Why Long-form Content is a Must for SEO? (Best Practices to Follow)

Long-form content has been subject to a lot of criticism in recent years, as “bite-sized content marketing” reigned supreme.

Longer content educates your audience about a topic in a profound and meaningful way. It allows for more specificity, accuracy, and creativity. This kind of insight is what lures in search engines, encouraging them to push your content higher up in the rankings.

But if you’re still on the fence about whether to produce long-form content or not, here are a few reasons why it’s unbeatable.

Before we go into the details, let’s first talk about what long-form content means.

What is long-form content?

If you’re wondering, long-form content is quite simply longer than usual content. We’re not talking War and Peace here, just articles that are meatier than your average blog post.

The definition of long-form content, in terms of length, has a bit of a fuzzy nature. Some think you have to write a minimum of 700 words to be classed as ‘long form’. Others believe 2000 is the magic mark to hit. For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume long-form as being around 1,200 words or longer.

You can create long-form content in a variety of ways, including video, audio, and writing.

Some common types of written long-form content are:

  1. How-to posts (explaining step-by-step how to do something)
  2. Evergreen and resourceful content
  3. Ultimate guides and tutorials
  4. Whitepapers and case studies
  5. E-books
  6. In-depth interviews with industry leaders or experts

You can apply long-form content to almost any field. And although there isn’t a set way to write long-form content, one thing is for certain: an effective long-form piece doesn’t shy away from details.

Whether about something or someone, long-form content always explains the subject in fine detail. Take Pipedrive’s guide on Sales Strategy, for example. This 7,000+ worded piece does a great job of demonstrating the high level of detail found in long-form content posts.

The Case for Long-form Content

It may seem counter-intuitive to champion long-form content in this age of attention deficit audiences and posts that don’t go beyond 140 characters. But longer content does indeed bring greater depth, deeper insights, and more value. Among its key benefits are:

Improving your brand’s perception

Long in-depth articles enhance the value of your brand by showing that you’re knowledgeable and trustworthy.

A great way for brands to get a head-start when they’re short on money

Suppose you’re working for a startup and trying to market your business against competitors with deeper pockets. In that case, long-form content can be the beginning of your authority-building journey with little to no marketing costs involved.

It can be repurposed

The cool thing about long-form content is that you can use it as the raw material for other compounds. For example, after you write a 10,000-word e-book discussing growth hacking strategies, you could turn it into a podcast, a SlideShare presentation, or even a webinar.

Keeps readers coming back for more

Long-form content is one of the best options for generating repeat traffic. Because they’re so detailed, readers often come back again and again (and again) to fully absorb it.

Helps nudge the deal along

The majority of B2B companies have very narrow client bases. Because all businesses in the same niche essentially offer the same services, there’s little differentiation between them.

That’s why long-form content is crucial to winning large contracts in this segment. Long-form content allows you to connect relatively emotionally with buyers in an industry that values relationships above all else.

Long-form text is better for SEO

In addition to all the benefits mentioned, long-form content is also a golden ticket for SEO.

Let’s go through some of the reasons why:

Ranking for a large number of keywords

When you write about a specific topic in-depth, it’s natural to include a range of related keywords. Ahrefs’s study of 3M searches also reports that longer content is more likely to rank for more keywords.

Here’s an example of a long-form article from Blog Tyrant that ranks for more than 360 keywords.

More social shares

Long-form content dramatically outperforms short-form content in social shares. That’s the conclusion you might draw by taking a good look at the data gathered in a study carried out by Moz and BuzzSumo. After examining the social shares of over 1 million articles, it turned out that the longer a piece is, the more likely it is to be shared.

Neil Patel of Quicksprout, also analyzed the shareability of long-form content with a study of his own. His findings? Content that was longer than 1,500 words got an average of 68.1% more engagement on Twitter and 22.6% more on Facebook.

But why does long-form content seem so much more popular on social media than short-form content? For starters, long-form articles look at a single topic from multiple angles and give readers enough insight to make an informed decision. As a result of this detailed coverage, readers usually feel that the article has answered their question or resolved their problem, causing them to be more inclined to share it with others.

Another key point to note here is that short-form content is often generic and focuses on facts. However, long-form articles are more likely to provide fascinating insights into a topic, giving users a greater incentive to share them.

More opportunities for link-building

The increase in usability and user trust that comes from having long content will also help you gain links from other website owners.

According to a study conducted by Backlinko’s Brian Dean, content over 3000 words gets an average of 77.2% more links than content under 1000 words.

A similar study conducted by HubSpot also confirmed a direct connection between the length of the content you publish and the number of backlinks you get.

So, if you’re struggling to attract backlinks, it might be time to start posting longer content. But remember, quality backlinks are generated when link creators perceive your content to be desirable for their audience. The keyword here is “desirable.” Your content must be valuable enough to entice other website owners to use it as a source of information, no matter how long or thorough it is.

Higher dwell time

Another important SEO factor is dwell time. Dwell time is the amount of time a user spends on your site before returning to Google results and moving on to another webpage. Dwell time shows Google’s spiders that users are enjoying your page, which is indicative of good content. This means, the higher your dwell time, the better you are ranked.

Long-form content takes longer to read, making it the perfect way to draw a higher dwell time. Here’s a case study by WordStream that demonstrates long-form content’s effect on increasing dwell time.

The folks over at WordStream realized they needed to improve the dwell time on their site and decided to make use of long-form content to achieve that goal. In just a few months since the company’s blog transitioned from short posts to more in-depth and longer content, their average visit duration almost tripled. It went from 1:33 to a solid 4:35.

This is yet another indication that your website’s engagement will increase when you provide original, descriptive, and valuable content.

Improved domain authority

Domain authority is a metric developed by Moz to predict whether or not a website will rank highly in search engines. It ranges from 0 to 100, with 100 being the best score possible. Many SEO experts believe that you can use long-form content to turn your site’s domain authority score into something more impressive.

Tips to get you started

Long-form content is a beastly thing to tackle. It’s easy to spout out unempirical 500 worded short-form content in a matter of minutes, but crafting a thoughtful, insightful piece that delves into real, actionable advice takes time. Lots of it.

There’s no shame in admitting that you and your team aren’t natural writers. It takes skill and practice to create well written, long, detailed, content that dives deep into a subject (without it becoming fluffy and words for the sake of words). There are several content writing services that have writers with real world experience in many industries that you could use instead of going down the DIY route.

Outsourcing long form content isn’t cheap (hint: because it’s long), but if you’ve not written anything since high school, it’s probably a good idea to at least consider the possibility of hiring a writer.

However, if that hasn’t scared you off and you’re ready to get started, then follow these tips to ensure the quality of your long-form content and avoid some of the common mistakes that can be made when creating this sort of in-depth content.

  • Include a jump ahead section. Long-form content can be difficult to navigate through, and sometimes readers might not know where to find the information they need. Insert a table of contents at the beginning of your article so the readers can quickly jump to the spot that interests them.
  • Use your subheaders to tell a story. When creating long-form content, especially for marketing purposes, sub-headings are a crucial component. They can be used to create a sense of structure within your article as well as make it easier to read.
  • Make use of call to action buttons. Long-form content is an excellent way to win your readers’ trust and include relevant CTA’s for related products or services. While your readers are engaged with your content, you should definitely throw in a call to action or two.
  • Don’t forget to break up the piece with relevant images, intriguing quotes, or unique graphics. No one likes to read through a giant block of text. By using quotes (whether from famous people, experts in your field, or even other bloggers) and other visuals like images and graphs you can add some variety to your content while still keeping it informative and exciting.

Stand out in the eyes of search engines

Writing long-form content can do wonders for your SEO. However, in order to get the best results, you need to create content that is high-quality, intelligent and captivating.

Yes, it’s a tall order — but if you can rise to the challenge, your search engine rankings will be better for it.

PRmention is a digital PR agency for startups & SaaS businesses. Occasionally, we accept high quality contributed content and we’d love to hear any ideas you may have. Feel free to email us on guestcolumn@prmention.com if you are interested in contributing.