With decreasing attention spans and everyone using small screens, it makes sense to publish 300 word blog posts, right?
You may argue – this content strategy works for Seth Godin. Just look at the number of shares on his posts.
But you are not Seth Godin and you should consider long form content of short form content.
And the data on Google’s top 10 results also show an allergy to short content (unless you’ve a very authoritative domain).
Web users are becoming smarter every day. They want specific answers to specific questions. The number of long-tail searches performed are increasing every day. Your content strategy needs to match their increasing savvy.
So as a blogger, you’ll have to laboriously compose more words for search engine optimization and conversion rate.
Let me just say the words:
Many bloggers suffer from little traffic and decide to kill their blogs. But don’t jump the gun!
Do you want to further optimize your inbound marketing efforts?
Then long form evergreen articles can give you that edge over your competition who focuses strictly on short form content.
The majority of blog posts published are 500 words or shorter. You can stand out in the noise by putting an extra 1500 words worth of work.
Longer articles generate business leads for a longer timeframe. This is because they attract backlinks and organic traffic from Google timelessly, organically making it evergreen content.
You’re perceived as an authority in your industry. Your audience appreciates comprehensive posts that delve into intricacies of their pain points. They won’t need to jump on 10 different websites to get the same information.
Long form is sustainable. You can launch a marketing campaign solely by repurposing these epic content pieces.
Buffer experimented with not publishing any new content for a month and distributed their existing content in a value-packed email course. It garnered 18,185 signups within 6 days, a great conversion rate on a counterintuitive content strategy.
But creating long form content does not mean cranking out irrelevant and repetitive words.
Rather it’s all about Providing Value.
That should always remain your major blogging goal – even if you were focusing on short form content.
In this post, I’ll break down creating high-quality long form content step-by-step. I expect that you’ll feel confident in your ability to create 3000+ word articles by the end of the post as well as trust that this is at least a good option to test against existing short form content you may have in play.
6 data backed reasons for inspiring you to create long-form evergreen content
If you’re wondering if long-form content will fit your niche, then look no further than BuzzFeed.
Another brilliant example is Wait But Why – a blog that publishes long insightful content (1500+ words) once per week.
These examples have proven sustainability compared to the old short form content mill formulas popular a few years ago. Search engines reward long form content.
Are they even sustaining their current traffic at such a low posting frequency?
Nope. They’re thriving with this content strategy.
Their articles go crazy viral earning hundreds of thousands of shares compared to similar short form content. Their post on Generation Y got more than 2 million shares.
Their research-backed piece on Artificial Intelligence impressed Elon Musk.
Good primer on the exponential advancement of technology, particularly AI http://t.co/1c30ZwJ8Y5 — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 23, 2015
Still, these are currently hints, right? I know of something that’ll interest and inspire you to take action – hard data. Here are 6 studies on how long-form content affects your search engine rankings, backlinks and social shares. 1. Average number of referring domain links for articles greater than 1000 words increase (from 6.19 to 9.53) – BuzzSumo and Moz teamed up to analyze 1 million articles this summer. They found that 85% of articles are less than 1000 words long.
A major reason can be the effort required to write longer evergreen content. But, longer content consistently gets shared and linked to a greater extent. Look at the correlation numbers for shares in long-form content versus short form content.
The strong correlation of long form with links isn’t new. Look at the data from content that get links 2012 version.
Even in 2012, less long-form posts were written, but they got more backlinks. 2. HubSpot’s analysis of 6,192 articles found 2000+ words articles got more backlinks and social shares 2500+ word articles on HubSpot earned the most links.
2500+ words articles also earned the most social shares.
And articles between 2,250 – 2,500 words earned the maximum organic traffic. Short form content wasn’t nearly as competitive. But this is one side of a content strategy coin.
3. BuzzSumo’s analysis of 100 million articles shows that in-depth articles get the most shares on social media In their sample of 100 million articles, short form content (less than 1000 words) was shared 16 times as often as the long-form work. 3,000-10,000 word posts averaged the most social media shares (8859).
4. Quick Sprout blog posts longer than 1,500 words get 68% more tweets and 22% more likes than shorter ones My analysis of 327 blog posts on Quick Sprout showed that longer posts get more social media engagement. Posts greater than 1500 words averaged 293.5 tweets and 72.7 likes, whereas posts under 1500 words averaged 174.6 tweets and 59.3 likes. Data shows this as a powerful content strategy.
CrazyEgg noted the same trend – long form content on the homepage converted 30% higher than short form content.
5. CoSchedule’s Analysis of 6 long-tail keywords shows that long-form content ranks higher in Google Garrett Moon analyzed the first page rankings of 6 keywords. He found that the top 5 results averaged more than 2,000 words.
Google gets more search engine fodder and you’ll rank for more long-tail keywords. 6. WordStream increased their on-page time and user engagement by incorporating long-form content on their blog. Initially, the WordStream team was skeptical of the long-form content strategy and published articles over 1000 words. They only focused on search engine optimization. They changed their blogging and marketing strategy. A major factor that increased their average on-page time from 1:35 to 4:33 was long-form content. Their most popular article for 2013 was 2300+ words – Find Your Old Tweets: How to See Your First (Worst?) Tweet.
Writing insightful and detailed content will also rank you for many long-tail keywords and increase your search traffic and conversion rate.
8 steps to create an engaging long-form article
And you’ll want to ensure that any long form article is formatted properly, so that your visitors can read comfortably. It has to captivate them unlike short form content that is easier to scan and complete.
Here is a step-by-step method you can use to create a lengthy masterpiece for your content strategy.
There’s little use of writing in-depth content with a limited shelf-life. It will attract readers, shares and links for a short time., but has no evergreen effect.
Look at websites like Wikipedia, About and IMDB. You want continued, sustained success like them. Chris Fielden experimented with an evergreen content strategy posting. It saw 6,000-9,000 monthly visitors (in 2013).
Here are some evergreen content formats you can start with.
You can read more evergreen content strategy ideas in this blog post at Buffer. After you jumpstart your creative process and come up with evergreen ideas, it’s time to check them. If a subject hasn’t got interest, you should ditch it. Run your list of collected ideas (or keywords) through Google Trends.
You can pit two subjects against each other at Explore Trends and determine the subject that’ll be fruitful for you to target. Here is the comparative interest, shown over time, between “Facebook”, pitted against “Google+.”
You can even refine your search for a particular region. Here is a plot of “cupcakes” vs “macaroons” for North Dakota.
Cupcakes win the battle, at least in North Dakota. If your graph for a particular keyword is a flat line with diminishing searches per month, then don’t go after that keyword. The subject should have a stable run over the last few months, at least. It’s great if it’s on an upward spiral, like the phrase “content marketing.”//www.google.com/trends/embed.js?hl=en-US&q=content+marketing&tz=Etc/GMT-5:30&content=1&cid=TIMESERIES_GRAPH_0&export=5&w=500&h=330
The queries tab will give you a list of related keywords. You should ideally target the top and rising queries.
You can also use BuzzSumo for drilling top performing content pieces in your niche.
For finding evergreen popular content, filter your results for the “past year” or “past 6 months.”
Chris managed to get a wider audience for his writing (more book sales on Amazon and Lulu) with his evergreen content experiment.
Step 2 – Do intensive research, gathering data and scientific studies.
Effective research is critical to writing high-quality content.
Even if you’re well-versed on the subject you’re going to write about, performing research won’t hurt. You can discover a new angle to make your post more interesting or a case study that supports your arguments.
Have a look at ConversionXL. They are known to publish only high-quality evergreen content. The backbone of their articles is intensive research. Their posts are loaded with data.
Want to carve a niche for your blog so a search engine loves you?
Then write research backed posts.
Start with Google. You’ll get autocomplete suggestions as you start typing.
You can dig for more keywords from the ‘Searches related to’ section at the bottom of search results.
Here are some searching tips by Matt Cutts.
You can dig deeper if you use these 25 search operators to deep-dive into any website.
Do you want to include different types of content in your post?
Then use these other avenues.
You should reference scientific research in your posts, if possible as part of your content strategy. It will improve your credibility. Google Scholar is a good starting point for digging up scientific studies.
Here are the search results for ‘improve memory.’
Don’t believe everything written in Wikipedia articles. The information is not as reliable. Only use it for expanding your understanding of a subject.
You can directly search for data around your subject by searching “[your subject]” + data. You’ll find websites for sourcing statistics.
Here are results for “online marketing” + data.
It’s easy to get distracted, so time your research and don’t allow yourself more than an hour to gather information.
Step #3 – Create a robust structure: Outline your ideas
How can you write a long article without defining its structure?
It’s the obvious next step to ensure that your writing flows well.
When a reader jumps sections in your article (which he will), he must not get lost.
You can also use Google Documents for both outline and writing.
The outline should include these elements (choose relevant ones based on the subject of your article).
And, it should follow an inverted pyramid structure.
You can write the introduction and conclusion for your post in the outline itself. The introduction will establish context for your main body. The conclusion should end with a strong call to action.
You can use ideas from the articles, studies and data collected in step 2.
Then, create sub-topics for your body and bullets to list your main points. Here is a rough outline created in Evernote by Michael Hyatt.
Feeding irrelevant or outdated information is likely to create a bad user experience. It can tarnish your brand image.
Ask these questions before adding an argument to your outline. It ensures context.
Will your target audience be interested in the sub-topic you plan to cover?
Does adding a particular research study in your outline present your idea convincingly?