How to Create Long-Form Content (& Why It Matters)

It would be easy to assume that long-form content is no longer relevant these days.

In a world consumed by TikToks and the endless scroll, it seems like short-form content reigns supreme.

Learning how to create long-form content is therefore a waste of time.

But… is that really true?

Nope.

Not for businesses. And certainly not for audiences.

How can I make that claim with any certainty?

Studies prove that long-form content is ultra-valuable.

  • More than 90% of all traffic on the web starts from a Google search
    (Backlinko and Sparktoro).
    What are all those people googling? Overwhelmingly, written content.
  • 70% of buyers read at least 3-5 pieces of content before talking to a salesperson.
  • 70% of consumers would rather learn about a company through articles vs. ads.

And so does my own research:

After a year of publishing both short-form and long-form content – over 400 pieces in 2022! – I went back over the data to compare the results from both.

Spoiler: Written long-form content won. 👑

And in this video and blog guide, I’ll break down that data and show you how it won.

I’ll also tell you exactly how to create long-form content like the kind I publish on my blog.

Let’s make it happen. ✨

How to Create Long-Form Content & Win ROI: Watch Me Explain

Why Long-Form Content? What Is It, & Why Does It Matter? (Original Research)

Long-form content is any written content piece over 1,000 words in length.

It’s not just longer, though – this content also has more depth than short-form pieces. It goes wider and deeper, and gives your audience all the answers they’re looking for on a particular topic.

Needless to say, creating this type of content takes a lot more time and effort. It can seem daunting at the outset, maybe even scary. 😱

But why should you create long-form content, anyway? Why is all that effort worth it?

This original study, compiled and presented by me and my team at Content Hacker, will show you exactly why. (Get the full details of this study here. You can also hear me talk about this on the podcast, in E40, Recapping a Study of 428 Pieces of Content. 🎧)

short form vs long form content a clear winner content hacker

Study: How Long-Form Content Outperforms Short-Form Content

In 2022, I committed to an experiment: I would publish short-form video content alongside my regular, weekly long-form blog content.

I even shared these results live on stage at DigitalMarketer’s Training Day.

Here’s what we published:

  • Short-form content published: 316 videos with 280,000+ views

short-form content published in 2022

  • Long-form content published: 48 blogs, 52 emails, 12 YouTube videos

long-form content published in 2022

Now, at the end of 2022, what are the results?

  • Long-form content brought in 62x more customers than short-form content.
    • Short-form brought 1 customer with poor expectations and commitment issues who wanted a 75% refund.
    • Long-form brought 62 ideal customers.
  • Long-form content brought in 198.75% more revenue than short-form content.
    • Total revenue from short-form content was $2 from a Reels Play bonus + $625 from a customer who received a 75% refund on a $2,500 purchase.
    • Total revenue from long-form content was $200,000 from evergreen products and services.
  • Customers initially nurtured through long-form content had ZERO disputes and wanted ZERO refunds.
    • 1 customer who found us through short-form content wanted a 75% refund.

Download our full report on content length and save it for later:

long form content study content hacker

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Long-Form Content WINS

Ultimately, what I suspected all along has been proven TRUE:

Long-form content is FAR more profitable than short-form content. 💰

It NURTURES leads.

It BUILDS trust.

It CONVINCES prospects of your expertise in your industry/niche.

It TEACHES them well and sets their expectations for how your products/services will work.

Short-form content like short videos can be great for engagement, but ultimately, engagement is a fluff metric that doesn’t translate to actual income. ☁

If you want conversions, you NEED long-form content!

For more on this topic, check out my podcast episode where I explain how your blog can act as your 24/7 salesperson.

I also teach you EXACTLY how to achieve profitable content marketing in my mentorship program, The Content Transformation System. For a preview of what you’ll learn inside, watch my free training.

free class for entrepreneurs

And now, if you’re ready to learn how to create long-form content that gets results like these, follow me, my friends! 📝

How to Create Long-Form Content, Step by Step

Let’s be real: Not all long-form content is effective. These steps will help you make yours the best it can be.

1. Set Up an SEO Keyword Strategy for Your Long-Form Pieces

First up: keywords.

Long-form blogs created without a keyword strategy will not earn results.

Search engine optimization is how you get searchers with the exact problems your business solves to find your content and read it.

That leads to more conversions and more ROI. 📈

Optimizing long-form blogs for keywords brings in more passive leads – more than simple promotion techniques can do alone, like posting your blog link to social media.

If you’re going to do all organic (non-paid) content like me, you need the boost SEO provides. Here’s what my strategy looks like:

  1. Find out what your audience is looking up on Google. What terms are they using? What problems are they trying to solve related to your expertise?
    • Don’t know? Go ask your customers: “What did you search for on Google to find me?” “What would you search for to find someone like me?”
  2. Brainstorm 5-10 keywords from what you learn from #1. These are your future blog topics.
  3. Research those keywords using a tool like Semrush or Mangools KWFinder.
    • You need a keyword research tool to know your competition numbers. You don’t want to blindly create content for keywords you’re never going to rank for.
    • Pay special attention to the keyword difficulty score, or KD. A newer site needs to focus on targeting low KD keywords if you want to rank (a score of 40 or below). More established sites can go after more difficult keywords.
  4. Repeat this process regularly.

keyword research for long-form content

2. Do Topic Research

You have a blog topic and keyword you’ve unearthed through audience and keyword research. Now it’s time to dive into that topic to see what you need to include in your long-form blog content piece.

With topic research, you’re aiming to answer these questions:

  • How long should my blog post be?
  • What is the search intent of people looking up this keyword (what answers are they looking for from the content at the top of Google)?
  • What information must be included in my blog to fulfill the search intent and rank well?
  • What’s my competition, and how can I create something better (more comprehensive, more complete, more unique, etc.)?

To start your topic research for your long-form blog, simply type your keyword in Google and check out the results. Look at the top 3 pieces and consider:

  1. The word count. How long are these top blogs? Your blog needs to be just as long, if not longer.
  2. The structure. What headings do they contain, and in what order? How does each blog approach breaking down the topic? This can inform and inspire the structure of your own blog.
  3. The information. Look at the overarching questions each competitor’s blog answers. Pay special attention to what vital information on the topic is missing from the top blogs in Google (use your expertise, here!).

3. Create a Structured Outline

Keyword and topic research is now safely in your back pocket. That means it’s time to write your outline for your long-form blog.

Outlines are necessary, even at their simplest level. Why?

Outlining gives you a bird’s eye view of how you’ll break down your topic and explain it to readers. An outline also details all of your most important points and determines how you’ll order them.

With an effective outline, you’ll see all the pieces that make up your long-form content at a glance. You can rearrange them and tweak them from a zoomed-out perspective, which will ultimately help you when you’re zoomed IN and writing to fill out each piece of the puzzle.

Not to mention, an outline helps you structure your long-form piece well for maximum readability and engagement.

The outline is like the framework of a building – it holds everything together while you fill in the details and work toward constructing the finished product. 🏗

With that in mind, jot down the main points of your blog in a list. Then, structure that list into sections using headings (also called headers).

For instance, your blog title will get the H1 heading. Your first major point will get the H2 heading. Any sub-points that support that main point will be denoted with H3s, etc.

Here’s a basic overview of what to include in your outline/a basic blog structure:

  • Blog title (H1)
  • Introduction
  • 1st main point (H2)
    • Points that support your main point (H3s)
  • 2nd main point (H2)
      • Points that support your 2nd main point (H3s)
  • Repeat H2 & H3 formatting as necessary
  • Conclusion

And here’s an example of an outline in action:

content outline example

4. Craft an Engaging Headline & Introduction

Want to know how to create long-form content that actually gets read?

Even if your content is utterly amazing, your long-form content will NOT get read if your headline sucks and your introduction is boring.

These two pieces are what pull readers in: They’re your hooks. If they’re engaging, affirming, helpful, and/or curiosity-inducing, they’ll also keep those readers reading, scanning, and scrolling.

So, don’t just spew out the first headline and intro that fly through your brain. Don’t word-vomit these important elements. Give them care, time, and attention.

Study great headlines and what makes them work. Take inspiration from their makeup. Write at least 5-10 versions of your headline until you hit on one that is:

  • Honest. It tells readers what to expect in the post without over-promising.
  • Engaging. It uses bright, creative language (strong verbs and adjectives) to pull in your audience.
  • Relevant. It includes the keyword for your blog topic.

Next, what about your introduction?

The golden rule is to make sure you tell the reader up front WHY they should care.

WHY should they read the post? What’s in it for them? What value will they get out of it? How will the information help them or improve their lives? Tell them right away.

At Content Hacker, we often use a copywriting framework called PAS to help craft our introductions and hooks. Here’s an example of an introduction I rewrote using this formula:

how to write content that works - pas formula

Still struggling with creating long-form content? Want to learn not just how to create content, but also how to build a content strategy that will grow your brand? Get the pathway you need inside my free training.

5. Fill in Your Outline: Add a Mix of Your Expertise and Research

Ready to fill in your outline?

This is the point where your expertise comes into play. Lean on it as you write out each section of your post.

This is easier than it sounds. Your expertise should naturally come to the forefront when you’re writing about a topic you know like the back of your hand. This is something you can’t fake!

However, if you’re wondering about specific ways to leverage your hard-won knowledge and experience in a long-form blog post, it can be done in a few ways.

  1. As you write about the topic, tap into your insights. What have you learned in your years of experience? Share that in the post.
  2. Include research from resources you know about/have found as a practitioner and insider. Most experts are regularly reading up on their industry and staying on top of the latest stats and studies. Include the most relevant of these to back up any points you make in your blog.
  3. Address the most-asked questions you get from your audience. When you see an opportunity to directly answer your specific audience’s questions on the topic, do it.
  4. Share stories. Your unique experience is valuable. Do you have any stories that illustrate what you’re writing about? Tell them!
  5. Create high-quality content. Pay attention to the quality of your writing, including your spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Aim to provide useful content with value, not just cliché fluff that’s already been said 100 times.

Ultimately, your expertise is your own and will help differentiate your content from the competition. Write from the standpoint of the helpful expert and you’ll prove to readers you’re the real deal.

6. Include Visuals

Long-form content can be daunting to read. How do you make it seem less scary and more approachable?

Include visuals throughout the content. 📷

They help improve readability AND increase engagement.

However, don’t just throw in some stock photos that are only loosely tied to your topic. (I’m looking at you, “person-typing-on-computer.jpg”)

generic stock photo

This type of generic photo adds nothing to your blog post.

Source: Unsplash

In a survey of marketers, the majority (41%) reported that stock photos performed the worst out of all the visuals they used in their marketing in the past year. 😬

So… maybe skip those.

Instead, try to add visuals that are super relevant to the surrounding text.

If you can, try to illustrate what you’ve said in the post with an image or screenshot, or expand on it by embedding a relevant video. In an ideal world, the images/visuals in your post will further aid your reader’s understanding of the topic.

In other words, they should be useful, not just visual fluff.

7. Add Calls-to-Action

How do you translate the trust you’ve built with readers through long-form content into action?

Add CTAs, or calls-to-action, to your post.

These snippets of text are simply commands that tell your reader what to do next once they’ve finished with your content. Each CTA should include a link they can click on to complete that action, like buying a product or service, downloading an ebook or lead magnet, signing up for emails, etc.

For example, in one of our blogs, we include a few banner CTAs that encourage readers to download a related free guide.

blog cta example

No matter what kind of CTA you include in your long-form content, just make sure they’re relevant to the topic you’re discussing. For instance, if you’re writing a guide to blogging, you could include a CTA to download your free email course on blogging.

To get the most conversions, write clear and direct CTAs to valuable and relevant pages, products, or services.

How to Create Long-Form Content: Don’t Expect Instant Results

So you’ve created long-form content and published it on your blog/website.

It’s really good — and you’re proud of it.

You may be hoping for a flood of results to come pouring in, but instead…

Expect crickets.

Because long-form content is NOT about instant results. You won’t get a rush of endorphins from a burst of engagement right after you post.

Remember: It’s. Not. About. Engagement.

Instead, it’s about the long-term, passive results the content will bring in over time, slowly but steadily.

If you did your SEO right, it will climb the rankings. It will hit page one. People will start finding it and clicking it. They’ll read it, learn from it, and be gently swept into your fold.

So wait patiently for those results. They’re coming. And they’re worth it. 🤩

Or, if you’re ready to skip straight to learning the strategy behind consistently producing long-form content that grows your brand, week after week….

You need a seat in my 12-month mentorship program, the Content Transformation System.

This coaching program teaches you the systems, strategies, and skills behind growing your brand through content with expert guidance and feedback.

For a preview of the pathway you’ll take through this mentorship, grab your seat in my free training class.

free content hacker training class cta

About Julia McCoy

Julia McCoy is an 8x author and a leading strategist around creating exceptional content and presence that lasts online. As the VP of Marketing at Content at Scale, she helps marketers achieve insane ROI (3-10x their time back at 1/3rd the cost) in a new era of AI as a baseline for content production. She's been named in the top 30 of all content marketers worldwide, is the founder of Content Hacker, and recently exited her 100-person writing agency with a desire to help marketers, teams, and entrepreneurs find the keys of online success and revenue growth without breaking.