A lot of attention is drawn towards whether online businesses should include long form content marketing as part of their long-term digital branding strategy or not.
- Does long-form content deliver value?
- Is it worth time and monetary investment?
- Does long form content have SEO value?
- Will it give more leads and conversions?
These are some pressing questions because long form content development and marketing requires substantial resources of time and money.
In this “long” piece, you’ll read and learn:
- What is Content Marketing?
- Data Supporting Long Form Content Marketing Strategy
- Short Form vs. Long Form Content Marketing
- Does Long Form Content Marketing Work?
- 5 Reasons to Implement Long Form Content Strategy
- Successful Long Form Content Marketing Examples
Content marketing is a core requirement of any online business. The learning of how to do content marketing runs simultaneously with business growth prospects.
Let’s begin with our long form content marketing guide.
What is Long Form Content Marketing?
There is no fixed definition for “long for content marketing”. It is understood as a marketing strategy delivered through multiple “content” mediums such as video, audio, writing and Infographics. It could be a two-fold magazine story, a one minute TV commercial or a lengthy blog post. It is tough to fix a metric but usually, experts consider content to be “long form” when it is more than 1500 words.
From the textual content perspective, read this mind blowing content marketing piece published by Built Visible, titled “Messages in the Deep: The Remarkable Story of the Underwater Internet”. It is a detailed and interactive piece on how the Internet is built and the challenges of laying underwater cables.
Commenting on the creatives and purpose of creating it, the company’s Creative Marketing Associate, Darren Kingman says:
“We created the piece because we think our entire industry is moving more towards long form, in-depth looks at interesting subjects and content that’s visually appealing. We also wanted to see how far we could push ourselves, hence not only the design and development time that has gone into it, but also the contributions”.
Long form content marketing strategy serves dual purpose.
On one hand, it helps the content creator and publisher to demonstrate expertise and credibility, which contributes towards developing a strong authority figure.
On the other hand, it pushes the whole content development team to achieve new heights, explore new markets and contribute towards the whole industry with research and analysis.
The benefits of content marketing are enormous. It is a filtered process to reach target market. The reason why content marketing finds preference with digital marketers is due to its extensive market outreach capability.
Data Supporting Long Form Content Marketing Strategy
Collated data over the years strongly support long form content marketing strategy. The data proves that long form content development strategy is fruitful for gaining long-term sustained visibility, which translates into business growth and increase ROI in terms of traffic, social authority and search engine authority and brand visibility.
1) ViperChill Report
Way back in 2010, ViperChill publishes a report where Glen analyses the content length of 8 industries, highlighting the average word length of random blog post samplings. Here’s the finding.
While technology industry prefers content with lower word count, personal development sites rank high on the radar.
2) SERP IQ Top Ranked Content Length
In 2012, SERP IQ conducts an experiment with the premise that long form content impacts SERP results. They analyse the top ranked content across multiple verticals and find the average word count of top ranked posts to be 2,450 words.
The graph clearly depicts SERP preference. All the first 10 listings have more than 2000 words of content.
3) Medium Data Chart: Measuring Readability against Time
In 2013, Medium platform publishes a report compiling the data of its successful articles against post length to the average time spent on reading the page.
Based on the results, the average post length comes to 1600 words with a reading time of 7 minutes.
4) WordStream ‘First Tweet’ Experiment
In 2013, WordStream publishes, Find Your Old Tweets: How to see your First (Worst?) Tweet, their most popular post of 2013. Read 100,000 times, its 2300 words long and time spent reading is 8 minutes.
5) Long Posts = Higher Social Shares
A November 2013 study by News Whip shows longer posts generate higher social shares. Irrespective of the device used in reading content, News Whip considers the top 10 shared posts on Facebook and finds that the average word counts of successful viral stories are 1000 words, only BBC is an exception.
3,535 is the word count of the longest socially viral story, which is a transcription of Neil Gaiman’s lecture!
Short Form vs. Long Form Content Marketing
It is a dilemma for firms and companies to decide whether it is worthwhile to invest in short form vs. long form content marketing strategies.
Ultimately, the choice boils down to which form will offer utmost benefit to the creator. Moreover, why is it necessary to choose? Can’t both long form and short form content work for the benefit of the company?
The reasons favoring or going against either of them is purely subjective in nature. It is necessary to understand the underlying functions governing both, weigh their benefits and shortcomings, and then decide.
Short form content include activities like Instagram posts, tweets, Facebook wall updates, Vine videos, short articles, conversation screenshots and breaking news coverage.
The allure of short form content lies in:
- inexpensive production costs
- ease of creation
On the downside, even though short from content engages audience:
- its life cycle is short
- it doesn’t require deep investment from the audience
- it has high turnover rate
Losing audience is easy with short form content because it needs to be constantly produced and this requires a good inflow of resources (time and money). Its short virtual life diminishes its value as a method to generate long-term benefits.
In contrast to short form content, long form content marketing requires higher time and monetary investment but its virtual life is long, way too long if each long piece of content is tailored to fit targeted audience base. The ROI increases slowly but steadily.
Long form content marketing improves search engine ranking and there is enough time to establish industry expertise, trust level and brand loyalty. In 2013, Eldman Trust conducts a survey of 31,000 respondents working in 24 markets and finds that “trust and credibility” comes from “subject matter” experts. Short form content falls short of displaying subject matter credibility.
Long form content marketing is far better suited for brand building.
Incorporating both Short Form and Long Form Content Marketing Strategy
Incorporating both short form and long form content marketing strategy is ideal for a business. A business could employ the social aspects of short form content and use it for long form content marketing.
Some ideas to incorporate this ideal marketing mix are mentioned below:
- creating short product videos and uploading them on video sharing platforms like YouTube and Vine;
- announcing a new product or service launch on social media sites;
- posting impressive data, facts and findings on social media to raise audience interest;
- creating Infographics for massive exposure;
- posting content teasers on Twitter with link to the main page;
…and so on!
Ideate short form content marketing strategies to draw focus on long form content.
Long Form Content Marketing: Does it Work?
Till now, the focus establishes the benefits of long form content marketing plan. Learning about various surveys, data and comparison with short form content imply the positive outcomes of long form content marketing strategies.
Few studies exist to highlight whether long form content marketing really works. A data scientist at Chartbeat, Josh Schwartz, offers useful insights for content creators. Josh considers 1 million website visitors on top 10 publications and compares it against Slate.com data.
In crux, the data reveals the average word count of a piece to be 2000 words, excluding content comments and other long form content like eBooks and white papers.
The findings reveal the following things:
1) 60% of the Article Gets Read
On an average, readers read 60% of the article which results in missed information.
2) Social Sharing without Full Reading
The findings reveal that readers often share articles on social media platforms without reading then fully.
The news is a mixed blessing for digital marketing professionals because the social shares contribute towards earned media.
The research also finds that articles with high social shares weren’t read in-depth and vice versa.
3) “Below the Fold” Content Matters
Heatmap to measure user engagement in relation to time reveals an astonishing fact. Readers spend 2/3rd of the time “below the fold”. The research calculated the engaged time of 1 million visitors over a period of 24 hours on 10 high traffic publishing platforms.
In simple words, if the content offers quality, readers are encouraged to scroll more.
4) Average Content attracts Less Visitors
Even though this is not a new finding, it still emphasizes the need for quality and engaging content.
On an average, 10% of visitors never scroll to read a mediocre article. The finding proves clarifies what readers seek and that they are aware of content quality.
Let’s introduce you to the Quartz Curve concept. An erstwhile reporter at The Wall Street Journal, Kevin Delaney is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Quartz, and the creator of the Quartz Curve concept. It is a model which measures likelihood of content success in proportion to its word count. Here’s the representation.
According to the Quartz Curve, a 500-800 word piece do not have high ‘likelihood of success’; a reason why Quartz avoids publishing average length news content. Audiences seek meatier content and publishers like Quartz are fulfilling the requirement.
Further, it will not be wrong to deduce from the graph that content below 500 words and content above 800 words show a steady success growth. In other words, both short form and long form content work.
5 Reasons to understand if you should implement Long Form Content Marketing Strategy
Every firm, every blog, every company is different and so are their requirements. Whether you need to plan and implement long form content marketing strategy depends on some important factors.
Here are 5 helpful reasons to determine whether a long form content marketing strategy will be beneficial or not.
1) Publishing Commitment
More than monetary and time investment, the long form content marketing strategy requires long-term commitment on several levels.
- commitment of time to see results
- commitment to high production inputs
- commitment to maintain steady publishing frequency
- commitment towards exemplary production skills
Without these four commitments, you shouldn’t embark on a long form content marketing plan.
2) Targeted Purpose
Why do you want to publish long form content? Is it because everyone else is doing it or do you envisage gaining some specific results.
These specific results could be an increase in traffic, networking with authority influencers, establishing brand authority, gaining business leads and of course, an increase in business ROI.
Each piece of long form content should serve a purpose. Be clear about the purpose before deciding to invest in this content marketing strategy.
3) Audience Approval
Your business may need a long form content marketing strategy but it doesn’t mean your audience is ready for it. Without audience approval, there is no point in engaging in long form content development.
Dig into Google Analytics data. Check the best performing articles against the time spent by users reading it. If users are spending more time on highly visited articles, it translates to a demand for long form content; a positive signal indicating audience interest to see such in-depth articles.
Do split testing if your business is new. Invest in both short form and long form content and analyse their performance levels once data begins to roll.
4) Content Production Resources
Resourceful and actionable long form content requires 1-2 weeks of production time, depending on the subject matter.
Employing skilled staff is recommended if you want to maximise long form content marketing benefits. You could set up a content writing team comprising of researchers, writers and technical experts.
Long form content needs textual, image and video developments. Graphic data representation through methods like Infographics is necessary as are presentation templates. The long form content should facilitate consumption. It should be innovative, engaging, visually appealing, in-depth and excellently researched.
It is possible to DIY but you need to possess adequate content production resources, technicalities and time.
Maintain a workflow if a team is at work. Plan months of content in advance.
5) Keyword Research
Long form content production relies heavily on keyword research and selection. Businesses needs organic search ranking visibility and if you see the SERP IQ survey mentioned above, it is clear that long form content ranks high on search engines like Google.
On this basis, it is deducible that those content pieces rank highly on many keyword searches. A detailed keyword research using tools like Google Keyword Planner and Long Tail Pro is recommended.
Your team should understand the value of keyword researching. If your business offers certain product and/or services, keyword research should focus on elevating the visibility factor of the products and/or services.
Measure your content development needs against these parameters. Long form content marketing is futuristic. Marketers and publishers are realizing its need and investing in adequate resources to reach the target market and build brand loyalty.
5 Best Examples of Long Form Content Marketing
Audiences have short attention spans. Despite this unavoidable fact, a huge market exists for content which is emotive, engaging, insightful and actionable.
Here are some long form content marketing examples and the success received by the brands.
1) “Dumb Ways to Die”
Metro Trains, an Australian company, wished to run a campaign promoting rail safety. Normally, people ignore safety messages due to their dull and boring displays.
Therefore, McCann Melbourne, an advertising agency, wanted to create awareness in an engaging and ‘interesting’ way to grab the viewer’s attention. This thought is the genesis of “Dumb Ways to Die”.
The 3-minute YouTube video creatively tells the story of silly ways in which you can die and it received 91+ million views!
Instead of choosing the Super Bowl event, Chipotle uses the 2012 Grammy Awards even to premiere their national TV advertisement.
The 2-minute YouTube commercial “depicts the life of a farmer as he slowly turns his family farm into an industrial animal factor before seeing the errors of his ways and opting for a more sustainable future”.
Generally, 2-minute commercials are rare but according to reports, the commercial upstaged some Grammy performances that night.
Chipotle repeats the strategy with a 3 minute 22 seconds video in 2014 as part of an extensive content marketing campaign, known as “Scarecrow”, which is a mobile game and website.
The first two instances are good examples to realise that long form video content marketing works. Viewership possibilities are endless. It brings traffic, brand exposure and sales.
An immensely popular and reputed travel company, AirBNB connects travelers with home owners willing to rent out a portion for accommodations.
Like Chipotle, they use video long form content marketing plan along with the creation of unique neighborhood guides. The guides form a part of their epic content marketing campaigns.
The guides are research-driven, editorially approved and beautifully presented to suit the demands and sensibilities of the targeted audience.
4) Williams – Sonoma
Williams – Sonoma is a food blog. The creators don’t use contests or videos for content marketing.
Instead, they fill this awesome food blog with exemplary storytelling skills, presented via written and image-based content that includes Williams – Sonoma products such as kitchen organisation items, cookware and cutlery.
They use tantalizing content headings, keep the blog easily navigable and promote food art.
For bloggers out there, writing blog content which resonates with the tastes of the reader in terms of creativity, appeal and engagement value is ideal to build blog authority. SEO Long form content helps to improve your marketing skills and expands networking opportunities.
5) “10 Customer Service Stories” eBook – Help Scout
eBooks are an excellent long form content marketing strategy. Help Scout offers invisible support desks to companies seeking a better customer support platform. Help Scout delivers content centered on how to offer effective customer service and they are awesome eBook creators.
Their “10 Customer Service Stories” eBook is a classic long form content marketing success story. The eBook shows other clients what existing clients are doing for better customer support, how they are doing it and the results.
These examples of content marketing prove that with exemplary targeting and understanding of audience pulse, it is possible to reach out to a wider audience base.
Long form content isn’t just a ‘lengthy post’.
It is a riskier proposition in terms of ROI. Big-shot marketers like Neil Patel invest $10,000+ in creating a single long form content and due to its impeccable value, its ROI is higher.
Long form content creation is time consuming and resource-oriented. Sometimes hurdles in the path will seem insurmountable; this strategy is not for the faint-hearted.
Create the long form content marketing plan months in advance, mentioning the medium of creation, mode of presentation, required resources, research data and publishing platform. If you don’t have an in-house team, hire a content marketing agency.
Base your long form content marketing strategy on what you learned today and use this strategy judiciously for marketing your business.