It’s a myth that long-form content such as blog posts, articles, in-depth videos and so on isn’t worth the time or cost. This is simply not true! Long-form content has been and remains the best and most cost-effective possible way to craft a cohesive message for your company or brand, and gives you an edge in organic search results.
People who push the narrative that long-form is “dead” are frequently invested in “short-form” social media and search engine marketing formats.
These include such items as linkbuilding, clickable ads and Twitter marketing, all of which offer a limited character count and modest reach on their own. However, Google has clearly stated, and independent research has borne out, that long-form content consistently performs better in search engine results pages (SERPs) versus any other type of content on its own.
This is because Google prioritizes and emphasizes organic search results based on a number of “signals.” Having long-form content which reads naturally and offers information, thus value, to the reader is a huge signal. A good mix of outbound links, which take you to other websites or sources, and inbound links which lead to your content, is another. Finally, having a fast, responsive website which loads quickly and is easily viewable and navigable on any device is the third major signal.
To be fair, all these items have their place. Long-form content is not the end-all, be-all of marketing. Neither are any of the others. None of these items are likely to function well in a vacuum, and all of them hinge on other facets of best practices for SEO/SEM to be effective. The best marketing strategies embrace the broadest possible options for getting their message out. This means incorporating a mix of long-form and short-form content. Let’s evaluate a hypothetical scenario to see how this might work.
A personal injury law firm wants to update their online presence to attract more pageviews and, ideally, more clientele. There’s nothing “wrong” with their website, per se; it’s professional, concise and gives viewers exactly what they need to know to feel confident considering the firm for services. But…it’s also SO stodgy, professional and concise as to leave many people feeling unsettled. It lacks a distinctly human touch, so a lot of viewers click away. How can this firm attract a broader clientele without sacrificing the professional feel of their site?
I would advise this firm to take the following steps, in the following order:
- Planning: Start working on longer videos and articles which speak to the type of law the firm practices. For example, the state legislature is debating a new bill which aims to limit or cap recoverable damages in personal injury cases. Information like this could be highly important, useful and valuable to a prospective client. The content should include a primary keyword and a number of variant keywords and phrases based off the primary. In this case, “Oregon Legislature [name of bill]” would be a good primary keyword. You also need to source any photos or images you want included. I use Pixabay for this, myself, but there are plenty of others which don’t cost a fortune and offer royalty-free, no-attribution images which can then be altered, manipulated and used in marketing without risk.
- Content Creation: This is where you have the most options. You can opt for written content which delivers a detailed, nuanced consideration, a whiteboard or other video or both. Written content tends to hold up better over time as a rule, but this is not necessarily true in all cases and should be evaluated in the context of what’s going on. If you decide to pair the two, this creates a one-two punch which gives you broader appeal and audience access. A good general ratio for written content paired with video is 200-300 words for every 15 seconds of video. Thus a one-minute video should be expanded out into 800-1200 words, two minutes would be 1600-2400, etc.
- Outbound links: Yes, you need them. In this scenario, I would insert a MINIMUM of five outbound links. One link points to the webpage on the state legislature’s website for the bill. Two links take visitors to highly viewed opinion pieces written by other attorneys which agree with the points or conclusions you want the reader to draw. One link should go to an article or video from local or national news media, ideally one whose content is not concealed behind a paywall. The final link goes to a highly viewed article or opinion piece which disagrees with your basic premise, but ultimately draws the same conclusions. By presenting both sides of the argument in a curated manner, you signal an interest in making sure your clients are fully informed of the pros, cons and nuances while still generating a positive bias toward your firm.
- Social media marketing: Now that you have your content assembled and developed with an eye to maximizing the number of search strings, you have to pare it down into bite-sized chunks which give a broad overview and encourage viewers seeing them on social media to read/view the whole thing. In this case, I would create at least three unique “blurbs” to stimulate reader interest, each including a relevant image and a link to the parent content: One for Twitter, which maxes out at 280 characters; one for Facebook which consists of a MAXIMUM of five sentences and 125 words; and one for LinkedIn, which falls somewhere between the other two. I might also create 1-2 “in case you missed it,” or ICYMI, versions of each blurb, as well as one on each outlet for the whiteboard video. Thus you end up with a minimum of three and a maximum of twelve possible blurbs, which can be remixed and matched multiple times over the lifespan of the article. (Note: the Facebook promotion can be readily ported to your Instagram account if you have one, effectively giving two for one promotion. Thus, I do not consider Instagram as a separate entity for purposes of this discussion.)
- Clickable ads: I differ from many of my colleagues in that I am not wholly sold on the efficacy of paid content promotion. If you already have a Google or Facebook ads account, there’s no reason not to utilize them to help maximize your distribution, especially on a timely article about a topic impacting your clientele. You’re paying for them, so you might as well get the maximum possible mileage from your advertising dollars. However, if you do not have a Google or Facebook Ads account at the start, I generally advise prioritizing long-form content over a pay-per-click, or PPC, campaign.
- Engagement: Now you have the content together and you’re ready to start sharing it. Once you do, it’s very important to stay engaged with the response the article generates. This means keeping a close eye on your social media accounts and site dashboard to reply to any comments or criticisms you might receive. A simple “Thank you for giving your thoughts on this!” can go a long way toward bolstering your reputation and attracting new clientele. However, you should NEVER engage with trolls or lose your temper.
All of this sounds like a lot of work. To be fair, to do all of these things, it is. You’re probably looking at minimums of:
- three hours to plan, gather all the pertinent information and suitable images, write the reader-based content and get the links in
- two hours to be devoted to the script if you use the video/written combo
- one hour to create the blurbs for the various social media outlets
- one hour for drafting the ad copy for your clickable campaigns (if applicable)
- whatever time it takes to manage and curate reader engagement to your content, which could range from several minutes to several hours measured over the lifespan of the article
- plus time for editing and revision and approval required at each stage, which could range from 0-several hours.
So, as a practical matter, you’re looking at a bare minimum of 4 hours and an upper limit of somewhere between 10-12 hours just to create, deploy and manage public response to long-form content of the quality you expect and deserve, depending on whether you go the video route and use a PPC campaign engine or not. This estimate does not take into account time spent producing, editing or voicing over the video, only the scripting.
But you’re busy. You need you and your employees, partners and staff to stay focused on serving your clientele to the limit of your capabilities. You don’t have time to become an expert on SEO/SEM, create content with a good chance of ranking on Google AND manage the responses too!
That’s where I come in. I bring a decade of experience and a proven track record of creating hard-hitting content which ranks well in SERPs, attracts readers and helps establish my clients as thought leaders in their respective industries. I use only white-hat SEO techniques and avoid the scammy, sketchy and illegal tactics some SEO agencies embrace. These tactics get quick (irreproducible) results, but they can also quickly get your website blacklisted, leaving your company invisible to the very people who need your services most.
Click here to contact me, and let me show you why long-form content is STILL the reigning heavyweight champion of SEO/SEM marketing!
All images included in this post were sourced from Pixabay under a Creative Commons license which permits for commercial use without attribution. If your image was sourced or used in error, please contact the site owner and it will be removed promptly.