-ranking articles often have 2000+ words. Of all the thousands (sometimes millions) of pages Google ranks, those with deeper content consistently rank better.

How to Write Long-Form Content

So we know longer content has value—now let’s talk about strategies for creating it.

Choose Topics in the “Goldilocks Zone”

What do you know? What can your organization write about with authority? Are there online conversations where you want to have a significant voice?

When choosing topics, start with keyword research. This will help you understand how people are searching.

You want to find topics in the “Goldilocks Zone:”

  • Not so broad that it’s impossible to rank on the first page of Google’s search results (too hot!)
  • Not so specific that nobody searches for the topic (too cold!)
  • You’re looking for topics with a good balance of search volume and specificity (just right)

For example, Texas Medical Association (TMA) wanted its Immunization page to surface higher in results. It was unlikely that Google would rank the page for the word “immunization” alone—the term is too broad. And there is very little search for “immunization legislation.”

Instead, TMA did some research and optimized the page for keywords. They chose to focus on “Texas immunization requirements” and “Texas immunization laws.” These were terms that were being searched, in an area where TMA has expertise. And the edits worked—the page is currently in Google’s top-5 search results across Texas for related terms.

Block Out More Time to Write

Longer content takes longer to write. An Orbit Media survey about blogging statistics and trends found bloggers spent an average of 3.5 hours per article in 2018. This was up from 2.5 hours in 2014. These bloggers also reported a big bump in “strong results” when they spent 6+ hours writing.

Writing the best content on the internet about a particular subject could take 2-3 times longer, but this investment has a much higher chance of producing the results you want.

Match Your Title to Search Terms

Quick—which article do you think gets more clicks:

The Best Ways to Trap Mice

How to Scare a Mouse out of Hiding in Your House

Hint: It’s the first one.

We all love a clever title, but the internet is no place to be coy. Being direct—and including important keywords in titles, headers, and image captions—almost always gets more clicks. Showing Google that your content matches search terms boosts your placement on results pages.

Write the Best Content on the Internet

You’ve got this—you’re an expert, remember?

Mighty Insights

Thoughts on content delivered to your inbox.

Start by reviewing the top Google search results of the keyword(s) you’re targeting, and make your content better than all of them. Include research and examples. Establish yourself as the authority on the topic. Remember that Orbit Media survey about blogging stats and trends? It also found that bloggers who conduct original research for posts reported stronger results. So get curious. Create a survey. Do interviews. Be a journalist. Research kills opinions—and it makes your articles a lot stronger (and more link-worthy).

As Rand Fishkin explains in this video, “we can’t just say, ‘Hey, I want to be as good as the top 10 people in the search results for this particular keyword term or phrase.’ We have to say, ‘How can I create something 10 times better than what any of these folks are currently doing?’”

You heard that right—aim for 10 times better!

Find (or Make) Opportunities for Self-Promotion

While most of your long-form content will probably live in your blog, you may want to surface some content across your website. Google treats your content like you treat your content—if your posts are siloed in one place, with no integration or connection with the other content on your website, they probably won’t gain as much traction.

Instead, evaluate your integration opportunities:

  • If you have a blog post that comprehensively covers a topic that is core to what you are or what you do (and people look for this), turn it into a static page linked in your menu or home page.
  • Take the time to comb through your website for spots that mention article topics.
  • Create a link to the page using the key phrases.
  • Reverse that as well—make sure that whenever possible, you’re linking to website content in your blog posts.

The more you emphasize content throughout your website, the more attention you’ll get from search engines—and readers looking for specific information.

Create Topic Clusters

It’s not enough to link content throughout your site—you also have to organize your content in a way that makes sense to readers and search engines. Many writers have found success by creating topic clusters of related articles, starting with a long-form guide or parent page that lists and links related subpages.

If you’re going to establish yourself as an expert, one article isn’t enough. Reward your audience with fresh, related articles that give them reasons to come back again and again.

Promote Your Content Externally

Talk about your long-form content in email and social campaigns. A few months later, remind people about it again. Ask industry experts to comment on what you’ve written. Or better yet, write so well they can’t help but comment.

If your page has a strong call-to-action, you may want to invest in Google Ads based on related keywords. One caveat—you will drastically reduce Google’s interest in the content if you make people complete a form before they see it. No one likes those except sales people.

Optimize for the Featured Snippet

The Featured Snippet is the Golden Snitch of search results. You’ve seen them at the top of search results pages—those answer boxes that present content so clearly and concisely that readers often don’t even need to click on the any of the presented links.

The snippet is almost impossible to get, but if you do, you’ve pretty much won. This very long Moz article provides good tips for increasing your chance of being chosen and offers anecdotal stories about the resulting brand exposure. One brand reported traffic from organic search increasing 677% after their snippet was chosen. Not too shabby.

Get to Writing

If your organization has specific expertise, long-form content can be a strong way to connect with your audience and build your brand. And consider the alternative—it’s unlikely that your website will be found for related searches if you only write short content. Keep the short pieces in the rotation. But it’s a mistake to cut out long-form content altogether. For example, this article clocks in at 1517 words, and you stuck with it all the way to the end!


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