Recent insight indicates long form content performs better with readers & search engines. We look at whether long form content creation should be a priority.
When writing a blog about an in-depth topic, it can be tempting to cover as much ground as possible. With digital attention spans increasingly short, you may not think that’s a wise approach. However, there’s growing insight that long-form content is both popular with readers and beneficial for SEO.
Good Content Delivers Good Results
Whatever the length of your content, to be successful it must remain relevant to your reader; addressing a topic / challenge / solution that offers value. It’s also increasingly important to map related content (such as a range of posts on aspects on ‘Account-Based Marketing’) back to a comprehensive topic pillar page; creating a topic hub or cluster of related content assets.
SEO is now shifting to a topic cluster model, where a single “pillar” page acts as the main hub of content for an overarching topic and multiple content pages that are related to that same topic link back to the pillar page and to each other… Take note that pillar pages need to broadly cover the topic you’re focusing on so that it makes sense to tie to all of the cluster content linking to it. - HubSpot
How Does Long Form Content Impact SEO and Rankings?
So how long should your content - and especially blog content - be? In the past, it has made sense to produce short, easily digestible content. But is that still the case?
There are a range of considerations to make when it comes to assessing the ideal length of a blog post. On one hand, you want to give visitors all the relevant information they may be looking for - readers are increasingly looking for informative, authoritative and easily digestible content. But on the other hand, you don’t want them to lose interest or be buried under information.
Considering SEO, in the past, Google did not especially consider the length of a post, as long as it contained relevant keywords throughout. However, with the introduction of algorithms like Hummingbird, the role and effectiveness of keywords has become much smaller. Now, the context of a post (and the semantic relationships between your other page content) is increasingly important to influence rank.
Following the above, it would make sense that longer posts should have a natural advantage, as they can contain more meaningful indications about the context of an article - giving Google a stronger indication of the relevancy of the post.
This theory has supporting evidence - recent research by Backlinko confirms the benefits of longer blog posts: when analysing over 1 million Google search results, articles appearing on the first page of search results appear to be an average of 1,890 words long, with shorter posts scoring less strongly.
“Based on SERP data from SEMRush, we found that longer content tends to rank higher in Google's search results. The average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.” - Brian Dean, Backlinko
However. This does not mean that content must be unnaturally long, or that keywords are unimportant. Rather, it underlines the shift within Google from a keyword-centric, to a semantic focus. As a result, we can infer that good rankings are likely supported by quality extended content - although of course, nobody but Google knows the precise range of criteria that decide good rank.
Tips for your Long Form Content
With longer content, you have greater capacity to share in-depth information. However to see success, it’s important to structure content in a way that grabs and holds reader’s attention throughout.
Here are some useful tips from Neil Patel for producing long form content that will keep readers interested:
Use a clear title.
Clearly indicate the topic and challenge at hand in the introduction; outlining what the reader will learn from the post. You should also ensure you use keywords that will resonate with your audience (and in search) immediately. Use an illustration / description at the beginning of your post that gives an idea of what is to follow.
It also helps to incorporate imagery/ video at regular intervals throughout your post.
Provide a clear, scannable structure of your post, with relevant subheadings that encourage further reading. Your readers are unlikely read every last word of a longer post - rather they will be scanning for relevant pieces of information.
Make the most of formatting by using bullet points, bold text and quotes. Make the most of whitespace.
Other factors to consider when creating long-form content include:
Depth of topic: What do you have to discuss? If it’s a message best delivered in 500-1000 words, stick to that length. It does not make sense to extend a post to 2,000 words without adding additional value.
Resource: Not every marketing or content budget provides as the resource for high-quality long-form posts. Producing longer, quality content takes time, so check if this approach is viable before committing.
Your audience: Keep your buyer persona in mind at all times: what are their challenges, how can you resolve them? You want to create content that not only scores well in search but is also relevant to real people. Depending on your target audience, long blog posts may not always be what they typically look for, so it’s important to do your research before writing.
Lastly, make sure there’s a structure and sense to what you’re writing. Do not write just for the sake of it! Keep purpose in mind and make sure you’re not drifting. As you will typically be addressing the key challenges of your reader - these can often form the structure of your content.
Regarding keyword inclusion, it’s still important to include the semantically relevant short and longtail keywords in your copy that your audience will be searching for. However, it’s wise not to try to cram them in - if you’re writing naturally and your content is relevant, the right terms should occur.
Based on data released by Hitwise, we are starting to use longer tail search queries when searching. 8-word search queries are up by 34,000%.
Does Long Form Content Work on Social Media?
It does. Looking at social sharing statistics, it seems that longer content outperforms shorter posts. For example, in this post from Neil Patel discussing the best blog lengths for social shares, he has concluded that content of more than 1,500 words works best. Moz have also produced statistics supporting this:
“We can see that long form content consistently gets higher average shares and significantly higher average links. This supports our previous research results.” - Moz
Why might this be? Well, a longer post offers greater insight that your readers may be interested to share. When you're actively sharing content on platforms such as LinkedIn where there is a savvy and often highly specialised audience, it’s common to find that insightful, in-depth content does especially well, as it provides real value.
What’s the effect of Long Form Content on Conversion Rates?
So should you only publish long-form content from now on?
Not necessarily. Long-form content is popular because it scores well with Google and often with defined audiences. But this content must also be of a very high quality; creating long form content is a time-intensive approach that may require more time, resources and research. Because of this, it’s best to focus long form content around topics that are evergreen - giving them compounding longevity.
Ultimately, long form content (if written well) will enhance your visibility, demonstrate industry expertise and place you as an authority in your field, which should, in turn, result in increased business.