There are plenty of common misconceptions about long-form content. Traditionally, it’s had the reputation of being more trouble and time than it’s worth. Another attitude is that readers can’t be bothered to read long-form content and only want to skim-read skimpy articles – everyone is too busy to read, right?

But long-form content is actually a chance to show off your credentials as a business; to be a thought leader; and to help educate your readers. CrazyEgg found that long-form content converts 30% more than shorter content. Plus, by exhibiting just how much you know about a topic, you’re building trust between your brand and potential customers.

That’s all without mentioning the vital SEO advantages long-form content brings (more on that later). In this post, we will explain the best things you can do now to get started with long-form content, and the benefits you can expect to see in return.

Start where you are, not where you’re going

Take a look at your current metrics and ask yourself: what would you like to improve?

It isn’t all about search traffic, but things like return and direct traffic, bounce rate and time spent on page. These can be a real indication of how well your content is being engaged with. Wordstream explains that:

‘We used to be skeptics [of long-form content], too. Our average piece of content was around 1,000 words or fewer. We focused heavily on SEO, including keyword optimization.

The only problem with this strategy? We were getting a lot of search traffic, but not a lot of return traffic, direct traffic, or brand searches, and our user engagement metrics – stuff like bounce rate and time on site – were pretty low.’

Decide what you’d like to improve. If traffic to your page is low in the first place, focus on increasing that. If plenty of people are finding your pages but then quickly bouncing off them again, make this your focus. And if people are spending time reading your content but failing to convert, concentrate on changing this instead.

As well as lengthening your content, think about how you could promote it in other ways, too. Where is your traffic coming from? Organic searches, ads or social media? Could you be using one of your channels more effectively? Or perhaps you could be trying a weekly email newsletter or working harder with your backlinking and linkbuilding opportunities to help your content gain traction?

Long-form content: which format is best for your business?

When deciding how to go about your long-form content creation, you need to consider which option is best to try first:

Option 1: Long-form blog posts

Blog posts written between 1200-2000 words (or longer), these focus on a topic in lots of detail, offering helpful, usable tips that readers can action straight away. They tend to focus on one topic in an up-close, intricate fashion and include plenty of quotes from knowledgeable people, external and internal links, and can be posted regularly – once a week, fortnight or month.

Option 2: A pillar page

This means at least 3000 words of content on a webpage housed on your website. This is a ‘complete guide’ to a topic of your choice – something you see yourself as an expert in. You link loads of your related blog posts (as well as external ones) to this page, then link back again from the pillar page to the blog posts. This creates an organised, Google-friendly map of content for searchers to find. You may only create a pillar page every few months, but keep it regularly updated with new information and links. As Impact explains:

‘Blog posts that are around 1,200 to 2,000 words are typically considered "long-form." However, those numbers are slowly increasing with 3,000 to 10,000 words becoming the new standard.’

With other businesses upping their game and making long-form content a standard part of their process, can you afford for your shorter content to be lost on SERPs?

Choosing what to write about

So how do you know what to write about? Two words: topic clusters. One of the things that can seem overwhelming about writing longer content is how to get more word count out of your topics.

Topic clusters are sub-groups of your chosen pillar page topic. You identify these further sub-topics in order to create more content for your blog posts. For example, the main topic of your pillar page might be cakes (we can but dream!), so your cluster topics might look like this:

topic-clusters-to-organize-your-content  HARRY NEW

One of the most useful activities you can try is to create a diagram like the one above, then write down at least 10 related topics around the outside: these are the start of your next 10 blog posts!

Considering SEO opportunities

Each of the cluster topics offers potential for further content creation, and can then be linked to the pillar page. One of our favourite HubSpot features is the SEO tool. This allows you to check how highly a subtopic keyword related to your topic is ranking. In the centre, you place your pillar page topic, and around the outside you list all your high-performing keywords and link up the blog posts you've written for those keywords:

HubSpot SEO tool cluster topic

Another great tool to help you gather plenty of ideas to bulk up your content (in a strategic, helpful way) is recommended by CoSchedule:

‘Now that we have keywords you want to focus on, let's actually identify how to expand it. Run each of your keywords, one by one, in Text Optimizer to come up with the following:

  • Related concepts and associated terms to include in your content
  • Related questions to break your articles into more logical sections.’

Additionally to using topic clusters, use your metrics to review the existing content which has performed highly. Use this, not only to inform your choice of topics, but to influence the format you present that information in. If bulletpoints, regular subheadings, images or videos work well to engage your audience, then make these your common practice.

Breathe new life into old content

Could you repurpose an existing piece of content, such as an ebook, into long-form content? Don’t reinvent the wheel. Take the content from an ebook or white paper, and repurpose it with new links, quotes and images for a pillar page or long-form blog post, instead of starting from scratch.

However, be discerning. Don’t pick any and every pre-existing topic you have and create long-form content from it. A video or infographic may do a better job of conveying your message than a full pillar page. Or the original content may be outdated or irrelevant to your existing audience. SemRush points out that:

‘A long-form article starts between 1200 to 1600 words. However, you should not shoot for a word count for the sake of it. The foundation of content marketing is helping your audience in the most efficient way possible… If you decide to go with 1600+ words on the page, then ensure you have ruthlessly edited out the fluff.’

Why long-form content works (technically)

Long-form content is the loudest cry of "We believe in ourselves” you can put out into the internet. The ability to talk at length about an engaging, helpful topic is a sign of great confidence in your business. It builds trust between reader and business as visitors start to see you as an authority in your industry. Marketer Neil Patel puts it this way:

‘Ultimately, you should create long-form content because it will get you more of what you want: more online visibility (social shares, links), more proof of your authority and industry expertise, and more material for altruistic community building and engagement.’

But one of the most magical things about long-form content is how it helps Google find you. Instead of poorly written, short content which might have previously ranked highly from keyword stuffing, the search engine’s changing algorithms mean you have to work harder to earn visibility now. Impact explains why this change came about:

‘Focused on the user, as Google has always been, the team made several algorithm changes to bring quality content to the top of their search rankings.

Today, when you ask Google a question, it will return what it believes is the highest quality post that answers your question, and in almost every case, it's long-form content, over 2,000 words.’

Our top takeaways

  1. Give your readers what they want: listen to them on social, speak to your sales team about commonly asked questions, and pay attention to what they’ve already found helpful before.
  2. Don’t create long-form content for the sake of it: find something really juicy that you’ll be able to continue adding to in the future and will be of genuine worth. This has to be a case of quality AND quantity.
  3. Craft the content and remember to educate: have a conversion opportunity such as a form or chatbot on the page so readers can move through the buyer’s journey and find more of your helpful content.