Industry studies have shown that top-ranked posts tend to be longform and generally at least 2,000 words in length.
While this isn’t universally true, it is true so often that it makes sense to reverse engineer this type of content and incorporate longform articles and blogs into your editorial calendars.
The beauty of longform posts is that nearly everyone who can write a “regular-sized” one can learn how to write longer ones, reaping the benefits of this strategy through higher search engine visibility. You don’t need to know the “tech-y” side of SEO to become an expert in the longform blog post, either.
Before sharing the nuts and bolts of creating this kind of post, here are additional benefits to publishing in-depth content.
Benefits of Longform Posts
When you write quality, in-depth material that’s relevant to your audience, then you will likely be considered an expert on the topics you write about. So, if someone has a question about these subjects, then they very well may turn to you for help—and, when you’re selling products or providing services, this is just what you want to happen.
Site visitors tend to engage more deeply with longer posts, especially if you include internal links to other content on your website. As people spend more time on your site (also called “dwell time”), Google will likely reward you with even more visibility.
Longform posts also tend to:
- have more shares on social media channels, expanding your visibility even further
- receive more backlinks, which helps you to rank more highly
- make excellent material to use as highlights in email marketing
With these types of posts, you can include information that’s helpful to a whole range of potential customers, from those who don’t know much about the subject yet, to those who are pretty experienced. Here are even more benefits of longform posts.
You can experiment with different keyword research tools to see what you find, and to discover which tool works best for you. Often, there are free trials; here are some tools to explore:
- Google Keyword Planner
Writing Longform Content
When you were in middle school, you may have been asked to write 500 words on a subject. If you discovered that you were a few words short (or more than a few!), then you may have found places to add “very” and other places where “very” turned into “very, very, very.”
This is an ideal example of what NOT to do when writing longform content for your blog.
Instead, choose a topic that’s broad enough to need 2,000 or more words to cover all its subtopics. It can help, when right-sizing a topic for a longform post, to think of the three bears:
- Too big: Everything Ever Known About Blue Widgets
- Too small: Blue Widgets: Aqua Versus Navy
- Just right: Top 10 Reasons to Update Your Blue Widget
With the “just right” version, you can list the top 10 reasons; write 200 words each on each reason; add an intro and a conclusion, and you’ve got a quality 2,500-word blog post.
To brainstorm topics, it makes sense to talk to people who interact directly with your customers to find out what questions they’re often asked. Also check Google Analytics to see which of your previous posts have performed well to date, and use tools like Google Trends, HubSpot Blog Generator, Buzz Sumo, or Portent’s Content Idea Generator.
Another way of coming up with longform content ideas is to run an audit of your site. Are there clear gaps in topic coverage? If so, figure out how you can fill those gaps through longform content.
Here’s another crucial step and question you need to ask yourself: What are your direct competitors doing?
If they aren’t yet writing longform content, then your 2,000-word posts have a decent chance of performing well. If your main competitor has already been writing longform posts, then you’ll need to take yours up another notch. That may mean 2,500 words in length, with an even closer eye to quality or finding and filling in the gaps they’re missing in their posts.
Now the Nuts and Bolts
Elements of longform content vary from post to post. Having said that, here are things you could include:
- History of the subject, shared in a way that provides context; note that posts do not need to be chronologically written, and the history may fit in after you share more cutting-edge news
- Timelines and overviews of the subject
- Frequently asked questions and answers; this can be an ideal spot to use keywords with commercial intent
- Data/results from surveys; it’s ideal if you’ve gathered together new information or have put together data in a way not previously done before
- Information gleaned from interviews of industry experts; these can be in-house experts or ones from outside of the company, although you’ll have to make a judgement call about whether to include quotes from potential competitors
- How-to videos
- Relevant images, original if possible
- Predictions about the future
- Links to additional resources on the subject; at least some should exist on your site and, if they aren’t available, then this is something to add to your editorial calendar
Consider including quotes from experts in related fields. If, for example, your company manufactures blue widgets, then you could contact companies that repair them, or cleans them, and get insights from them about widget care. If your site meets the requirements of Help a Reporter, then you can request for qualified experts to provide you with information for your content. ProfNet provides a similar service.
Then it’s time to put the pieces together in a way that makes sense. If you’ve got intriguing new survey data that will likely cause other sites to want to link with yours, as just one example, that might be a good beginning.
You could create a post that lists pros and cons of a topic, or one that serves as a 101 guide, or one that takes a subject frequently written about and presents it in a new way. The good news is that the possibilities are endless. The challenging news? Because there are so many possibilities, you’ll need to decide what’s best for your particular post.
Make sure to include plenty of relevant subheadings for people who want to scan the post or just read certain sections. Optimize the post in a way that reads naturally and create optimized tags. Proofread your post carefully before making it go live, including a doublecheck of all the links it contains.
Calling it Done
At some point, you’ll have to—call it done, that is. At that point, you can start sharing it on social media channels, use snippets of it for email marketing campaigns, send it to influencers, and more.
Perhaps your piece is evergreen. If so, then get it on your calendar to promote it regularly at the most strategic times. If the topic is, instead, one that will evolve, then you can add to the piece whenever it makes sense and, beneath the post’s title, mark when it was most recently updated. That way, people in search of the latest news can see how new yours really is.
Monitor how well your post performs. If it doesn’t do as well as expected, figure out why and fix the issues. If it does especially well, reverse engineer why and use what you learn in future posts (and when you improve already-published ones).
Continue to keep tabs on what competitors are doing and use the art and science of the longform post to keep yourself ahead of the crowd.
Chris Gregory is the founder and a co-owner of DAGMAR Marketing, a local search company located in Jacksonville, Florida. DAGMAR is the winner of not one, but two, prestigious Landy Awards (2016 and 2019).