With the world moving at a faster and faster speed, many content-marketers are missing a golden opportunity to increase customer engagement, acquire more customers and boost reputation status as an expert in the field: long-form content, or text pieces that tends to more than 2,000 words in length. While marketers may not be paying attention to this hidden gem, Google has taken notice.
Last August, the search-engine giant rolled out a new feature designed to prioritize articles falling under this category called “In-depth articles,” stating, “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.”
Basically, if you follow Google’s recommendations – including using schema markup, adding Google authorship and providing data on your organization, among others -- you stand a chance of having your content ranked in a special section of Google. Getting ranked in these special search results can be a huge traffic boon for your website, as well as a boost to your business’s perceived authority within your industry.
That said, there are plenty of other reasons to invest in long-form content. Here are a few:
Long-form content gets more social shares. To test whether long-form content would perform better than an ongoing series of blog posts -- even if the series contained the same number of words as the single long-form piece -- Darren Rowse, founder of Problogger, released a series of “mega posts,” ranging in length from 2,047-7,683 words. Speaking to the results of the experiment, Rowse stated:
“While I’ve had great search traffic to each of the above posts this year, they have each been shared at a higher rate than the average post on my blogs in the same timeframe. While I do find my series of posts can get shared around too, I’ve never seen a series that I’ve written shared as much as some of the long-form content I’ve created.”
Long-form content gets more backlinks. Back in 2011, Dr. Pete of inbound-marketing and SEO company Moz took a look at 500 past posts on the company’s blog to understand the relative popularity of each article. First, the posts were stacked in order of total word count. Then -- without changing the order of the list -- the number of inbound links pointing to each post was mapped out, leading to the observation that the blog’s longer posts had historically attracted more backlinks than their shorter counterparts:
Long-form content earns higher natural search rankings. One final compelling argument in favor of long-form content comes from SEO keyword research firm serpIQ, which measured the average content length of the top 10 natural search results for more than 20,000 keywords. Their research turned up an interesting trend -- an average of 400 fewer words per page on the lowest listings compared to the highest:
It’s important to keep in mind these different data sets demonstrate correlations -- not causation. It’s impossible to say, for example, that it was the length of the content that definitely lead to higher numbers of social shares, backlinks or search rankings as oppposed to the relative authority of the publishing author or the website hosting the content.
But at the very least, we can say that the number of established and potential benefits of long-form content more than justify its inclusion in your company’s content marketing plan. Even if your long-form pieces fail to achieve the social or search success described above, the value your brand gains by being seen as an industry thought leader can’t be overstated.
Fortunately, getting started with long-form content is easier than other types of “big” content. Unlike video production, you don’t need expensive equipment and unlike interactive infographics, you don’t need designers or developers to execute your vision. All you need is a good topic that will interest your audience and a capable writer who’s willing to dig a bit deeper than normal for you.
So give it a try, track your results and iterate in the future if your initial results don’t quite live up to expectations. With time, building a stable of high quality long-form content pieces will pay off in terms of perceived authority and digital-marketing success.
Related: You've Got a Blog. Now, Get Readers.