Is Long-Form Content Part of Your Strategy?
In the world of online marketing, we hear (and read) about rules and supposedly conventional wisdom often:
“Email marketing is dead”
”Direct mail is dead”
”You need to be active on every social media channel”
“People don’t read long content anymore”
Here’s my take on that last one: long-form content is not dead. On the contrary, it’s alive and well. Let’s talk about some reasons why you might want to consider harnessing the power of long-form content and some steps you can take to produce compelling, persuasive, lengthy content that helps you convert more readers into buyers.
Benefits Of Long-Form Content
Why? There are many reasons. Consider an old adage from sales and direct response marketing that says “The more you tell, the more you sell”. You wouldn’t send sales representatives on calls with instructions to only speak 500 words, would you? Of course not. You want them to use as many words as necessary to make the sale.
So it is with your content. Why would you limit your content marketing effectiveness by sticking to some arbitrary rule that says you can only write short messages? Use as many words as you need to in order to state your case and give your reader the valuable, problem-solving information he needs.
Still not convinced that long-form content can lead to more sales? Take a look at this case study of conversion tests for crazyegg.com. In one test mentioned in the article, a new, much longer page outperformed the original by 30%.
Says the article, “The media would have us believe that people no longer have any capacity to concentrate. In reality, you cannot have a page that’s too long—only one that’s too boring. In the case of Crazy Egg’s home page, visitors wanted their many questions answered and that’s what we delivered.”
The Power Of Storytelling
Long-form content gives you a better platform for telling stories. As humans, we are hardwired to respond to well-told stories that invoke emotions. Think about the times you’ve been moved – maybe even to tears – by a story from a book, the mouth of a friend or in a movie.
We are moved to action by stories. This holds true in the world of marketing and sales also. Tell a content marketing story in which your reader can imagine himself as the hero, and you’ll have his attention riveted to your message.
One reason well-crafted stories can be such powerful marketing tools is that they have the effect of drawing the reader into them in such a fashion that he won’t feel like you’re trying to sell him; he’ll sell himself for you.
Long-Form Content Gives SEO Benefits
Here’s another benefit of long-form content and more evidence it’s far from dead; it can help your SEO efforts.
Doesn’t it make sense that long content will give you more opportunity to go in-depth and offer readers more value? Google seems to think so. The search engine’s new algorithm gives SERP priority to longer-form, in-depth content that features relevant images, is of high quality and offers substantial value to readers.
According to web analytics expert Neil Patel, “the more links a web page has, the higher it will typically rank on search engines… which is why the average web page that ranks on the first page of Google has over 2,000 words of content.”
Not only does long content attract more backlinks, it is more likely to get shared via social media and be ranked higher for long-tail keywords.
Writing Effective Long-Form Content
Keep in mind that finishing a piece of long-form content requires longer focus, more time and more total mental energy from your reader. Therefore, it’s important that you make it interesting and easy to read.
Focus your message on your reader, his needs and wants and how you can help him solve a pressing problem. Through your content’s message, offer him value he can take and benefit from, even if he never buys your product.
Nobody cares about your products (except you) – David Meerman Scott
Keep this quote in mind as you write your content. People don’t care about your product, per se; they care about what your product can do for them. Make sure this important distinction is reflected in your content – long or short.
- Unlearn what you were taught in college English: Don’t completely abandon that formal, academic style of writing, but learn to write content in a conversational, easygoing – yet still professional – tone.
- Write like you talk: Write to an audience of one, not to a crowd. Write just as if you were having a one-on-one conversation, and use the word “you” often.
- Once again for emphasis: Make your content easy to read. Avoid long, compound sentences and large paragraphs. Think about it. How do you feel when faced with the prospect of reading a block of text 30 lines long? You don’t enjoy it. Your mind rebels at the idea.
Let Me Entertain You
Here’s one more tip for writing long content readers stay focused on: make it entertaining. Maybe you’re thinking, “My B2B audience is different. They won’t respond to entertaining content.”
Remember, those decision makers on the receiving end of your content are human beings just like you and I. Who says they won’t go for a little entertainment in the content they read? Think about this quote from Jerry Seinfeld:
People have an infinite attention span if you are entertaining them.
I’m not saying you should be absurdly silly and unprofessional, but I am suggesting that you consider adding a little entertainment value to your content as a way to stand out from the crowd and get attention.
Just because you prefer (and get great results from) short content doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from long-form content, too. This isn’t an either-or proposition. Try a mix of both.
And please don’t limit your marketing effectiveness because of common misconceptions such as “Long-form content is dead.” and “No one has time to read anymore”. Give your audience engaging, compelling, interesting, problem-solving content that focuses on them (and maybe even offers a little bit of entertainment), and they’ll make the time.