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The Art of Long-Form Content

I often hear new or potential clients asking about our word count. They want to know how much we charge per word, like each letter is some pound of flesh or something they must pay for dearly. In reality, we do not really care about word count.

Like, at all.

A great piece of content doesn’t come from a hardline word or character count. These articles take as long as they need to take to tell a client’s story. Sometimes they’re quick hits, requiring less space. But in content marketing, especially content marketing that engages readers, sometimes it’s a good idea to just go long.

Long-form content pieces often venture anywhere from 1000 to 2000 words, although these are not strict parameters. The idea, here, is simply to use as much space as you need to get to the root of a topic. Writing longer pieces requires plenty of patience and planning, but the end result ultimately means writing better pieces. Take a look through our guide to long-form content and how you can make your work do its best…work.

Long-Form Content Lets You Become a Subject Matter Expert

When eschewing the need for shorter content, you’re suddenly given a lot more room to breathe. Instead of having to make quick points supported by minimal data, your blogs can delve far more deeply into topics. Not only does this give you more to write about, but it helps to make your writing more compelling and credible. In a sense, you become your own subject matter expert. At Metonymy Media, we love getting a chance to dig into data and informative articles to better understand a subject as well as any surrounding and connected ideas.

When you choose to get your hands dirty with research (that came out wrong) there are still some important steps to follow. Not all sources are created equal, and even if you’re getting the facts right it’s possible you may be conflating ideas building rhetorical fallacies.

In the same way you wouldn’t want to get your news from a clickbait site, your content should be supported by sources you can trust. Make sure the provider of the information is industry-relevant; consider checking industry journals and academic studies.

A relevant data point in an article is a great start for research, but if you’re directing readers to the source in the form of a hyperlink, you’ll want to read through the entire piece. For example, if an article begins with a statistic that supports your argument, but then argues against it throughout the rest, you may be undermining your statements.

Articles and blogs paid for by companies are rarely a good idea. The information found here is biased and will, in turn, make your writing seem like it’s an advertisement. That’s not to say you can’t use the kind of corporate blogs we’re discussing here as a source; private businesses often put out really solid information as part of their own content marketing. Just steer clear of advertorials on popular sites that were clearly designed to sell, sell, sell.

Sometimes the subject matter experts say it best. If you find compelling quotes in research, it may best serve as a direct quote from the article. However, too many long-winded quotations weigh down your writing. It’s additionally useful to summarize lengthy sources, such as psychological or academic sources into your own, succinct words.

In most online writing such as blogs, the best way to identify a source is with a hyperlink. However, in more official pieces of content, like whitepapers or case studies, it may be preferable to use a footnote. Check with the client to see what they prefer.

 Long-Form Content Provides More Room for SEO

SEO keyword research is an important aspect of any online content marketing strategy. Proper utilization of popular search phrases will allow your piece to rank higher in organic searches and may drive more traffic to your writing. When you’re stuck with a puny word count, you’re forced to jam keywords into the copy without much of a chance to work them in organically. The result is writing that often feels jumbled, nonsensical, and just generally not very good. Now the SEO value you had from building an audience is wasted on less-than-perfect work and may end up driving readers away. God, I hate SEO so much now.

Long-form content, on the other hand, is like the Cadillac of SEO keyword vehicles. With more room to breathe, writers are able to parse out the search terms throughout the body. No more figuring out how to use long-tail keywords in the middle of a four-sentence paragraph. No more loss of comprehension and readability. The SEO keywords actually inform the narrative and enrich the writing. They can even be used for outlining or ideas for entire sections. Woah, I totally love SEO again!

But with all this extra white space to fill, it’s an easy mistake to assume this means “Get a bunch more keywords. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this just go get more keywords, man.” Do not do this. Keyword stuffing can still be noticeable in long-form pieces and negatively affects the reader experience. It’s advisable to have at least two long-tail keywords, i.e “Blog marketing long-form.” But beyond that, it’s worth it to start with the ones you’ve already researched and decide later if a few more are needed.  I mean this very seriously. Do not think or say, “Hello it is time for me to get buck wild with keywords,” or “I love the scent of the Keyword Man,” or “He is here. The Keyword Man is here in this house.” These are all bad things to think or say.

Long-Form Content Allows You To Build a Narrative

Writers are a conceptual bunch. Ask any of them to pitch their novel or screenplay and you will be treated to a performance of storytelling, extensively defined themes, and a lot of unnecessary exposition. But it’s okay, this is why they work with you as a writer. Content marketing may not be the next great American Novel, but it’s still a chance for these artists to stretch their legs and put their creative minds to work.

Just like any piece of fiction or prose, content marketing writing follows traditional forms of storytelling and structure. An opening paragraph or intro section sets the stage for what’s to come next in the tale. The headlines are like act breaks, providing structure and layout. Each section uses a mixture of emotional, rhetoric, data points, and (hopefully) logic to move the story along. Finally, a conclusion ties the whole thing together, sometimes even with a sweet moral or lesson at the end. There. That’s basically “Ulysses.”

With great narrative content writing, the writer can put substance and color around the piece. No matter how ordinary or cut-and-dry the topic, a narrative pulls readers in and breathes life into what might have been boring, old content marketing. This is sometimes accomplished with a choice anecdote, which provides the writer with a bold metaphor to set up the article. Other times it’s more of a repositioning in the tone, changing to be either more or less serious. And sometimes, writers just get to go for it. Suddenly, a standard blog about “Old Car Parts” becomes an entertaining and engaging story, enriched with insight, critical thinking, and a very long section about why old car parts are actually very sick and very cool.

Long-Form Content Often Means Whitepapers

When word counts start to sail into the upper 2000s, it’s a good time to consider what the purpose of this piece to be. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with a longer blog post; pillar blogs are often a centerpiece of modern content marketing strategies. But if you’re churning out that much great copy about this subject, why not go a little further and turn it into a downloadable white paper?

While blogs are the meat of most content marketing strategies, downloads like white papers often take home the bacon. White papers are centerpieces of campaigns, and function as both a piece of great writing and an actual asset the reader can walk away with. They usually are heavily researched and are full of original thought and thoroughly informative. This isn’t your daddy’s blog. This is your father’s blog and you will respect it, because the reader is going to remember and hold on to this one for a while to come. If your campaign already has its own white paper, it might still be worth it to try some brainstorming around the topic to see if anything new comes out. You may discover a whole new schedule of great content inside. Turns out, starting from scratch is a lot easier when you’re not actually starting from scratch.

The idea of writing longer articles may sound a tad intimidating. But truthfully, it’s a chance to produce better work that engages and hooks readers, as well as performs better in search rankings and other metrics. As long as you’re keeping the reader and their perspective top of mind, anything you pen has the opportunity to be great. Is that 1500 words?

 

 



In 1922, Winston Churchill commissioned the world's first white paper. In 2019, Metonymy Media's Creative Director, Amber Peckham, created The Meta Paper in that first paper's image. The result? A white paper about white papers and how to make them. Download now for best practices and insights into how you can make your next white paper the absolute best it can be.

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