Long-form content, according to many marketing analysts, is dead. Attention spans have become too short, they say, and too many distractions are competing for people’s attention. Long form typically describes articles of 1,000 or more words. It has fallen out of favor in marketing circles, replaced by tweets and other short-form messages that can be digested by a person scrolling on a smartphone. But long-form content marketing offers some advantages over 160-character snippets. Search engine algorithms reward more substantive content; the top results for popular search terms often feature lengthy articles. Long-form content lets you engage with readers and provide valuable material that cannot be conveyed in a few sentences. To keep readers from losing interest, however, your long-form content needs to be compelling. Following a few basic guidelines can improve your long-form content and keep visitors on your website longer.
Catch Their Attention Early
Don’t beat around the bush with your introduction. Grab your readers by the collar with your first sentence, and tell them exactly why they should stick around for the full article. If you spend 400 words just getting to your thesis, readers get impatient, especially with all the incoming text messages, Tinder notifications, and celebrity tweets competing for their attention. When you get right to the point, people have a reason to keep reading. Say you own a carpet cleaning business. You’re writing a long-form blog post about why your unique extraction method works better than steam cleaning. Instead of dedicating the first two paragraphs to how steam cleaning works, content that is likely to bore readers and info they probably already know, grab them right away with an opening sentence like, “If you get your carpets steam cleaned, you’re not getting them cleaned at all, and I’ll tell you why.”
Short Paragraphs and Sentences
No matter how compelling your content, online readers get turned off by huge blocks of text on the screen. It is better to err on the side of too many paragraph breaks than not enough. A good rule of thumb is if a paragraph takes up more than six lines of text on a standard browser, you should consider making it two paragraphs. The same rule applies to sentences; short trumps long every time. Think Hemingway, not James Joyce or Norman Mailer. You want your finished product to be something readers can digest without expending a great deal of mental energy. Save the college-level writing for your manifesto on international politics.
Don’t Be Redundant
You should produce long-form content because you have a lot to say, not because you’re repeating the same information over and over. Forget the old adage, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.” No one has time for that, particularly people reading your content online. As long as you tell them clearly and convincingly, telling them once is plenty. Any more than that, and they’re likely to get impatient and move on. Despite the popularity of Twitter and text messaging, long-form content is alive and well. By making your blog posts engaging and compelling, you can provide more value for your readers and keep them on your website longer.