My recent long form content experience
Having just finished a six-part series of posts, 50 Website Content Strategies For Professionals, each long form (average 2200 words each), I thought I would pass on some of the lessons from this experience. For the record, this series is in total 13,500 words published twice a week for three weeks. It took a while to write, but that’s part of the secret of getting it done that I want to pass on – incrementally, not in one gigantic burst, which will likely turn into one gigantic bust.
Should professionals write a long form series?
Yes you should. And no you shouldn’t. Get it?
Long form blogging is a controversy unto itself, so let’s first look at the pros and cons before we move on to consider its place in the marketing scheme of a professional firm.
First, you will not find a definitive answer to this. Not here, and not anywhere else in the blogosphere. Sure, there are dogmatists who swing each way, but for every argument in favour of a long form blog post – say 2000 words or more – there are others who swear it is preferable to take the shorter route home, perhaps 500-700 words. The latter is what I usually aim for when not writing a stand alone post. This should reveal something, there is no “perfect” length for a blog post.
By the way, one of the greatest exponents of the blog post (and everything else about online communication, Seth Godin, regularly posts at about 100 words. Here’s an example. He has millions of readers. What’s the point? That the answer depends on who you are, what you want to achieve, and who you want to reach.
My first series post – Google Has No Clothes – was also six parts (yes, once more planned at a neat five but once more I got carries away), but each post in the series was the standard 500 – 700 words. The latest series was a far bolder experiment.
Here’s how to tell what suits your firm
Should professionals firms – lawyers, accountants and all superannuation, retirement, insurance and financial planning professionals – have a blog? The straightforward answer is yes.
Should professionals firms also consider a long form post? Look at the following:
- How long will it take to say what you want? If you are a personal injuries lawyer, and you want to write a post about the steps prospective clients should take to make a claim after a public transport accident, then it’s going to take longer than a post about how to write a letter to your neighbour over a fencing dispute.
- If you publish a blog post once a month, or even every two weeks, then there is probably more room to write a longer post. Obviously it will take more time to write the latter, and I deal with this in the next section.
- What’s your purpose? What’s the business case for your blog post? If the greatest investment rewards your business case, then do it. If not, then it is a waste of time and will only reward your ego
- Can you write well enough to sustain an argument or thread over a long form series? If longer form equals boring, then you are in trouble and would be far better to stick to a shorter form.
The answer is an occasional longer form series
This is what I intend to do:
- 500 – 800 words posts for the everyday issues I want to address that also match my business case;
- an occasional longer form stand alone post over 2000 words;
- and a longer form series of five posts or so, each 2000 words up, perhaps every few months.
My reasons for an occasional long form post are:
- it provides lots of internal links for other posts;
- it’s good advertising for my writing ability;
- there is more room for keywords to help search engine rankings;
- it encourages readers to share;
- it separated you from the pack;
- it offers scope to fully present an argument;
- it can form a chapter in a later eBook or other publication.
How to create a long form topic
This is the easy part. I keep an account on Feedly, and I read a lot of news. When I think of a topic I want to consider for longer form writing, I jot it down and then populate a list with URL’s and sources until I have enough to begin a research project.
What software do I use? Yes, I know all about Evernote and similar tools to gather ideas for future reference. Sorry to make this shocking confession, but I use a notebook. Made out of paper. And a pen. For those of our younger readers, this is a writing apparatus. I then transfer my ideas to a Word document under headings, and when I have accumulated enough ideas under a specific heading, turn it into a long form blog post. Prehistoric I know.
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