Long-form content = long-term benefits.
Today’s online readers are quick to share infographics and 5-second videos — but do ebooks, white papers and how-to guides capture their imagination, or is interest in long-form content dwindling along with the average attention span?
While it’s true that many brands have found viral success by producing highly shareable short-form content, valuable long-form content can provide its own long-term benefits, such as improving search rankings and building brand loyalty.
As with any content marketing strategy, long-form content is only as effective as its execution. So here are a few tips for getting it right:
1. Think About Your Reader
Remember: your content is about your audience, not you. Before you even begin writing, ask yourself who you’re writing for, and what problem you’re helping them solve. Develop a strategy that helps your readers overcome challenges or reach goals of their own.
2. Wow Them With The Headline
Your content is only as good as your headline — and if nobody clicks, nobody reads. Spend time researching, experimenting, and keeping track of which headlines drive the most traffic to your site. Keep in mind that different styles appeal to different audiences, and let your industry expertise guide you towards a headline that will appeal to your target consumer.
3. Define Your Goals
Think about why you’re writing and publishing content in the first place. What do you want readers to do after they’ve consumed your content? Is your overarching goal to generate traffic, promote engagement, build awareness, or something else entirely?
Outline your agenda and be intentional about what you are trying to achieve. While it’s important to produce content that fulfills the needs of your target audience, find a sweet spot where your goals and their needs align.
4. Tell a Compelling Story
Even if your content offers valuable information that your target audience is specifically searching for, you should still aim to earn their attention by telling a compelling story.
Include visuals, break up long blocks of text, and add interesting examples that help support your argument. It’s not always easy to keep readers hanging on your every word, but your audience is far more likely to relate to and engage with long-form content that is framed creatively.
5. Stay Focused
When writing long-form content, it’s easy to go off on tangents. Try to avoid filler text and fluff, sticking to the subject at hand and explaining it in a way that satisfies your audience.
One way to stay on track is to outline all the points you want to cover before you begin writing. If you read through your final piece and find that your message has been diluted with unnecessary details and repetitive thoughts, whittle it back down to the points you began with.
6. Keep It Simple
A long post with lots of jargon is the surest way to send your readers running for the hills (or simply navigating to a new page).
As Michael Grothaus of Fast Company points out, “In spite of the public appetite for expertise, there’s value in being approachable. People like articles that feel like they’re written by a friend.” While it is sometimes a necessary evil, jargon should be minimized at all costs.
7. Find the Right Format
Formatting is your friend. Use short paragraphs and subheadings to make your content easier to scan and digest. This breaks up the post, allowing your readers to easily skim the article for the points that are most important to them.
8. Highlight Interesting Quotes
Weaving in exciting and interesting quotes from industry experts is a great way to keep readers’ attention. Quoting reputable sources also helps make your content more relatable and, in turn, establishes your brand as a trusted resource.
9. Avoid Self-Promotion
Sell yourself without overt selling. If your content is perceived as a blatant marketing tactic, it may ultimately repel readers from your products or services. Remember that online consumers have a ton of content competing for their attention, and they are searching for that which adds value to their lives — not an off-putting sales pitch.
10. Keep Mobile in Mind
Whether it’s 5 or 50 pages, long-form content doesn’t always translate to mobile. As you’re writing, think about how you can organize and format your content for a better mobile user experience.
Added bonus: if your content is easy to read and aesthetically pleasing on a small device, chances are it will also be more compelling on a computer screen.
11. Write What You Know (And Love)
If you’re writing content that you’re not passionate about, your readers will be able to tell. Write about subjects that your target audience is interested in, but find a way to weave in your own interests for a genuine storytelling experience.