Long-form content can take many forms: an in-depth guide to growing your social media presence; a case study on a brand that’s made huge leaps in sustainability; an ebook about the history of tech. These are all examples of long-form content, a type of media that offers value through great depth and often length. Learn how long-form content can be an integral part of a successful content marketing strategy.
What is long-form content?
Long-form content is digital media—whether written, video, or audio—that is longer and more in-depth than its short-form counterpart. The length of long-form content depends on the format in which it is published. Even then, there’s some debate on the exact length. In general, written content is considered long-form if it’s more than 1,000 words long. Video content longer than 10 minutes is long-form, and long-form audio content is more than 50 minutes.
Long-form content includes how-to guides, ebooks, white papers, journalistic articles, case studies, video essays, webinars, and podcast episodes. Examples for entrepreneurs include a step-by-step guide on how to use a product, a case study of a customer with a strong testimonial, or an article on a company’s annual research findings.
How does long-form content differ from short-form content?
Long-form content differs from short-form content in a few key areas:
Length and depth
The simplest difference between long-form and short-form content is length. Long-form content has an average length of more than 1,000 words, or 10 minutes for video, while short-form falls below that limit. For example, YouTube Shorts run up to 60 seconds and Instagram Reels up to 90 seconds. Both are types of short-form content.
Despite the emphasis on length, the defining characteristic of long-form content is actually its depth. Long-form pieces aim to tackle a topic in more detail, offering richer and more complex information. Simple topics—like short news announcements, promotions, or an FAQ—may be better suited to short-form content such as emails, brief blog posts, and social media posts.
Long-form content typically provides complex information broken down into subsections. In long-form writing, headings and subheadings make valuable information easy to read and reference later.
Short-form content offers bite-sized information that can be grasped at a glance. It aims to be brief to save audience members valuable time. Short-form content can still be valuable, so long as it isn’t “thin content,” a term in SEO content marketing that describes written pieces with little substance.
Long-form content can attract significantly more readers than short-form content. For example, search engine marketing company Semrush found high-quality, long-form blog content consistently attracts the most traffic. In its research, articles of more than 3,000 words got twice as many page views as their short-form counterparts. Longer articles of more than 7,000 words got nearly four times the traffic.
The higher traffic is likely due to numerous factors, including increased return traffic, more backlinks and social media shares, and better rankings with search engine algorithms, according to SEO training resource Backlinko.
When considering whether to create long-form content, remember it’s a significant investment compared to short-form content. A 5,000-word blog post or 30-minute webinar is costly to create, while short-form content is quicker, cheaper, and easier. Quality content writers and agencies typically charge at least 50¢ per word. Factors that can influence the price of long-form content include time and research it takes to compile information, as well as the writer’s level of expertise on the subject.
Benefits of long-form content
Long-form content can be a powerful tool in your content marketing strategy and has several benefits:
Increases average time on site
When you offer content rich in valuable insights—whether it’s an in-depth case study or a how-to guide for setting up an online store—users stay longer on your web page to read it. Analytics platform Wordstream found that when it increased the amount of long-form content on its blog, readers’ average time on site tripled—from one minute and 30 seconds to four minutes and 30 seconds.
When users spend more time on your site, you’re increasing their familiarity with your business—and you can turn brand awareness into sales.
Boosts search rankings
Longer-form content typically performs better on search results pages due to a variety of factors, including greater return traffic, social shares, and up to 77% more backlinks (a major factor in Google’s algorithm for determining search engine rankings), according to Backlinko.
According to research by LocaliQ, the average content length of Google’s top 10 results is around 2,450 words. This means long-form content can be a great strategy for consistent performance on search engine results pages, which can result in better lead generation and sales.
Increases high-quality traffic
Creating long-form content can increase your website traffic by attracting repeat visitors who are already familiar with your brand. These types of visitors are considered high-quality traffic, as they are more likely to make a purchase after engaging with your video, ebook, or other long-form content.
High-quality traffic can move you closer to converting visits to sales, which ultimately boosts your site’s conversions. If users know they consistently get high-value content on your blog or video channel, they’re much more likely to come back and explore more content—and share it with others on social media platforms. This builds brand authority and taps into the value of word-of-mouth referrals.
Examples of long-form content
When crafting your own long-form content, it can be helpful to look at competitors to see how they’re organizing and displaying their information for maximum value. Here are a few examples of long-form content to use as models:
Here’s an extensive guide from the Shopify blog on how to start an online store. Weighing in at more than 10,000 words (and an estimated 44-minute read), this long-form guide provides a step-by-step breakdown of the process of starting an online store. It gives concrete, helpful information to lead and inspire readers to take action. It’s structured and organized, with plenty of headings (H1s, H2s, and H3s), bullet points, numbered lists, and bookmarks to help users find the most relevant sections at any given time. The guide is also filled with visuals—like screenshots and charts—to help break up the blocks of text and provide context for readers.
Case studies are a type of research article in which a content writer provides an in-depth analysis of a particular organization, business, or individual. Here’s an example of a case study of Shopify Partner Verb+Visual.
In it, the author introduces the company, its client, and the challenge it is facing with its current website. In three easy to follow sections, the case study outlines the challenge, the step-by-step plan to solve it, and the successful result.
This simple format creates an easy to understand narrative, and showcases the value of Shopify’s product and partners to the reader, through a relatable and successful example. It also uses design elements like embedded images and pull quotes to provide context and highlight important information.
Here’s an example of a video on how to make a video ad on the Learn With Shopify YouTube channel. Although this piece of long-form content is a video instead of text, the same principles of organization and structure apply. The video uses timestamped sections on the progress bar to indicate how the information is grouped, along with visual title cards to indicate changes in subject. In addition, it uses visual aids such as graphics to break up the video content and offer helpful illustrative examples.
Shopify Masters is a podcast that hosts conversations with entrepreneurs and industry experts. This episode is with the founder of lifestyle jewelry brand The GLD Shop. Part case study, part conversation, it discusses the business’s operations. The interview gives insights to entrepreneurs and fans of the brand on how it landed big celebrity endorsements and brand partnerships. The audience gets to hear the company’s strategies and struggles in an engaging question and answer format.
How to create long-form content
- Choose a long-form topic
- Identify your audience
- Organize around clusters of information
- Craft your hook
- Revise for accuracy and clarity
- Add visuals
- Create a compelling title
- Promote your long-form content
Whether you’re writing long-form content or filming a long-form video, consider these steps to create the right media for your content strategy:
1. Choose a long-form topic
Topics that work well in long-form have enough detail to do a deep dive. You can provide an explanation of how something works, offer examples, and provide any helpful insights, as exampled by the Shopify guide on ecommerce. Similarly, the topics you choose for your long-form content should have a wide scope so there is room for in-depth research you can break into sections and explain clearly to your audience. This works particularly well with complex topics someone may need to access on an ongoing basis.
Successful long-form content is also user-friendly and engaging. Before you write long-form content, consider the distribution channel. For instance, a blog is a platform better suited for extensive copy than an email. Long-form content is a natural fit for places like in-house blogs, monthly newsletters, and YouTube channels, in which visitors can spend more time digesting information.
2. Identify your audience
Defining your target audience is key to creating long-form content that adds value to its readers—and builds success for your business. Knowing your target audience can drive the angle of a piece of content. Consider a blog post written for people who have already purchased your product versus a post for people who are undecided about whether or not to purchase your product.
Researching your audience to understand their unique needs and interests helps you frame information to improve conversion rates. Tap into web analytics and social media analytics to learn more about your audience. The more relevant your content, the more likely your audience will be to consume it.
You can also use free SEO tools to research the keywords and questions people are using when searching for your brand or product category. This might indicate an unmet need for information you could provide with long-form content.
3. Organize around clusters of information
A giant block of unfocused text or a 20-minute video of a talking head can easily lose a visitor’s attention, leading them to leave in favor of content that is more structured. Effective long-form content is well organized, easy to digest, and engaging.
Break content up into sections or short paragraphs that answer questions your audience may have. This allows your users to skim for the most relevant information and easily come back to important sections later. For written content, use headings and subheadings. For video, use timestamps and visible transitions like title cards.
4. Craft your hook
A hook is an introduction meant to capture the audience’s attention and entice them to keep reading. Since a long-form post is a larger time commitment for readers than a quick social media post, you’ll want to hook your audience as soon as possible. Spend time crafting an engaging introduction to convince users this piece of content is worth their time. This could be a snazzy opening line or a brief illustrative example that’s relevant to your audience’s experience. Be sure to focus on the problem they’re hoping to solve and show them how you’re uniquely suited to solve it.
5. Revise for accuracy and clarity
To help ensure your long-form content is high-quality, revise it for accuracy and clarity in your content creation process. While multiple revisions may be necessary to polish a piece, aim to read it through at least once before publishing. If possible, have a colleague or member of your target audience review it before publishing to make sure it’s hitting the mark. Providing accurate, reliable information helps inspire trust in your brand.
6. Add visuals
Visuals add value to your written or filmed content by illustrating complex principles. A chart can break up the monotony of a long article or video, and it gives you the opportunity to present information in an easily digestible way. Look for places in your piece of content that would benefit from images, charts, pull quotes, or infographics to make your long-form articles and videos more robust and engaging.
7. Create a compelling title
The title is a critical component of any piece of content because it’s the first element your visitors engage with. When creating a title for your content, choose something descriptive and compelling. Ask yourself: What problem is my target audience hoping to solve? How does this piece of relevant content offer a unique solution?
A thorough, descriptive title can be captivating to readers. If you researched keywords for your longform content, be sure to include them in the title. Research from Semrush shows headlines between 10 and 13 words often perform twice as well as shorter ones.
8. Promote your long-form content
To make sure people see your comprehensive guide or webinar, excerpt juicy soundbites and highlight pull-quotes or other micro-content on social media. Promoting short-form content can be an effective part of your SEO and social media marketing strategy, since it allows you to increase the reach for your long-form content. This will gradually boost your rankings on search engines through backlinks and increased organic traffic.
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Long-form content FAQ
Does long-form content perform better?
What are some effective distribution channels for long-form content?
Long-form content is a natural fit for places like in-house blogs and YouTube channels, while short-form content can be the right format for other channels—like emails, guest blog posts, and social media posts.
Should visuals be included in long-form content?
Yes, include relevant visuals in your long-form content because they can add value to long content by illustrating complex principles and breaking up long periods of text or video. Add images, charts, pull quotes, or infographics.
Is there a specific word count range that defines long-form content?
While there’s debate on the exact length for something to be considered long form, the general guidelines are anything over 1,000 words for written content and anything over 10 minutes for video or audio.