The Long-Form Advantage

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Is there a shortage of skilled long-form marketing writers?

Earlier this week I met with a new prospect, the VP of a tech startup. (Let’s call him Joe.)

As we discussed his needs, my capabilities, and whether we’d be a good match, I mentioned my forté is journalistic-style, long-form content: white papers, articles, case studies, how-to guides… Those longer, research-heavy pieces with some storytelling weaved in there.

Joe sat up, arched his eyebrows, and said:

“You’re the first writer to come in here with research-rich, long-form content. Everyone else is a blogger. If I like your samples, that’s a home run.”

A Neglected Market Need?

Nothing wrong with short content formats, of course. They’re important marketing tools, and companies need them too.

But I’m starting to see a pattern with marketing directors perking up at the mention of long-form, and I’m sensing this might be an underserved niche.

It makes sense, in a way: It takes more time, effort, research and skill to craft long-form content, which some define as anything beyond 1,200 words. But the pay is considerably higher too.

Why Long-Form Matters

Marketing-savvy clients crave long-form content not just because it’s hard to come by, or a pain for an in-house staffer to create. They know customer behavior has changed, and failure to deliver massive value online can kill the reputation, awareness, and buying desire they’re working so hard to build.

Long-form is precisely the kind of content that can sway potential buyers to subscribe, leave their contact info, click or take another desired action.

Think of the last time you subscribed to a newsletter, or gave your email address to a company. Chances are you did so in exchange for a resource or benefit — a helpful guide, checklist, recipe book, or some other value-packed content.

If companies want to attract buyers like you and me in today’s market, they need long-form content, stat.

Data-Backed Benefits

As I thought of writing about this topic, I wondered what industry data could back up these notions, so I did some digging.

Here’s a sampling of what I found:

  • Long-form content is shared more often, according to BuzzSumo. In fact, long-form blog posts (1,500+ words) generate 9x more leads and page views than short-form posts (Curata). That’s a 900% performance boost!
  • A study by serpIQ on the average length of the top 10 search engine results found that most top-rated posts exceed 2,000 words (Kissmetrics).
  • A reader psychology study by The New York Times found longer articles are shared far more often than short ones.
  • Companies like Crazy Egg, Buffer, and others often conduct their own, internal analysis of reader behavior metrics. In test after test, long-form content consistently performs better, and Crazy Egg boosted its conversion rates by more than 30% after increasing their content length by 20X.
  • Similarly, Highrise Marketing reported a 37% increase in conversions with longer content when running a split test for a client.
  • Google now favors in-depth articles, rewarding them with higher search rankings, as reported by Search Engine Land.
  • A study by Moz showed longer content has more backlinks pointed to it.

How do you position this as a competitive advantage?

Put simply, long-form content is both essential and unbeatable for lead generation and cultivation. Not because someone says so, but because the data says so across multiple studies and industries.

The fact that these outcomes are well documented packs a lot of persuasion power when talking with prospects. You’re presenting them with an evidence-driven benefit, not an empty sales pitch.

As such, long-form mastery allows you to position yourself as someone who can influence buyer behavior and engagement in a big way.

What if long-form isn’t your thing?

If long-form content isn’t something you’d enjoy working on, don’t.

Standing out in a crowded market hinges on leveraging your strengths and doing work that fulfills you. So if you’d rather write pithy ads, social media teasers, and other short copy, go do that, and do it well. Clients need those things in their arsenal too.

My intent isn’t to turn you into a long-form writer if that isn’t your thing. Rather, I want to encourage you to highlight long-form if that’s a hidden skill or something you’d like to pursue.

Your Turn

What’s your take? What questions remain as you think about long-form writing, or your own positioning?

Share below or come chat in our Facebook group.

Update: Joe hired me two days later, just hours after I emailed him my proposal. 

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