Blogs face an uphill battle when it comes to grabbing reader attention, and it’s no wonder with millions of new websites springing up annually. Competition can be a good thing, forcing bloggers to provide the best possible content to earn the patronage of the public. But too much competition could make it hard to be heard above the din. So once you’ve found a way to get people in the door, the last thing you want to do is alienate your readership.
The question is: do short-form articles really serve your purpose? Many bloggers feel that the 500-700-word range (or less, in some cases) hits the sweet spot between keeping readers informed and losing their attention. And a lot has been made of the short attention span of savvy web surfers.
But the truth is that anyone interested in reading your blog probably wants more meat than fluff, and it’s difficult to pen an intellectually stimulating communique, much less impart insightful and informative content in less than a page of wordplay. If you want readers to return, become loyal followers, and recommend you to others, you need to consider that engaging targeted readers with quality long-form content is more important than feeding the masses the bite-size content that satisfies next to no one.
In short, you need to understand the opportunities that long-form content may provide. Instead of pandering to the lowest common denominator, a flaky bunch if ever there was one, consider that you can serve up quality content to an audience hungry for intellectual engagement. But you may have a few questions before you decide if this strategy is right for you.
What is long-form content?
Long-form content, put simply, is articles that feature 1,000+ words. Some people say the word count has to clock in at more than 1,200, while others insist it can’t be shy of 2,000. It all depends on who you ask, although once you get into the 4-5 page range, you’re bordering on belaboring the point, or you might as well make it a little longer and offer an e-book.
Let’s just agree that anything between 1,000 and 2,000 words fits the format. Long-form content serves a very specific purpose in that it allows blogs to break free of the restrictions imposed by the 500-word rule that has somehow become the end-all, be-all of blogging.
If your readership is tired of blogs that whet their appetites for knowledge and then disappoint them with short-form content that barely scratches the surface of a topic and offers no real, concrete, usable information, then long-form blog posts will give you the opportunity to deliver the value and complexity that content-hungry readers are seeking.
Is long-form content worth the extra time and effort?
In a word: YES! You might assume that long-form content will take you significantly longer to create than the standard short-form article and that you will have to put in a lot more effort to keep the content informative and entertaining once you’ve doubled or tripled the length. You are correct on both scores.
On the upside, you are presumably an expert in whatever niche your blog fits. This means you are a veritable warehouse of knowledge on your particular field. So you likely have a lot to say. And while short-form articles probably force you to cut out relevant information, long-form content provides you with the space you need to spread your wings and encourage a well-informed readership.
In addition, you’ll offer something that few other blogs these days provide: the opportunity for readers to delve into your subject matter and emerge with an in-depth knowledge of whatever topic is under discussion. Your readers will appreciate the added value and the nod to their intellect.
Gated content vs. un-gated content
Every blogger has to decide whether gated content is appropriate for their brand, their platform, and their readership. Gated content is anything that can only be accessed only after readers have provided you with certain personal information. For example, you may require a name and email address before you allow readers to view your long-form posts. Or you might ask any number of questions, such as, “What topics would you like us to address?” or, “What can we do to improve our blog?” You will decide what data is collected at the gate.
Ideally, people will answer honestly, allowing you to increase your membership, bulk up your mailing list, and potentially give your readers exactly what they want. Of course, you might also scare some readers away. You simply have to decide whether or not the rewards of this strategy are worth the risks.
Long-form content ranks higher
A chart produced by keyword research and analysis company serpIQ shows that on average, the top-ranked search results average well over 2,000 words, proving that long-form content manages to consistently nab the highest rankings. Why is this?
Readers are not stupid, especially those that are interested in your niche. They want real information rather than filler and fluff. They want to walk away knowing more than when they started reading your blog. And if they like your content, they return more frequently, spend more time on your pages, and share with friends as a trusted source.
Plus, additional content could offer more opportunities for sensible use of keywords, as well as a bigger network of appropriate inbound links, both of which are useful when building up page rank.
Why long-form content works
Are you an authority? If you manage your own blog, there’s a solid chance that you are passionate about your subject matter and well-educated where your niche is concerned. Long-form content plays into your hand on this score by providing the opportunity to create not only compelling blog content, but to share with your readers the wealth of your expertise.
Why long-form content isn’t enough
Long-form content is tricky in that quantity is not enough to make it worthwhile. Whether you hire a content writing service to create the in-depth articles your audience is jonesing for, you order blog posts from an army of guest posters, or you actually take the time out of your busy schedule to significantly increase the length of your articles, you have to make sure that quality of content is your first priority over long-form content.
Readers know when you’re phoning it in and struggling to hit your word count. And they won’t be back for more of the same. It is imperative that you use this format to full advantage, as a means of putting your niche knowledge on display to inform, amaze, and delight your readership. Anything less and you’ll not only lose your audience; you could find yourself facing the wrath of Google and their crusade to crucify subpar posts.