As you explore the best approaches for taking your content marketing to the next level, you might find yourself wondering: Does content length really matter? And the answer is simple: It only matters if you’re aiming for success.
There are millions of blog posts being published every day. WordPress reports a mind-boggling number of 84,656,562 posts published on its platform in November 2021 alone.
So, it’s only natural that you should be looking for ways to maximize the chances of your content marketing strategy yielding a high ROI. Especially knowing that as many as 66% of organizations in the B2B sector plan on increasing their content marketing budget for 2022.
How exactly does long-form content contribute to brand success? And what classifies as long-form in the first place?
This post explores six excellent reasons you need to start publishing long-form content on your favorite distribution channels. Plus, it gives you a few tips on how to get long-form to work for you, along with some great examples that’ll inspire you to start investing in posts that exceed customer expectations.
What is long-form content?
There are many ways to define long-form content.
Some resources describe it as written posts longer than 4,000 words. Others set the mark considerably lower, at 1,200 words.
But in truth, the best way to approach long-form content is not to focus on word counts but value and information availability instead.
A well-rounded post of this type should be capable of covering a topic in-depth, providing readers with a host of new information, and successfully educating and engaging readers thanks to its commitment to quality.
There are several types of long-form content, including (but not limited to):
- evergreen web pages like FAQs, testimonials, and term glossaries
- detailed blog posts
- topic guides, how-to posts, tutorials, and other forms of educational resources (including webinars as an example of long-form video content)
- e-books, white papers, case studies
- data roundups and reviews
As you can see, there are no set-in-stone rules about what qualifies as long-form content. Instead, the easiest way to describe it is to say that any piece of writing that exceeds the average blog post length of 700 words and offers a critical and insightful overview of a topic qualifies as long-form.
But what do marketers stand to gain by investing time and money in writing and publishing long-form content? Well, there are several benefits they can expect.
1. Long-form content is great for SEO
One of the most notable advantages of long-form content is that it makes it easier for marketers to secure a top position in SERPs.
For example, a joint analysis performed by Ahrefs and Backlinko discovered that the average Google first-page result contains 1,447 words.
One logical explanation might be that a long article allows writers to meet keyword targets. After all, a 1,500 or 2,000-word piece offers more space to fit in a targeted keyword than one that barely skims 500 words.
Moreover, lengthy posts can target more search terms than short-form posts. This can be particularly beneficial for building relevance for multiple traffic sources. And, it can help meet search intent, which is the backbone of any high-performing piece of content in the first place.
Then there’s the fact that long-form content also makes it easier to get backlinks and drive more shares.
In 2019, Backlinko partnered with BuzzSumo to study 912 million blog posts. According to this study, posts longer than 3,000 words get an average of 77.2% more backlinks. Moreover, they found that articles that fall between 1,000 and 2,000 words got 56.1% more social shares on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Pinterest compared to short-form ones.
Now, knowing that longer is better when trying to secure position number one on Google, you might be tempted to sit down and start stuffing your posts to meet a desirable word count.
But while that may get your article to look impressive, any site visitor will quickly realize that it’s a bunch of fluff that doesn’t actually offer any novel value. If that results in a quick bounce, you’ll be in bad luck, seeing how dwell time makes for one of the key metrics Google uses to rank pages.
2. You can (subtly) position your product’s value
All right, longer articles are better than short-form content when focusing on SEO. But it’s not the only aspect in which long-form outperforms its shorter counterparts.
Another high-value benefit of long-form content is that it’s perfectly suited to introduce target audiences to the benefits of a product. It can effectively help them understand everything they stand to gain by purchasing an item or subscribing to a service.
For example, look at what Falcon does. In its 8 Reasons Why You Need a Social Media Management Tool article, the brand describes how its product might offer a solution to complex problems met by small businesses attempting to win at social marketing.
It addresses common pain points that drive Falcon’s target audience to start researching social media management tools in the first place, helping the brand build awareness and direct potential customers to start exploring its offer.
While this approach may be an efficient way to sell a product, it’s not exactly subtle. In other words, it will only work with readers who know that they need a certain kind of solution to their pain points.
So, how can you use long-form content to reach people who haven’t yet realized that there’s a product/service out there that could make their lives easier?
Well, one option would be to put together an in-depth guide, like Scott’s Cheap Flights’ article on How to Use Google Flights to Find Cheap Flights.
This article is essentially an alternative to the brand’s service. It goes into a lot of detail about Google Flights and is an excellent resource for learning how to use the search engine for travel.
It illustrates just how time-consuming it can be to find affordable flights through Google. By interweaving the guide with well-placed CTAs and perk mentions, the resource successfully presents the brand’s services as a much less time-consuming alternative to scouring different flight search engines.
And best of all, it’s managing to do so in a subtle manner, without coming off as too sales-y and potentially alienating readers who are not yet ready to invest in the solution. (Plus, it’s one of the top results when googling “how to use Google flights,” making it an invaluable asset for securing new customers).
3. You foster customer loyalty
The truth about running a business in 2022 is that it’s far more challenging than during pre-pandemic times. That is, at least partially, due to shifting consumer loyalties.
According to survey data from McKinsey, 49% of US Millennials have tried a new brand, and 48% have switched to a different retailer during the Coronavirus pandemic.
And it’s not just in the States where loyalty is on the wane. In Southeast Asia, things are even more challenging for brands trying to achieve high customer retention rates, seeing that up to 80% of consumers have had to switch to new brands, either due to availability issues, value for money, or convenience.
Now, looking at this data, you might find yourself asking: what does long-form content have to do with customer loyalty?
Well, it turns out that publishing information-rich posts might help you educate your existing customers on ways to get more out of their purchases.
This way, you’re not just offering them immediate value. You’re also investing in a long-lasting relationship founded on the desirable lifestyle and profitability provided by your products and services.
For example, GILI Sports does a stellar job fostering customer loyalty with its guide to stand-up paddleboarding.
Sure, the article does cover the basic information new hobbyists might want to learn when starting to explore the sport. But it also goes into detail regarding advanced paddleboard strokes, board transport, and even some of the factors that go into making a paddleboard adventure a successful event, like describing how wind direction might impact stamina.
This long-form article works so well because it ensures first-time buyers have a pleasant experience with the product (and don’t feel foolish trying to master a challenging new physical skill). Then, once readers have developed a passion for the sport, chances are that GILI will remain their go-to for all their SUP-related purchases.
Nonetheless, while GILI’s strategy might work for B2C brands, it might not be the right choice for B2B businesses. When it comes to fostering loyalty among professional clients, a slightly better approach might be to focus on profitability.
Aura’s Ultimate Guide to Retail Arbitrage on Amazon is a superb example of how a brand can ensure a stellar customer experience by investing in long-form content.
By explaining challenging concepts from the retail industry and instructing readers on how to use the knowledge to profit, Aura manages to empower its clients.
But what’s great about this is that a person who is satisfied with their business results and the profit they’re making is more likely to continue using the tools that have enabled its success (including Aura). That is, they will remain a loyal customer of those B2B brands, allowing them to reduce churn rates and boost customer lifetime value.
4. Create a market for your product
Does your business operate in an underrepresented segment of an industry? In this case, your audience might not even know that there’s a product/service that could resolve their pain points.
Fortunately, long-form content might be able to help.
By publishing articles about rare topics, you can effectively draw attention to these subjects, creating consumer interest and generating buzz around the niche your business operates in.
For some great examples of how to utilize long-form content to create a market for your product, you can look to the tech industry.
Thanks to the rapid progress in tech, most consumers aren’t yet aware of new ways of doing things. And this leaves brands trying to reach audiences who are unaware of viable answers to their needs.
One way to bridge this gap is for those same brands to invest in long-form content.
By educating target audiences about the benefits of doing things in a new way, of using certain tools to achieve set goals, or helping them improve their workflows, organizations can create a niche for their products and secure business results that will help them expand even further.
This is what Optimal Workshop does with its Card Sorting 101 guide, which educates readers on the benefits of using the research method to improve website UI.
The article introduces the concept of card sorting, offers insights about the method, and provides examples of how brands have implemented the technique. The result is an in-depth article that shows readers multiple ways how card sorting may benefit their business.
Or, if you’re after a slightly more approachable example of businesses creating a market for their niche products, check out Dermstore’s guide to using peptides for skin care.
Knowing that this is a fairly new concept to most people (even some skincare gurus), the brand explains the science and origins behind peptide-based skincare products, providing readers with benefits, use instructions, and suggestions on what items to try out first.
Effectively, what Dermstore is doing is directing consumer attention towards a new and unexplored niche of the beauty industry, making way for more sales through the medium of education.
5. Build immense credibility
Scientific research has found that there are three dimensions of consumer trust in e-commerce:
- Competence – The ability of a brand to fulfill its promises.
- Integrity – The commitment to acting in a consistent, reliable, and honest manner.
- Benevolence – An organization’s preparedness to put its customers’ needs before its own profits.
In other words, if a brand is prepared to show its dedication to its mission and values, it stands a higher chance of inspiring consumer trust and driving more conversions.
But what does long-form content have to do with trust when most resources agree that the best way to inspire it is with social proof?
Well, the thing is, long-form content allows brands to go into detail about the features and benefits they offer. The resulting effect is a high level of authority for the brand, resulting from its preparedness to provide evidence for every one of its claims.
Considering this, a content marketing strategy that utilizes long-form articles to build authority can benefit organizations operating in low-trust industries like financial services or pharmaceuticals.
Businesses looking to build credibility can use long-form content to give readers the content they’re after, all the while proving that they’re a trustworthy resource to get information from.
As you can see in Transparent Labs’ 8-Week Guide to Body Recomposition, one excellent way to do this is to provide an exceptional number of relevant, usable facts – each backed up by a scientific reference.
The brand boosts its credibility even further by pointing out the qualifications of each blog post’s author and having the post reviewed by an independent advisory board made up of industry leaders and experts.
6. Long-form content increases the amount of time visitors spend on your website
The last high-value benefit of publishing long-form content goes back to a concept we’ve mentioned earlier in this article – dwell time.
Now, most marketers will look at dwell time as a key ingredient in boosting a page’s position on SERPs.
But what many of them forget about is a simple fact: the longer a consumer remains on a page, engaging with content, the more likely they are to see a CTA or find a reason to click through to another page on the site.
As you look for ways to make long-form posts a high-value part of your content marketing strategy, don’t forget to do everything in your power to make them as engaging as possible:
- Pay attention to your writing style, particularly readability, clarity, and delivery.
- Use findings from eye-tracking and online behavior studies to learn how web visitors interact with content. Generally, short paragraphs, bullet points, and visuals make for a more pleasant reading experience as they avoid overwhelming readers with large blocks of text.
- Position CTA buttons with visibility in mind, making them stand out, both in terms of design and placement. Moreover, don’t hesitate to repeat them to maximize the chances of a web visitor converting into a customer. Most importantly, make the CTA relevant to the topic and the reader’s likely position in your marketing funnel.
For one of the best examples of a long-form article that makes perfect use of dwell time, check out StudioBinder’s Ultimate Guide to Types of Camera Shots.
This article provides 7,500+ words of insightful information about framing a shot, plus it’s enriched with images and videos. Each section is followed by a handy “related posts” feature, maximizing the chances of first-time visitors staying on the site longer (and ultimately walking away with a positive impression of the brand, perhaps even having signed up for its software).
Over to you
As you can see, there are numerous ways to make long-form content work for your brand.
Thanks to its versatile benefits, a long article can help you rank better on SERPs, communicate your product’s value, build brand authority and trust, and even foster consumer loyalty.
However, as you start thinking about publishing long-form content on your site, don’t forget that longer is not necessarily better. Yes, an insightful guide or e-book can help you educate your target audience and drive them to action. But when such volume is unnecessary, they’re much more likely to overwhelm and alienate.
As you start planning your next written piece, don’t go into the process expecting a 3,000-word blog post about how to re-sew a button. Instead, think about the amount of valuable information you have to share and how you can make the topic serve your business.
Travis Jamison is an entrepreneur turned investor. After selling a couple of businesses, he shifted his focus toward investing. He was disappointed by the lack of options for entrepreneurial-type investments – like buying websites & investing in small, bootstrapped businesses, so he started Investing.io to provide a home for other entrepreneurs turned investors.