Everyone is busy. Folks do not have time. They want everything fast. Fast-food, high speed internet, fast customer service, instant messaging. They want things done by yesterday. If you are doing it now, it’s already too late. Going two steps means you are three steps behind.
This is true for the way we read too. When people started new media publishing, a silent prayer was said for long-form content. When 140 characters rule the roost and listicles with gifs get more reads than a well-researched article, we have to wonder: Is long-form writing still relevant?
What is long-form content?
Long-form content is content that is detailed and has a lot of information. Simply put, it’s content that takes a long time to read. There is no specified word limit for this type of format, but we can safely say that something that is above 1000 words makes the cut.
When you have to sit down and take a breather between reading something, it’s longform content. Examples of long-form content are in-depth news feature stories, magazine feature stories and long blog articles.
In in-depth stories, the readers are prepared to invest time into the content. When they start a magazine story, they know before going in that it will be a long read. The same can’t be said for blog posts. This is because blog posts tend to be of random lengths, so the reader never knows what to expect.
Pro tip: For the blog on your website, maintaining a word limit can subconsciously affect your visitors into knowing how much time they need to set aside to read your content.
Busting the myths about long-form content
Here are some myths associated with long-form content that don’t hold any water:
1. No one reads anymore
Do people have the time to read? Yes, they do. Readers want fleshed out articles, that give them details, quotes and statistics. They want a first person account. They want the ‘full story’. What they don’t want is for a website to waste their time. Hence, the quantity of the article should match in quality too. They want to utilise their time wisely.
If no one was reading, YouTubers wouldn’t be writing books. There definitely is a market of readers who want to sit back, relax and read a long article or two.
2. It is a lot of work with very little payoff
Long-form is compared to short-form content and seen as the ugly elder sister. Who would want long-form content when short form is around? Writing a long-form article is a lot of work. It takes way more time than reading it. Fortunately, there are apps to edit your document through mobile that can make life easier. The general feeling is that long-form writing does have payoffs. Nothing could be further from the truth.
serpIQ recently did a study of the average length of the content in the top 10 results of search queries. The company found that the top-rated posts usually were over 2,000 words.
3. Short-form content has no downside
Short-form content appears to be risk-free. Granted, it is a good strategy to drive engagement. It has a high turnover rate in comparison to long-form content. The truth is, even though the returns are large they are generally short-lived.
The average lifespan of a tweet is 18 minutes. Since its effect lasts for such a short time, it constantly needs to be produced or you risk alienating your audience.
Long-form content as a marketing strategy
This may seem like you are going back to the basics, but long-form writing should definitely be a major part of your marketing strategy. Here is why:
1. It makes your website an opinion leader
When you write a 1000+ words article, readers naturally think that you know what you are talking about. After all, it takes expertise to talk about a topic at such length. This gives the perception that your brand is an authority on the subject.
A leading publisher, Quartz refuses to publish articles in the typically news-friendly 500-800 word range. News sites strictly follow this format for no reason, they believe. They developed a model called Quartz Curve based on article length that forms the basis of the publication’s approach to content:
Quartz clearly believes that long-form articles can attract readers. They put out great long-form pieces which have a lot of credibility.
2. It improves the SERP rank of your page
Like we said when we busted the myth, long-form content can bring your page to the forefront of search results. Google algorithm updates suggest a heavy inclusion of content to rank higher in SERP and long form content placing significantly high. This shows that long form content is necessary.
3. It can increase conversion rates
Long-form content writing positively affects conversion rates. This is backed by research done by various websites.
One such example is when Marketing Experiments ran three tests to see whether long or short copy converted better. They drove Google AdWords traffic to both copies. The result? In each case, long copy converted better. In the first test, the long copy converted better by 40.54%. In the second test, there was a much larger difference. The short copy had a negative ROI of 66%, and the long copy had a positive ROI of 50%. In the last test, the long copy converted better by 45.45%.
Make your promotion strategy as detailed as your write-up
If you are putting a lot of effort into a write up, you need to make sure that you reap the rewards. As all marketers know, making something ‘go viral’ requires a lot of effort before the ripple effect begins.
Even before you start writing the article, identify your target audience. Know the brands who will identify this article and send the link to them, asking if they would share it. If you have mentioned any brands in the article, send the link to them too. It would be a quid pro quo because you’ve mentioned their brand in a positive light.
Research in SEO and conversion shows that long-form content is here to stay. Don’t throw in the towel on long-form content writing. After all, there is a reason they say ‘content is king’.
A lot of research needs to go into making a good long form article. Make sure the content is detailed and not just faff. Above all, your content should be useful to readers. Think of it as a way of establishing trust with your readers. If they find one article useful on your website, they are sure to keep coming back for more.
About the Author
Niraj is the founder of Hiver (formerly GrexIt), an app the lets you share Gmail labels with other Gmail users. Niraj works on programming, customer support and sales, and also contributes to design and UI. He’s a fusion music aficionado, loves to play the guitar when he can.