How to create long-form content that ranks, gets read and converts
Creating in-depth content is time-consuming and resource-intensive. Here's a guide to ensure your long-form content efforts pay off.
There are many questions about content length in SEO and what ranks the best.
While Google says there’s no specific word count they recommend, some studies have shown that long-form content tends to rank higher than short-form.
If you’re interested in writing long-form content, you probably want to make sure it’s going to rank, get read, and convert so you create an ROI for your effort.
What is long-form content?
Most consider long-form content to be over 1,000 words. It’s a content piece that goes in-depth, offers extra value for the reader and includes more research, insights, and information than a quick read.
Long-form content should leave the reader feeling comfortable with the subject and as if their questions have been answered and they know what to do with the information or how it applies to them.
What should you include in long-form content?
You want to create content that helps your reader. Think about them and what they need or want to learn from this piece. What questions do they have?
It’s your responsibility to anticipate their questions and answer them in your work. If you’re unsure what questions they have, then think about what you want to ensure they know.
Use the following guide questions to identify which information is most important to help them get to the next stage:
- What do they need to know?
- Why do they need to know it?
- What can they do with the information?
- What baseline information should they know to make this make more sense?
- What if they don’t have that baseline knowledge already?
- How does this information impact them?
- What’s their next step?
Don’t write a bunch of unnecessary fluff to try to hit some word count.
You must ensure you’re providing value and helping your ideal customer so they want to consume more of your content.
If you get them to the site but find nothing of value, they’ll be less likely to stay or return another time.
Write to tell a story and provide value rather than writing to an arbitrary word count. Your content will be better in the long run.
Where do you start when creating long-form content to rank, get read and convert?
To start, make sure there’s a conversion path for your reader. Your content pieces need to tie to your products or services to drive revenue and conversions.
If you’re answering questions for your potential customer and providing helpful information, they’re more likely to convert if you offer a solution to their issues. Be helpful, and link to additional information that might help them move to the next step.
If you have an opt-in that ties to this content piece and is the next step for them, offer it in your work. You’re helping them and building your email list at the same time.
If you want your content to convert, you need to make sure there’s a conversion path. Everything you write needs to somehow tie to your core products and services.
I teach my students to choose content pillars that link to their products and services and write about topics related to those subjects.
Creating a long-form content piece and ranking at the top of Google is great, but if it drives irrelevant traffic, it won’t convert, and that’s a waste of your efforts.
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How do you make sure your long-form content ranks?
We all know we have no control over the Google ranking algorithm, but we also know how it works and what’s most important from an optimization standpoint.
First, verify there’s search demand for your topic idea, choose a keyword (or keywords) you can rank for, write for your audience, and finally, optimize your content piece.
Make sure there’s interest in your topic
Start by making sure there’s an audience for your content piece.
It may seem like a great idea to you. However, if no one is searching for information on the subject, it’s unlikely that you’ll get much traffic due to low demand.
That said, search volume is not the most critical factor in choosing a keyword, and we’ll talk more about that.
Brainstorm the topics you think you want to cover, and then go to Google and see what’s there today.
- Who’s written on the subject you’re considering using for your content piece?
- Is there already information on the topic?
- Do you have a new angle, new insights, or something more to add to the conversation?
If not, this might not be the best topic. Search the topic and see what shows up in Google Suggested Search.
Is there something closely related to your topic that Google suggests, or are there questions related to it in the People Also Ask section?
If you see your topic idea in either of those places, that’s good because it means there’s interest in your potential topic.
Once you know your topic is viable, use your favorite keyword research tool to identify the keyword or keywords you want to target for this new long-form content piece.
Long-form pieces can rank for multiple keywords a bit easier than short-form pieces just due to the length of the content piece.
Choose your keywords wisely. Look for a primary keyword with good search volume and the ability for your website to rank on Page 1.
Choose your keywords
Go to Google and see who’s currently ranking on Page 1 for the keyword you’re considering using as your primary one.
- Are the websites similar to yours?
- Are they more prominent brands or companies?
- How in-depth are the articles?
- Can you provide additional insight or value (not just more words) than the sites currently ranking?
If you see other websites similar to yours and content pieces that you feel aren’t as in-depth or are missing information on the topic you want to write about, then you’re probably making a good choice in your keyword selection.
Choose the keyword with the highest search volume that your website has the best chance of ranking for and is the word your Ideal Customer uses when searching for information on this subject.
How to make sure your content gets read
Now it’s time to write. Go back to your brainstorming notes.
What information do you need to include to answer your readers' questions?
Be sure you have that information. Sort it in a way that it’s easy to follow and understand so your reader wants to continue.
A long-form content piece is a time commitment for someone to read.
Thus, you must provide value, insights, statistics, and things that are unique from something else they might have read on the subject before – or they won’t continue reading.
Format your piece in a reader-friendly way. This is especially important with longer pieces. Consider:
- Using bullets and lists – white space is your friend.
- Using headers (suitable for SEO and your reader).
- Breaking your text up into small, easy-to-read chunks.
- Keeping your sentences and paragraphs short.
It’s better to have many small paragraphs broken up with bullets and numbers than big blocks of text.
People will shy away from reading a piece if the content isn’t formatted in a reader-friendly way.
Your final step is to optimize your content piece
Use your keyword in all of your SEO elements. Make sure it’s in the first paragraph of the copy, which it should be since your keyword is closely tied to your content topic. In most instances, your keyword will be in the title of your piece.
Add your keyword to your URL, image file name, and header tags, and use it throughout your copy.
Done right, long-form content is worth the investment
Long-form content can be a significant time investment. It takes longer to write in-depth pieces than quick bites or short-form.
However, the payoffs can be great. Long-form pieces often rank higher in the search results than short pieces.
And if you’re creating content with an audience, you can rank for and tie to your business, bring relevant traffic to your website, and hopefully, get the conversion.
It’s worth testing long-form content if you haven’t done it yet. Not every piece you write has to be long, but those most important to your business should be longer and more in-depth.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.