Why Long Form Content is Winning the Web

111 amazing comments

long form

Last Update February 23, 2016.

You’ve heard about long-form content, right?

It’s that insanely huge style of article that sometimes goes on so long your scrolling finger gets tired. In terms of a word count you’re often looking at 3,000 to 10,000 words.

Seriously.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you would have come across it on many occasions in articles like this one (3,600 words), this one (4,800 words) and this bad boy (9,000 words). I love sitting on couches in cafes just typing away for hours days.

But there is something that has been bugging me about long-form content for a while now.

And I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s probably bugging you as well.

Let’s take a deeper look into the good and the bad things about this new-fangled blogging cure all. As always, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

What is long-form content and why is it so popular?

Okay, so right from the outset I should probably mention that long-form content is nothing new. In fact, journalists (especially investigative journalists) and authors have been writing like this long before blogs came along.

Even in the blogging world it is nothing new. People like Leo Babauta and Steve Pavlina were writing ridiculously long articles before most of our blogs were born – maybe even a decade ago.

But it really feels like it turned a corner in 2013/2014.

It’s now the go-to style for many bloggers.

And the sad thing is that it doesn’t always work for them. In fact, it often seems as though it’s a huge waste of time given the sheer amount of typing, research and editing that goes into the production of a long-form article.

What is long-form content?

The definition of long-form content is going to be different for every blogger in every niche.

True long-form content, in my opinion, is the kind of stuff you see in the New Yorker like this article on Plant Intelligence by Michael Pollan that took me half a day to read and probably took him months to research and write. This type of content is usually broken up into many pages.

Long-form content on blogs is never quite as brilliant and seems to be anything over 3,500(ish) words. It could be a collection of tips (like this one I did on blogging tips), images or just a really great big story.

Not all long-form content is created (or received) equally. That causes some problems that I’ll talk about more later.

Why has it become so popular?

When answering this question I have to be really careful to distinguish between the questions of “why is it so popular to write long-form content?” and “why is it so popular to read long-form content?” because I don’t actually think it is as popular to read as many bloggers might think.

But in terms of why it is so popular for bloggers to write long-form content you can really trace it back to two main reasons: Google’s search engine guidelines and advice from popular blogs.

  • Google’s SEO guidelines
    Google has long been spouting the idea that useful content was key to better rankings. That meant tools, videos and longer articles that contained more information and solved more problems. There has even been a few SEO experts assert that longer content ranks better.
  • Advice from popular blogs
    Many of the bigger bloggers like Neil Patel and Brian Clark have advocated long form content as being important. Less big bloggers (like myself) have also been saying it for a while. And then there is the “indirect advice” that comes from imitating blogs that use long form content.

The difficult thing about all of this, however, is that it often proves to be a massive disappointment for bloggers when they don’t see any of the results that they hoped.

Why long-form content is a bad idea

Saying that long-form content is a good way to rank on Google, or get more subscribers, etc. is the same as saying that making a video will get you to rank on Google, or more subscribers, etc.

Really?

What is the video about?

Who is the target audience?

How well do you promote the video?

Is the video even worth watching?

I should probably be really clear at this point and say that people like Neil and Brian (mentioned above) never advocate long-form content just for the sake of it. They always couple their advice by talking about quality and targeting and so on. Whenever I mention it I try to include the topic of evergreen content – writing articles that focus on beginner topics that always stay relevant.

But in all honesty, that isn’t the full picture either. There are a few other things that need to be mentioned if we want to get to the bottom of why those long articles aren’t working for everyone.

And it comes down to pressure.

When you see all the successful/popular/well established bloggers writing ginormous articles it might be tempting to think that those articles were the single cause of their success. And while it might be true that they were the vehicle of their success, it’s a big mistake to assume that if you write bloody long posts that you’ll become Zen Habits as well.

It’s almost like a strange blogging peer-pressure; the cool kids are doing it so I need to as well.

If you’ve tried long-form articles on your blog or guest posting spots but haven’t got the reception that you’d hoped it might be worth asking a few questions like:

  • What does your audience respond to?
    Some people just don’t consume long-form content. They might be too used to BuzzFeed-type articles that are broken up into tiny animated clips or sentence-long sound bites that make them blow air out of their nose quickly and then move on. There’s nothing wrong with BuzzFeed, by the way. They know their market perfectly.
  • Are your writing skills up to the task?
    This is a really harsh point to bring up but some bloggers just don’t seem to have the writing skills (yet!) to write 5,000 words and make it interesting. I’m constantly surprised that people read my writing and I’ve been at it for a few years now.
  • Are you picking topics that warrant massive detail?
    Not all topics need that much detail. Some of the popular “news” that we see now (think celebrities and sport) barely require a photo and a bit of gossip to get people onto the page then then clicking onto the next thing. There’s just no time or space for a long analysis.

If you get one or more of these elements wrong then there is a good chance that your hours and hours and hours of research, writing and editing may be all wasted.

So what do you do?

How to get the most from long-form content

Here are some possible solutions for you and your blog if you feel like the long articles are falling short.

Again, every blog and niche is different so you need to make sure you are testing, tweaking and researching all the time. A few small things can make a big difference to how well this stuff goes.

1. Solve problems, but not all of them

A few years ago I stumbled across a blog that had linked to me (I couldn’t find it today) in an article where they’d praised my writing but said they never leave comments because there are no discussion points left.

That was a huge eye opener for me.

Since then I’ve practiced writing useful articles that solve problems but then always try to leave something open or uncertain at the end. It makes for wonderful conversation and, as I often say, people tend to learn more from the comments on my blog than the article itself!

2. Research carefully (like, really carefully)

Here’s how the article-writing process used to work for me.

Shower > BRAINWAVE > Tell Siri to make a note > Draft headline > Write post > Check facts > Publish.

These days, however, I tend to add about an hour of research into the equation around the time of the headline drafting. I’ve become more an more interested in things like keywords, traffic potential, competition in the SERPs, the kind of articles already rankings, the kind of topics my competitors have covered, etc.

There are many tools you can use to accomplish this kind of thing. Most of them you can find in my Toolbox. Ultimately you want to try and find your own style of research that brings you the best results.

3. Don’t do it just for the sake of it

Someone recently asked me why I don’t publish to a schedule. “It’ll get you more readers and more loyalty,” they told me.

Well, that’s probably true but I can’t seem to get past my mantra that I won’t publish content unless I have something to say. I just can’t see the point putting out an endless stream of daily (or even weekly) articles unless I genuinely think they’re going to be useful.

long form content
Click to Tweet this quote.

Part of the reason bloggers seem to struggle with long-form content is that they are trying to do it too often and on topics that they don’t really believe in. If you want to keep a reader interested in your content for more than a few minutes you’d better be sure you’re interested in it too!

4. Get a feel for what works

This probably could have gone up into the research section but I wanted to emphasize it separately because I think it can really help get something over the edge.

One of the best things you can do is go around to blogs that are similar to yours and see what has worked for them in terms of long-form content.

Ask questions like:

  • How did they set it up?
    Glen from ViperChill sets posts up better than anyone else. Remember when he did that post “outing” Google’s bad policies and followed it up with an SEO product? Amazing.
  • What is the flow like?
    If you write a long article it needs to be on a design and in a format that is easy to follow. Each section needs to lead on from the previous one and include text, graphics, sources and videos. Demian Farnworth knows how to do this perfectly.
  • Does it tell a story?
    You can’t just whack up a bunch of facts and hope people read it all the way through. Even journalists talk about how they felt talking to this professional about that topic, and so on. Make it personal. John Morrow is bloody brilliant at this.
  • How did they pre-sell it?
    Get on the mailing list of some of these bloggers and see how they “pre sell” their articles to their subscribers. Sometimes I’m blown away at how much attention an average article will get on the back of a brilliant mail out. I’m not naming anyone for this point. ๐Ÿ™‚

Again, not all of this stuff will work on your blog but it might give you a very good starting point to make some new tests.

5. Practice writing like you’re speaking to a mate

One of the hardest things to do, as a writer, is type out those words like you’re talking to a mate. I’ve been trying to do it for years and still fall short.

Luckily for me I have a trusted and knowledgable friend in Internet Marketing who will shoot me a quick email when my posts go up saying “Too arrogant” or “Get rid of that swagger, mate”. It helps a lot.

The best strategy I can suggest is to write as if you are going on the journey with your readers, not lecturing them. Make it as if you’re chatting to your college buddies in the pub about whatever topic it is, not giving a lecture to some 4th year students.

The more conversational your tone, the more likely people are to engage with you. And that translates to subscribers, shares and a lot of interest.

Does long-form content have a future?

For as long as I’ve been blogging, people have been saying that the format of blogging is coming to an end.

People don’t read that much anymore.

Mobile devices will prevent the format from staying viable.

Video is the new main thing.

And now they are saying all the same things about long-form content.

While I do think that those (three specific) points are entirely correct, they don’t really fully express the truth of the situation. Long-form content does have a future – a big one – and you can make it even bigger by incorporating video, mobile responsive layouts and easy to digest formats into the big articles that you publish.

But the really important point is that no content has a future unless it is quality. Just look at the people who are doing really well from the regularly changing landscapes online.

The New Yorker magazine is killing it with subscriptions because the content is brilliant, novel and engaging (and as such they have a big ole subscriber base).

People like VSauce, SourceFed and Ryan Higa are smashing it on YouTube because they produce videos so attuned to their markets that they stand out incredibly.

Blogs, podcasts, whatever… it’s all the same.

It’s not the format that is causing the success it’s the branding, the research, the distinctiveness and the quality of the execution.

Conclusion

Long-form content is worth the work if you are sure that you are providing something useful and distinctive. Make sure you do your research and know the exact type of person that you are pitching it to and then work like crazy to be amazing.

Have you had success or failure with long-form content on your blog? Do you read long articles? I’d be really interested to hear what you think about this. Please leave me a comment.

ยฉ Photographer: 350jb | Agency: Dreamstime.com.

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111 Comments. Join in. *Closed after 30 days*

  • Elena

    I think that you are partially right in saying that people do not read as much anymore. Right in that they do not read as much of printed word or long articles, but I think that you are wrong that they do not read. I actually think that we are on content overload–emails, facebook, twitter, even Instagram–words, words and more words. So, we multitask and end up choosing only the content that is most important or relevant to us. For example, while I got the gist of your article, due to my huge time constrains I scammed through headlines first (a reminder for me to make sure my headlines are catchy and can keep readers’ attention), then I read through those paragraphs in which I thought I would learn something I do not already know. So, while I read your article, I did not read all of it (oops! :))

    I have learned with my audience that unless I am publishing a recipe (that is when my posts are shorter), I write manageable pieces–something that can be read in 4-5 minutes. If I have more to say, I might break it into a series.


    1. Ramsay

      Hi Elena.

      I didn’t really mean to say that people don’t read at all. I guess I wrote that part badly.

      You’re totally right, I think people skim a lot. But they’ll still read long things if it is good quality. It’s just harder to break through.

      Have you experimented with longer form content?


      1. James George

        Ramsay, Elena brings up a good point. Could you get more out of a series of posts, rather than long-form content? I have been pretty successful at blogging, I was able to quit my job and work for myself, but you’re more experienced than me.

        In your experience, does one blockbuster, long form post beat out a series of posts? Do readers tend to fall off by the end of the series, or increase? I am curious to know your thoughts about this.


        1. Ramsay

          Hi James.

          That is a really good question.

          I’ve done a few series posts here on Blog Tyrant and they haven’t gone as well as I would have hoped. So, I ended up writing a 8,000 word series post which I suspect would have blown people’s socks off if it was a single post.

          I think it’s about testing. Sometimes it’s better to do one post, sometimes an eBook.


          1. Elena

            I think it might be a good idea to rerun an older series as a single post. You can update it too and see if you get a better response.


      2. Elena

        I have certain articles that are longer (take about 8 minutes to finish reading). Those are normally the ones that need more attention and are specific need related (one of my articles is about reversing hypothyroidism naturally, for example and is well read thoroughly, and commented on, but it appeals to people in a specific category. With this specific piece, I set my readers’ expectations ahead of time, by stating in the title that it will take 8 minutes to read, that way they know what to expect). I once ran a Paleo series, however, that would have been too long to do in one post. I actually upset some people, half-way through, so they came back to see what I would say to finish the series :)–guess that works too.

        Actually, come to think of it, some of my longer articles are the ones that get the most social shares too! This one, for example, is a whopping 4400+ words and got 1.2K facebook shares.


        1. Ramsay

          Very interesting. Thanks Elena.


  • Brendan @ Find Handmade

    Long blog posts are valuable to me because you intuitively know that somewhere, buried deep down in the article – there simply must be something of real value if the blog author has gone to this much effort and has this much to say about the topic.

    But – in saying that – as for being on-trend at the moment – I am slogging through these long monologues with nearly every outbound authority link you can possibly think of – and then seeing the blogger spent and exhausted. Nothing left to contribute – and so posting only once a day, or once a week.

    It might be good solely to cut down on the frequency of spammy “nothing” posts if anything. Let’s see where it heads…
    Cheers, for the early heads up – an Aussie blogger here…


    1. Ramsay

      Yes! Aussie at the top! Ha ha.

      Yeah, I personally find that posting once or twice a fortnight is about right if you’re focussing on really long stuff.

      Thanks for commenting Brendan.


  • James George

    Wow Ramsay, you nailed it with this post. No one should ever create long-form content just for the sake of it. Every now and then, when the topic permits, it is good to go into great detail and make that post a stand out post for your blog.

    However, it does need to have a purpose, from the blogger’s aspect, such as solving a problem with a great affiliate product at the end.


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks for stopping by James. Really appreciate it.


  • Israel Smith

    This is a really interesting read, Ramsay. Thankyou.

    I’ve been honestly a bit put off by the thought that everything meaningful has to be 2500-words-plus, and I think the point you raise about understanding your readers is probably the best approach overall.

    I have been creating small Inspirational Quotographs each day for the past 16 months or so, and haven’t seen mind-boggling up-ticks in traffic *just* because I’m publishing daily.

    I do, however, have a really engaged (small) group of readers, and I do have a lot to learn about growing my audience.

    But primarily, I publish for my own love and enjoyment as much as my readers’ interest. Also, I want the stuff I publish to be worth it so it stands on its own – not to exist just for SEO / keywords / etc.

    I think the overall thing boils down to:

    1) Know your audience/reader/market
    2) Provide true, genuine, awesome value

    …followed closely by:

    3) Learn how to build the audience you want

    Again, thanks ๐Ÿ™‚
    Israel.


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks Israel.

      That’s an awesome summary and a really good comment.

      Can you see any advantages to short content that you’ve learned with that style of posting?


      1. Israel Smith

        Hmm… Good question.

        I think the key advantage is that it’s easily digestible content each day – kind of like Seth Godin’s short, sweet, impactful daily posts.

        Asking/expecting someone to read > 1500 words every single day is a big ask. (One of my mates writes 1000-word Facebook status updates daily, and I’ve simply ended up tuning out…)

        Producing compelling, meaningful, publish-worthy content of that scope every day is also a tall order.

        Occasionally a topic will grab me and I’ll feel compelled to write 800-1500 words, but that’s the exception, not the rule.

        I think the main thing that appeals to me about long-form content is the “alleged” SEO juice you allude to, but also the scope to really dig deep into a topic.

        But as with everything big, it needs to be well constructed.

        Cheers ๐Ÿ™‚
        (Another Aussie.)


        1. Ramsay

          Aussies everywhere!

          1000 words a day is just pointless, to my mind.

          Tim Ferris said once that he writes super-long useful posts and then leaves them there for a month. You want to make sure people notice them and the fact that a lot of effort has gone into the expression of so much value. If you do it every day it will just fizzle out.

          Thanks for the great reply. Really appreciate it.


          1. Israel Smith

            Yeah.. the fizzle is what I’ve witnessed personally.

            My pleasure. It’s nice to have a chance to reply and interact meaningfully ๐Ÿ™‚

            Thanks for all that YOU do too.


  • David Johnson

    Very timely and excellent as always. Normally my posts are around 700-1000 words, but sometimes a 3 pounder is born. Right now I’m working on one that relates social marketing and neuroscience, this bad boy is already 4000 words!

    Keep writing the longer posts and I will continue to read them all!


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks David. Let me know how that longer one goes. I’m obsessed with neuroscience so I’d love to share it for you.


      1. David Johnson

        Thank you Ramsey, I would love to say that I would return the favor but… I already do! lol

        I’m pretty obsessed with it myself and will make sure that I send you a link upon completion.


        1. Ramsay

          Appreciate it a lot.


  • Rob McNelis

    I recently started writing about how blogging has low ROI. (Investment being your time)

    I think writing for people should always be the priority. Endless guides are viewed as quality, but how many people sit there and effectively digest that, or use it as a reference? And ultimately Google will do what is best for people.


    1. Ramsay

      Hey Rob.

      If I said that I fundamentally disagreed with your point about Google how much would you hate me?

      ๐Ÿ˜‰


      1. Rob McNelis

        haha not at all… youre right. I actually meant they will “try” to do what is better for people. So if you write for people, you have nothing to worry about. (theoretically of course lol)


  • Contented Traveller

    Coming from Australia here ๐Ÿ™‚ I think that there is definitely a place for the long contented post if it befits the subject. I used to worry with all of the hype that I had to keep it as a quickly consumed piece but I have now decided that if what I have to say requires more words then so be it. But … there is so much good stuff to read that a long piece does require time. I think that the compromise may well be in hooking the reader so that they want to stay and see what all of the fuss is about that warrants a long post … much like this reply ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks for leaving a reply! I really appreciate it.

      I think it’s important to not really read too many blogs for that reason – it’s just a bit of a time suck. Unless you really need to solve a problem it’s best to just focus on our own things.


  • Joanna Wiebe

    I totally nodded along with this post. We’ve also found that we get more engagement on our blog — and just plain better comments — when we don’t cover every angle. Give your readers something to add to the conversation, right? This insight runs counter to expectations — and to what our teachers taught us about expository and persuasive ‘long form’ — but I hope all your readers try it to see just how well it works.

    Personally, I seek out long-form content because it tends to be written by enthusiastic, expert sharers, not people caught up in the hype of content marketing. That said, bloggers like Seth Godin say so much in so little; such short content is closer to the “short letter” Mark Twain famously promoted – well-edited, beautifully succinct pieces. (…But a blogger might have to have a reputation like Seth Godin’s to get away with such pithy posts. ๐Ÿ™‚ )


    1. Ramsay

      Hi Joanna.

      I hope by โ€œnodding alongโ€ you mean in a rock and roll headbanging kind of way. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I remember John Mayer once got asked whether heโ€™d write a simple song like โ€œImagineโ€ and he said, โ€œIโ€™m not good enough to write something that simple.โ€

      Itโ€™s a fair point. I think if you can write a simple piece and โ€œcut throughโ€ and get peopleโ€™s attention then it would be absolutely amazing to do that. I canโ€™t.


    2. Michael Gorman

      Also, the whole spirit of blogging is to provoke thought, discussion, responses-not to preach and dictate your perspective in a didactic manner-people can go to University to be lectured. Sometimes I think this gets left behind, and blogs become a kind of exclusive ‘private soap box’ for some bloggers ๐Ÿ™‚


      1. Fran Civile

        quote “people can go to University to be lectured” ๐Ÿ™‚ right, I agree with your take on blogging being a way to provoke thought etc.

        I like to read blogs that share helpful information and of course Ramsay is doing just that by giving readers the opportunity to consider different blogging trends. In that spirit I’ll visit your blog Miohael to see what you’re about!
        Fran


        1. Ramsay

          Thanks Fran. Lovely to see you again.


  • Chris

    I have had good success.

    There are a few crucial notes I should add:
    1. Cut the crap. If people are going to spend a lot of time reading an article then write something great. For example, don’t write, “purple cows might be colorful and weird but people also notice them.” Write shorter and make your point such as, “people never forget purple cows.” Don’t write for length, write great content then cut out the crap.

    2. Freaking format the sucker for easier reading. Here is web writing in a nutshell; short sentences, 3-4 sentence paragraphs, subheadings, bullet points, and the longer the post then the more subheadings you should have. Expect the reader to scan so give them subheading to help them find your key points.

    3. Decide on a call-to-action before writing, especially long form. Do you want the reader to subscribe to your newsletter, click a link or buy a product? Then build that into the content. Don’t abruptly end the post and then say, buy my product. Link to it within the post or explain how the post touches on 3 of the 8 ways of whatever and your Ebook contains all 8. It’s easy to loose sight of this on a long form post so decide early in the writing planning process.

    *this comment written on a charging iPhone while standing and half awake. Goodnight


    1. Ramsay

      Chris I always love your comments.

      Point 3 is a very good one – something that I used to always do but seem to have been missing lately. Thanks for the reminder.

      Nice work on the iPhone comment! This will be much easier soon with the new responsive theme coming out.


      1. life dreaming with Liz Lennon

        Excellent comments Chris and I’ve copied them to my file ‘good advice on blogging’.

        Yup – comment 3 got me thinking and Ramsay – good topic for a post.

        It was an ah ha moment for me and has now helped me rethink my long form/short form blogging strategy.

        Good people in our tribe.

        Liz


        1. Ramsay

          About a year ago I noticed readers’ started saying “our” instead of “your” when talking about this tribe. That makes me happy.


      2. chris

        I was reminded of one other regarding writing, don’t be wishy-washy (partially committed). Words like “often” and “sometimes” are correct for a specific (technical) situation but they easily overcrowd a sentence. For example, here is the beginning of this post;

        “Youโ€™ve heard about long-form content, right?

        Itโ€™s that insanely huge style of article that sometimes goes on so long your scrolling finger gets tired. In terms of a word count youโ€™re often looking at 3,000 to 10,000 words.”

        Tighten it up like this;

        “Youโ€™ve heard about long-form content, right?

        Itโ€™s that insanely huge article style that tires out your scrolling finger. It’s that massive word count of 3,000 to 10,000 words.”

        The tighter the writing, the less likely people will scan because they don’t want to miss any gold nuggets.


        1. Ramsay

          Thanks for the tip, Chris. And for describing my writing as wishy washy.


          1. chris

            LOL – it’s not! It’s the extra words like sometimes, often, maybe, sort of, kind of, just, really – all words that I found myself using a surprising amount when I would edit my stuff. I’ve got articles on my site, long form included, that I wrote before I learned this. Some aren’t too bad, others have words like just and really filling the article.

            You’re writing is filled with gold nuggets!


          2. chris

            Ummm…wishy washy definitely wasn’t the right phrase to use. Sorry about that. ๐Ÿ™‚


          3. Ramsay

            Ha ha. No worries.


  • Jenna

    This is humorous and ironic – I write for a living and I don’t have the time to read long posts! However, I always enjoy your content


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks Jenna. ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Averil

    Hi Ramsay, I find your blogs very informative. The problem comes when I am also reading blogs from people that you have recommended such as copyblogger, viperchill etc plus there are others that I have connected on my own. I hate to miss a thing on either one of them but they are all long content.In order to read all these and absorb them plus write a blog plus do the photography that I do plus work a regular job plus family blah blah blah You get what I mean? I for one am not for long-form content. I hope one day the trend would turn to medium and informative content.


    1. Ramsay

      Is time the main reason you don’t like long-form content, Averil?


      1. Averil

        Yes very much so. But I also thrive on the learning too that I get from people like you.

        Funny, my husband is a pastor and I have encouraged and taught him basically to get his sermons to 20 min because stats show that people can only listen for as long as their seat is hard or in other words 20 min. Can that be said of long-form content


        1. Ramsay

          It’s an interesting point. I think that’s very true of speeches and sermons.

          But, if I think about the most important articles I’ve read in my life (news, blogging, whatever…) they have all been super well researched, long form articles that show many sides of the argument and go into detail about whatever the topic is. This is especially true of tutorials or articles that have compelled me to change my ideas about something.

          As I said to someone else up above, not everyone has the skill to convey ideas in short-form, and a lot of people (me included) won’t have the intelligence or experience to understand it without a lot of explanation.

          Very interesting comment. Thanks!


          1. Averil

            Well Ramsay no one could ever accuse you of non researched, uninformative articles. Keep on keeping on my friend. You have a loyal subscriber here ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Michael Gorman

    Like a lot of topics that are not absolute laws I have to say that long-form articles ‘depend on the context’. I mean if you are following a science blog, and there is a big article on an interesting development, then yes great. But as a way of indicating value, in itself; not at all. As a reasonably well educated, well read, interested reader of a lot of subjects, I don’t have the time or the patience to digest a lot of text in one sitting. For a blog that seeks to inform and discuss ‘blogging’ and matters internet marketing I find that concision, and density of delivery is the best format. I think it is true that people are less tolerant of long form articles-the internet is less clogged with ‘SEO’ style rubbish articles now, it seems; but these did a lot of damage to the credibility of writing online. Hence why video is more digestible, you can tell pretty much within a few seconds the quality of what is being offered. ‘No one got time for dat’! This sums up the situation I think-But I have to say it very much depends on your niche area. Are there really any hard and fast rules for what works anymore? I dunno, I just strive to offer the best of what I have for my readers-and hope it seems to do the job. Great post Ramsay!


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks Michael.

      I find video to be an interesting one. I actually feel like it’s less easy to consume because you can skim headings and you have to be somewhere where you can have sound and available WiFi or data.

      For example, I rarely watch videos when I’m at a cafe because I don’t want to annoy other people with the noise. An article, while longer, is much more pleasant.

      The main place I think this is relevant is if your blog is being read by a lot of people at their offices where video is a no no.


      1. Michael Gorman

        mind you, ear phones solve the noise/intruding aspect of video-a mix of both media is good I find, but the balance and style of your video-power point slides, face-to-face is the question. not everyone is comfortable being on camera.Good point about office readers.


  • liz@lifedreaming

    Kicked it again Ramsay

    Excellent post and love the comments.

    I’m moving to doing longer form posts once a month that will be well researched; on topics that my audience want; well designed [I do love my bullet points and subheadings] and have a call to action.

    Yes – people are busy

    Yes – some people want all the answers in about 2 sentences

    And Yes – if the topic and content are compelling then an audience will read it.

    And I will be sprinkling my blog with shorter posts as well.

    I’m starting to write scripts for vids and the long posts will have video, maybe an mp3 and an activity pdf download.

    I really liked the comment about leaving people asking for more.

    Maybe I’ll do a monthly long form post that highlights up to date theory and identify the key problems people experience then over the next 3 weeks I can do short form posts that provide practical solutions to those problems with pdf activity sheets.

    As ever Ramsay, I find solutions to my own musings in your posts.

    You are a legend.

    Liz


    1. life dreaming with Liz Lennon

      just posted this link on my Twitter and G+ and Linked In as I think the post and comments are really thought provoking and anyone who is serious about blogging needs to think about it.

      Liz


      1. Ramsay

        Thanks Liz. Always love getting comments from you. Makes me feel like I’m hitting the mark like I did in the old days. Which I sometimes feel like I’m straying from.


        1. life dreaming with Liz Lennon

          You’re doing better than fine mate. I still read you and believe me, if you weren’t hitting the mark I wouldn’t read let alone comment.

          I also think it’s challenging writing year after year and that’s why I’m discombobulating myself and starting to do vids and mp3s and reimagine my whole blogging strategy.

          Liz


          1. Ramsay

            Thanks Liz. Please do speak up if this site ever takes a turn for the worse (worst?). I’m counting on you.


  • Steffan

    My pet hate is content for the sake of length instead of for the sake of information or entertainment.

    I assume you know the feeling you get when reading a book and you suddenly find yourself skimming because nothing seems to happen that is worth reading (usually just before you toss the book in a corner).

    You don’t skim when content is interesting.

    In Germany we used to call it “Zeilen schinden” – “flogging rows” to force them to make the text longer.

    Why?

    Because writers were paid per line of text published (by the way – that’s why some of Charles Dickens’s stuff is so annoyingly long-winded).

    People don’t mind reading long stuff as long as something happens or interesting knowledge is transferred: they don’t read it just for the sake of it.

    So if you have lots to say and you can say it in a digestible way, then readers will follow.

    If you rehash the same content three times to stuff it with more SEO keywords and to increase the length of the text for the sake of some online advice, then you are in trouble.

    May be not with search engines – but certainly with real readers.

    Oh, and while I really enjoy most of your stories, I hazard a guess that you struggled a bit to make this one long enough ๐Ÿ˜‰


    1. Ramsay

      Steffan is that true about authors getting paid per line published? That explains SO much. Why was I not told this in English class?


      1. Steffan

        Yes, absolutely true. And it really opened my eyes, when my daughter recently told me that Dickens was paid per line as well.

        So I don’t have to feel like an idiot for not thinking his writing is literature.

        She was really annoyed having to read him for school because his sentence keep going on and on and on to flog as many lines as possible.

        Seems Bloggers today believe they will get paid by Google per line of text in improved rankings.

        My view on that is that it has become so insanely difficult to rank highly, that Bloggers should worry a lot less about Google and more about the social sharing of a well written article – the social word of mouth.

        It’s what you have to say – not how much of it – that counts. Couldn’t agree more with you on this.


        1. Ramsay

          I agree. And also “get over” the fact that paying for advertising is a really good idea.


  • Neil

    2344 words and you didn’t say “tail” once. Nice One ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. Ramsay

      Not sure what you mean by “tail”…?


      1. Neil

        As in “Long-tail” search term.


        1. Ramsay

          Ha ha. Got ya.


  • Karen

    I’m very happy that you don’t publish to a schedule. Regardless of how polished the writing, very few can give you jewels and precious metal on schedule. I’d rather be reading all the way to end of an occasional article of yours than scimming through a load of regular slop looking forc a chunk of meat to chew on.
    Keep on keeping on
    Cheers


    1. Ramsay

      So glad to hear that! That’s what I’ve been aiming for.


  • Kirsty MacLennan

    Hi Rob,
    Thanks for your very helpful blog article. Long-form sends shivers down my spine as it’s hard enough to get clients to pay a decent rate for 500 words! I’ve launched a blog-writing business and have got a couple of clients. I wrote five blog posts, which took me longer than a day, and this paid just a bit less than a day rate as a magazine sub-editor. (Which is my background – writer and sub-editor.) But I did enjoy it more than subbing! I’ll save the long-form for my own website, when I can write it for me. ๐Ÿ™‚
    thanks
    Kirsty


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks for the comment, Kirsty.

      Who is Rob? ๐Ÿ™‚


      1. Kirsty MacLennan

        Sorry Ramsay!! That’s someone I’m doing work for today. Need more coffee.. ๐Ÿ™‚ Love your blog BTW; so great to have that sort of support and resource.


        1. Ramsay

          Ha ha. No worries. I get called Glen all the time too.

          Glad you’re enjoying it. Nice to have you here.


  • Fiona

    I like to read long form content but I often don’t have the time. I know with certain blogs, such as Glen’s Viper Chill blog, it will be worth the read but I have to put it aside and schedule time to read it. Whereas quicker posts I’ll click straight through and read.

    I think if too many people started doing long form content I’d have to significantly reduce the number of blogs I read.

    Personally when I’m writing once it gets over a couple thousand words I tend to break the post up into a series. I think it just makes it easier to digest for mot readers.


    1. Ramsay

      Is it as successful when it’s broken into a series?


  • life dreaming with Liz Lennon

    Ramsay

    Brilliant comments as usual from the Tribe.

    Apart from your posts there’s another blogger who I read and she writes really long posts – and they have gorgeous illustrations as well as brilliant quotes. She spends hundreds of hours a month pulling it all together.

    Brainpickings is the blog I read for gorgeous thinking on so many topics.

    And yes, if you ever wander off the true Blog Tyrant path I will call you back!

    Liz


    1. Ramsay

      Thanks for the tip. I’ll have to check it out.


  • Marc

    Long form content is one option, certainly not the only option. I have had some success with long form content over the years, although nothing as in-depth as the guides at Quicksprout.

    I think long form content can be effective at helping to brand yourself as an expert, but obviously, the content has to be good in order for that to happen.

    One advantage that I have seen is that it is sometimes easier to get links with these types of posts. If you’re going to take a pro-active approach and email other website owners and bloggers to ask for links you can sometimes get much better response when that content is extremely thorough.


    1. Ramsay

      I think that’s totally true. At a minimum, long-form content often APPEARS more valuable and as such people are more likely to reference it or promote it to their people.


  • Bryan

    Done of my best articles have been long form but that doesn’t mean that the blog was successful because of them. It takes a lot more than a quality article to make a blog successful.


    1. Ramsay

      Yes, that’s also true. Good point, Bryan.


  • Demian Farnworth

    thanks for the mention Ramsay!


    1. Ramsay

      No worries, boss. ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Val

    Hi Ramsay,

    Great read and very thoughtful points.

    Quite frankly, I was hoping this post would have addressed the question of ‘How to’ versus ‘What is’ long form content.

    Having said, I would also question the long term value of lengthy blog posts.

    Personally (Thanks to Twitter), I do not care to read long blog posts, no matter how interesting the content, I just do not have the time/attention/focus for such immersion. However, I admire those who are able to completely stop all activity to dedicate the time (As a single task) to read such a post.

    As a mobile user, content is preferred in bite-sized content rich ‘Snippets’ that address the basics in a video and/or audio format – ultimately, media will become the ‘Premium’ form of content production.

    It is far more reasonable to conclude the future of content production is not long form written words on screen, but rather the search results will actively index and present media driven ‘Premium’ forms content, due to consumer (ie. Mobile user) demand.


    1. Ramsay

      Hi Val.

      What would you like from a “how to” post about long-form content?

      More information about what works and what doesn’t?


  • Paul Back

    I find longer posts easier to write as there’s no barrier to stop you from going of forever – saying that its a lot harder to create a really good long blog post due to just how much information goes into it.

    Stuff like structure, flow and relevance suffers when you write large amounts of information.

    I think the best long posts are detailed how to guides which take you through a process step by step and therefore justify the amount of detail and length involved.

    So yeh I’m a fan but its not necessary to get crazy long all the time.

    Paul


    1. Ramsay

      Yeah I think that’s just about right. When you really know a process or an idea and you just sit down to tell people about it. That’s when they get really interesting.


      1. Paul Back

        Hey Ramsay good to see we agree. If you were going to write a huge post – for example an Ultimate How to Guide a la Neil Patel what topic would you choose and why?

        Paul


        1. Ramsay

          Hmmm… good question. Probably either a guide to growing a mailing list and using to for a sales funnel because that’s what I’m into at the moment and could probably also have a product at the end of it.


          1. Paul Back

            Can we expect to see it up soon?? ๐Ÿ˜‰


  • Johanna

    You’ve nailed it again Ramsay! All the pros and some of the cons as well as reasons not to be bamboozled into long form content.

    I think it has its place, but only if it’s broken up into skim-able chunks and is really really interesting or informative.

    I only read short personal pieces (should be funny, wry or inspirational), long pieces about blogging or online know-how, and although I love travel blogs they should come in short pithy chunks with lots of photos. Although I have to say I’m guilty of writing long travel posts – but yep, working on that one too ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Love all the other comments from our tribe!


    1. Ramsay

      Yes! OUR tribe. I’m loving this!


  • Jeffrey Dibble

    Hi Ramsay,

    Nice post,dude. I find that long form of content do sit well with blog like yours, seo, how to kind of style blog and make money online but not on those small niches or affiliate reviews sites.

    Just my two cents.


    1. Ramsay

      Why do you think review sites should be short?


      1. Jeffrey Dibble

        Hi Ramsay,

        I guess people are already in buying mode in whatever products you’re trying to review with affiliate review sites. Who bothers to read the whole review when they must have heard about the product somewhere else and just looking for a place to buy them. I for one don’t really read the whole review if i want to something.

        So, there’s no point in writing a long content with these kind of sites if i may say so.

        What do you think?


        1. Ramsay

          Interesting. I think I’m the opposite. If I’m about to buy a product I’ll usually read quite a lot more than normal about the topic.


  • Lewis LaLanne

    I greatly admire people who can write meaningful, yet meaty content that is served in succinct manner that is a breeze to consume.

    I aspire to this.

    Out there in the wild, wild, web, more often than not, it seems that shorter content is purely catered to the preferred learning style of the author and ignores the other 3 learning styles completely.

    When you write content that addresses all four learning styles – you have a Complete Concept.

    But what the hell are these Four Learning Styles I’m speaking of?

    1st Learning Style: Why should I be learning this?

    This person needs to know the benefit that will come to them as the result of paying attention to you. For example: Why a specific autoresponder strategy will make you rich and what danger they face by not taking advantage of it.

    2nd Learning Style: What is it?

    This is the person who loves to know the theory, the history, the science behind the topic of discussion. An example of this would be giving theory and science behind why a specific autoresponder strategy works and how they work instead of just telling the person to go use it because it works.

    3rd Learning Style: How-To

    This person doesn’t care all that much about theory nor are they starved for reasons why. Promise them, “4 Tactics For Turning Unconverted Leads Into Customers With An Autoresponder” and what they’re primarily interested in is the directions for how to make this happen. If there are no directions/formula/equation that can be followed and applied but rather just a theoretical discussion about turning leads into customers, they’re gone.

    4th Learning Style: Action Jackson

    This is the person seeking what to do now in order to get the wheels rolling TODAY. This sounds like How-To but it isn’t because sometimes How-To people are merely satisfied with stashing instructions away for “future use” (i.e. never) whereas Action Jackson is looking for something to put to the test now because they learn best by DOING.

    We all thrive when each of these styles is addressed in content being taught to us but we have a dominant learning style and until we feel it is being addressed, it is very hard for us to give our attention to something that is being taught to us and when they are not catered to, we feel we’re being taught at.

    School may remind you of how this felt. One of the reasons some of the foremost experts on the topic of teaching refer to schools as “mind prisons” is because teachers don’t address this and they focus 90% of your effort teaching people in the style they prefer to learn in to the exclusion of 75% of their students?

    It’s no wonder that the majority of people graduate (or not) and link pain to the idea of “learning”.

    Addressing all four learning styles is not as easy as just expressing your opinion or robotically rambling reference data like a text book.

    What I think would be best to do is to link to each of these sections of your content right at the beginning… Here’s why this important, here’s the What – the theory and history behind this, here’s the How-To 1,2,3, steps/recipe for accomplishing this outcome, and here’s What To Do now to go out and apply the first action step now

    This way, the individual learner can go directly to the section they need answers for FIRST and then if they are satisfied, they can go back from start to finish and read the whole thing, dip into the next section they find useful, or go put something they learned into action now and start reaping benefits today.

    And woven in between all of this needs to be the revealing of stories (full spectrum – funny, sad, inspirational, etc.), personal opinions, values and beliefs that I believe bring your audience closer to you.

    I aspire to is to have my writing hit the sweet spot where it is complete and yet have it read quickly because nothing is there that doesn’t need to be there.

    I thank you Ramsay for reminding of me of this important lesson as I’m someone who writes long form content and as my evolution rolls forward, I never want to be dictated to by short or long, but rather by complete or incomplete.


    1. Ramsay

      Dude I think it’s about time I just let you write for this blog…


      1. Lewis LaLanne

        It would absolutely be my pleasure to do so. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Please feel free to use the email connected to this comment to further this discussion.


  • LeslieZ

    Really interesting post Ramsay. The jury is still out for me on long form content.

    I personally don’t read a long post, I skim it. But it seems I may be the exception as some blogs I have read are quoting research that says people do like longer blog content…or maybe it’s Google’s research saying people like longer blog content so their SEO bots have more to munch as you mentioned :-).

    In a world of instant gratification, I don’t exactly know where long form content fits. But I definitely agree with, make it valuable or don’t waste your time.

    Thanks Ramsay!
    LeslieZ


    1. Ramsay

      It’s hard to reconcile those two issues, I think: shorter attention span but growing success of long form publications. Guess it comes back to testing.


  • Khuram Dhanani

    Well said, Ramsay. Nice gesture. I personally feel itโ€™s hard keeping up with a long-length post if it lacks the humour, or doesnโ€™t accompany a good quality image. For me, a content must have some fun elements. An amusing video, graphic or animation must be there to represent the core idea. Why best selling magazines pay so much to get good quality photographs after all? So, Iโ€™ll work hard to get the best story, good interviews and some mind boggling pictures for my post.


    1. Ramsay

      Great point. Images are so important for our posts and our brands as a whole.


  • Bob

    Hi, I’m a big fan. I’ve got a question that might be just outside the scope of blogging and more closely aligned to reference (like an entire course) but I figured I would ask for opinions (both yours and your reader’s). I have a 22 video hour course I sell for programmers. It has gotten very crowded in my space, and while I do well, I want to “change before you have to.” So, I’m going to publish the full (edited) transcript with plenty of screen captures to for each lesson. Currently, there are 122 videos that, once printed into text, make up about 2000+ pages of content in Microsoft Word. My hope is that by releasing the text + screen shot version into the wild, (1) I’ll get more incoming links / shares in hopes of increased SEO, and (2) I’ll continue to sell the video + PDF / eBook version + additional programming exercises + forum to ask questions which I’ll answer. I’m reading the book Youtility which suggests that many buyers read up to 16 pages / articles of your content before deciding to buy, so I want to give them plenty to sink their teeth into.

    I’m trying to figure out how best to release this. Should I allow the lessons to divide naturally … i.e., 122 lessons == 122 web pages / articles? Or, should I sub-divide to increase the number of pages? Or, should I not worry about it at all? I’m less worried about SEO and more worried about the best possible learning experience (hoping the SEO / sales part happens when I create the best possible product I can).


    1. Ramsay

      Hi Bob.

      Wow! That’s a lot of content.

      I haven’t really thought about it deeply but my first reaction would be to give out enough quality information that it gets your name out there and a base for promotion, but not so much that you don’t have anything to sell.

      My second reaction would be to make it into an email course with a funnel on the end. So you’d perhaps have a 3 week course that they get via automatic emails once they sign up, and then at the end you promote the paid product to them.

      Hope helps.


  • Konrad Sanders

    Personally, I tend to skim the really long stuff. And I feel like a bit of a hypocrite doing so, as I want my own readers to soak up every last drop.

    Hopefully there are internet-surfing folk out there with less on their plate than me – willing to dig right into the long stuff and root around.

    I do think that breaking it up with juicy subheaders is a necessity (especially to help the skimmers like me!) – as well as staggering the lengths of paragraphs to keep it exciting and edible.

    What about you Ramsay? Are you a skimmer or a thorough absorber when it comes these the long’uns?

    PS. It looks like you’ve got some long-form comments on here too. Seems fitting for the occasion!

    Cheers mate ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. Ramsay

      Hey Konrad.

      Nice to see you here!

      Personally I try not to read too many blogs. If I am reading a long-form piece like the New Yorker article that I mentioned above it will be because I’m genuinely interested in it and will read the whole thing.

      Same goes for tutorials if I’m trying to learn something. But, on the whole, it’s rare that I’ll just browse a post for the sake of it.


  • Muhammad Sadique

    finally I finished it after 20 minutes ๐Ÿ™‚ nice post


  • Jill

    Great article. Thanks. The most important point for me is that you don’t blog unless you have something of value to say. My time is important to me and I don’t like spending it reading a lot of words that are saying something superfluous and empty.


  • Dimitris

    My feeling is that long articles are a matter of content.

    If you are writing about something that goes into lots of detail that people will need, then a longish article makes some sense, although I would rather see it broken into physical sections, either using extra pages, or a scroll-spy element, while having a shorter version on top, perhaps with bookmark links pointing to the rest of the page.
    To be honest, I feel that a long sidebar makes me kinda anxious.

    Otherwise, we are just wasting our time. The article will be very difficult to maintain/correct and the users are going to skim read it at best or declare DLDR at worse.

    At first I though you wrote about those annoying long sale pages, and I got myself ready for a long hateful post ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Writer Town

    This is a much more defined explanation of long-form content, I appreciated reading this.

    So in reality, it’s not really about the amount of words but rather the topic being discussed. This works especially well with list-based articles, as lists are often very thin in nature. But long-form content would effectively allow you to go into vivid details about each item on the list.

    Thanks for the great article.


  • GoDaddy Promo Code

    Yup โ€“ comment 3 got me thinking and Ramsay โ€“ good topic for a post.

    It was an ah ha moment for me and has now helped me rethink my long form/short form blogging strategy.


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