If you know a thing or two about content marketing, then you’ve likely heard of the phrase “long-form content.”
Long-form content, typically consisting of 1500+ words, is a type of content that has gained popularity in the last half a decade. This form of content allows for more in-depth coverage of a topic, which can help establish topical authority in the eyes of Google. It lets you go beyond the surface level and dive deep into a subject, providing readers with all the information they want. However, writing long-form content that hits the sweet spot in terms of SEO requires a strategic approach.
In this post, we’ll share tips on how to write good long-form content (blog articles and guides) that’s loved by both your audience and search engines alike.
- Long-form content is beneficial for SEO if done correctly.
- Good long-form content provides in-depth and useful information on a topic, is well-organized, and offers unique value to readers.
- Bad long-form content is poorly written, lacks structure, and doesn’t offer any real value to readers.
- Creating good long-form content requires proper research, expertise, and examples, among other things.
Good question to begin with, and there’s no definitive answer to it. This has been a point of contention among marketers for a long time.
But in our extensive experience as a SaaS content marketing agency, we strongly believe (backed by anecdotal evidence) that long-form content does help SEO — provided it’s good (more on this in the next section). Here are a few reasons why:
What’s more, there have been studies that correlate content length to search engine rankings. For instance, a famous study by Backlinko suggests longer content tends to gain more backlinks compared to short blog posts and that the average word count of a Google top ten result is 1,447 words. That is, even if there’s no direct relationship between word count and rankings, longer content can indirectly lead to higher rankings.
To sum up, the answer to the above subheading is “It depends, but yes”. So, what exactly do we mean by “good” long-form content?
When you read through a long blog post, you can quickly determine whether it’s stretched out for the sake of hitting a target word count or if it truly cares about the reader’s experience. Here’s how we judge whether a long-form piece is good or bad:
For example, consider the keyphrase “SaaS product management”. We wrote a super detailed piece on this topic for one of our clients Zeda.io (a product management SaaS toolkit). At over 5000 words, it covers everything a reader needs to know on the subject — including examples, custom illustrations, relevant mentions of Zeda.io’s features, a sticky table of contents, useful tool mentions, and FAQs. No wonder it ranks #1 on Google: not because it’s that long but because it’s genuinely valuable for someone looking to learn about SaaS product management.
Now, not to point any fingers but for the same keyphrase, consider this long-form post that ranks #9 on the SERP: no examples, no visuals, no real depth in the subheadings, grammatical mistakes, etc.
The bottom line? If you’re going long with your word count, make every word count.
After writing for 40+ SaaS brands (and many more in other industries), we can confidently say that we know what makes a great long-form piece. In this section, we’ll quickly elaborate on the key factors we focus on for creating effective long-form articles and guides for SaaS companies:
First and foremost, we plan and outline our content so that it includes actionable tips and advice that readers can apply to achieve their goals or solve specific problems. We steer clear of generic or obvious advice and focus on providing practical recommendations.
For example, in this long-form guide (which currently ranks #1) we wrote for our client Multidots — a leading WordPress development company and plugin provider — we made sure every section is not just informative but actionable (with tips, templates, checklists, and resources) so the reader can actually DIY their migration process.
In this way, we leave no stone unturned in making the article useful for the reader, thus building their confidence in the client’s brand.
We ensure to base our content on the latest industry research, studies, and data. Each piece is based on extensive research and includes credible sources to back up our claims. We also include links to additional reading (internal or external from high authority domains) for readers who wish to dive deeper.
For example, in this article on productivity tools for Sunsama — a daily planner SaaS tool — we made sure to back up our arguments by citing survey reports and credible industry research.
We include the latest relevant examples to illustrate what we’re talking about. This could include case studies, real-world examples from brands doing it right, and quotes from industry leaders and experts. This means even if we are referencing the top five articles in the SERP to help craft our own, we make ours stand out with unique and engaging examples that the reader won’t find elsewhere.
Case in point: for JetOctopus — a SaaS technical SEO toolkit — one of the long-form guides we created was on the topic of internal links for SEO. This topic has been covered time and again by countless other high-DA websites such as Moz and Ahrefs. To stand out, we hunted fresh examples from both external and internal sources that made the content more engaging:
Another green flag as mentioned in the previous section is content structure. How coherently your long-form piece is organized makes a huge difference in how engaging or daunting it appears to the reader.
We structure our content in a way that is easy to read and digest, with clear headings, subheadings, bullet points, table of contents, FAQs, and TL;DR. This makes it easy for readers to skim or skip to the stuff they actually want to read. It shows that the brand cares for the reader experience.
Furthermore, we ensure to include visuals such as screenshots, custom infographics, GIFs, and embedded videos to help break up the text and make the piece more engaging and memorable.
Consider Zeda.io’s guide on MVP product management: check out the sticky Table of Contents on the right, the bulleted parameters, and the custom graphic with Zeda.io’s branding to illustrate the concept.
Also, in the same article above on internal links (for JetOctopus), check out this custom infographic we created and included to make the piece more engaging. All these additional efforts into making your long-form piece more appealing add up to make a difference.
Last but not least, remember the why. Why are you putting all that effort into writing a great long-form piece? Well, not just to add value to your audience but for business reasons, too.
And so, whenever possible, don’t hesitate to mention your product’s features and use cases within the piece in a natural, unobtrusive way. The mention shouldn’t sound salesy, but rather helpful for the reader in solving a problem. This approach of thoughtfully plugging your product into the article so it appears as an obvious solution worth trying is what product-led content is about — check out our detailed guide on it here.
For instance, in the same piece on productivity tools, we mention Sunsama’s relevant features (with GIFs) as ideal solutions for the problems being discussed. It doesn’t sound promotional and fits the piece perfectly without hurting the flow.
To conclude, good long-form content can do you a lot of good in terms of better search engine rankings, niche thought leadership, and brand credibility.
But while writing good long-form content for SEO is theoretically simple, it’s certainly not easy. A lot of thought and effort goes into ideating, planning, and writing a complete piece that delights the readers and search engines.
If you need help with long-form content for your SaaS website and skip the line to the top of the SERP, you’re in the right place. Get in touch with us to learn how we can partner with you for long-run, long-form content marketing success.