What is long form content and why should I use it?
It might seem obvious, but there are many different definitions of what long-form content truly is. Some people consider articles longer than 700 words to be long-form, whereas others think that articles have to be in excess of 1,800 words to be considered long-form. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that long-form content refers to articles of around 1,200 words or longer.
Long form content is becoming more popular for marketers who are looking to achieve more with their SEO and lead generation efforts. However a word of caution, Google algorithms now scrutinise content with increasing sophistication, checking for quality not just quantity.
Ultimately, you should create long-form content because it will get you more of what you want: more online visibility (social shares, links), more proof of your authority and industry expertise, and more material for altruistic community building and engagement.
What Channels Are Good For Publishing Content?
Some people feel that all long-form content should be posted on property which you own (for example, the blog that is hosted on your website). While that isn’t a bad place to post content and at least some of your long-form content should be posted there, there are advantages to posting long-form content on social media channels as well.
For instance, you will have to drive people to your website in order to get them to consume your long-form content. That might involve content marketing efforts that include posting a social media link or sending an email with a link to your content.
Imagine instead that people could access that content directly on the social media site they’re already using. Wouldn’t that be so much easier?
This is not to say that you can’t create a shorter version of the long-form piece and then include the longer form on your website. However, simply starting people off in a place where they don’t have to make any additional effort if they don’t want to is a great way to kick off your content marketing journey.
There are many social media sites that are great for hosting long-form content. For example, any one of these places is a good place to start:
LinkedIn – The LinkedIn publishing tool is a bit basic but it allows you to cater to an audience that you have already cultivated on LinkedIn. It doesn’t offer many options for formatting text, but it is sufficient for the purposes of posting basic content. LinkedIn also allows you to share your content with someone before you’ve published it. It’s useful to have someone read your writing and discover inconsistencies before your general audience does. Not only that, Linkedin is a great platform to push out content hosted elsewhere.
Blogs - Most businesses that are interested in building an audience, boosting their SEO and generating leads will run a blog and push the content out through social platforms such as Linkedin and Twitter. Blogging offers lots of flexibility in terms of formatting and the type of content you want to produce.
YouTube – The challenge with YouTube is that it’s filled with content creators, making it difficult to be heard above the noise. However, not to worry, longform style videos can be hosted on your website and will really add value to the audience (who doesn't get engrossed in the occasional TED talk or documentary for example!). To enable yourself to be discovered, start by taking a look at what’s already trending on a particular topic, then create a video on a similar topic.
Quora – Quora, is a personal favorite of mine so I will mention it here! I have learned a lot about marketing trends here posted by a whole range of different people. This site/app offers a mid-way point between short-form and long-form content. The point of the site is that people ask questions and other people can answer them. Questions can range from investing to relationships to marketing to tech and beyond. Your content can be “upvoted” or “downvoted”, depending on the value your readers get from the answers you wrote. On Quora, your answers don’t have to be long, they just have to be helpful.
Podcasts/Webinars – There are a number of places you can host your podcasts and webinars , for example iTunes, also posting one of these on your own website will really make a difference to your metrics.
How to create long form content
Outline Your Goals Why do you want to create long-form content? Hopefully, it’s not because “that post on Excelerate360’s blog told me to!”. Figure out what you’re looking for. Do you want to build brand awareness? Do you want to connect with your customers, grow your email list, get leads, or something else?
Your goals will define how you execute the project and will keep you accountable for determining whether or not it is a success.
Who the content is for
- Why you are writing it
- What you will consider a success and how you will measure it
Gated vs. UnGated - Gated content means that people have to exchange an email address (or other information) in order to download your content, while ungated means they can access it freely.
I always vote for ungated content because the long-term value of having something open and shareable trumps a few email addresses also this approach can be off putting. The value you get in organically growing your website listings and brand value far outweigh the gated approach. However, I fully appreciate many businesses use products such as adwords or have content of high reputation that they can take this approach with.
Choose a Topic Carefully - If you’re struggling to figure out a topic for a long-form piece of content, go back to your goals (look what I did here, wrote a piece about long form content in long form, genius!). Goals come before topic, my reason for writing this piece for example is to demonstrate my companies leadership in understanding the value of content and working on boosting our websites SEO.
What sorts of topics will reach your audience and encourage the activity and behavior you’re looking for?
- Keywords and search queries (What are people looking for?)
- Existing analytics (What content do you already have, maybe on your blog, that’s performing well?)
- Target audience (Who are you going after? What makes them tick? What do you know about them?)
- Competition (What else is out there? Can you beat it?)
Do It Yourself or Hire Great Writers - Personally I enjoy writing, it allows me to understand the industry I work in and develop my own ideas. Whether you take my approach or hire a freelancer, quality will make your content shine. That top quality might come at a high price, but readable, expert content is the difference between content that flies and content that flops.
If you’re going to hire a freelancer, make sure you provide them with a clear outline. Fill them in on your goals and get them acquainted with your audience. I’ve had success when I’ve given freelancers extremely detailed outlines of what should go in each chapter. If you’re less editorially inclined, you might leave more discretion to the writer.
- Are you going to write the content yourself or hire a freelancer?
- Budget. How much are you willing to pay? Good writers are expensive, so be prepared.
- Are you going to provide a freelancer with an extensive outline or let them run with it?
Design for Appearance and Practicality - The best guides aren’t just expertly written, they’re also expertly designed. In my experience this can be time consuming, especially if you are a marketer like me with multiple responsibilities, however getting templates that can be easily adjusted will save time.
But these designs don’t just look pretty, they’re also practical. Sign-up forms, content flow, and social sharing buttons are kept in mind when the content is designed and put together.
Things to consider:
- Email sign-up buttons
- Links to other content (make your content easy to find)
- Make signing up for a newsletter, reading another piece of content, or sharing the piece on social obvious and easy
- Buttons to share on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
- You can design in-house or hire a freelancer to help you.
Create a Promotion Strategy - How many times have you published a blog post and crossed your fingers that it would somehow spread virally? If you put a ton of work into a piece of long-form content, it’s imperative that you have a detailed, comprehensive, and creative promotion strategy.
This might include a mix of outbound strategies (paid ads) with email updates, features on your company home page, and a direct mail campaign. Also, you could pair the long-form content with an event or contest or giveaway. And, remember, reaching out to influencers (and including them in the guide) is a tried-and-true strategy that brings results.
Now that you understand why and how to create long-form content, its over to you. I hope I have been of some help. You probably will have to wait a while to see results but I am eager to hear about what happens when you do because we are all constantly learning and adapting.
Excelerate E360 - the outsourced sales company