When I started blogging the advice was “keep it short.” Write articles in the 300 to 500 word range. Keep them simple, catchy, and easy to scan, because “nobody wants to read a big article online.”
The advice sounded practical, but I question it. The articles that make me the most money are long form content.
Last summer (2015) I ran a 4 week experiment to test “ultra long form content.” I published 4 articles that each had over 2,500 words:
- Make Your Brand Iconic: The Power of Symbols in Branding
- A Brand To Love: Brand Mascots Tug Your Heartstrings
- Brand Naming Process: How To Make a Brand Name Resonate
- Brand Metaphors: How To Engage Customers at a Deep, Visceral Level
Twelve months later these 4 posts are going strong, and are all in the top 20 most visited pages on Sticky Branding. What’s even more fascinating is one of the posts generated enough demand to create a new service: Brand Naming.
Google Rewards Long Content
Long form content may seem counterintuitive. For instance, BuzzFeed is the king of viral posts. They have headlines like “Kylie Jenner Revealed Her Ramen Recipe And People Are Losing Their Damn Minds,” or “The 21 Absolute Worst Things In the World.”
According to Kerry Jones of Marketing Land, “Short content reigns supreme on BuzzFeed. Of the top 100 articles, almost half were 300 words or less … This type of content is ideal for readers looking for simple, skimmable entertainment.”
BuzzFeed may be the king of viral content, but Google rewards well written long form content.
I first noticed this in Google Analytics. The 4 long form posts were generating much higher inbound traffic than most of my other content. So I tested the posts performance using Pardot’s Search Marketing Tools. I was shocked:
- “Brand Mascots” was ranked #1 in Google’s search results
- “Brand Naming” #3
- “Brand Metaphors” #12
- “Brand Symbols” #12
These were valuable search terms. Brand Naming, for instance, costs $4.88 per click in Google Adwords, and I was in the top 3 organically.
Long form content performs well, because it fulfills a user’s desire for answers. When we search a topic we’re not looking for linkbait entertainment. We want to find meaningful ideas and answers to solve problems. This is why long form content moves the sales needle.
When someone is looking for answers they spend more time on the content, digest it more, and are more likely to click deeper into your site. A viral post, on the other hand, is a different behavior set: see it, click it, share it, forget about it.
Amplify Long Form Content with Marketing Automation
One of my bad habits is I create content and forget about it. It’s a symptom of my editorial calendar. I am publishing at least an article a week, and tend to focus on what’s in front of me.
But a couple months ago I started receiving inquiries about brand naming services. It started with a request from a consumer goods company. I was a little taken aback, because I did not have a service page or any documentation on my website stating I offered the services.
Then it happened again and again and again. I was receiving 2 to 3 inquiries a week. After a little digging I realized it was traffic coming in from the brand naming article from the long form content experiment.
I am a firm believer that the market will tell you what it wants to buy, but I wanted to prove the theory before committing to a new service. Using Pardot I created a landing page to market brand naming services, and placed it with a call to action on the blog post.
I wanted to answer 3 questions:
- Were the prior inquiries a fluke, or is there real demand for the service?
- Are companies willing to pay $25,000 – $35,000 to name a product, and $45,000 to $55,000 to name a company?
- What is the profile of companies interested in the service?
With Pardot I was able to test and prove the demand for the service in 4 weeks. Brand Naming is now part of Sticky Branding’s core services.
Get In the Habit of Long Form Content
Publish long form content to move the sales needle. The short content may track well in social media, but long form content is the gift that keeps on giving.
Google will reward you for creating long form content — well written articles north of 2,000 words. The content works for very practical reasons:
- Higher Search Rank: Posts with over 2,000 words tend to be in the top 10 search positions in Google.
- Increased Time On Site: If the content is engaging and informative, people will read it. They’ll take the time to read from top to bottom, which helps you build more rapport and trust with visitors to your website.
- More Clicks: If you engage a user with long form content they will be more likely to click further into your site. This means you can lead them to more content, a service page, or ask them to subscribe to your content.
Long form content offers a ton of benefits, but these posts are laborious to create. So make them strategic:
- Connect the post to a keyword — something related to your services and brand positioning.
- Be helpful. Create articles that answer real questions and showcase your best advice.
- Use pictures. 2,000 words is a lot of content to consume. Layer in pictures and visuals to enhance the content and its readability.
- Connect the posts to a marketing automation system like Pardot. With each long form post build a campaign to track the keyword performance, inbound traffic, and calls to action. These aren’t the posts to set and forget.
When you put the strategy in place long form content will drive sales.