Long-form content is a great way to engage with information-hungry readers.
When you dive deeply into a particular topic, you’re adding genuine value to your audience’s lives and maximizing your chances of keeping them engaged. Looking at a topic from many different angles and researching as many aspects of it as possible generates enormous credibility for your brand. And naturally, that’s a key objective of content marketing.
Some experts warn that long-form content alienates readers that have short attention spans. While this certainly is a concern, it’s not something that should prevent us from creating long-form content entirely – mainly because there are ways to avoid this unhappy outcome.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the best way to create articles that don’t skimp on the details but also don’t overwhelm readers. We’ll discuss tips and tactics you can use to ensure that your long-form content is as engaging as possible.
1. Tell a Story
Many people are familiar – and comfortable – with the idea of reading a large section of narrative information.
When long-form content takes the form of a story, it makes the information more relatable because people experience it through the eyes of someone who is “there.”
It also makes emotional investment more likely. When your readers can sympathize with the narrator (or other characters telling the “story”), they build an emotional connection with the content and with your brand.
Stories also tend to stick in the minds of an audience and are up to 22 times more memorable than facts presented in a more conventional way.
Patagonia is an absolute master of long-form narrative content marketing. The outdoor apparel brand’s content marketing strategy consists almost entirely of first-person accounts of outdoor adventures.
Even though they seldom (if ever) mention their products, their content still actively nurtures leads. By associating themselves with stories set in the great outdoors, Patagonia, the brand, becomes synonymous with adventure.
This is a smart way to position themselves in the minds of shoppers who enjoy an intrepid lifestyle.
2. Avoid Walls of Text
You want your target audience to engage with your content.
You want to give them information that resonates with them – facts and opinions that carry real value. And you want to present it in a way that makes it as easy to read as possible.
What’s the point of spending time and money on the content of an article when its format is unfriendly and inaccessible?
Websites that take this concept seriously use a concept called “chunking” to make their content easier to process, understand, and remember.
Chunking involves breaking up long sections of written information (also called “walls of text”) into smaller, more digestible portions.
Blog posts are “chunked” by separating sections of text from each other using one of a number of visual elements. Each text section should be a discrete portion of meaningful information that readers can “absorb” easily.
Time Tackle’s article on “leaving work at work” would have been incredibly tough to read were it not for their excellent use of chunking.
By smartly inserting images, subheaders, blockquotes, calls to action, and even a small infographic, the site ensures that a challenging, information-heavy article becomes a pleasure to read.
3. Make Use of Your Expertise
Don’t shy away from handing out expert-level knowledge in your long-form content.
Content marketing is mostly about generating traffic and nurturing leads. And few things do that as effectively as offering brand new insight that can’t be found anywhere else.
People will engage with genuinely valuable information even if it’s a long, taxing read. That’s because large portions of your target audience are hungry for knowledge that will make their work and their lives better.
If you have access to a bonafide thought leader in a space that’s related to your content marketing strategy, don’t hesitate to mine their brains for long-form content.
The key to nailing this tip is to see what areas of knowledge competing articles have already covered and to offer a fresh or contradictory angle. The last thing you want would be to spend weeks crafting a complex, in-depth knowledge piece only to find that it’s all been said before.
Quicksprout doesn’t mess around in their 9,700-work article on growth hacking. Their writers clearly have genuine insight into the topic and don’t hold any of it back. The article is an absolute masterclass in how to convert expert-level knowledge into an accessible blog post.
Moz does an equally amazing job with their article on the machine learning revolution. The SEO company delves deep into this complex topic but keeps the information accessible and engaging. Few articles on the web can compete with it in terms of information quality.
4. Write Something Practical
When it comes to long-form content that resonates with an audience, how-to guides are extremely popular and effective.
In the information age, people have become used to taking the initiative when trying to learn something important or improve their lives.
With virtually all the knowledge in the world available to us, it’s become second nature to turn to the internet when learning how to do anything from unclogging a drain to making a mid-life career switch.
If your brand can leverage its content strategy to deliver actionable, relevant, long-form how-to guides, don’t think twice.
The Invisible Tourist’s excellent post on preparing for your trip to Japan does not hold back on the detail. The long-form guide even concludes with a breakdown of the time you’ll need to have certain preparations completed ahead of your trip.
Some Final Thoughts
The common theme that runs through all of these tips is “quality.”
Writing and reading long-form content can only be justified if the article’s information is of an exceptional standard both in terms of the information itself and how it’s packaged and presented.
You can’t expect readers to spend ten minutes (or more) of their valuable time on something that’s difficult to read and adds very little value to their lives.
So, avoid creating long-form content for the sake of creating long-form content. It’s a slippery slope, and you do not want to come across as self-indulgent. Your brand and our readers deserve better.
Natasha is a lady of a keyboard and one hell of a geek. She has been working for, and collaborating with, individual clients and companies of all sizes for more than a decade. Natasha specializes in writing about design, branding, digital marketing, and business growth. She is also addicted to art in all its forms and grilled tofu.