By Steve Smith
When I think about the benefits of producing long-form content, I recall how my parents pleaded wth me to eat my vegetables (even that horrible spinach from a can) because they would help me to “grow up big and strong.”
Since long-form content is directly related to higher ranking in search results, I think the analogy is a sound one.
I’ve seen several very good articles on this topic lately and while they all discuss the important aspects of metrics and performance benchmarks, they don’t speak enough about something more fundamental – figuring out what it is you’re trying to say.
Long-form content is just that: In-depth and immersive, and the sweet spot seems to be between 2,300 and 2,500 words. If that seems daunting, it’s understandable. Especially if you’ve never written anything longer than 500 to 750-words.
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Taking a clue from our process here at CCM, determine the basics: Who do you need to reach? What is it that you want to say to them? After all, there must be some objective to the content. What “take aways” do you want the reader to come away with? Then, after all the words are crafted and counted, how will the content be delivered? Will it be posted to a blog? Packaged in an eBook or white paper? If so, will it be gated or ungated?
Without this commonsense planning, your results will be disappointing. So here are a few suggestions that will help your content marketing program grow up big and strong:
1. Hire good writers
Getting back to the “long” in “long-form,” yes, another truth is that it will take a bit more care and effort to produce long-form content. Someone has to write it, and it’s not unreasonable to suggest that the someone writing it should be a good writer. Good writing enhances your image. It sets you apart. If your objectives include positioning yourself as a thought leader, then the quality of your content must be top-notch. There’s no getting around it.
Once you’ve made a commitment to long-form content, deploying a sound strategy and a good writer, it won’t be long before this new process becomes second nature.
2. Begin with a brief. You won’t regret it
Whether the content is produced by on-house staff or outsourced, keep in mind the importance of providing the very best, most highly detailed input to the writer. This will ensure that a first draft, when submitted, will be an affirmation of your strategy and not a total re-write train wreck. Again, our process at CCM assures the players are on the same page.
3. Determine whether to produce in-house, or outsource
The advantages of outsourcing include access to better or more content-specializing writers, more efficient use of time, and more efficient allocation of staff. Time is rarely on your side, and by outsourcing a portion of the content creation, the outsource creators are able to work concurrently with your in-house team, therefore doubling or tripling the output.
4. Think value, not cost
Not sure long-form content will deliver the value you expect? Think of it this way. In addition to delivering better search results, a long-form piece, like a feature article for example, gives you a deep well from which to draw all manner of repurposing opportunities - infographics, listicles and blog posts. The “pillar post” concept is a proven tactic.
5. Determine how you will promote the content
Typically, you’ll promote the long-form content and its offspring by sharing it across your social media accounts, doing an email campaign to your list of subscribers, and perhaps with some paid tactics. If this all seems like I’m heading into Captain Obvious territory here, you’d be amazed by how often marketers miss the seemingly obvious opportunities to share and promote the content in which they’ve invested.
6. Keep it fresh, avoid canned content
Reminiscent of the aforementioned canned vegetable, how good could stock content be? It might have worked for Popeye the Sailor, but It’s often mushy and not vey tasty. Of course there is always a place for curated content, but in moderation. You get what you pay for. ‘Nuff said.
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Related topic: Can the Inbound Marketing Concept be Applied to Nonprofits?