Looking for a Great Way to Increase Web Traffic? Try Long-Form!
Long-form content, the staple of more traditional newspapers and magazines, is also the ideal format for writing blogs, mainly because of the flexibility it provides for content managers charged with creating content for multiple formats. Long-form blog posts—ideally 1,200 to 2,400 words—can be edited and condensed for other purposes. They also tend to rank high on the SEO optimization scale, making long-form content an investment that pays off in terms of time and effort. It’s a win-win!
The exact algorithm Google uses to determine which pages go to the top of the search engine results page is, of course, a mystery, but one study by serpIQ found that the average number of words for the content in the top spot was close to 2,400, and articles with an average of 2,000 words ranked in the top 10.
While Internet users often turn to Google for quick answers to relevant questions, a significant number—up to 10 percent—are interested in learning more about broader topics, said Google employee Pandu Nayak. “That’s why today we’re introducing new search results to help users find in-depth articles,” he wrote on the Google Webmasters Central Blog.
Define your goals, know your audience, and select a topic.
Why do you want to create long-form content? Do you want to build brand awareness? Do you want to connect with your customers? Do you want to grow your email list? The options are limitless, which makes it paramount to define who you want to reach, what you want to achieve, and how to gauge whether you’ve achieved that goal.
Once you’ve made those decisions, then pick a substantive topic. Choose one that educates, inspires, and will keep readers engaged for 1,200 to 2,400 words. And remember—always remember—the quality of the content is what makes the difference. Compiling words for words’ sake will not work.
Here are a few things to consider when you select a topic:
- Keywords and search queries: What are people looking for?
- Existing analytics: What content do you already have that’s performing well?
- Target audience: What do you know about them? What makes them tick?
- Competition: What else is out there? Can you beat it?
Design with the reader in mind.
To appeal to those with a deadline to meet, a train to catch, or simply a short attention span, it’s a good idea to break up the text with a combination of images and guideposts that allow readers to get the most out of the article in the shortest amount of time.
Providing a summary of the article in a bulleted format at the top of the blog, for example, is a good way to let readers know what to expect from the article and entice them to read more. Subheads quickly guide them through the text to the information that will serve them best. And images? Well, they’re worth a thousands words. Well-placed photos and graphics can supplement information in the text or, in the case of memes, provide a humorous touch.
In addition, provide readers with multiple opportunities to engage with the text. Emails are a quick and easy way for readers to keep up with pertinent information of specific interest to them; links to other content provides readers with easy access to related topics that might be of equal or greater use to them; and social media buttons allow readers to immediately share the content on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
In short, make it obvious and easy for readers to:
- Sign up for emails
- Clink on related links
- Share the blog via social media
Another approach made popular by BuzzFeed and other sites is to provide the content in the form of a listsicle, which often begins with an introductory paragraph or two followed by a series of images with bite-sized chunks of information that frequently contain witty, clever, and entertaining turns of phrase.
Choose your writing strategy.
Once you know what you’re looking for in terms of content, it’s time to decide whether to write it yourself, have it done in-house, or hire a freelance writer.
Either way, keep these ideas in mind while making your decision:
- Top-quality content does not come cheap.
- You want your copy to shine.
- The right wording can make a very big difference.
If you decide to hire a freelancer, make sure you provide clearly defined goals and expectations for the piece. In fact, the most important part of the process of working with freelance writers is making sure they understand who the audience is and what you want to convey. Spend a good bit of time on these initial discussions, and, if you think it might be helpful, consider providing the freelancer with a detailed outline of what should go into the main sections of the blog.
Promote and get it out there!
Once the piece is done, don’t just cross your fingers and hope it will go viral. It’s imperative that you have a detailed, comprehensive, and creative promotion strategy. This might entail a mix of outbound strategies that include email updates, contests, giveaways, or other events as well as a plan for divvying up the content—both words and images—and distributing it via social media. Remember that reaching out to influencers—whomever they may be—is a tried and true strategy that brings results.