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How to create long-form content that people want to read

We’ve explained why long form content works before and it still does today. Here’s how to create them in 5 steps:

  1. Determine your end goal
  2. Align yourself within your buyers’ journeys
  3. Illustrate with use cases and relevant visuals
  4. Have a skeleton – and put it up front
  5. Have a distribution strategy

Now, let’s break them down in detail.

#1 Determine your end goal

As a marketer, you’re familiar with the concept of call-to-action. You want your readers to do a specific action after reading your content: buy something, subscribe to your newsletter, share it with as many people as possible, etc.

The first step in writing long-form content is to determine what is that action, as different end-actions call for different formats. For instance:

  • If you want your content (and by extension, your brand) to go viral on social media, you need to prioritize share-ability. Highly visual formats, like infographics, will be useful in this scenario.
  • If you want to people to purchase a very detailed research report or white paper on the state of your industry, publishing a long-form summary of key findings will be useful as ‘bait’.
  • If you want to build your company blog as a thought leadership resource in a topic, publishing a detailed, step-by-step ‘how to’ guide will encourage your readers to link back to you.

Once you’ve determined your end goal and format, you can then zoom in on your customer and…

#2 Align yourself within your buyers’ journeys

Your customers need different things from you at different stages of the customer funnel. For instance:

  • Early-stage customers who just found out about your brand need you to convince them why they should choose you over competitors.
  • Mid-stage decision makers need to be reminded of your products’ benefits and given incentives to convert/purchase.
  • Late-stage buyers who have already had a relationship with you need to be taken care to prove their return of investment for purchasing your products or services.

When writing long-form content, you need to first identify which stage your target readers are at…and use the extensiveness afforded by the article length to target their individual pain points.

This is where substance really shines: one case study may not be enough to convince your customers that you can help them. But having five just might – because out of the five, one of them might be very relevant to them. This brings us to…

#3 Illustrate with use cases and relevant visuals

Sometimes when we’re knowledgeable about a niche or topic, we can go on for hours about intricacies and ‘how things work’. These can be very useful information…up until a certain point.

Past that point, what your customers want is proof – not just numbers and short statistics, but something that actually shows them how what you’re offering actually works.

Case studies help you do just that, and it helps your customer transform the ‘theory’ of your product into practicality. Long-form content allows you to be detailed in your case studies, which helps you become more convincing.

Visual forms of your content, such as explainer videos and demos, also help your customers digest how you can help them more effectively. They also do the additional work of breaking up blocks of text, sustaining continued interest in your article.

And visuals don’t have to be stylized to work – even stick-man figures and graphs, when used to explain concepts in relevant bite-size pieces, work to promote your brand. (Check out Wait but Why, a popular self-development blog, for a live example of this.)

#4 Have a skeleton – and put it up front

Good long-form articles are not meant to be a long walk through unchartered forests – they’re meant to be a well-lit hiking trail, with key sights along the way.

Prepare your readers for what you plan to teach, offer or explain to them in your article by dividing it into headlines and subtopics. Put this structure (also known as a skeleton) up front before you elaborate your article. This helps your readers who are short of time to jump to the sections that are the most relevant to them first. (If you can use clickable links to link to each section, like this article – even better!)

Putting your articles’ structure up front also helps you, the writer, to stay focused and not go off tangent by writing filler content and fluff to fill up space. This makes your article more succinct and focused.

Headlines are also very important here – they should be short, eye-catching and descriptive. Eye-tracking studies indicate that most people only skim through an article’s headlines before deciding if the rest of the article is worth reading.

Put your headlines up front in your structure outline, at the beginning of the article – to hook your readers into wanting to read more. This increases the time your customers spend on your website and reduces the bounce rate.
 

#5 Have a distribution strategy


Good things are meant to be shared – and for your extensive long-form content to reach out and be useful to your audiences, it needs to reach them first. Have an extensive distribution strategy that will make it easy for your audiences to find and share your content.

Here are some specific steps that you can take to make sharing your article as easy as pie:

  • Integrate share buttons on the article page: they can be at the bottom of the article, as well as on a visible sidebar that scrolls as the article is read.
  • Make smaller chunks of the article sharable by using hyperlinked quotations and branded visuals.
  • Write your own meta description for your article. Google and several social media sites use the meta description as the summary of the article. If you don’t have a meta description, it takes the first sentence as well as any formatting, which may not be as attractive or succinct in explaining what your article is about.
  • Cross-post your long-form content through other channels, both internally (social media mentions, links from other published articles) and externally (guest-posting on industry publications and sites. LinkedIn groups are effective as well)

We hope this guide to creating long-form content was useful for you. Go, get writing!

If you need help in thinking about topics to write or need a second pair of eyes in planning long-form content for your website, we can help. Helping businesses to create content that’s simple, relatable and convertible is the core of our services.  Contact us at hello@3degrees.asia for more information.

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