If SEO aims to help the reader, long-form content guides are the best way to explain complex topics, or topics that require extra details. Not every topic requires a long-form guide, but as you break out information for a theme, you may realize some are perfectly suited for a longer article.
What Is a Long-Form Content Guide?
Hubspot and Search Engine Land each suggest long-form content is a blog post, article, or evergreen content of at least 1,000 words. I’ve seen 1,500 words commonly referenced, too. A long-form content “guide” is any written content of more than 1,000 words that shows readers how to do something, or that covers a topic in great detail.
But the sheer word count is not what helps your content rank better. Rather, it’s the quality of the topic and content within, and whether readers feel they need such a detailed description of how to do something. Much like a school essay, adding sentences or paragraphs of nonsense isn’t going to get you a better grade. Your teachers and Google can see through that.
Do Long-Form Content Guides Help SEO?
According to Marketsplash, “Long-form content attracts an average of 77.2% more links than shorter articles.” And as I’ve covered in another post, backlinks still play a significant role in ranking—if not as a direct factor, then to give context to the importance of a page.
One of the best answers to why long-form content helps SEO is in this article from Moz which suggests, “It’s copy-rich, and easy for Google to crawl and understand.” Copy (specifically structured copy) is the easiest thing for search engines to understand. So if your long-form content is structured well, helps the reader, and doesn’t bury answers to common questions, it will likely perform well in the SERP.
Here’s an example of how a long-form content guide can cover a range of related keyword topics, including keyword questions. EightOhTwo writers crafted this post for Orvis titled, “Where Should Your Dog Sleep?” As you can see in this data from SEMRush, in 1200-plus words, the post captured top spots and SERP features for a number of related keywords (the list keeps going but that’s a lot to screenshot). Could our writers have covered all of these related topics in fewer words? Perhaps, but if you take a look at the post itself, you can see they didn’t waste any time getting to the point.
How Do You Write Long-Form SEO Content?
To say writing long-form copy for SEO is like any other SEO copy, just longer, might be oversimplifying, but that may be all there is to it. You’ll likely target more keywords, include more links, use more images, add more supporting data, and have more header sections, but in the end, it’ll look a lot like a 500-word blog post… with more scrolling required.
Research Competing Content on the Same Subject
Like I do with all types of content, I prefer to start long-form content by researching competing content on the same broad topic to see whether those pages missed anything. Often you’ll find weak content ranking well because there isn’t any competition. This is your opportunity to capitalize on the topic. Other times you’ll find endless well-written pages exhausting the topic. Those make for good road maps.
Build Your SEO Structure Using Keyword Questions
After reviewing the competitive landscape, I’ll dive into keyword research. First I pull short-tail keywords, and then I take a look at keyword questions and longer-tail keywords like those that include “versus” and other comparisons. Once I have a list of all short-tail and long-tail keywords, I start creating my outline.
To outline long-form content, I’ll group closely related keyword questions and use those to develop section headers. Often, the keyword question with the highest search volume ends up as the highest-level title, while others are used as H2s and H3s, or simply answered in the body copy without the use of a header. But that’s not always the case, and you should use your best judgment as to how to structure your headers. Sometimes the topic is broader than any keyword question, or you need to combine multiple keyword ideas into a title. But in general, your outline can follow search volume to create a hierarchy of headers.
To write an informative long-form content post, you should have at least six diverse, strong H2s to work from. If you estimate 150 words per section, plus an intro and a conclusion, you’ll end up with well over 1,000 words. But 1,000 isn’t a magical threshold, it’s the six strong headers that are doing the heavy lifting for your SEO. They’re hopefully guiding the reader to the answers they want, and giving you the opportunity to flesh out those answers into helpful sections of copy.
Collect Sources, Links, and Images
It’s unlikely you can write about any topic with search volume behind it, without using sources. Start your research, write down sources for all the information you’ve collected, and drop the URLs into your outline. This is also a good time to plan where your internal cross-linking will appear in your copy. If you plan to mention a product or category in a section, paste the link into the appropriate section of your outline. The same goes for images. If you can anticipate image needs, collecting them ahead of time will help you as you get further into your content. It’ll also help you anticipate whether you’ll need any illustration or graphic design help for the final product.
Write Your Content
I won’t say the rest of the work is easy once your outline is mapped out, but a good outline with all of the keywords assigned to sections should help you feel more confident when writing. That’s all there is to say about this step. This is where your own skill and talent come into play.
Review, Publish, Distribute, and Schedule for Updates
With more words comes the risk of more mistakes. Always send your long-form content to someone to review. Whether it’s your editor or your work bestie, someone should read your content before it goes live.
You’ve created something great, now let people know about it. Long-form content is a great way to talk to your audience without making a direct sales pitch. Feature your new post in your email, social media, and even PPC channels.
Once your content is live, it’s never too early to start thinking about updating it. Some of EightOhTwo’s best long-form content pages have been updated annually, and many have grown from fewer than 800 words to well over 2,000, as we’ve learned more about topics, and what questions people are asking about them. A good rule is to revisit your content annually, but more competitive topics may require more frequent maintenance.
Jumpstart Long-Form Content on Your Site
Are you ready to learn more about how long-form content can help your site? Give us a shout and get the conversation started. We’ve developed long-form content for dozens of industries and we’re always excited to talk about new content ideas.