Good news for digital scribes: Consumers are loving long-form stories. Even with their heads down in their devices and their focus quickly shifting among all of the content being served to them, turns out they still enjoy a relatively in-depth read. Better yet, Google loves it too, so it having it on your website could impart all kinds of benefits. Long-form content is broadly defined as pieces over 2,000 words which typically include blog posts, white papers, product guides, etc. Short-form content, on the other hand, tops out at about 1,000 and ranges from social media posts to emails to short blog posts. Producing longer website posts doesn’t have to be cumbersome and can be a creative experience that moves your visitors to a conversion.
As digital marketers, we’ve been conditioned to write with the mentality that less is more and that consumers are skimmers. However, as Google started noticing that about 10 percent of searches were about broad topics, it set about to change its algorithms to favor longer content that provides noteworthy facts surrounded by information-dense answers. Since that time, it’s been shown that stories in longer form increase social shares and time-on-site and earn more backlinks. As evidence, “Crazy Egg made some changes to its website’s homepage and saw its conversion rate increase by more than 30 percent with the use of long-form content that was about 20 times the length of its shorter counterpart. According to the Crazy Egg blog: The media would have us believe that people no longer have any capacity to concentrate. In reality, you cannot have a page that’s too long—only one that’s too boring. In the case of Crazy Egg’s homepage, visitors wanted their many questions answered and that’s what we delivered.”
Creating Digital Stories
If the thought of creating even longer blog posts/articles gives you pause because of a lack of resources, time, or both, there are ways that you can make it happen. Yes, by its very nature, a long-form story requires a deeper dive into a relevant topic that is audience-specific, well researched, and timely. So, the best way to approach it is to first define your audience: Who do you want to speak to? Next, ask what does this audience want to know about your company and its products/services? Think about the long-form post as an extended elevator speech: It’s a really useful way to showcase expertise that you otherwise can’t because of time constraints while networking or pitching new business.
Once you have written the outline and first draft, pass it around the office and have others contribute to add details and expertise. This will allow everyone to contribute, and you’ll get a wide range of ideas to expand upon. While you are writing, keep in mind that authenticity and transparency are important in keeping readers engaged. Inviting people to your website and asking them to spend time reading a post is a responsibility but it’s also an opportunity to tell your story and provide useful takeaways that will hopefully result in conversions. Using too much sales speak is akin to a digital bait-and-switch and is the best way to lose visitors. In addition to writing valuable content, you can enhance the reader’s experience (and score points with Google) by linking to sources and through various levels of interactive storytelling with video and callouts.
Just as important as writing the article, is promoting it. Using outdated digital marketing tactics will weaken attempts to reach the right audience and send them to your website. Take advantage of social media trends by posting specific content to private groups, asking employees to act as influencers to promote the article, and using marketing automation to push it out through a coordinated email, social media, and advertising campaign. In addition to marketing, be sure that your technical SEO is in order and that your website is responsive, has fast-loading pages, structured markup, and metadata to support your efforts. You spent the time on it, now reap the rewards.
The increased interest in long-form content doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place for short-form content. Using both formats is best, and the key is knowing when to use which. Audiences who don’t know a lot about your organization and its products/services and are in the early parts of the sales cycle need more information from you. They want to learn about your organization, understand your offerings, and determine if it fits their needs. In short, they need to be convinced to purchase which is easier to do through longer, fact-filled, in-depth posts. For current customers or for products that fit into more of the impulse buy category, shorter posts are perfect for communicating product enhancements, industry trends, or company achievements.
Long-form content is one of the best content marketing strategies you can implement. Its format enables you to expand on topics, answer questions in depth, and show your expertise. When used in combination with shorter content, you can cover a variety of organizational subject matter in lengths that appeal to the preferences of many audiences. So go forth and write like there is no limit!
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