5 Tips for Writing Enthralling Long-Form Content

When blogging first made the jump from a way to share your personal thoughts with an anonymous, internet audience to a bona fide digital marketing tool, the overriding strategy was: shorter is better.

Since then, things have changed drastically.

In those early days, people just weren’t that comfortable reading on screens for more than a few minutes at a time. And the same was true for writers – we didn’t really know how to write for online media yet. It was a brave new world, and readers and writers alike had a lot of exploring to do.

Today, that’s all changed. There’s tons of data on the differences between how people read online versus how they read traditional media. There’s so much data, in fact, that marketing data collectors like Buffer and SumAll can tell you how many characters you should use to optimize a tweet, and how many words should go in a paragraph if you want maximum readership. They even created this awesome infographic, excerpted below, to give you a quick guide for consultation.

via Buffer Social

And as you can see, when it comes to blog posts, shorter isn’t so great anymore. Instead, 1,600 words, which translates to about a 7-minute read, is generally agreed upon as the ideal length for a business blog post. But many companies find that their longer posts – up to 3,000 words – actually perform the best of all.

If you’re a digital marketer who’s more used to writing 500-700 word blurbs than 2,000-plus epics, you may be struggling with this longer length. How do you keep your audience’s interest? How do you manage multiple “plotlines” in a single post? How do you even find enough to say?

This list of tips for writing enthralling long-form content should help.

Make an outline.

Maybe you haven’t made an outline for something you’ve written since you were in high school.

Maybe they seem like a waste of time.

However, if you’re feeling like you have no idea how you’re going to write 1,600 words on nutrition bars, or business software solutions, or whatever topic you’re covering, an outline can be your best friend.

The reason for this is that long posts can get unwieldy if you go into them unsure of where they’re headed. You’re more likely to run out of steam halfway through or, alternatively, find yourself rambling into random, tangentially related areas.

An outline will help you write a tighter, more coherent post because it’ll force you to think through the points you want to cover. If you find you don’t have enough to make it through the word count you want, you’ll have a chance to brainstorm before you actually start writing. This is vital, because long posts aren’t just about word count. They’re about conveying valuable, useful, in-depth knowledge.

Long posts aren’t just about word count. They’re about conveying valuable, in-depth knowledge. Click To Tweet

Do hard research.

Long posts are more widely read and shared because they offer more information. Statistics, infographics, report findings – these types of data are easier to fit into long posts for a couple of reasons.

First, there’s simply more room. Second, you’ve got more opportunities to offer concrete or complex points that could use support with hard data.

For example, in a shorter post, you might offer this tidbit of information:

“Readers tend to focus more on the first few paragraphs of a blog post than on the later ones, because people, in general, lose interest quickly.”

But in a longer post, you can go into more detail. That means that you could support that bit of information with data (which you should be doing as much as possible anyway, but especially in longer posts). Here’s that same bit of information, in much more detail, in another example.

“Readers tend to focus more on the first few paragraphs of a blog post than on the later ones, because people, in general, lose interest quickly. In fact, according to research by the Nielsen Norman Group, people pay the most attention to the first three paragraphs on a webpage:

via nngroup.com and Neil Patel

The takeaway? The most vital information in your post – the where, when, why, and how – should be contained within the first three paragraphs. If you can manage it, that information should really be in the first paragraph. Then you’ll give people more incentive to keep reading.”

And in case you didn’t notice, this is all great advice for writing longer posts, too.

Realize that writing longer means more freedom.

One of the best things about writing longer, more detailed posts is that it gives you breathing room. Instead of feeling like you have to cram all the pertinent info into a few paragraphs, you can relax into your topic. It’s like finally having room to stretch your legs after being stuck in a tiny compartment for ages.

Once you realize this and get comfortable with it, you’ll probably find yourself preferring those long posts to the shorter ones.

Incorporate multiple angles, points, or sub-topics into one post.

There are various types of posts that we all write to further our digital marketing efforts. How-to posts, tips and tricks, opinion posts, overview, resources – if you look at the blog posts you write on a regular basis, most of them could probably fit into one of these categories.

One of the ways that you can help make these long posts easier to write is by treating them as a combination of different types of posts. If you’re writing an opinion or position post, bolster that opinion with a case study or data. You could include a counter-opinion from another industry expert.

Doing this will make your writing much richer, more interesting, and more nuanced. Doing this well is what will keep people coming back to your long posts over and over – they’ll not only be getting good information from them, but they’ll also actually enjoy reading them.

Break up your text with subheadings, images, click-to-tweet links, and white space.

As you can see in The Onion headline above, uninterrupted text can strike fear into the heart of any reader – even if they’re reading on paper.

via The Onion

Including images, subheadings, click to tweets, bulleted lists, and other things that break up big blocks of text is important in any post, no matter how long or short.

But with longer posts, it’s especially important.

In addition to being easier on the eyes, subheadings and other visual elements allow readers to find their place easily.

If they’re scrolling through 1,500-3,000 words, there’s a good chance that they’ll get distracted at some point during the read. They’re going to want visual landmarks to help them get quickly back to their spot.

Most people switch between skimming and reading throughout a blog post. Use subheds to pique their… Click To Tweet

And here’s another point to keep in mind. Most people switch between skimming and reading throughout a blog post. Subheadings that pique their interest will cue them into switching into reading mode, so that they take in more of what you’ve written.

Writing epic posts can be a challenge, but they don’t have to be overwhelming. We hope these tips help you turn your 700-word blog posts into 2,000 word masterpieces.

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