The average attention span today is less than nine seconds (which, if you’re into fun animal facts, is less than a goldfish). Instant gratification is a real thing, which is why it can be hard to get your head around long-form content.
Surely people don’t want to read paragraphs and paragraphs of text? Do they even have the capacity to if attention spans are so short?
The answer isn’t completely clear-cut, but one thing is true: there’s definitely space for long-form content. Here, we’re going to lay out exactly what long-form content is, why it’s so valuable, and how you can create it yourself.
The powerful benefits of long-form content
It’s easy to think that the more words there are on a page, the more value there is. But, while this is true to a certain extent, there are other factors that come into play that make long-form content valuable:
- More backlinks: long-form content significantly outperforms shorter content when it comes to securing backlinks and improving SEO
- Additional keyword ranking: longer content tends to have a higher number of keywords, which means there are more ranking opportunities
- Higher conversion rates: long-form content typically converts at a higher rate than shorter content because readers give it more of their attention. One study from Crazy Egg revealed that conversion rates can increase by over 30% when significantly increasing the length of a page
- Secure thought leadership: long-form content tends to educate the reader, which elevates your position as an industry expert
- Increase time spent on page: obviously, the longer a piece of content is, the more time it takes to read. Users stick around for longer, lowering bounce rate and increasing their chances of converting
Long-form vs short form: which is better?
All of this isn’t to say that short-form content is redundant - far from it, in fact. But there is a time and a place for both long- and short-form content, depending on the purpose of your piece and who you’re trying to target with it.
Short-form content: the stats
Short-form content usually comes in at less than 1,200 words (although some marketers say that 1,000 words is the cut-off point). Pieces are usually short and snappy, like news articles or product updates, and they cover just a small area of a topic.
Common short-form content types include:
- Short blog posts
- Social media content
- News articles
- Product updates
- Product descriptions
The idea behind short-form content is that it’s quick to consume and quick to create. Its aim is usually to get across one message in the most efficient way possible.
Long-form content: the stats
As you can probably guess, long-form content typically has 1,200 words or more (or over 1,000 words if you’re one of the marketers we spoke about before). Rather than covering one thing quickly and concisely, long-form content aims to dive deeper into a topic and cover it in great detail.
6 popular types of long-form content
Long-form content can come in many different shapes and sizes. It can refer to an ebook as well as a multi-page case study, guide, or landing page.
- Long blog posts
- Evergreen pages (or pillar posts)
- Guides and tutorials
- Case studies
The aim is to capture the attention of the reader and engage them the entire way through. They should walk away with added value, whether that’s having learned something new or discovering a new fact or trend about your industry.
So, is long-form or short-form content better?
There are no winners here. If your piece doesn’t need to be 2,000 words and you’re pouring out fluff just to hit the word count, you’re not going to get the results you want. Likewise, if you try to cram a complex topic into 500 words, it’s not going to give readers the value they expect.
Basically, the length of content needs to fit the purpose of the piece. Think about whether you want to:
- Educate the reader on a new system or process
- Share some company news
- Convert new visitors onto a free trial
- Establish your position as an industry expert
- Aid lead generation
Each purpose will require a different amount of information and, therefore, a different word count. For example, if you’re educating the reader on a new process that’s trending in your industry, you’ll probably need a longer post to explain it in detail. On the flip side, if you’re simply sharing industry or company news, you might find that a few hundred words do the job.
Understanding the search intent behind the keywords you’re targeting will also help, but we’ll talk a bit more about this later on. The reason long-form content tends to outperform shorter content in the search engines is that it covers a topic in greater depth which often means it provides a comprehensive (and one of the best) result.
How to research long-form content
Long-form content requires some forward-thinking. If you don’t plan ahead and simply start hemorrhaging words onto a blank page until you reach your desired word count, you’re going to struggle to get the best results.
1. Suss out the SERP competitors
The easiest place to start your research is on Google. Run some keyword research, enter your target keyword into Google, and take a look at the results that show up on the first page. Check out how long each piece is and see what sections and information they have included.
Remember, if you want your piece to stand out, you should cover everything the other posts have and a little extra to boot.
If we take the keyword “segmenting email lists” the top two results vary drastically in length. The first result from Campaign Monitor has just 433 words, while the second result from OptinMonster has over 6,000 words.
Take an average word count from the first page to determine the right content length and choose keywords that have a decent search volume.
2. Identify search intent
The intent behind a search will also factor into how long your content should be. Someone looking for quick information about a particular product feature won’t need thousands of words, but someone looking for a detailed guide about how to use your product probably will.
The easiest way to determine the search intent behind a keyword is to check the SERPs again. Have a look at the kind of content that is ranking at the top - this is the kind of content Google has deemed most relevant and is therefore likely to reflect the search intent of users.
Take the search term “email flow”, for example. The first few results are all definitions of the term, showing that searchers are probably looking for a description more than anything. As a result, the content doesn’t have to be incredibly lengthy; instead, it should define the term in the most efficient way possible.
3. Understand your audience
Your research won’t be complete until you understand who your audience is and what type of content they prefer to consume. Use the insights you have available to figure out your content marketing strategy and find out whether your readers are more receptive to long- or short-form content.
Track key metrics like:
This will give you a good understanding of the content that works best for your audience and help you determine how long each piece should be.
4. Plan the content you’ll include
Once you have an understanding of the average length of similar pieces of content as well as the search intent behind it, you can start pulling together the information you’re going to include.
Building an outline will ensure you’re including everything your target audience wants to know and will make it far easier when it comes to actually writing the content.
You can map out an outline by:
- Making a note of all the subheadings in the top results on the SERPs
- Using a tool like BuzzSumo to identify pieces that have a lot of social shares
- Exploring chapter titles in relevant books on Amazon
- Using Jarvis’ outline template to build a quick outline
- Using a tool like Clearscope to create an optimized piece
Long-form pieces are comprehensive, and these research tactics will help you make sure you’re covering all bases.
5 long-form content examples and why they work
1. BigCommerce’s guide to headless commerce
BigCommerce’s guide to headless commerce comes in at 4,100 words and covers everything a reader might want to know about the topic. The page is split into chapters that readers can quickly navigate to via a handy sidebar.
2. Ahrefs’ guide to building a go-to-market strategy
Ahrefs’ guide to building a go-to-market strategy sits at around 3,850 words. It acts as a comprehensive guide to the topic, giving readers all the information they need to get started. Again, it’s split up into sections that are linked from the sidebar.
3. Mailchimp’s guide to building an online store
Mailchimp’s guide to building an online store runs at just over 2,000 words. It’s laid out in a step-by-step format that makes it easy for readers to follow and implement.
4. AppSumo’s guide to increasing website traffic
Clocking in at almost 3,000 words, AppSumo’s guide to increasing website traffic gives readers eight actionable takeaways they can implement right now.
5. Canva’s guide to creating a lesson plan
Canva’s guide to creating a lesson plan is over 2,000 words long and offers a step-by-step tutorial for people who want to learn about this topic. It includes lots of visuals to break up the text and provide an eye-catching, engaging read.
How to use Jarvis for long-form articles
Writing long-form content from scratch can be daunting, but Jarvis makes it a breeze. The long-form assistant accompanies you from start to finish, from generating engaging title ideas to formulating the opening paragraph (which, let’s face it, can often be the hardest part).
From there, you can automatically generate the rest of the content or create it yourself, editing as you go and making sure you’re touching on all the important things you need to touch on.
The Bootcamp provides step-by-step instructions for using Jarvis so you can create successful long-form content every single time. Provide extra value and educate your readers with powerful content that matches the intent of their search query and their preferred way to consume content.
Give Jarvis a go to speed up your content creation process.