Brian Dean did it with Backlinko. Grown and Convert built a content marketing consultancy using this strategy. Even CoSchedule built their business on the use of a long-form content strategy.
What do these three companies have in common? They have grown. Exponentially.
Dean explains the success of long content in an article on his SEO ranking study,
“After removing outliers from our data (pages that contained fewer than 51 words and more than 9999 words), we discovered that pages with longer content ranked significantly better than short content.”
Grow and Convert summarizes in an article about their strategy, “We’re focused on writing long-form content that gives examples of what we’re doing and what other companies are doing that do content marketing well.”
If you are a regular reader of CoSchedule, you will notice their articles are long-form content.
Why should your team consider using long-form content? It comes down to three things that are well articulated on the iMPACT blog: More Shares, SEO benefits, and builds authority.
What is long-form content?
The first thing to look at when thinking about long-term content is just exactly what it is.
There are different answers for how long it should be. Ask ten different people and you, most likely, get ten different answers. The emphasis always seems to be on the number of words.
Manage all your WordPress sites with the MainWP Dashboard
WordPress Management for Professionals
Are you ready to go Pro?
All MainWP Pro Extensions are available through one of our convenient bundled packages.
The number of words is just part of the equation. There are certain advantages and disadvantages to focusing on numbers for long-form content, or any piece of content really.
Nevertheless, because we are talking about and creating a piece of long-form content, or, long-form blog post, there should be a minimum amount of words.
Take a look at some of these thoughts on length.
Dan Shewan at Wordstream says,
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.
Shewan talks about the research that Medium did to find out the ideal length of a post is roughly seven minutes. Apparently, that is the optimal post. According to Kevan Lee at Buffer, that translates to 1,600 words. It is important to realize that Medium conducted this research on their platform that includes articles from various industries and niches.
Ramona Sukhraj and Bob Ruffolo at ImpactBnd.com write,
Blog posts that are around 1,200 to 2,000 words are typically considered “long-form.” However, those numbers are slowly increasing with 3,000 to 10,000 words becoming the new standard.
The new standard is a large mountain to climb for most small WordPress agencies. It is going to depend on the topic and your audience, of course, but 1,200 to 2,000 is much more doable.
In his article The SEO And User Science Behind Long-Form Content, John E. Lincoln writes,
My personal rule of thumb is that anything less than 1,200 words isn’t long-form content. I’d advise to aim for over 1,500 words, since 1,200 is (in my opinion) the minimum. That way, you’ll have a competitive advantage with the extra cushion.
As you can see, he agrees with Dan Shewan here and echoes what Sukhraj and Ruffolo say. If you follow these authors, the minimum for a long-form content post is 1,200 words. I think this an acceptable place to start when creating your long-form blog posts.
If, however, it is true that a “new standard” is approaching where those articles are much longer, then you may agree with this from Core DNA,
By and large, however, any content piece longer than 4,000 words in length can be called long-form content.
There is a reason this is the case, that 3-4K word posts are the newer standard for long-form content. It is more of a result of creating the best post possible on the subject. The purpose of a long-form blog post is to create the best article for the topic (or keyword) to maintain the top ranking in Google.
If this is your purpose, your strategy, to secure the top ranking for your keyword, then your post needs to be the best, and being the best article is the one that covers the topic the best.
The problem is that more people are now using content to promote their brand. This means that the competition is better and the competition for that one keyword is greater.
This led the writers at iMPACT to say,
If we want to outrank the competition, we must create content of the highest quality. It must deliver more value than any of the other search results trying to rank #1 for the same keyword. The more competitive the keyword, the more valuable the content needs to be.
The good news is that the competition levels are different depending on the niche. The niche where your company’s target audience is located may not have the best quality content. This is one reason it is so important to know your niche.
If you are going head to head with other marketing companies, you better get ready to pump out super long posts for the best keywords. Naturally, there are exceptions to this rule.
Needless to say, defining long-form content or long form blog posts can prove elusive. It is important to note that it isn’t just about the word count, but about true quality content that is relevant and also something people want to read. You can find some of those ingredients in the article at Core DNA.
So, should you decide to use long-form content, I am going to offer a few things to keep in mind.
Things to remember when using long-form content
Always choose quality
Seriously, don’t let quality slip in the wake of writing more words. Mechanical and hard to read content will cause a higher bounce rate. Articles that don’t say anything will also fail to deliver. Never neglect quality when writing your long form content.
Don’t babble to make the word count
There are many ways to get that word count in and one is to babble. With long-form content, you can go broad and wide to get in the words or you can drill down deep into the topic. Drilling deeper will make your content more thorough.
Remember to write to YOUR audience
It’s one thing to try a long-form blog post, but if the topic doesn’t resonate your audience, one of two things are going to happen. First, your audience will not respond. Second, you will draw the wrong people to your blog.
Ultimately, content on your blog is for your audience. Make sure the topic and the keyword matches your audience.
Don’t wait to produce long blog posts, create content
You can wait to produce a long blog post and you will likely be waiting forever. It takes hours to create something like that. Long-form content can paralyze your content efforts.
Create content today. Don’t wait till you have the time to spend 10-15 hours creating a long-form blog post.
Writing skills matter for longer content
It is hard to just bang out longer content. You need good writing skills. The reason is you have to keep their attention for the entire article. If you don’t have that kind of skill, then it is best to let someone who does create the long-form content.
Use long-form content strategically
Like anything else you do, have a strategy when you create long-form content. I believe the best way to use it is for your cornerstone content. This is best when you have a very important keyword you want or need to rank for.
You then create your long-form content for that keyword and then have supporting articles that are tied to the keyword linking back to the cornerstone content. Yoast describes this method well.
Wrapping it up
So, what’s the verdict? Should you, as a WordPress professional, use long-form content? I think you should. However, I am not advocating for using long-form content each week. I believe you save it for cornerstone content for your website.
What is the best way to execute? If you have the chops to write that kind of post and can squeeze out the time, then go for it. However, if those are not your strong areas, consider bringing in someone who has experience writing long-form content. The investment is worth the value that is provided when it is excuted well.
Have you used long-form content? Let us know in the comments.