How to Create Engaging Long-form Content and Why You Should
Over the past couple of years, people have been steadily increasing the amount of content they consume. According to Oberlo, people’s average digital media consumption is expected to reach 503 minutes (yes, that’s almost 8.5 hours) per day in 2023, meaning that the best way for brands to reach their audiences is to publish and distribute relevant content.
Of course, publishing just any kind of content won’t do much to help you reach your business growth goals. In fact, just like most aspects of running a successful business, content marketing necessitates a well-planned strategy that focuses mainly on quality over quantity.
Naturally, that doesn’t mean that the way to get results is to only pay attention to quality and completely disregard quantity. On the contrary, research shows that publishing long-form content could be the key to attracting, engaging, and converting your target audience.
So, if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and produce content that breaks the mold, here’s how to create engaging long-form content, along with some compelling reasons for doing so in the first place.
What Counts as Long-Form Content?
Before we go into the specific tactics for producing, publishing, and distributing long-form content that drives results, it’s not a bad idea to take a moment to define the concept of long-form content.
The problem, however, is that this is a format that’s quite successful at evading definition.
Whether a piece of content qualifies to receive the “long-form” badge depends on what you compare it to. For instance, some resources state that long-form posts signify all articles that exceed the average 700-word post length. Others, however, require posts to exceed the 2,000 and even 3,000-word mark to be classified as long-form.
Then, of course, it’s essential to understand that, in 2023, content means so much more than blog posts. Additionally, the term includes multimedia formats like videos and podcast episodes, which can also have short and long-form variants.
Generally, however, it’s safe to say that the term “long-form content” signifies any piece of content (written, visual, video, or audio) that takes a deep dive into a subject and provides sufficient detail to fully cover the topic.
Why Invest in Long-Form Content?
Now that you know what long-form content is, it’s time to reflect on the benefits your business can gain by producing, publishing, and distributing it.
Overall, there are multiple advantages of basing your marketing efforts on delivering value via in-depth articles/videos. However, there are two main benefits of investing in long-form content.
Long articles tend to rank better. In 2019, Backlinko conducted an extensive content marketing study, finding that:
- Long-form content received an average of 77.2% more backlinks than its short-form counterparts.
- Longer blog posts (between 1,000 and 2,000 words in length) outperformed shorter ones in terms of social shares by 56.1%.
It’s also worth mentioning that longer content leaves more space for including relevant keywords, further boosting SEO, and allowing your business to rank high and attract more prospects via Google search.
The second main benefit of long-form content is one that we already mentioned — a more generous length allows content marketers to cover subjects in detail.
The end result is not just a piece of written or video content that will be recognized by your target audience as helpful and relevant. More importantly, these resources will also allow you to position your business’s topical authority and trustworthiness, which is crucial for encouraging engagement, conversions, and customer retention.
How to Create Engaging Long-Form Content
So now you know why you should invest in long-form content. But how do you ensure that the in-depth articles you produce do a solid job of engaging audiences and driving them to convert?
Well, the following tactics are the best ways for you to guarantee that your long-form content has the potential to drive results for your business.
Define Your Goals
Whether you’re new to content marketing or have been publishing articles for the past several years, you must do one crucial thing before investing your resources in long-form articles/videos.
You have to define your marketing goals so that you can select and apply the methods that will deliver the best results for your brand.
Now, this can be challenging at first. However, all you need to do is think about what you want your prospects to do after reading your article/watching your video/listening to your podcast episode.
For instance, one of the potential goals for you to go after will be to boost conversions. To do this, you will want to produce content tailored to your prospects’ position in the buyer’s journey.
If you’re targeting people who don’t know yet that there’s a solution to their needs, you’ll want to create a piece of content that addresses an existing customer pain point, like this article about How to Find Cheap Flights in 2023 on Going.
Note how this article provides readers with in-depth information on how to book affordable flights. Then, once readers have established that they’re reading a genuinely helpful resource, the content introduces the brand’s service.
Yes, it’s only located at position #17. But that’s a good thing. The approach ensures that readers get tons of helpful information first, cementing the brand’s position as a trustworthy and credible resource before pitching a solution to its target audience.
Of course, getting people to become your customers is not the only thing you can achieve by investing in content marketing.
You can also publish long-form content to boost customer retention or improve customer satisfaction. This is what Adobe Video & Motion does on its YouTube channel, providing existing users with hundreds of helpful resources to empower them to get more out of their video editing software subscription.
Research Keywords & Topics
Once you know what you want to achieve with long-form content, you need to do some research to identify the keywords and topics that will capture the attention of your target audience.
Ideally, try to produce content around high-volume, low-competition keywords. But know that this could prove difficult — especially if you operate in competitive industries.
So, if you can’t find content marketing opportunities that will allow you to cover subjects your competitors still haven’t addressed, shift your focus towards publishing content that goes above and beyond what your audience can currently find online.
For instance, if you check out the What Is Metabolic Health article from January, you’ll see that it addresses a pretty standard subject. However, thanks to a detail-oriented approach (complete with relevant markers people should track, descriptions of how metabolic health improves life quality, and a helpful FAQ section), this post wins the Featured Snippets section on Google. The SERP position zero makes it that much more likely people will choose to read this particular post instead of one of the brand’s competitors’ articles on the same subject.
Understand That Some Formats Work Better Than Others
There are very few rules regarding the type of content that will best engage your audience. Most content teams will have to go through some trial and error until they land on a content format that appeals to their brand’s prospects.
Nonetheless, research does show that there are a couple of types of long-form content that you should consider investing in if you’re looking for next-level results.
First of all, Semrush’s The State of Content Marketing Report for 2022 discovered that “Guide” and “How-To” articles generated 3x and 1.5x more organic traffic, respectively. With this in mind, it’s only logical that you should explore opportunities to produce this content format — as Zoma did in its Mattress Size and Dimensions Guide.
This type of content doesn’t only work because it promises your audience a complete overview of a topic they’re trying to explore. More importantly, it is the ideal post type to invest in, knowing that 58.4% of people mainly use the internet to find information.
Secondly, don’t think text-based content will be enough to help your business stand out in 2023.
According to data from Google, 90% of people discover brands via Google. And more than half of them make shopping decisions based on online video content. Combine this with the fact that more than 40% of brands planned on increasing their video marketing budgets in 2022, and it becomes clear that the long-form video format might be the next big thing for successfully attracting and converting customers.
Finally, if you’re looking for exceptional results and aren’t afraid of some experimentation, understand that there are numerous formats you can explore to reach your audience. These can include anything, from original research — like those produced by Cisco — to ebooks — Like the HelloFresh Homemade Cookbook — to long podcast episodes, which are growing in popularity, especially considering the number of global podcasts listeners rose to 383.7 million in 2021.
Optimize for Visual Appeal & Readability
One of the main downsides of producing long-form content is that this type of post is, well, long. And seeing that people don’t read online (they scan pages for information instead), your articles must look and perform in an entirely user-oriented way.
The good news is that you can do this with a few optimization techniques. These mainly focus on boosting text readability — most easily accomplished with online tools like Hemingway — and ensuring that your articles look good.
So, if you’re publishing long-form articles, especially on your company blog, enrich them with as many helpful visuals as possible. These can include tables — like the ones in the MarketBeat U.S. Stock Market Holidays guide — images, or even video and audio versions of your articles.
It’s also not a bad idea to organize the content in a layout that drives engagement, encourages prospects to read the entire text, and guides the reader’s attention toward high-value elements like CTA buttons.
If you check out the Medical Alerts Buyer’s Guide website, you’ll see that this is precisely what the brand does in its Best Medical Alert Systems of 2023 article. It highlights the benefits of each product with images and tables and calls user attention to special offers with simple design elements like the exclusive offer badge shown below.
Cut the Fluff
Last but not least, if you’re looking for tips on creating engaging long-form content, remember that the best way to achieve your marketing goals is to deliver unmatched quality to your readers.
This doesn’t just mean ensuring that the information you offer is fact-checked, well-presented, and fresh. But more importantly, it means that you’re fully committed to delivering value and that you never veer into fluff territory to pad out your word count.
Sure, the idea of shortening your articles might sound intimidating. But the fact is, cutting out the fluff from your long-form content requires one simple action: editing.
If you want to guarantee that you’re getting the highest-quality piece you can produce, you’ll give yourself at least a couple of weeks between the writing and editing process to ensure objectivity — this is where a well-planned content calendar will come in handy.
However, if that’s not possible, it might not be a bad idea to outsource the editing process. This will ensure that the piece looks and performs its best and doesn’t miss any crucial elements that could deter it from appealing to your target audience.
There you have it, a few easy-to-implement tips that will allow you to create engaging long-form content guaranteed to help you reach and convert your prospects.
But, as you approach the production and publication process, remember that great content can’t be based on a formula.
So, if you want to ensure next-level results, make sure that you align your content strategy with your brand’s identity and audience’s pain points. This will help you get the outcomes you’re after without wasting your resources on activities that don’t work for your particular needs.