The blog post has traditionally be something short and to the point.
But that might be changing as online readers are looking for more substance. The trend today is long-form content and it’s not just journalists doing the work. Bloggers are getting involved and figuring out that writing long, thought provoking articles can be the ticket to long-term traffic and success.
This has been true for many of my own blog posts and the thought of long-form copy was sparked again by an article on Forbes.
When we look at what’s produced, commented on and shared on Forbes.com and digest all the data, what lies behind news usage today becomes clear. Speed, perspective and analysis are certainly important — but in-depth reporting that often starts its life in longer FORBES magazine stories is fast becoming one of the news enthusiast’s most rewarding clicks.
The article is worth two minutes of your time to read entirely. There are some great examples of long-form content shared and even a source for long-form content. I signed up for @longreads. We’ll see how it goes, but I really do enjoy reading full feature articles on interesting topics. I enjoy biography articles about interesting people. They could be business folks, sports folks. It could be anything interesting. I find people and topics fascinating and even more so when I really don’t understand the topic.
But what does this have to do with blogging?
Long-Form Blogging Works
Not only do I enjoy reading long-form content, I enjoy writing it as well.
Actually, that is not true all of the time. It seems most writers want results and I’m no different. The idea of writing a 500 word blog post and having it generate views, comments, newsletter sign-ups, and profit is very enticing. It can take quite a bit of work to make that post work, but often it’s less work than an in-depth article that is at least 2,000 words long.
The occasional 500 word article will do very well and they can keep readers engaged. But there also needs to be a good mix of longer form content.
One example is Country Music Life.
The most trafficked and popular posts on the site are the long lists of songs. I included some of my thoughts for each song on the lists. The posts themselves were typically about 1,000 to 2,000 words long and I always included at least five parts. One example is Sad Country Songs, which remains the most popular series on the entire website.
This post took me longer to write up front. It probably took 10 hours spread out over five days to collect the songs, analyze them, and finally put my thoughts down on the post. This 10 hour investment was much more than a song review or even an album review on the site. But the results have been extremely beneficial. The posts has lived longer in search and social than any of the other posts on the site.
The post caught on pretty early with search and social. I realized I needed to write more of these list posts and did so. Actually, Sad Country Songs wasn’t the first list post I wrote, but it was the first to become hugely successful. I’ve since continued the trend of including list posts along with a few other forms of long-form content on the site.
The posts take extra effort up front, but pay off big time in the long-run.
A Balance of Long and Short
The biggest detriment to long-form writing is the effort and time it takes. Long-form content requires lots of work up front and returns are not guaranteed. Most people will give up before even starting. There is a risk with long-form content. There is less of a risk with short-form content.
I’m all for mitigating risk. It seems to be good business sense to take calculated chances while still bringing in the bacon with small wins over time.
I think a great blogging strategy is to keep a steady stream of short-form content (always focusing on quality) while continuously working on long-form content. The long-form content can be about anything, but the really juicy topics and the most emotional (see: Sad Country Songs) will usually have the best chance to succeed (traffic, comments, profit).
You can think of this strategy in a differen light.
I’m a big fan of the show American Pickers. My girlfriend thinks it’s odd that I like this show because I hate having junk around the house. I don’t keep anything and only hold a few things sacred. If the pickers game to my house they wouldn’t find a single thing that is older than a few years.
Anyway, the pickers always have a phrase they share with the watchers.
The big wins are great, but it’s the small items that keep the bills paid.
That’s paraphrased, but I think it gets the point across.
The guys are always looking to score something big. They might pay $5,000 for an old rusty car parked in someone’s shed and turn around and sell it for $10,000 the next week. That’s a big profit.
But it’s the small sales that pay the bills and keep them going. It’s the oil can they buy for $5 and sell the same day for $20 that keeps the money rolling in.
Blogging is about a series of small wins while also focusing on the big wins.
You can write quality posts that are 500 words. You can establish a strong brand with this strategy. But to really take your blog to the next level you need to bring long-form content into play because you’ll find a different segment of readers. And the benefits of a successful long-form article are greatly larger than that of a short-form article.
See if you can work a long-form article into your schedule this month. Try to have it posted by the end of the month. Focus on something juicy. Focus on something emotional. It will take some work up front, but could be well worth in the long run.
And I’m going to state my own goal here on GBW.
I’m going to write at least one 2,000 word long-form article each month.
This one is over 1,000 words so that’s not too bad.
Let’s do it.