Writing Long-Form Content: Tips for Engaging Readers & Adding Value

For freelance writers and bloggers, shorter (500 words or less) articles have been their bread and butter for at least a decade. But a good freelance writer knows when to broaden their horizons, and there is certainly a huge demand for longer and meatier content.

If you want to know how to capitalize on this, read on.

Why Even Write Long-Form Content?

Good question. After all, a 1,500-word piece takes a lot of effort to write and proofread. Why not focus on shorter articles instead?

There are a few reasons why you might want to invest in writing long-form content:

  1. Google Panda, Google’s long-term search ranking algorithm, often prioritizes websites with longer (1,000 words or more) articles.
  2. On average, each web page on Google’s first SERP ranking page includes at least 1,400 words.
  3. Longer content increases page authority which also contributes to increasing SERP rankings.
  4. These articles are perfect pillars for topic clusters to build a content strategy off.
  5. Skyscraper content has been shown to attract more links for SEO purposes.

There are good reasons to keep writing short content, but long-form content is ultimately a trend that cannot be ignored. It doesn’t have to be the only way you choose to write content, but it will be a part of an effective content marketing strategy.

long-form articles

What is Considered Long-Form Content?

This is a tricky one. Although there are specific reasons to write long-form content, different websites have definitions of what constitutes a long article. Some websites might suggest long-form content is 700 to 2000 words, whereas others prefer nearly 3,000 words.

For example, Quartz, a famous business blog and news aggregator, considers anything longer than 1,500 words to be long-form content. This is just enough to add a lot of detail and value but short enough to read in one sitting.

How to Write Long-Form Content & Grab Reader’s Attention?

If you’re interested in writing more long-form content, below is a breakdown of how you could approach this.

  1. Choose a title suitable for a longer article.
  2. Conduct preliminary research and choose your format.
  3. Determine the platforms you will distribute your content on.

Below, we focus on each stage in more detail.

Choosing a Great Topic for Long-Form Content

Choosing a topic for your long-form content is going to be the MOST important part of grabbing the reader’s attention. The first thing they see is the title of your content! This is the first chance to attract readers, pique their interest and get them to click.

Therefore, choosing a topic that summarises your content, gets straight to the point, and is click-worthy comes down to some essential points:

  • How popular is the topic? You want to focus on topics that retain their relevance despite changes in technology and people’s perceptions. Long-form content often uses evergreen topics, ones that won’t necessarily lose popularity but will always be searched for and relevant. These kinds of topics can provide lots of points to write about, making long-form content even easier.
  • How specific is the topic? Your readers will avoid articles with generic titles like ‘Tips for being a good writer‘. A much better solution is to mention specific concepts or theories. For an example of a specific topic, just look at the topic for this article! Having specific topics can also mean you target a long-tail keyword which is good for SEO.
  • How compact is the topic? A compact topic could feasibly be summarised in 1,000 words articles. If you are trying to write an article on targeting digital book publishers, no number of words is going to express all the tips and recommendations that cover this topic, making long-form content appropriate.
  • What is the content’s purpose? Long-form content can be used in many ways, from blog posts to published books. Therefore, the actual purpose of the article informs the topic you are choosing as well. Is it a simple blog post that focuses on one single idea or an ebook that covers a broad subject by diving deep into its aspects?
  • How can you compose the title? The topic itself is not the only reason why readers will click on your content, the way you construct and present the topic is important too. Can you include statistics? Numbers have been proven to attract masses of readers. Can you use power/emotive words? Triggering emotions in readers can be the kick they need to click, read and love your content.

This first stage is probably the most significant to determine whether your long-form content will be successful or not.

How Do I Choose a Suitable Format?

After you choose your topic, it is time to conduct some preliminary research and choose how your article will be structured.

If, for instance, you are writing a detailed ebook on academic writing for students, you might want to write longer paragraphs. Including sections that detail the key types of academic assignments, tips on how to pay attention to the lecturers’ requirements and doing proofreading.

If, on the other hand, you are writing an online guide for other freelance writers (just like this article!), shorter paragraphs and a more entertaining structure (e.g., using questions and answers) should be a good fit. Other freelancers are busy people who simply do not have the time to read another wall of text and a bullet list could be a better way to present information.

Reading other long-form content on similar topics should provide you with a good idea of what structure you should choose. In general, the use of highly specific and compact topics also calls for using bullet points and infographics to complement your main discussion. These elements can help complement as well as provide variety within your content that helps keep the readers interested and attentive to your content.

The form and structure of what you write are essential to providing good value to your readers. How well is the information organized and does it present the information clearly? Are there other interesting elements such as checklists, images, videos, or infographics?

The way you present your content is just as important as the content itself and will keep the reader’s attention.

What Platform Should I Publish Long-Form Content On?

Again, this decision might make or break your long-form article. This choice is primarily made between two types of platforms.

  • Gated websites. Gated websites are anything that hides the content behind a specific wall. It may be a paywall or a simple login form that requires the user to submit their personal info before being able to read your article. Websites requiring users to turn off their adblockers also qualify.
  • Ungated websites. These websites do not restrict who can view their content in any way.

On the one hand, gated websites can pay more for long-form content, especially if these platforms have a paywall such as Medium. Websites like Medium are an excellent choice for high-value, long-form content in order to make money and build a following. But, competition on such a large platform can be high. However, with a powerful and attention-grabbing title, your content can thrive.

On the other hand, other gated websites could have low traffic as many people simply leave the page when they see a login page instead of the article they clicked on. Ungated websites enjoy greater traffic but can fail to filter their audience in any meaningful way. Leaving some such websites vulnerable to spam and low-value leads.

Although about 80% of B2B companies use gated content, ungated content is great if you want to improve SERP rankings and grow organic search traffic. However, a good balance between shorter and long-form articles and gated and ungated content will contribute to your SEO rankings.

Final Thoughts

Choosing to include long-form content in your marketing strategy can be very difficult, especially if you are used to writing shorter pieces. While long-form content is not for everyone, we hope that the above guide motivates you to write longer pieces and choose narrower and more compact topics.

Even if the idea of writing long-form content does not sound appealing right now, writing just one or two longer articles per month could significantly grow your audience and attract sponsors and partners.