Earlier this month, online lender Kabbage went where few businesses seldom go on their company blogs and published an 8,000+ word blog post.
Described as an “in-depth digital marketing strategic guide,” it absolutely lives up to its name - at 28 pages, the guide is so lengthy that it’s broken up into five separate chapters, giving readers the chance to skip ahead to the section they need or want to read first.
Reading through the post (yes, I read it all) made me think about the place long-form content has online. It resides in a landscape increasingly dominated by BuzzFeed listicles, which seem to have maybe 100 words per post, and even more GIF images.
Listicles have a French fry effect on their audience. You can cook a batch of French fries quickly and consume them even faster. There’s no real worry that you’ll ever run out either - they’re a reliable fast food constant. The same can be said about listicles. These are routinely cranked out by just about every media site you can think of, and are easy to scroll through, read, and share.
Content trends may shift over time, but it’s impossible to imagine the death of the listicle - it’s too accessible to fail.
However, there is one loophole in my ''French fries as listicles' analogy - constantly eating French fries will mean you eventually start craving fruits and vegetables. Same goes with listicles. At some point, you’ll want (and need) nourishing information.
A thoughtful interview, a compelling narrative, or spending time understanding a foreign concept that cannot be compressed. By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ve learned something you didn’t already know. That’s where long-form content comes into play, and why it will always be in demand, both on and offline.
If you're considering following Kabbage’s lead and moving into writing significantly lengthy blog posts, here are six golden rules you need to follow.
1. Don’t draft it alone
It takes a village to get 8,000 words drafted, and likely even more to finalize it for publishing.
Assemble a team of proofreaders, researchers, writers, editors, designers, and even interns as your extra sets of eyes and ears throughout the writing process. There are also no awards given out to the blog that can do this in under a day either, so don’t make it a rush job. Set a deadline with more than enough wiggle room.
2. Headline’s gotta pop
According to CoSchedule, the best headline length for blog posts is eleven words long. Kabbage’s is 12 words long. The title for this blog post is 10 words long. Neither headline is off by very much, and both get their point quickly across to the reader.
3. Pump up the visuals
One of the most famous blogging statistics is that adding compelling visual images can increase audience engagement by 50%.
If you’re planning to do some long-form content writing, break it up with visual aids like slideshows, infographics, GIF images, and video links.
4. Add shareable quotes
These tend to be standalone segments in larger font that, if you hover over them, can be shared via Twitter or Facebook and linked back to your page. If there are particularly resonant quotes which have stood out to you and your early readers in the draft process, it's worth drawing attention to them.
5. Multiple listicles in one article? That’s totally fine
Finding several bullet, numbered, and multi-leveled listicles scattered throughout one blog post is basically like discovering extra French fries at the bottom of the bag - it’s a delightful surprise.
Kabbage have made good use of this throughout their guide to break up chapters smoothly - it helps make the information in a blog post a bit more digestible for the reader (no foodie pun intended).
6. Scatter CTAs throughout the post
Why wait until the very end of the article to add a call to action when you can do it throughout the entire article?
Utilize persuasive text, add relevant imagery, or add a pop-up page that encourages readers to sign up for your newsletter and essentially get to know more about your business (note: but do be aware of Google's recent change to its algorithm regarding pop-ups).
After all, one of the biggest goals of blogging is to turn visitors into loyal readers that see you as a trustworthy expert and are interested in what you have to offer them.
Creating long-form content is challenging, and getting it exactly right will take a group effort, but the pay-offs can be significant, in terms of SEO, boosting brand awareness, showcasing expertize, etc. Hopefully these notes will assist you in your long-form content development process.