Ultra Long Form Content: It’s a Home Run

Ultra long form content performs well — surprisingly well. It generates more website traffic, social media engagement, and search engine value.

For the past four weeks I have been running an experiment with ultra long form content. I wanted to see how long articles perform compared with normal blog posts — 2,500+ word articles compared to 500 word articles.

The initial results are better than expected. The metrics are all pointing upwards, and it appears ultra long form content is a home run.

Website Performance Improved

Across the board the metrics are up in Google Analytics.

August 2015 compared to July 2015

Sessions-2015

  • Sessions increased 19.21%
  • Unique Visitors increased 14.18%
  • Page Views increased 24.75%

This was interesting because I published 50% less content, but the ultra long form content generated far more activity than average posts.

August 2015 compared to August 2014

Sessions-2014

  • Sessions increased 118.13%
  • Unique Visitors increased 106.39%
  • Page Views increased 112.26%

Comparing the results from this time last year casts an even better picture. The numbers are way up, but I think this demonstrates how the platform has grown more than how long form content performs.

All About SEO

What separates the ultra long form content from average posts is their search value.

Writing an essay forces you to be deliberate about its thesis. An essay is a deep dive into a specific topic, and Google loves that.

The four ultra long articles I shared all had clear keywords:

Since these articles are 2,500+ words the keywords are used repeatedly. For example, “brand metaphor” is used twenty-three times in the body of Brand Metaphors: How to Engage Customers at a Deep, Visceral Level.

It’s still early days, but I am sure all four of these articles will perform very well in the coming months based on their keyword density.

Social Media Engagement

Ultra long form content performs well in social media.

Comparing August 2015 to July 2015, social media shares increased 17%. This was across the board on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And my article on Brand Symbols received two times more shares than anything else I’ve published in the last six months.

These results are validated by others. For example, Neil Patel at QuickSprout found articles with 1,500+ words generate more shares on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

contentsharing

Medium.com’s metrics show that articles that take seven minutes to read (roughly 1,600 words) generate the highest levels of engagement.

ContentEngagement

The Catch

As much as the data presents a rosy picture, these articles come with a caveat. They’re a hell of a lot of work to create.

Brand Metaphors was the quickest to write at fourteen hours, and Brand Symbols took the longest at twenty eight hours.

This makes sense considering each article is the equivalent of five normal blog posts, but this is still a huge time commitment for a blog. Trying to crank out ultra long form content on a weekly basis may not be sustainable.

The Takeaway: Swing for the Fences

The results are clear: ultra long form content performs very well. It generates more website traffic, it has high search value, and it generates more social media engagement.

I am a little taken aback that the numbers are so high. I wasn’t expecting such big jumps.

My key takeaway: don’t write off long form content. It may seem counterintuitive to publish really long pieces of content. The assumption is “people don’t read,” but the data is painting a different picture.

To paraphrase Jay Baer, swing for the fences. Jay argues, “80-90% of all blog traffic comes from 10-20% of the posts you publish … Stop publishing blog posts that are almost assuredly going to be strikeouts, and instead publish more blog posts that have a chance to become home runs.”

Average content may not be enough to engage your audience anymore. Ultra long form content is not necessarily the answer, but it may be the first step to retool your content marketing to generate more home runs.

What do you think?