8 seconds. That’s supposedly the length of the average human attention span. That’s what technology and the era of instant gratification have done to us. Consequently, marketers and content creators are preaching the good word of concise content that catches consumers’ attention quickly.
The result? A lot of empty noise. What ever happened to quality over quantity? It seems like that old adage has fallen out of style.
As it turns out, short, snackable content isn’t what the masses want. So fear not, blogger and newsletter writer, your medium is not dying. For those new to the endeavor, here’s why and how to create long form content.
The Case For Long Form Content
There are a number of benefits to be reaped from producing long form content-- these are the top 5 that come to mind.
- You have more control. In contrast to platforms like Twitter/Snapchat/Instagram, your blog, website, and/or newsletter are YOUR turf. No one can alter the algorithm to affect how your audience receives or views your content. Converting as much of your audience to email subscribers or regular blog readers is key for continuing to capture their attention.
- Evergreen-ness (if that’s a word). Long form content has a longer lifetime and a higher ROI than shorter pieces of content. You can spend a few hours writing several fluffy click-baity pieces that will be irrelevant in a few weeks, or you can spend it putting together a massive guide about a topic of your choice that will continue to be searched, backlinked, and shared for months and years to come. Which sounds like a better use of your time? If you say the latter, you’re correct. That’s what we like to call evergreen content because it stays relevant.
- Proof of authority and expertise. Anyone can write 500 words with surface level information about a given topic; but writing an in depth 3,000 word guide to [fill in the blank]? That immediately demonstrates authority and depth of knowledge.
- More social sharing and linking. Not only does longer content rank higher in search engines, but it also gets shared and backlinked more often. Clearly, much of the industry is blind to the data here-- if the goal is meaningful engagement and creating value for your audience, then long form wins every time over shorter content.
- Plenty of content to repurpose. Writing a big post means you now have tons of little posts, too. You can, and should, repurpose long form content by breaking it down into several short form pieces for social channels or even as shorter blog posts that can redirect to the longer piece. And yes, this could go the other direction too, if you round up a series of your shorter posts and tie them together to make a mega long post.
How Long Is Too Long?
There’s no definitive answer to this. We suggest, as does the data, that you keep your long form posts above 1,500 words, erring closer to 2,000 or 3,000. If you have a lot to say, a well structured article clocking in at 4,000 or 5,000 words should work as well.
Tips For Long Form Content Creation
Long form content can take a variety of shapes. Ebooks, case studies, long lists (e.g. “100 resources for beginner bloggers”), guides, how to’s, annual reports, and good old fashioned stories are all wonderful options. You can go broad (e.g. “The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to the Adobe Suite”) or super specific (e.g. “Everything You Need to Know About Logo Creation Using Adobe Illustrator”). Here are some key tips for producing high quality long form content:
- First things first-- identify the goal. This will help you determine what form your piece should take. Is your goal to capture leads? Try a gated ebooks. Or are you trying to get backlinked and shared to boost SEO and brand awareness? How To’s and in depth guides are your solution. Or maybe you want to move customers down the sales funnel? Case studies are a good option for you.
- Write an outline. When you’re dealing with an article that’s a few thousand words in length, it’s important that the structure makes logical sense and is well thought out.
- Write shorter paragraphs. Break up your content into shorter paragraphs to improve readability. If you were reading an article and had the choice to read it structured with longer paragraphs or shorter paragraphs, which would you choose? Shorter paragraphs are just easier on the eyes and the brain.
- Include “speed bumps”. Most people don’t read-- they scan. When an article is easy to scan, they can skim until they see what they’re looking for and then begin reading. Create “speed bumps” for these readers-- speed bumps can be important lines that are bolded or set as a larger font size, or subheadings that break up the different sections. These will cue people into reading.
- Create a table of contents. When you’re done writing the piece, go back and create a table of contents to lead off with to improve navigability even more. It’s also nice for the reader to know exactly what they can expect from a long form article before they start reading-- otherwise they may get to the end and realize they wasted their time.
- Link out to other creators. Long form content gives you a lot of opportunities for linking out to other creators and voices in your niche. When you link out to people, send them a message or email to let them know that you included them or their content in your piece. Best case, they share it! Worst case, they don’t, but your SEO can still benefit from linking out to other high ranking sites.
My 3 Favorite Long Form Content Creators
- Mariah Coz | Blogging I first learned the art of long form content from Mariah Coz. She is a big proponent for “slow blogging” and creating better, longer, more evergreen content, less often. Look to her blog, FEMTREPRENEUR, for a boat load of kickass free long form content, which will both inspire and educate you.
- Convertkit | Ebooks Convertkit has started producing a monthly publication titled “Tradecraft” which consists of a collection of case studies, advice, and research, with the goal of teaching you everything you need to know to earn a living online. Each month covers a different theme, from Email Marketing, to Blogging 101, to Design for Non-Designers. The extra brilliant thing about Tradecraft is that you have the option to read each issue online, download it as a PDF ebook, or receive it as a drip email campaign.
- Paul Jarvis | Email Newsletter Paul Jarvis’ weekly email, Sunday Dispatches, is the only newsletter I read religiously. Paul is an extremely bright entrepreneur who writes about “the intersection of creativity and commerce” (a.k.a. creative businesses). His weekly emails cover a broad range of topics, and always employ phenomenal storytelling. Sometimes he shares a bit of his best solopreneur business strategies. Sometimes he vents about ungrateful subscribers. It’s a toss up each week but he keeps it entertaining and valuable.
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Creative Community Developer at Snapfluence.
I'm the Oxford comma's biggest fan.