Why Long-Form Content Is Taking Over, But Is It For You?

January 28, 2019 | Sean Foo

If you have been regularly searching the internet for answers to any question, chances are you would have encountered blogs and articles that hit beyond 2,000 words and some even have a word count of 5,000 words!

Craziness!

Who would read that?

Won’t it take hours to days to create such a post and why would any sane person do it?

Well, if you have been browsing my blog for a while you would notice most of my content are actually long-form content that ranges from 1,500 in-depth articles to 3,000-word ultimate guides.

In fact, more and more famous bloggers from Neil Patel of Kissmetrics to Ramsay of Blogtyrant are advocates of long-form content and if you dig beneath the surface, the benefits of doing so far outweigh the short-term pain (yes, it’s not all fun and games) of creating the content.

But why are readers, and the world in general, embracing long-form content?

 

The Shift From Superficial Answers To Long Form Experts
 
10 years ago if we did a search on Google with any question, we would be rather satisfied with just a generic answer that outlined our problems, suggested a quick solution before finishing with a concluding line or two.

But times have changed, people are getting more sophisticated and we all know there isn’t really a clear-cut answer for everything and each of our situations is different.

From 2000+ Word Articles Sharing Knowledge To Customers & Prospects

To 3 Hour Long Podcasts Discussing Everything From Politics To Business & Life

What Is Going On?

Why Is The World Starting To Consume More & More Long-Form Content?

Woodpecker.co, an email marketing service, incorporates a huge amount of 2000+ word long-form articles sharing insights to their audience on how to send better emails.

While The Joe Rogan Experience (JRE), a critically acclaimed Youtube podcast reaching 5 million subscribers, regularly holds discussions with subject experts and entertainment stars that can stretch well beyond the duration of a 3-hour movie!

Why would anyone read a long-form instructional guide when there are quick point form tidbits elsewhere on the internet?

Who would tune into a 3-hour podcast hearing two people having a discussion when they can just as easily watch 30 minutes of Jimmy Kimmel entertaining them with all the bells and whistles?

 

The Two Reasons Why People Love Long Form Content
 
While the shift from short to long-form content is starting to accelerate, not many people really understand why this is happening.

But if you are making a living as a content creator or intend to incorporate powerful content to power your business, you have to appreciate the two main reasons why long-form content works for your audience.

1) A greater depth of content which addresses a problem fully

Let’s say your dog has been suffering from a tummy ache and you have no idea what is wrong or going on.

Now if you happen to chance upon an awesome article that is rather long but addresses everything from:

  • The signs & symptoms of a tummy ache in dogs
  • The possible causes of the tummy ache from the environment to the food it eats
  • The different popular breeds and how tummy aches can affect them
  • How to soothe and treat the aches of your furry friend before the visit to the vet
  • A list of the best vets in the neighborhood

You would be rather engaged and likely would read every word from the start to the end to find the best solution to help your dog who is rolling in pain.

Long form content allows a deep exploration of a topic or a challenge a reader might be facing and thoroughly fleshes it out providing not just answers but actionable solutions.

Podcasts like JRE fully explores and deep dives into the lives of the people they are interviewing to get a bigger picture of what they are like as a human being, and not just about why they are successful or famous.

While most news channels focus on getting to the point in interviews, JRE expands upon the conversation, allowing the listener to really know the true personality at the other end of the microphone, and that is depth.

A deep exploration of a subject –  in this case, the interviewee himself.

2) A one-stop shop that saves your audience time

Now, this might look like an oxymoron, but it isn’t!

I know you might be thinking ‘But doesn’t it take 10 minutes to read a long-form article versus 60 seconds to skim through a shorter piece?’

Well yea, but if you look deeper, you are actually saving your readers valuable time, time that can be used to directly take action to solve their problems.

While short articles are great for brevity, they bring along the same curse of brevity: A lack of clear in-depth actionable information.

Chances are once someone finishes a short article, there are still many questions left hanging and they will have to search the internet once again to find a quality article that addresses the next step to their problem.

And as an avid fan of Google searches, I can tell you with great confidence at least 50-60% of short-form content are generic re-phrased repetitions of each other.

A well-researched and laid out long-form content helps is this front, providing your reader with a one-stop shop for valuable content without wasting time hunting high and low.

As marketers and people in business, every action needs to lead to something beneficial right?

Why take all the time to produce great long-form content if it doesn’t bring me results?

Fair enough and this where we lay out the case for creating your own long-form content.

 

3 Tangible Reasons Why To Create Long Form Content
 
1) Better reader engagement, interaction & ROI
 
While short-form content’s advantages lie in their brevity and bite-size nature, it does fall short in the engagement department which leads to a couple of issues:

  • There might be a higher number of views but lesser conversions
  • A higher bounce rate from your website
  • There isn’t much content for your community to discuss about.

The beauty of long-form content is that it gives your reader enough information to truly understand a topic or solve a problem, from head to toe.

This will make not only your blog seem like a more credible source of information it will transform your business into an authority in your industry and market.

Authority figure = greater trust = the rest of your content must be great! = lower bounce rate & higher engagement.

But perhaps the most powerful reason is a higher ROI on your website’s marketing activities.

Whether you are trying to increase your email subscriber list to selling a software service directly, the quality of content will greatly sway your prospect’s buying decisions.

After all, if the content on your website is helpful enough, doesn’t that mean that your product would be equally, if not more useful to solve my problems? I’ll buy it!

Taking a look at a great example, Highrise Marketing increased their signups on their homepage when they switched to one with a longer form content resulting in a conversion increase of 37%.

2) Supercharge your SEO performance while making your website Google-proof
 
As you probably might know, the search-gods at Google regularly update their search algorithms to ensure the best content ranks higher versus poor content.

According to Pandu Nayak, the creator of Google’s latest Panda Algorithm update posted:

“Users often turn to Google to answer a quick question, but research suggests that up to 10% of users’ daily information needs involve learning about a broad topic. That’s why today we’re introducing new search results to help users find in-depth articles.”

That means Google is moving towards articles and content that actually have a certain depth to them.

This means Google values longer form articles that go deeper into issues and are starting to penalize shorter articles which are just stuffed to the brim with keywords to game the system without helping the reader.

In fact, back in 2012, serpIQ did a study that went through 20,000 keywords and the results quite soundly back up the effectiveness of long-form content.

The average content length of the top 10 results was revealed to be more than 2,000 words.

This makes it rather clear that on an SEO basis,  a longer form content outperforms their short form counterparts by quite a huge margin.

Want your article to rank higher? Your odds have just improved with a long form article.

3) Produce powerful shareable content for link building & sharing
 
A lesser talked about component of content creation is the marketing aspect of it.

You can’t really wait passively for your content to be ranked by Google, smart marketers know that they will have to proactively reach out to their audience or influencers to spread awareness of their content.

But whether you reach out to your readers via email marketing or paid advertising (Facebook ads etc), your content has to be compelling and hold tremendous value if you want it to be shared.

Just think about it, would you share something on your Facebook feed if it wasn’t useful or helpful to your friends?

Thankfully, it is statistically proven that long-form content outperforms shorter ones when it comes to social shares.

Just take a look at the results of BuzzSumo’s analysis of 100 million articles below:

 

But Is Long Form Content For You?
 
Ok before you close this article and rush to map out a year’s worth of long-form content, it is important to know if long-form content will work in your business and industry.

Yea that’s right, for all its merits and benefits, long-form content doesn’t necessarily work for every industry and not knowing the difference can not only be a waste of time and resources but also negatively affect your brand.

Let’s begin letting the cats out of the bag.

Does your market demand & consume long-form content?
 
Long form content doesn’t really gel for certain industries and blog types. This is not really your fault though, readers have been too used to 500-word articles that immediately get to the point with the core information needed.

These tend to be content that circles around smaller challenges that can be solved quickly and the readers know it – so its best to give them what they want in this case.

Take for example the popular travel blog – theblondeabroad.com

The blog’s content is mainly centered around incredible and breathtaking visuals that allow their readers to feel what it is like to be in those countries.

A typical blog post there doesn’t go beyond 500 words and trying to break the trend might be a recipe for disaster, as far as your readership goes.

While that isn’t to say you can’t incorporate the occasional long-form post (in this case perhaps a long form guide on how to spend a week in Tokyo) into the mix, but relying solely on long-form content when your audience base doesn’t readily accept it isn’t exactly a sound strategy.

In my case, my target audience: Marketers & entrepreneurs, and they all know that our challenges and problems are rather complex and a quick 500-word article just doesn’t have enough room to explore a serious solution or offer up any in-depth advice that works.

Has long-form content been validated in my industry? Sure, in-depth articles are widespread and becoming the norm especially in the marketing field, from Neil Patel to Derek Halpern of Social Triggers.

Just do a quick Google search on the blogs on your industry and get a feel for the content trend.

Are 80% of the content short form or long-form? Remember, if 80% is short form, there might be a reason why.

Do you have the resources & time to create long-form content?
 
This is perhaps a question that only you are best suited to answer, but let me tell you from my experience.

– In-house content creation: Time & lots of time

This very article you are reading has taken around 5 hours of time spread over two days.

Long form articles aren’t your usual ‘sit down and bang some ideas on the keyboard’ article. They require extensive planning, storyboarding, research and of course, the writing itself.

If this is your first attempt at creating longer content, expect the time to stretch to 8-10 hours easily.

– Outsource the content creation: Choose your writer well or else…

Outsourcing can be a great way to free up your time for some cash.

If you are more of a operations guy or sales entrepreneur, getting someone to write the content is a fantastic idea.

But selecting the writer is important because it could cost you more than money in the long run.

For a well-researched 2,000 word article, the cost could run up beyond $500 for a credible writer who knows what they are doing.

Here is a big caveat for any penny-pinchers reading this: Don’t do it for content marketing.

You will not only waste money & time (you will have to get someone else to rewrite it), a badly written article will ruin the branding and image of your business.

 

Conclusion
 
While long-form articles might be the rage and truly bring tangible benefits to your business, don’t do it just for the sake of doing it.

Short form articles, infographics and quick videos are just as impactful if the content can connect well with your audience and helps them.

If a 300-word article can solve a problem, it would be pretty crazy to create a 3,000-word article even if it helps your Google rankings.

Do it because it makes sense and can better help your reader.

Let the benefits be a cool by-product and not just the sole focus!

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