The Practical Guide to Producing Long-Form Content

The Practical Guide to Producing Long-Form Content

My preference goes towards writing comprehensive, long-form articles.

My usual blog posts would normally end up between 2,000 and 3,000 words, some resulting in 4,000 – 6,000 in specific cases.

However, 90% of the traffic to my own website comes from organic search and about 75–80% of our agency’s traffic is organic as well.

Choosing Between Long-Form Content and Short Content

So whenever I pick long-form, I care about the following considerations:

  • Long-form content ranks better in Google
  • Longer articles provide more value
  • Long articles allow for introducing more data, stories, statistics, quotes
  • Complex topics require long-form content to cover the main points of a problem
  • I can reuse smaller chunks or list items on social media

Some of these articles may be guides or even tutorials. If I was shooting for a news website, I wouldn’t bother so much.

Long-form content is hard to crank, though. It takes significantly longer to gather everything together. The regularity of pushing content live will be affected.

Short content has its purpose, too.

  • Short content is easier to distribute with no editing needed
  • It’s so much easier to write a short post than a long, detailed one
  • A 2,000 words article may end up into 2, 3, even 4 short-form pieces
  • Busy people don’t have time to read long guides daily
  • A business with a large email list or massive social following can bring traffic to short pieces without caring about SEO
  • You can post frequently once you settle on short content
  • Creating content pillars is still doable with a larger collection of shorter posts

Seth Godin is known to publish short, insightful pieces, period.

Many reputable business magazines like Forbes or Inc. aim for about 800 words on average.

Communities like Quora often work well with short-form answers. You can cross-check several opinions before making up your mind.

So it really depends on what your audience is after and how you plan to distribute your content.

The Skyscraper Technique

Brian Dean’s “Skyscraper Technique” works extremely well for informational content pieces but isn’t a great fit for landing pages.

The technical concept behind this technique is building massive content pieces. We’re talking about 5,000 words, sometimes 10,000 words or even further.

These mini-guides answer all the right questions by providing a massive volume of context.

Some of the notable benefits (and goals) of skyscraper content:

  • Real long-form content ranks better
  • All internal contextual references lead to a larger list of long-tail keywords
  • You get to answer so many FAQs around the industry topic
  • Your resource gets a longer time on site (believed to be a ranking signal)
  • Lower bounce rate right away since your article is high quality (also a ranking signal)
  • Suitable for stealing competitors link by offering a better resource of yours (though link builders are so annoying)
  • Hard to overtake if your piece is 10x better than the second-best

Back in the day, endlessly long landing pages were super effective.

OptimizePress was one of the popular landing page builders for WordPress, supporting sales pages that kept going and going, answering every rebuttal, including testimonials, reviews, references, success stories, quick wins, comparisons with other tools, a number of CTAs, various discounts stressing on the value of the product.

You can still encounter references of similar landing pages by followers of Russell Brunson’s Click Funnels business model. I do respect Russell and he’s invented a number of smart, converting funnels, but some of his students go above and beyond in copying affiliate marketers from the old dates.

Modern landing pages are simple, lightweight, clean, focusing on one or two massive obstacles, outlining a clear value proposition (in a logical or emotional way).

You can absolutely link to these sales pages from a skyscraper piece of content, assuming it’s getting a great page authority and will act as a middle-of-the-funnel article before you send customers over. Just don’t mix both techniques in a single content entry.

Techniques On Writing Lengthy Blog Posts

Let’s consider what makes long-form content appealing in the first place.

Why do people read books?

Pick any fantasy, romance, detective book from the shelf.

It starts with an introduction, portraying the context of your first scene, probably your main hero alongside other secondary characters. The actor reveals the initial details of the plot, looping you into the story.

As you keep reading, you go through a series of journeys. Ups and downs. Success stories and dreadful, or terrifying experiences.

Characters evolve throughout the plot, gaining positive and negative traits, being judged by you, the reader, based on your own perception of the world.

Every chapter reveals a piece of the story, serving as a consecutively logical piece throughout the entire book: a piece of a well-planned journey.

The final chapters reach to a conclusion, a logical (or not) ending produced thanks to the adventure your characters have undergone through. A parting thought is sometimes alluded to at the epilogue of the story.

How is that relevant to writing blog posts?

I’m not saying that you should be a trained book writer to author a long-form piece of content. But comprehensive articles are based on many of the underlining principles of book writing.

You can draw inspiration and employ some of the aforementioned techniques:

  • Prepare the logical pieces of your article: an introduction, the body, and the conclusion.
  • Make sure the three pieces are interconnected properly before you start to write. Different frameworks exist, including starting from the end, but the point is not to overlook consistency.
  • Prepare a logical plan for your body. Draft down all of your headlines upfront.
  • Plan for a rough volume of content for each headline.
  • Gather quotes, news, testimonials, statistics, other supporting pieces to enrich your content.
  • List down common questions that may arise from readers.
  • Aside from your main target audience, consider other tangible personas that will benefit from reading your copy. Include some additional clarifications, pictures, mini-guides to ensure that the end quality is higher.
  • Use storytelling. Stories are easy to relate to and remember, and a great transition element between different chapters.
  • Your own stories can support the credibility of your content, too. Experience beats theory.

There is no clear definition of “lengthy content” but it’s easy to crank out thousands of words in a single blog post by pouring your heart into it (after doing all of the due diligence upfront).

Start with 150–200 words in your introduction, and another 150–200 for your finale. Create a logical sequence of headlines for your main story. It could be 6, 10, 15. Three to five paragraphs per headline work well in practice, which rounds up to 200 to 300 words per headline.

300–400 words of intro/ending with 10 headlines 200 words each is 2,400 words, an “above average” piece across most industries online. Most articles on Inc., Forbes, Entrepreneur tend to be around 800 words. Some aim for 1,000 – 1,200. Ranking results are best found after 1,600 – 1,800 words.

Don’t obsess around the word count, but I hope these stats and the sample content plan would be helpful.

Got No Time To Write Lengthy Blog Posts?

Don’t write in a single batch.

Unless you are a full-time writer, you deal with a day job, family, commute, and other activities that prevent you from spending several hours in a row writing.

This makes it so much easier to procrastinate and avoid writing long-form content. It takes time (hours at a time) and makes for a good excuse whenever you lack that time.

Instead, producing content regularly works better. You get used to the habit of writing. Iteratively, you notice your content database growing slowly, but steadily with time.

I use five different techniques to overcome the lack of time for a full long-form post (and still end up producing it).

1. Upgrade Drafts Daily

Nobody says that you need to crank out an entire 4,000 words post in one go.

I have about 15 drafts at any moment with thoughts and bits and pieces compiled over time. This is especially true for topics I need to spend a lot of time researching facts, statistics, techniques.

Create a folder with your drafts or add them straight to WordPress. Update them occasionally until you’re satisfied, and publish them after.

2. Repurpose Your Quora and LinkedIn Content

Quora is one of my special secrets for content production. I have 3 book drafts in the works based on my Quora answers.

One of them was recently finalized and published on Amazon :

Amazon.com: 126 Steps to Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur: The Entrepreneurship Fad and the Dark Side of Going Solo eBook: Mario Peshev: Kindle Store

I tend to repurpose a lot of my answers here into long-form blogposts or videos.

However, Entrepreneurship isn’t a topic I blog about (except for guest posts and interviews), which was a great opportunity to compile over a hundred answers I’ve written into 244 pages of a structured, organized book for beginners and “wantrepreneurs”.

Since I write daily posts on LinkedIn, I merge both and end up mixing answers into common topics.

I tend to get 4–6 answers per posts. Sometimes, I browse a specific topic and discuss its challenges. Or I’ll just write random answers that pop up in my feed or user requests.

3. Break The Writing Process Down

Every writer follows a certain process (whatever works best).

For instance, you’ve got the title ready. Then you’re off to prepare your introduction. Writing the main thesis. The epilogue. Filling in bits in between.

I find it easier to prepare all of the chapters (headlines) within the post and work from within. Most of the quote/stats research is done near the end, though I may reverse the process and write a post based on a long study I’ve discovered.

Jumping from one step to another is tiresome and breaking the process down is generally easier. Plus, you can combine research for multiple posts (or complete three posts once the rest is ready).

4. Record Videos Instead

I’m really fond of repurposing content.

One of the best ways to maximize efficiency is recording videos.

A video could easily be repurposed to a podcast, a long-form piece (even extracting the transcript), a series of snippets for social media and much more.

So pushing for video content is great if you’re comfortable to improvise and have the main points to cover handy.

5. Employ Voice Dictation

I’ve “written” long-form posts while driving on the highway.

Dictating to your phone and sending it to Rev for transcribing or a virtual assistant could do really well. Some speech-to-text apps may be suitable too, though I find myself spending longer to correct abbreviatures and names.

Then again, if you tend to spend a lot of time commuting (or just outside), this is another way to keep producing copy without writing at a desk.

Top Resources That Will Help Improve Your Writing Skills

guide to lengthy content

I’m not a professional writer although my day-to-day requires 5–8 hours of writing proposals, documentation, marketing, and sales copy, among other resources.

There are three popular websites that are suitable for beginner writers or bloggers:

  1. Copyblogger: Words that Work for Digital Marketing and Sales
  2. ProBlogger – Blog Tips to Help You Make Money Blogging – ProBlogger
  3. Home | Copywriting For Start-ups And Marketers

All of them have premium resources or courses as well. Copyhacker’s paid training is pretty solid and I can definitely recommend it.

You can also give The Write Practice – The Write Practice and Web Design & Book Marketing | Author Media a shot for extra tips and tricks.

There are plenty of entrepreneurs and marketers who are worth following – you can learn the basics and advance through studying best practices on content marketing, copywriting, and Internet marketing as a whole.

The Bottom Line: 20% Production and 80% Distribution

While blogging in 2019 is quite challenging when compared to 2010 or even 2014, you can make it work by producing high-quality content focused on your niche market. Publish a post 3–4 times a week over the course of a year and you’ll see some results.

Monitor your trends online – what keywords do you rank for, how to leverage long-tail keywords, what topics are your peers interested in. Combine them into categories with some cornerstone pages that collect the best of your copy per category.

If you are able to extract the best nuggets into an ebook that you can share for free in exchange for an email, there’s a starting point for growing your email list.

Repost portions of your content to other popular mediums with a link to the original content.

Contact other bloggers who may benefit from a link to your best content. But remember, it should be outstanding.

Apply as a guest blogger and regularly publish content on other blogs. Not only you will reach new readers, but a backlink to your website will increase its visibility in Google, Bing, Yahoo.

Aside from studying your own audience and their reading habits, learn more about your competitors as well. See what works and what doesn’t. Figure out what sort of content is missing.

If everyone in your field is writing long stories, try a different format – such as “quick daily tips”. Generally, long-form content ranks better (2,000+ words) because it’s assumed to include in-depth information as compared to quick hacks.

producing and promoting long-form content

Repurposing content into infographics, cheatsheets, workflows or industry data works very well. It lets you distribute it to other sources such as SlideShare or Pinterest.

Republishing your content in other outlets is a great way to connect with more readers by using your existing content. Experienced marketers often say that content marketing is 20% production and 80% distribution.

The same goes for sharing on social media – publishing an evergreen piece just once is pointless, it’s worth investing in Edgar or RecurPost for ongoing promotion across different channels.

Build it and they will come” is not a successful approach anymore. But a combination of outstanding content for a specific niche and ongoing distribution and promotion will slowly grow your audience.

Check out The Guide to Consistently Producing High-Quality Content and learn how you can create high-quality content through actionable tips.

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