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As the whole world seems obsessed with 30-second TikTok videos and Instagram reels, you may think it’s the end of long-form content.
But as you’ll quickly realize, long-form content is still crucial in the content marketing game, especially in the high-ticket SaaS game – and B2B in general.
Content marketing isn't just about conversions – it's also about providing customer support, reducing churn, establishing expertise, and building trust, among other things.
This is especially important for SaaS brands – and even more important for high-ticket SaaS – because of the length of the sales cycle and the amount of stakeholders usually involved in a deal, from C-level execs to procurement.
I’ll explain how long-form content can – and should – be used in a content marketing strategy.
But first, let’s make sure that we’re on the same page about what “long-form content” even means.
What is long-form content?
Even though “long-form content” is differentiated by its length, marketers do not agree on where “short-form” ends and where “long-form” starts.
I can’t blame them, to be honest, I don’t really know myself.
To keep it simple, let’s assume “long-form” starts at 1,000 words.
That’s super arbitrary – it could be 1256 or 1387 – but we need to draw the line somewhere.
Long-form usually takes more time, resources and effort to produce than short-form because it goes much more in-depth, and needs to have a clear and detailed structure.
By the way, “long-form” isn’t restricted to just written content. It can be text, video, audio, etc.
Typically, a long-form piece of content will combine various formats. It can be, for example, a long blog article with embedded videos and infographics.
Some content formats – like expert guides and e-books – are better suited for this purpose because they give you the space to explore a topic thoroughly.
Since I specialize in written content, I'm going to leave out the video and audio formats in this article and focus solely on the written and mixed long-form content.
Long-form vs short-form content
So what makes long-form content so different that it has to have its own category?
Besides the fact that marketers LOVE unnecessarily classifying things, long-form content has a few characteristics of its own:
It covers a topic in-depth, and needs more research
The length requires more structure to be digestible
It’s tougher to write, edit and publish
It can be hard to strike a good balance between digestibility and technicality
BUT it doesn’t mean that long-form is better than short-form.
I often get asked by B2B SaaS marketers: “how long should our content be?”.
My answer it “it depends” (remember, I’m an SEO by trade, after all).
If you’re producing content about the eight of the Eiffel Tower, short can do the trick. Trying to explain how to measure SaaS profitability? 500 words aren’t going to cut it.
How to choose between long-form and short-form content?
Let’s answer that question once and for all: your content should be as long as necessary.
You don’t seem convinced.
Let’s dig deeper, then.
Content – whatever the format – should only be produced if you have something specific to say, or if you can help solve a specific problem.
If that problem is a complex one (say, how to grow a SaaS past 2M ARR), it will require longer content.
If the problem isn’t so complex (say, how to integrate Zapier and Pipedrive), the content can be shorter.
It really is that simple.
As we’ll cover in a bit, people think longer is always better when it comes to content if you want it to rank.
But think about the number of times you were looking for a cookie recipe, and had to skim through the tale of how many weekends were happily spent thanks to that cookie recipe, how the grandmother who passed the recipe on had a wonderful life, and how these cookies are so good as the best American cookie recipe that you should always bake them on Thursday nights, and did you know you can actually freeze cookie dough with that recipe, and here’s the best butter to choose to make the best cookies and …
From an SEO perspective, if you see long content ranking, you probably need a piece on the longer side.
Other than that, use your best judgment and remember: write what you’d like to read.
Plan your long-form and short-form content in advance
“Ok Vince, your rant about cookie recipes is super convincing, but it’s not that helpful. How does that inform my SEO & Content Marketing strategy?”
I’m glad you asked.
We all know budgets cannot always be stretched, so the most important thing is to make a plan.
First, identify the topics your audience cares about. Or, even more importantly, why they buy from you.
Then you can list out the content you need, whether it’s short or long-form, and prioritize based on available resources and how critical each piece is.
If your website does not have a lot of content, it could be a good idea to invest in multiple short-form pieces instead of one big long-form article.
This will give you more authority, allow you to address a larger number of topics, and you can always refresh this content later if it needs it.
The stronger your plan (including working on your existing content, and creating new content), the easier it will be to plan resources to execute.
Benefits of long-form content for SaaS businesses
SaaS businesses can benefit a lot from long-form content.
If your sales cycle is on the longer side, you’ll need multiple touches with prospects, and deep, expert content increases the likelihood of closing deals.
If you’re selling database recovery software, building a glossary of definitions probably won’t cut it – you need expert content to showcase your technical knowledge and show how you solve specific issues.
Long-form content conveys way more expertise and trustworthiness than short-form, but it doesn’t stop there.
Let’s look at how long-form content helps SaaS marketing.
Long-form content tends to rank higher in search
According to this research from SEMrush, longer content (over 1,000 words) is more likely to rank for multiple keywords, and as the word count decreases, so does the number of ranked keywords.
This isn’t so surprising considering that long-form content tends to address more topics, or the same topics with multiple angles – it just covers a topic better.
In addition, the more in-depth the article, the better the chances that Google will deem it quality content – meaning, it’ll rank higher.
Here’s what Google considers “quality content,” according to its guidelines:
This research should still be taken with caution, because there’s no qualitative information here: we don’t know whether these articles rank for the right kind of keywords.
Because Google tends to favor long content, it sometimes only shows short content for very specific queries – which is fine.
Trying to address broad topics with short-form content won’t work – as we’ve established before.
But don’t throw out short form just yet – no one wants to read 1,500 words about every random topic.
On the other hand, guides with lots of detailed information and unique insights tend to get more backlinks. When other players in your industry stumble upon your article when doing research, they will consider it a reference-worthy source of information.
Ahrefs found a positive correlation between word count and the number of referring domains (i.e. how many websites link to you): the bigger the word count, the higher the number of referring domains.
But correlation isn’t causation. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, check out this funny website showing very random correlations.
Being front-of-mind when your buyers are ready is paramount, and thought-leadership status greatly helps.
Showing expertise through long-form is a great way to achieve this status, and boost your brand equity as a result.
Long-form content gives you more repurposing opportunities
Content repurposing is the action of creating multiple pieces of content from one “main” piece – effectively “repurposing” it.
This is a great tactic to use in your content marketing strategy because it allows you to make the most of your content investments.
A piece of long-form content that goes deep into one topic will be full of shareable insights and information you can spread onto other channels in different formats. One blog article can become 3 LinkedIn posts, several tweets, an email newsletter, a YouTube video, a podcast… you get the point.
In addition to giving you as many repurposing opportunities as your creativity can handle, long-form content can also become an internal resource. You can send it as an instruction manual or guide to your team members, employees, partners, or freelancers you outsource some tasks to.
You can also send it to clients or include it in your help center as a go-to resource.
Users who buy your software will typically need implementation guidelines, product documentation, and other resources to learn how to make the most of your product. If you’ve covered some of these topics in your long-form content, you’ll be able to refer your clients to it.
How to write engaging long-form content: best practices
The main problem with long-form content is quite obvious: no one likes to read it.
Like in my previous example with cooking recipes storytelling their weekends retreats before giving us what we came for in an attempt to rank higher, there’s a good chance people won’t actually read your content.
At best, they skim through it.
So how can one write long-form content that’s still helpful and engaging?
Longer content doesn’t mean more fluff
Long-form content is long for a reason. It’s not about stuffing it with fluff to meet a higher word count. Writing longer articles doesn't mean you can just ramble on.
Every sentence needs to have a purpose and add value to your overall message. Every word needs to have a reason to be there.
Writing a longer article than your competitors doesn't mean it'll automatically rank or convert better. Your content must be more helpful, unique, and customer-focused than your competitors' to perform better.
If you write with your readers’ problems, pain points, and questions in mind, you’ll naturally create more helpful content and avoid stuffing it with fluff.
Don’t bore your readers, diversify your content
Longer content doesn’t have to be monotonous.
In fact, the more words it has, the more diversified your content should be. Reading through 5,000 words will surely get your readers bored halfway through.
You need to keep things interesting by breaking the pattern with images, videos, infographics, GIFs, and whatever else you can think of.
Adding visuals will not only make your content more dynamic, but it’ll also help your readers understand the topic much better.
To keep your content easy to consume, pay attention to the formatting. Space out your text, write short paragraphs, add bullet points and numbered lists.
You can also use frames or boxes to highlight what you want your readers to remember: key takeaways, pro-tips, quotes. Adding emojis can also help keep the reader’s eye entertained (do so only if it’s on brand).
Use external resources in your content
Whether it's an insightful LinkedIn post that perfectly illustrates your point, or a trusted source that backs up your claims, referencing outside information is a great way to add credibility to your content.
Not only will it help build trust with your audience and with search engines, but it's also an easy way to make your content more engaging.
Just remember two golden rules: always give credit where it's due by referencing people you borrow information from, and stick to reliable and trusted sources of information.
💡 Pro Tip: It’s always a good idea to reach out to people to let them know you’ve featured them. It will let them know you exist, and there’s a chance they actually share your article to their audience too! Win-win!
Make sure you have a clear structure & table of contents
Long-form articles must be easy to navigate – and adding a table of contents is a great way to allow for faster navigation and a better viewing experience in general.
People rarely read content in one-go – they’ll usually skim through it and take what they need from various parts.
Even when writing a long piece, it’s easy to get confused halfway through and lose sight of the points you were trying to get across.
To prevent this, start the process by creating a detailed content outline. That way, you'll have a clear and logical structure to follow, and you won't get lost in the maze of your own thoughts.
Add some storytelling to your writing
Readers rarely read anything from top to bottom. They mostly skim through it.
But still, some people will feel motivated to read every word of your content. Those are the people you should write for.
Each piece of content you create should be written as if it was meant to be read in its entirety. So, you need to keep it interesting at all times. Storytelling is a great way to do that.
We all love stories. They’re engaging, entertaining and help us understand things more clearly. If we can visualize something, we can remember it better. Adding storytelling to your long-form content will make it easier for your readers to grasp the concepts you’re discussing.
Using long-form effectively comes down to knowing your sh$t
Before we go to the traditional end-of-content FAQs, let’s sum it up.
If you only need to remember one thing, make it this:
The more you know your sh$t, the easier it is to plan and make long-form content.
So what do I mean by “knowing your sh$t”?*
The first step is subject-matter expertise, of course. If you don’t know anything about the topic, don’t write about it.
Best case scenario, you fool a couple of people who don’t know better, and won’t remember you. Worst case scenario, you devalue your brand in front of your industry.
Second step: know your audience.
The more you know where people hang out, what they like to read, what they write about, and how they like their content made, the easier it will be to create engaging content, even long-form.
If your audience has a strong meme cultures (marketing, DevOps), use that to your advantage.
If your audience loves a no BS approach, incorporate that in your storytelling.
And so on, and so forth.
Remember: content marketing isn’t about gaining traffic – it’s about building trust and community.
FAQs about long-form content
How long is long-form content?
There’s no universal word count that defines long-form content. Typically, it’s content that’s over 1,000 words or longer. Generally speaking, though, we're talking about articles that are longer and more in-depth than your average blog post.
Should I repost my long-form content on other platforms?
Long-form content contains lots of information you can spread onto other platforms. For example, one long blog article can become a few LinkedIn posts, several tweets, and a YouTube video. You can repurpose it in many ways - and you absolutely should.
Why use long-form content?
There are several benefits of creating long-form content. It can help boost your rankings, establish yourself as an authority in your field, and even generate some backlinks. But don’t force it. Short-form content is just as necessary. There should be a balance.
I'm the CEO & founder of ScaleCrush. You can often find me ranting way too much about BS marketing advice, fluffy and regurgitated content, and calling out gurus. I also happen to have my very own unoriginal thoughts about the stuff we're going through.
Marketing gurus are lying to you. Am I?
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