Most of the questions people ask me are about Content Creation. This post explains how to create long form content from scratch to enable you to get on the #1 spot in Google.
Back in 2012, Google released its Panda algorithm update. It has affected nearly 12% of websites due to “thin” content. In its webmasters’ blog, Google encouraged website owners to pay attention to the content they have on their websites and asses it from a user’s perspective.
Google doesn’t set the length of content as one of its ranking factors or Algorithm requirements. Then why does the long form content is one of the most discussed and craved for content forms today?
Why Do you Need Long-form Content?
There are simple yet powerful reasons for focusing on long-form content for your website.
1. Long-form content bears more authority
Users mostly see long-form content as providing more info, more detail, and more data. That’s over 1,000-words guides seem more trustworthy than sketchy 400-words pieces.
One of the studies about Wikipedia articles revealed that the longer the article was, the more trust users put into its contents. Many studies prove that users trust long and profound articles more.
2. Longer content ranks better
When rolling out Panda update six years ago, the search engine giant asked webmasters to review their content regarding its quality and authority. One of the best ways of doing it was creating longer well-researched articles that would have been covering the topic in full.
One of the most cited studies from Backlinko revealed that longer-form content usually gets higher positions in Google searches. It says that the average first-pager article typically has over 1,800 words.
It is not a rock-solid truth. One of the Ahrefs studies showed that on average the content that ranked on the top position of Google SERP had about 800 words or so. Thus, it is not the exact number of words (no one will tell you how long is long enough) that defines long-form content, but its quality that impacts rankings.
3. Long-form content gets more links and shares
A study by HubSpot proved that longer articles usually get more backlinks. Longer articles (3,000 to 10,000 word-long) get more shares on average and become viral on the internet.
Longer content is mostly an evergreen content. Again, it is not the number of words that makes it stay popular longer. Longer articles are usually more authoritative and have more useful info than any other type of content.
4. Longer content is more relevant
With the introduction of Hummingbird, Google started to differentiate the searches by whether it’s a topic or a question. Thus, for the “question”-like queries that don’t require in-depth researches, Google shows the results right in the news feed. Just like with the “Avengers infinity war release date” one.
On the other hand, the search query for, say, “hotel website design” requires more in-depth research, and thus will be considered as a “topic.” Google now considers longer articles as more “topically relevant.” Thus, when your content has more signs of the “relevant” content—it gets more points from Google and can be ranked higher.
How to Write Effective Long-Form Articles
Now when you know why long-form content is essential for your blog or website, it’s time to get a checklist and start creating it. Here are the main points that should drive you in the right direction.
1. Define your goals
Any content should serve some goal. Don’t jump into writing huge and informative articles every week because this article has told you it is good. Define your goals: what ROI you get from longer articles? Will this be beneficial and profitable?
Create long-from content only in case you know that your efforts and money spent on it will be rewarded. Choose this form for articles that require a detailed dive into the topic. And use other content types, e.g., lists, tips, infographics, etc. when it’s more appropriate.
2. Define your target audience
I guess you don’t want to put your efforts into the huge piece of text that no one needs. Well, you need clicks, reads, and shares, right? So you should study your target audience and their needs to offer them the best content that answers their issues.
Learn your audience and try to get the feedback on what they would like to know from you. You can ask users to share their ideas in comments to your blog posts or on social media. Create dedicated emails to get their feedback. Thus you can get tons of ideas for content, and some may be a perfect fit for cool in-depth research.
3. Perform a thought-out keyword research
Content rankings and visibility in search greatly depend on keyword and their use in the text. Well-researched keywords can make long-form content a gold mine for traffic, shares, and backlinks.
Note that recommendation of using long-tail keywords may not work in case of long-form content. When your aim as a good chunk of traffic, long-tail keywords may be too weak to bring you the ROI you need. They have low search volume and may just not apply to a broad topic. So it may be wiser to target keywords with mid- or even high-competitiveness.
Most free keyword research tools like Soovle or Answer the Public may fit only at the first stage when you search for broad ideas or try to find out what your users may be interested in. Then you may need advanced tools to generate keyword ideas and evaluate their traffic potential, search volume and difficulty to rank on top.
4. Select the content format
Once you have your main keyword, you should decide upon the content format that will be the best fit for the topic, for your website and your audience. Say, if you have a keyword “long-form content,” you can try the following formats:
- Listicle: “10-Step Guide to Write Long-Form Content”
- Research: “What Are the Best Strategies for Long-Form Content”
- How-To: “How To Create Long-Form Content from Scratch”
- Infographic: “Your Visual Cheat-Sheet to Creating Long-Form Content” etc.
All these formats can even have similar text. The only difference is the way you present the information. Thus, listicle is the easiest form and requires less time to come up with. Infographics need more resources to create. But the ROI can be higher.
5. Create an outline based on keywords
This step is closely connected with the keyword research stage. And it helps you not only with writing the content but increases your chances to rank higher. Here I give you the trick on how to rank for a ton of various keywords with one piece.
During your keyword research, you don’t have to focus only on one keyword for your topic. Create a list of good keywords that are closely related to the broad-one (here is where the long-tail keywords come in handy). Then do the following:
- Write a brief outline using the broader keywords that may describe each part of the content (e.g., Intro. What is long-form content. Why do you need long-form content. Tips to create long-form content. Conclusion.);
- Divide each part into smaller sections that describe them more precisely (e.g., Why do you need long-form content: Long-form content statistics; Benefits of long-form content, etc.);
- Add even more specific subsections where you may use many long-tail keywords like “long form articles” or “how many words should a blog post be.”
Using different versions of the outline and the content itself, you may increase your chances to rank in the Top10 in Google SERP significantly. And you may rank for multiple keywords instead of one!
6. Update the content regularly
Universal guides usually cover all-in-one topics that rarely undergo significant changes. But the world changes fast and any information may become outdated. You need to check out your content from time to time to see if it includes the latest info that impacts the entire topic.
Updating your content has another benefit: it helps you keep your content evergreen and get decent traffic many years after publishing. Even if you don’t need to change or rewrite any parts, you can refresh the publishing date alone or add some new examples. It tells Google that your content is fresh and it may even rank it higher.
The next step is writing a piece of engaging and helpful content that will get you traffic, backlinks, and shares. It is also a great way of beating your competitors who don’t offer such valuable content for their users.
Remember: choose a topic that will help your users with their issues; do thorough keyword research; select the right and digestible format and write your outline perfectly well. Then add the body text, publish, and wait for success!