If you’re like most brands, your blog posts top out at 500 words. There’s a good reason for this: 500 is about the length of a newspaper article, it’s easy to read through, and with pictures and section headers it looks pretty meaty. Plus, it doesn’t cost much to commission a 500 word post.
But columnist John E. Lincoln says there’s good reason to go longer. In fact, he says that long form content—which he defines as 1,200 words minimum—can boost just about every aspect of your online presence. In his words:
“Long-form content can make you look like more of an expert in your field, increase the likelihood of engagement and sharing, improve your search engine results page (SERP) rank, and increase your audience…”
If he’s right, a simple change in content strategy could give your company a major advantage. Let’s look at his evidence and some of the factors holding companies back.
First, John disabuses us of the notion that no one reads long articles online. This is just patently false, as his many sources make clear:
- Long form content is good for SEO. In a major study of the top results for over 20,000 keywords, the top 10 results all averaged over 2,000 words. (This is partly because long form articles have more content to index, and partly because they get more backlinks.)
- Google has directly stated that it’s tilting its search results toward in-depth articles. It says that 10 percent of users run searches to learn about topics in-depth.
- Long form content gets higher conversion rates. Tests show increases of 30 percent and 37 percent.
- Content over 1,500 words gets more social media engagement.
It shouldn’t be surprising that people like long form content online. After all, long copy had a track record of performing better in the days of print-only, and users are increasingly comfortable using the internet instead of print.
I personally can think of no more relaxing way to start my day than coffee and online reading. My favorite? New Yorker magazine, which routinely runs 5,000 word beasts.
What’s Holding You Back?
Despite the repeated success of long form content, many companies are resistant. This always surprises me. After all, if there’s an easy way to make your website perform better, shouldn’t you snap it up? But it’s not always that easy.
I hear three main reasons business owners don’t want to go long-form:
- “No one reads it anyway.” This is usually said with a shrug of the shoulders, as if no one would ever read a company blog. But this is a cart before the horse fallacy—if you invested in good content, people would read it. In fact, top companies have vibrant blogs that gets lots of organic traffic (readers). Take the time to create some meaty posts that solve your customers’ problems, and the traffic will pour in.
- “I don’t have time for all this writing.” That’s fair. It’s hard to write your own blog as a business owner. One option, of course, is to hire a professional: blog posts aren’t expensive. But if that’s not in the budget, insource. Take your best ideas for long form posts and write the outlines, then ask a staff member to do the actual writing. Review and edit when they’re done.
- “Longer articles cost more.” There’s no two ways around it: writers will charge more for longer posts than short ones. However, the rate difference may not be as great as you think. You may already be paying $50/post for 500 word blogs, and find that a writer will go to 1,200 for only $75 or $100. That’s worth trying out on a few key posts, and if they don’t perform you haven’t lost much. Plus, writers may offer a discount if you can provide them with the links/resources to use, as it reduces their research time.
Hurdles like time and money are very real, but like all things in business there’s a tradeoff of risk and reward. If a long-form post can get more backlinks and a third more conversions, is it worth trying? A simple experiment would be to choose three key topics, commission long posts and track the results.
Words of Warning
If you do decide to try out longer content, it’s important to do it right. Keep in mind:
- John suggests treating the minimum as 1,500 words, not 1,200, to give you an SEO advantage over competitors trying the same thing.
- Choose topics carefully. Long form posts are ideal for high value topics that teach a reader how to do something. They will not necessarily perform well if they’re just a giant listicle.
- Good writing matters. A low end writer can churn out a 1,500 word blog post cheaply, but it will be lightly researched and heavily padded. Readers aren’t going to commit to a long read if it isn’t interesting and informative. If there’s ever been a time to commit to using a good writer, long form is that time.
Have you tried out long form blog posts on your site? How long was “long”? What kind of results did you get?
EverSpark Interactive offers high quality copywriting and blog creation, plus comprehensive SEO and internet marketing services. Ask us for your free consultation today.