How to Write Longer Blog Posts | Tips to Create Long Form Content
When I went to college, way back in the 80’s, our campus had an infamous professor who always responded the same way when asked how long our papers needed to be. “Long enough to cover the topic, but not so long it bores me” he’d respond.
Now remember, at that point in time, most of us used typewriters and we wanted to know exactly how long to make those papers. We didn’t have word count tools on word processors, so we judged our content length by how many typed pages we turned in.
Did “cover the topic” mean two pages or twenty? How thoroughly did he want said topic covered?
As I’ve gotten older (much older), I appreciate more what he wanted us to understand. Covering a topic well, but concisely, is an art. Our grades in his classes would have probably been better off if he’d helped us hone that skill, but it’s a lesson I’m remembering as I come back to writing in this new blogging life I’ve entered.
And, once again, we’re on a “campus” where our “professors” give us conflicting advice about exactly how long our blog posts need to be.
Short posts for short attention spans? Long posts for more thorough covering of the topic? And now there’s an actual term for those posts that have more words in them - “long form content” (or “long-form”).
Conventional blogging wisdom now tells us bloggers we should incorporate more long form content if we want to bring back repeat readers and show our visitors that we have expertise on our issue.
So, put on your co-ed hat, and let’s go back to our college writing days and come up with strategies to please the people who grade our “papers.”
What Is Long Form Content
After looking for an exact definition, I discovered that “experts” debate the definition of long term content almost as much as my campus friends debated how long our papers ought to be for our professor.
For this post, I’m referencing WordStream’s post What Is Long-Form Content and Why Does It Work? and they use the metric of 1,200 words or longer. For an experiment, go back to some of your posts and run a quick word count to get an idea of your starting point.
When you’re putting together your blog post, after picking the topic, you decide what you want to cover in your writing. Like an essay in college, you have to determine your thesis and main points.
You may not consciously have been thinking about it in this way, but you also make a determination as to how thoroughly you intend to cover the subject matter.
Is your post going to be a quick introduction to the topic or something more complete which answers more of your readers’ questions? This is where short form and long form come in.
Only you can decide how much you want to include in your post. But for this post, I assume you want to write enough to classify as long form content.
So if that is your intention, here is some information to help you achieve that goal.
But just in case you’re not sure and need some more information about the subject, here’s a little bit about why you need long form content.
Why You Need Long Form Content
Long form content serves two basic audiences, your readers and Google.
Most importantly, you want to give your readers what they need.
Do you want to be the expert on eco-friendly parenting? If so, your post about which diapers are most environmentally friendly best be more than just a couple of paragraphs. Your readers want you to give them reasons and information for cloth diapers that use water and detergent versus disposable which take up space in a landfill. They need you to give them guidance and talking points to share with their skeptical in-laws about their choice.
Or if you have a budget travel blog, you want your readers to come to you for tips to find the best deals on their next vacation. If all your posts are short with nothing to draw in your readers and give them plenty of information on travel deals for their family, they’ll move on to the next post for more information.
By giving your readers complete information about a topic, they don’t need to go somewhere else to find what they need.
And how did your readers find you in the first place? Probably Google.
And what does Google want? Thorough, quality answers for the users who come to them and type in questions like, “What is long form content?” or “Best paint for a child’s room.”
If your post is too short, Google thinks you don’t have enough information to answer a seeker’s question.
Show Google you know what you’re talking about and they’ll show your content to people looking for what you can provide.
How to create
long form content
So now that you know what long form content it and why it’s important, how do you write those long, luscious, beautiful post?
How to Create Long Form Content?
Yes, we’re bloggers, but who has time to write? We have to take lovely pictures, create captivating graphics, set up email funnels, and present our digital face to the world on social media. When are we supposed to write, let alone write something long?
It’s tempting for us to skip this suggestion and think we’ll just slide by with shorter posts. But like a lot of great blogging advice we don’t want to hear, this one is something we shouldn’t ignore.
Yes, it takes longer to write 1,000 words than 500 and you have to determine the purpose of each post and whether quality beats quantity. But data says it does, so let’s come up with a plan to bring longer posts within your reach.
Use Pen and Paper
When you type up your ideas, how often do you erase what you’ve written? Probably as soon as you decide it’s not exactly what you wanted to say.
If you write with pen and paper, those ideas inhabit a space and stay within your line of sight and can become more fully formed thoughts. Yes, you might end up leaving them out of your final blog post in the long run, but they can spark your creativity for other ideas you wouldn’t have thought of if you’d backspaced them out of existence right away.
So keep a notebook, legal pad, or, my favorite, a clipboard, with you and jot down anything that comes from your consciousness as you get started. Without that easy temptation to erase something imperfect, you can come up with a lot more ideas and inspirations than you might have guessed.
Show Them What You Mean
Show, don’t tell. That’s what they always tell us.
But what does that mean?
That means sprinkle in the personal anecdote (like the story of my professor) or share a story that illustrates the point you want to make.
You want to convince your readers to use cloth diapers? Give them the specific examples of how they work for your baby, where you buy them, and how you wash them.
Your post about budget travel could include a specific package you found, where you bought it and how much you saved. Don’t just say “You can save money on such and such site.”
Ask for Constructive Criticism
Do you remember the dreaded “peer editing” exercises in middle and high school? Sorry, but you’re not done with those.
If you think you’ve covered your topic completely, find someone willing to give it a read and ask them what questions you left unanswered.
An extra eye gives you the perspective of someone not as immersed in the topic as you are.
Our familiarity with what we write about often leads us to leave certain basic information unexplained because we assume everyone already knows all about that. They may and they may not, so err on the side of explaining what might be the building blocks of your topic.
That extra set of eyes gives you more content to include and you’ll cover the topic more completely.
Format Your Tasty Content So Readers Easily Find their Favorite Morsels
Don’t shoot the messenger, but most people don’t hang on your beautifully written prose. I’m just telling you what you know already, because I’m guessing you’re skimming this article right now.
Yes, we’re creating longer posts, but no, that doesn’t mean our visitors will read every word. In fact, they probably won’t.
So our goal is to write the great content then structure our post with headings, images, and shorter paragraphs so readers can find what they want without working too hard.
This will bring them back to you because they know you’ll serve the content up in bite-sized chunks so they can pick out tastiest morsels quickly and easily.
Give them delicious bites and they’ll eventually come back for the whole enchilada.
Turn Old Posts into Gold Posts
If all this writing talking talk has your hand cramping, I challenge you to go through your blog right now (actually, after you finish reading this article!) and find one post you can easily increase in length without taxing your word brain too completely.
We often see this advice about updating the posts, but this is more than just updating. I want you to find ways to increase the volume of content in your post.
What do you know more about now than you did when you wrote the post? Have you written another post related to one of your old posts that you can reference and link to? Those internal links are gold when it comes to reducing your bounce rate, so get in there and find a way to show how your posts and connected.
Cut the Crap
Going back to those college essays, remember increasing the size of your margins? That might add to page length, but it doesn’t improve your content.
And since Google’s magical little bots go through your content, you can’t fool them with margins.
And trying to trick them with word length by adding in a lot of fluff and filler won’t make your reader happy.
So make your words count for your readers, not just for your word count total.
Write quality content
not just lots of words
When you create your next blog post, think about the purpose behind your writing. Determine to provide your reader with more than they expect. Give them thorough answers to their questions and they’ll come back to you for your guidance and authority on the subject.
And when you provide them with the good stuff, Google will discover what you offer and one day you’ll rank on the first page. When that happens, celebrate in a big way because that’s a big deal.
Because I can tell you, if that ever happens to me, you’ll hear me celebrating from across the internet.