Why Long-Form Content Needs to Be a Part of Your Marketing Mix

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Jacqueline Zenn
Jacqueline Zenn



long-form-contentWhile the social media site that’s the current flavor of the week might capture the attention of news crews, bloggers, and journalists everywhere, simply creating pages and uploading content on the latest shiny new platform isn’t necessarily all it is hyped up to be. After all, good marketing and quality content isn’t limited to one method of distribution or a single channel, no matter what sites or platforms might be the popular options at the moment.

Need to sell the C-Suite or client on the need to create long-form content? Remember that there is a very good and very simple reason why content marketing works. Buyers of big ticket items, whether they are B2C or B2B, tend to do their research before spending any money — which is why anyone responsible for the sales of the aforementioned high-end or luxury items needs to understand how and why her target audience interacts with any sort of digital content the brand releases.

While social media and paid advertising definitely possess value on many levels, there is something to be said for white papers, presentations, videos, and other types of long-form content that leads not only to increased consumer or client engagement, but higher levels of sharing, backlinks, and other positive benefits. Therefore, it can be worth the increased investment of time and resources. After all, if you expect your target audience to take the time to comment on, engage with, or otherwise interact with your content, you should be willing to put in the effort to create it in the first place.

Moreover, content marketing allows the target audience to deeply engage with a brand and educate themselves at their own pace and on their own time. And when it comes to expensive or high-end purchases, people usually want to do their research.

Whether it is a B2B purchasing decision (and therefore the company’s budget) or a personal one, such as home, car, or other pricey item, customers often spend a significant amount of time weighing their options — an activity which definitely includes searching for and reading up on the various choices on the market. Accordingly, this is something that makes long-form content a pretty valuable asset.

After all, agencies and B2B companies as well as brands who sell big ticket items (e.g., automotive, real estate, luxury goods, and travel) can create more engagement and develop a more loyal following of customer evangelists by focusing on content marketing and becoming thought leaders in one or two channels, instead of the more standard marketing mix of building a presence on all the social media channels along with SEO and SEM. A long-form article or another piece of in-depth content might be more beneficial in the long run — and here’s why.

The data supports the idea of creating more extensive posts and articles versus quick social media updates. Longer-form content like blog posts and videos tends to generate more sharing on social media in the long run: BuzzSumo created a breakdown of viral stories from top news sites (including BBC, CNN, and the New York Times) and the most popular were well over 1,000 words. Moz (formerly SEOMoz) also analyzed blog content length versus inbound links to see if there was any kind of correlation, and unsurprisingly, the longer posts received more external links.

Furthermore, the same breakdown showed that long-form content outperformed a shorter series of posts (which would logically be broken down for social media posting as well), which is something for marketers to consider in general. If there is a story, document, video, presentation, or other type of content that simply works better when viewed as a whole, users are much more likely to share, promote, and engage with the longest or most complete version.

On an even more interesting note, Search Engine Journal also published a piece with a realistic cost-benefit analysis of social media marketing (or as they called it, social network marketing). Granted, this is one person’s experience, but we suspect he is hardly alone. There’s a lot of work involved in social media marketing if you don’t have compelling content to begin with. And if you do create a remarkable long-form piece, your users will likely share it on their own.

At the end of the day, content marketing versus social media are a push-versus-pull proposition. Content marketing tends to pull in users who are already interested in what you have to offer because they are searching for related keywords or better yet, have subscribed to one of your lists, while social media marketing is typically a method of distributing content at best or a way of pushing out content to semi-interested customers — or non-interested audiences at the worst.

There are other reasons that content marketing tends to be superior to social media promotion and other techniques. It is also not surprising that Google, Bing, and Yahoo tend to rank content-rich sites more highly. This is a simple fact that is perhaps related to the truism that content-heavy sites tend to have more incoming links: With a greater amount of content, there is a lot more for other bloggers and site owners to link to. What’s more, quantity can be correlated to quality in many ways since it is assumed that the more articles, blog posts, and other content you develop, the more the content is refined and improved.

Defining your goals and establishing a firm baseline in regard to content marketing is also essential (this is important for any marketing tactic, not just content marketing). Benchmarking current sources of traffic and lead generation should be completed before beginning any kind of campaign, whether related to content marketing, social media, or any other advertising activity.

Need ideas or a way to get started? Basing your content creation activities around keywords that already drive traffic to your site via organic and/or paid search will help you with this aspect of content development. Just take a look at the keywords that your users are already searching to arrive at your site, and build content around them. Really, this concept works for all forms of content creation. If there are consistent terms that draw traffic, why not give users what they want? Especially if those terms can be developed into tutorials, how-tos, white papers, or other types of linkable content.

Look at competitor sites as well. If they have already published long-form pieces on the same subject, can you do it better? Or perhaps it might be time to consider another topic? Being the thought leader in the industry on a given topic can go a long way towards success in general and content marketing in particular.

And if the competition is just focused on social media or other channels, there’s plenty of opportunity to stand out with quality content marketing. As the research shows, providing valuable resources that allow users to engage with your brand and do in-depth research makes your efforts that much more likely to be successful.

For what its worth, this article is more than 1,200 words. I practice what I preach!

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