In our humble opinion, long-form content is the bee’s knees. It provides the ideal opportunity to really make a connection with your customer or lead, help them solve their problems, and tackle their challenges.
It gives you time and space to deep-dive into specific topics and shows potential customers that you are the right brand to choose. Plus, long-form has great SEO value and is ideal for getting valuable insights into user behaviors, providing you choose the right tools.
Sounds great, right? But there is a little catch. Long-form has to be worth its salt.
There’s no use crafting lengthy content if readers won’t get past the second paragraph. You need to create valuable, relevant, beautifully paced content that holds your audience’s attention to the very last sentence.
This (long-form) article — meta, right? — will tell you everything you need to know about B2B long-form content. From the benefits of the format to knowing when to use it to choosing content formats for each stage of the buyer journey, to tips on crafting long-form copy that delights and converts — it’s all covered.
Let’s get started.
What is long-form content?
Long-form content is generally considered to be any piece of writing that is between 1,000 and 7,500 words. Popular examples of long-form content include:
- Guides and brochures
- White papers
- Case studies
- Round-ups and reviews
- Company or industry reports
What are the benefits of publishing long-form content?
There are enough benefits to fill a separate long-form article! But seriously, this format can work wonders for your brand. Here’s how:
- It’s great for storytelling. People love a good story. Long-form gives you room to explore a meaningful narrative behind your brand without coming across in an overly salesy manner. You get the space to create a lasting connection, cover a variety of ideas or concepts behind a specific topic, and demonstrate your brand’s expertise. Which helps you to…
- …Build trust and authority. Which is B2B marketing gold dust!
- You can educate your reader. B2B readers don’t want to flip around from page to page when they’re researching a particular topic. If you give them one credible, comprehensive and trustworthy source they should be more than happy to get all their information from you, and you alone.
- It has great SEO value because:
- No matter what algorithms Google is operating, the search giant always prefers quality, content-rich websites. They’re not interested in directing people to multiple sites to get the answers to their questions. Far better to lead them to an authoritative source where it is all in one place.
- Long-form provides more opportunities to earn backlinks. This is because you are covering more territory and increasing your potential value to external sites. More quality backlinks = higher SERPS = more high-value traffic. In fact, Backlinko’s 2020 SEO research revealed that articles over 3,000 words get an average of 77.2% more backlinks than shorter ones.
- You can boost your search term strategy without keyword stuffing. By using variations of your focus phrase in different, natural contexts you can optimize your content for both short and long-term keyword variants.
- You have a great opportunity to increase time on page and click-through rates.
- You stand a better chance at winning the coveted Google featured snippets as there’s more opportunity to answer your readers’ most pressing questions.
- It provides valuable opportunities for repurposing content.
- You increase your reach. Long-form gives you a chance to attract both newbies and people with some knowledge of a subject in one piece of content. Make sure you include an index at the beginning so readers can jump straight to the parts that interest them the most. Here's an example of an index that works effectively.
Fun fact: The aforementioned Backlinko study revealed the average word count for first-page results on Google is 1,447. So, if you don’t have the time to get to 7,000 words you still stand a chance of boosting your rankings, providing your content is up to scratch, of course!
What stages of the sales funnel is long-form content suitable for?
Long-form content is great for any stage of the sales funnel. As long as your reader is looking for in-depth information and you present it in an interesting and compelling way then long-form to your heart's content!
Here are some ideas for long-form B2B copy at different stages of the buyer journey?
Awareness stage. When you are building awareness about your products or services you want to show your potential customer that you understand their problem and you can help talk them through how to solve it. Great formats for this include how-to guides, blogs and eBooks.
Consideration stage. This is the point when you start to demonstrate your ability to solve their challenge for them. You want to capture their imagination so a long-form case study or white paper could be just the ticket.
Decision-making. Now’s the time to get the lead over the finish line, so how about a long-form tutorial with plenty of interactive elements? While showing your lead how to use and optimize the solution in practice you can also boost trust by including some testimonials or use cases from happy customers.
What are the best practices for writing B2B long-form content?
We’ve covered the whys and the wherefores, now let’s explore the how. Here are some top tips on best practices for writing B2B long-form content.
Choose a topic that will resonate
Have a good think about what subjects will interest your audience. If you aren’t sure, talk to your team and your customers or check your analytics to see which of your articles have got the most engagement and see if they would work with a long-form treatment. Conduct keyword research to see what your ideal customer is searching for, consult BuzzSumo and take a look at the opportunities to win Google Snippets.
Top tip: Long-form content gives you a chance to expand on your topic, but don’t fall into the trap of trying to cover everything. For example, would you expect or want to read an online guide called Everything You Need to Know About Sales and Marketing? Unlikely. But a nicely-focused article on long-form content writing best practices? Well, that’s a different matter!
Check what your competitors are doing
It’s unlikely that your brand is operating in an entirely new area of business so there will always be the risk of some overlap with the content themes you and your competitors cover. However, for the sake of your SEO as well as for cultivating your brand’s voice, you need to make sure your content is original and you are approaching your topic from a unique standpoint.
Create a plan
We love it when a long-form content marketing plan comes together! Getting to grips with what your goals are and how you are going to make them happen is key to your success. Your plan is essentially a content brief but you’ll need to really focus on the structure and running order of your content to make sure it is well-paced and remains compelling throughout. Framing sections around questions can really help with this (as well as increasing your opportunities for a prized Snippet!).
Keep to a structure
Choose the most effective format. The best format for your long-form content is the one that allows you to tell your story in the best way possible. This is a good time to refer to our earlier section on the best long-form for different stages of the buyer journey. Keep your audience’s needs in mind and which areas of your topic you want to cover and you shouldn’t go far wrong.
Conduct thorough research and reference your findings. The best long-form B2B content is usually composed of a variety of information sources.
Alongside presenting your own point of view and subtly promoting your own offering, you will need some strategically-placed research from reliable, verified sources. This could include stats, studies, quotes from industry figures, and references to other (non-competitor) articles. This shows you really understand your topic and your sector and it increases value for the reader. It might even earn you some reciprocal backlinks from industry influencers.
Create an attention-grabbing title
But make sure it is an honest representation of how the reader will benefit from the content and include your focus search term. One of my favorite tools for optimizing titles is the CoSchedule headline analyzer.
Address the reader’s challenges and answer their questions. No matter what your topic is, your long-form content should include copy that aims to solve your reader’s problems. As we mentioned above, this might be whole sections positioned as questions, or if your long-form is an industry report you could include a mini-FAQ or simply approach your topics to address the reader's top challenges.
Pay attention to formatting. Good formatting is important for all content marketing. When it comes to long-form it is central to the reader's experience. Use plenty of subheadings to break up the text as well as numbered and bulleted lists, break-out quotes, relevant internal links, and visuals that genuinely enhance the copy.
Media-rich content with interactive elements is great for user experience in long-form content, and with Foleon’s Content Creation platform you’ll be able to see which parts of the content are creating an impact with your audience. This means you can adjust and optimize the content so it remains evergreen and valuable to both your business and your readers.
Read more about best practices when it comes to your content marketing strategy here.
End on a high note
Your reader will have consumed a lot of information by the time they get to the end. Therefore it’s a good idea to include a summary with the key points and learnings. You could also add some prompts on the next steps or refer them to additional content on your site that will enhance their buyer journey and encourage them to convert.
Include a killer CTA. As well as adding a great CTA at the end of the content, with long-form, you could also insert a call to action at a strategic point mid-way or after a couple of sections. Not everyone will make it through the content. A little message prompting the reader to get in touch might work wonders with people who just don’t have the time or attention span for longer articles.
Making long-form content work for your business
We hope you have enjoyed this rather meta piece of long-form content about best practices in long-form B2B content. As with all content marketing formats, your long-form articles are a living document and should be reviewed on a fairly regular basis to make sure they remain fresh and relevant and ensure your audience is engaging with them in the way you hoped.
Getting accurate user insights into your content should be high on the list of priorities in your long-form strategy. You want to know your hard work is paying off, after all. If you would like to know more about how Foleon’s Content Creation platform can help then please give us a shout. Marketing is our passion and long-form is one of the content formats we get most excited about. We’d love to chat!
Key points and learnings
To keep readers invested in your content, you need to create an engaging reading experience when it comes to your long-form content.
Remember the following:
- Don’t write big, overwhelming, paragraphs. Keep it clear, concise and to the point.
- Experiment with “list-based” or “why-based” posts
- Experiment with videos and Q&A formats
- Use visuals and subheadings to break up your text
- Check your grammar before publishing
- Keep SEO best practices in mind
- Use bullet points to summarize your ideas
- Create an index so that readers can scroll to content that's relevant to them
- Structure your post with clear headlines
- Offer relevant content and CTAs
Last, but not least, don't create content based on random assumptions. Dedicate time to planning your editorial calendar and be strategic when choosing which topics to cover.