What Makes Long-Form Content Effective?

Meta Description: You’ve heard by now that Google likes long-form content. But length isn’t the only thing that matters. There are other factors you must consider, as well.

1. How Do You Write More Effective Long-Form Content?

Content is king. Longer is better. Make it relevant.

You’ve heard all these statements before. I often expect that they now amount to little more than empty platitudes in your mind. You know that relevant content is important, and you know that Google tends to favour longer pieces over shorter ones.

The problem is that as much as people hammer home the importance of writing longer pieces of content, they don’t bother to explain what else you need to do. Length, after all, isn’t the only thing that matters. There’s a lot more to effective content than writing a lot of words.

It’s not as though Google has been mute on the subject, of course. It did release its Search Quality Raters Guidelines. Provided to Google employees responsible for rating and evaluating websites to help improve the company’s algorithms, these guidelines provide an excellent window into how the search giant defines “quality.”
Unfortunately, they’re also 168 pages long.

You certainly could sit down and spend a few days poring over that document from cover to cover. This would presumably be the best way to quantify, in your mind, how you can make your long-form content more effective. However, I imagine it’s safe to say that none of us has the time (or, more importantly, the energy) for such heavy reading.

Instead, I’m going to provide you with broad strokes. Enough to give you a general idea of how and where to direct your efforts. We’ll start with E-A-T: Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.

EATing Well

Expertise is a measurement of how well you know your stuff. For some topics, it’s enough that you know what you’re talking about and give decent advice to your readers. For others, you’re going to want actual qualifications (for instance, if you’re writing about employment law, your information will give more weight if they come from an attorney).

Authoritativeness is basically whether people see you as the person or brand to talk to about your topic. It’s very closely tied to your online reputation. A famous doctor, for instance, will be seen as more authoritative when writing about surgical procedures than she would if she wrote a blog about the newest iPhone.

Trustworthiness is functionally what it sounds like. Are you who you say you are? Did you write the content on your website? Is your content accurate?

Because Google loves acronyms, EAT is especially important in Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) topics. These are subjects where bad advice could cause serious harm to the reader—taxes, treatment of chronic illness, legal issues, and so on.

2. Know Who You’re Writing For (And Why)

The best marketers can put themselves in the shoes of their audience. They’re able to step back and think about who would be looking to learn about their topic and what sort of tone and language is best-suited to reach that demographic. For your long-form content to be effective, you need to do the same.

Audience intent and identity aren’t the only things that matter, though. It would better if you more considered why you’re writing in the first place. There are a few questions that will help you narrow this down.

  • Do I want to improve my reputation, increase website traffic, or generate sales?
  • What question or questions does this content answer?
  • Why is my audience interested in that answer?
  • How does this content relate to my brand?
  • What are my competitors saying about the topic, and how can I do better?
  • Is this topic time-sensitive, or will it be relevant for years to come?

3. As Long As Necessary (But Digestible)

There’s a lot of debate on how long your content should be. Some believe that 500-800 words are the sweet spot. Others believe that longer is better — if your content is more than 2000 words, it will likely perform well.

Neither of these answers is entirely correct. The truth is that your content should be long enough to completely and comprehensively meet your audience’s needs.

In other words, as long as necessary to answer their questions.
That said, don’t just write a massive wall of text. Break your content into digestible, bite-sized chunks with headers. Add images, or videos, or infographics,

4. Create With Purpose

To summarize, effective long-form content:

  • Follows Google’s quality guidelines.
  • Is written with a clear goal in mind.
  • Covers its topic with as much depth as possible.
  • It is highly targeted at a specific audience.
  • Adds a new perspective to the content that competitors haven’t yet touched on.
  • Ties back to your overall brand identity.

Long-form content isn’t the be-all and end-all of search, of course. There are plenty of other content types that can draw in just as much traffic and convert just as well. The solution is determining the right style for your specific audience and niche.

This post was last modified on April 28, 2021 6:58 pm

Terry Cane: Terry Cane is the COO at SEOHost.net, a reliable and supportive SEO hosting partner. You can follow/tweet