Chintan Zalani

Amazing Results with Long-Form Content: 5 Simple Tips

It works. Search engines show it some extra love, and people love sharing it on social media.

I am talking about long-form content.

However, many content marketers fail to get results from their efforts. They put in sweat equity to create super lengthy 5,000-word articles. Then, press the publish button hoping to attract thousands of visitors.

To their surprise, they fail to go beyond a few hundred visitors. The reason is their content creation strategies are fundamentally flawed

If you are on the same struggling boat, then here are five mistakes along with tips to get results with your long-form copy.

1. Don’t Start With ‘Dreaming Lofty Dreams...’

Ever since Brian Dean popularized the skyscraper technique, long-form content saw a quick adoption by small businesses. Just look at the consistent interest in the keyword.

However, while it is an important SEO strategy for many, there is a caveat to get results from skyscraper content. Even if you create the best article on a subject and manage to snag juicy backlinks, your goal to rank for your target keyword might fail.

Wonder why?

Well, if your domain and brand aren’t in Google’s good books yet, then your website pages won’t rank for valuable keywords. In Google’s 200 ranking factors, both the domain and brand signals carry considerable weight.

Hence, for competitive keywords, you likely won’t outrank an established brand by writing in-depth content alone.

The Fix

Pick your subject and target keywords wisely.

Tactically, you can reverse engineer your competitors with similar domain authorities, and find relevant keywords.

When in doubt, plug your keyword inside SEMrush and check its difficulty score. Suppose, I want to offer social media marketing services to lawyers. Here is an analysis of the keyword by the Keyword Difficulty Tool

When you click on the 'Difficulty, %', then you are presented with the top ranking domains and their 'domain strength.'

Now, based on your existing domain strength and the business value of the keyword, you can either target the keyword or find better alternatives.

When in doubt if you have the necessary resources to pull off promotions for a keyword, consider targeting lower competition keywords.

Once you build your domain strength by promoting and creating high-quality content around these keywords, you can then move to competitive subjects.

Is your content SEO friendly?

Check it with SEMrush SEO Writing Assistant

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2. Reconsider If Your Article Requires 1600+ words

The average length of a blog post is now 1142 words. Orbit Media in its survey of 1000 bloggers found that bloggers that post longer articles are likely to report "strong results."

It is clear that long-form content drives traffic and generates more leads. However, 10x content is not exclusively about creating long articles. Don't go gung-ho on publishing LONG articles on every subject you write.

Your goal is providing an incredible experience to your audience and serving your audience's intent. 

Aaron Orendorff also pointed out the same mistake of how bloggers mistake ‘bigger with better.’ In the name of an 'ultimate guide', don't go overboard and create 10,000-word posts.

The Fix

A long-form article starts between 1200 to 1600 words. However, you should not shoot for a word count for the sake of it. The foundation of content marketing is helping your audience in the most efficient way possible.

So opt for the content format that helps your audience achieve their goal without any inconvenience.

  • If a 5-minute video can serve the user better, then produce it.

  • If a high-quality graphic conveys the same value as a long-form content piece, then design it.

If you decide to go with 1600+ words on the page, then ensure you have ruthlessly edited out the fluff.

The SEMRush Writing Assistant is a terrific way to gauge the required number of words you should target for your article.

When I plugged the keyword 'long-form content tips' inside the tool, it suggested writing1,347 words.

It also gave other nifty recommendations like the related keywords, my readability score, and an overall score. Did I mention the tool is free and integrates with Google Docs? Download and put it to use already!

3. Keep The User At The Forefront

How will you feel if a shopkeeper haggles with you? Thought so.

We like businesses that treat us well.

In the digital era, it transcends into a smooth user experience. Which means you need to frequently pull out your analytics report and understand how people are interacting with your website.

When you have a lot of words and other elements on your page to support your arguments, then your page will likely get heavy in size. Not only does such a content piece get unwieldy and difficult to navigate, but it can also become slow to load.

The Fix

If you are providing good user experience, the time spent with your articles by your readers is high. At my website, I solely publish long articles, and it is not unusual to see an average time of over 5 minutes. It shows that my visitors like reading my content.

Here are some questions you can use as a checklist for your long-form pieces before they go live.

  • Are all elements inside your article mobile-friendly?

  • Check your text’s readability and overall layout of the page. Is it easy to read?

  • Are all the elements on the page including the graphics, language, and colors used consistent with your brand’s personality?

  • Is your load speed frustratingly slow?

(You can access your average page load time inside Google Analytics from ‘Page Timings’ under ‘Site Speed’).

Here are three specific formatting strategies for a smooth long-form reading experience.

1. Keep your paragraphs between 3 to 5 sentences and sentences between 10 to 15 words.

2. Use bold, italics, subheadings, videos, and images to break the content into readable chunks.

3. Add a table of contents at the top of the article with jump links to help the user navigate to a relevant section. 

Matthew Barby publishes long articles on his website and offers jump links at the top so that his readers can directly jump to a relevant section.

4. Write In-Depth Articles On Narrower Subjects

In every industry, you can cover broad themes by creating long-form articles. If you are working in internet marketing, then you can write articles on content marketing, link building,outreach, and the like.

For instance, here is a recent email conversation I had with an editor at an established magazine for entrepreneurs. I proposed the following titles on email list building and copywriting techniques.

The problem is all of these subjects have already been covered extensively. It is unlikely that you will bring anything new and exciting to the table.

The Fix

You should try to fill the gaps by writing on more specific topics. Narrower subjects also tend to have lower competition.

In my case, the editor rightly pointed out how I should narrow down my topics and make them “more focused.”

I ended up writing an article on four advanced email list building strategies that still work well. Let me give you another example.

Suppose you are in the dog training industry. Your audience might have already come across 5,000-word articles and guides on dog training commands. How about you write an in-depth post on training a dog using a clicker?

5. Include Influencers In Your Content To Increase Its Credibility

I am sure you have seen round-ups with tips from industry experts. They perform well on social media because of the existing influence of the thought leaders. 

Three years ago, I used the same strategy and wrote a 6,500-word post on thought leaders in the blogging niche. It received over ten backlinks, over 200 shares, and crossed 1,000 pageviews.

The only problem?

In an industry like internet marketing, conventional round-ups have been done to death. People hardly find valuable and actionable takeaways in them today.

The Fix

Do not create another mediocre round-up piece.

To differentiate your content, support your arguments with advice and relevant data from a thought leader. Else, include their tweet.

For example, for my article on email list building, I reached out to rockstar Medium writer Benjamin Hardy. I asked him about his list size, and how many of his readers came from Medium.

In my email exchanges with his office, I found that he had a whopping 300k subscribers. And 90% of them came from Medium.

The data added credibility to my article on list building.

I got a few other such quotes by performing an outreach while working on the piece. A few of the influencers even shared the article and helped in amplifying its performance.


Long-form content is an incredible asset to increase the effectiveness of your content marketing. However, most brands get it wrong.

The five tips above will help you extract more juice and achieve desired business results from your content creation efforts.

Are you guilty of committing any of the above mistakes and which tip do you plan to incorporate? Let me know in the comments.

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Well, marketers have been saying this since a long long time, Long-form content will remain your most important asset in the online marketing world. A great article. Thanks
This extension is very good, but in my professional, it has taught me that all the end results of these links may not be acceptable to others.
Super break down of how to guide, being a freelance copywriter, who is self taught, I write awesome content for my clients, but when it comes to my own blogs, they often fall short. Now I know why. Thank you for the insight, I am going to try some of the tips out this week when I blog again at the weekend. Thanks Nikki
Nicola-Jayne Wells
Thanks much for reading and happy to help, Nikki! All the best and share your results once you implement the tips :)
Great information. We've been focusing on longer content that is educational to our audience and users. Great point about including quotes. I've also started to include studies and statistics to help with our content. I've had a few shares from the individuals that I've quoted or mentioned.
Great strategy, Kevin. Long-form content, when used strategically, can offer great business benefits! Thanks for reading.
Thank you, Chintan! Great article, and btw it's also cool to see so many like-minders in the comments :) Valuable content for the win!
Ann Newell
Thanks much for reading and dropping by, Anastasiia :)
Hello Chintan

Great stuff for creating Long-Form Content. I agree that one of the most important factors its really awesome tips for content. Thanks for sharing valuable information!

Keep it up!
Rajeev Dave
Hi Rajeev, Thanks for stopping by.
Helpful & relevant!

I agree that one of the most important factors to think about is the users and serving user intent accurately. Will users find anything valuable in my long-form content? Are my keywords aligned with the intent of the users? Before you optimize your content, you need to put yourself into the mindset of your target audience. Remember what Google said, "Build for the user." Of course, everything else will follow. But you need to define the direction you're going into with your content before you optimize - and that begins with your users.
Absolutely. User intent is key to create content. If you're not listening to your target audience, then content creation might not serve your business as well.
Chintan you've made a lot of valid points that highlight the importance of long-form content. But I found the 3rd point to be the most valuable.

You've been creating long-form content, but you need to see if you served the user's intent or not and that can easily be determined from Google Analytics. You need to keep checking how your content has been performing and if it's not performing well, you need to make it better; not by making it longer, but by offering the readers what they are looking for.
Sahil Kakkar
You summed it up pretty nicely :) It's all about serving the user intent and trying to understand it from qualitative/quantitative information is the key. Thanks for reading!
Chintan! I'm so glad you touched on the fact long-form content isn't always necessary. Focusing on providing value to your reader is so much more important than meeting long-form "criteria". If you can get your point across in 500 words, do it!
Elise Dopson
That's right. Get to the point by not repeating yourself over and over.
Daniel H.
Thanks for your continued interest in being a part of the conversations, Daniel :D I'm sure you totally rock the socks off with creating high-quality long-form content!
Elise Dopson
Absolutely, Elsie. Beyond a point, it might not even make sense for a business to invest in long-form content. Shorter content and updating older content are possible alternatives. And it's a pleasure to see you around here...Thanks much for dropping by :)
There's no denying that long form content works, it's exhausting writing it though!
Dan Richardson
That's also a reason it works, Dan. Haha! But extending content length for the sake of it also doesn't make sense :) And that's what I tried to cover in the article. Thanks for reading and your comment, Dan!
Hi Chintan.
Long form content is on the rise and it seems most people think it a shortcut to higher rankings, faster.
Once it was a way to stand out, but now your 10 000 word blog post are just a drop in the sea.

What to do about it ?
Be hyper focused on giving a solution as fast as you can.

Earlier, In the era of 500 word blog post, writing 3000 words was a way to stand out.

Now, condensing 3000 words of fluff into a 500 word of practicality is the goal.

And if you still want that 3000 word-count, do it by giving more substance with barely enough words:)

Thanks Chintan, for an interesting read,

Nikola Roza
Nikola Roza
Thanks for reading Nikola. Agree that writing longer articles for the sake of it doesn't make sense and add value to the reader. Serving the user intent as efficiently and quickly possible is key.
Nikola Roza
Great point. But it takes more time/money to produce long content so if everyone moves to the long content total amount of new content goes down. And as a result there will be more untouched niches. I think this trend means that more resources will go into research and editing but total opportunity for content marketing is not going to change. Also from our experience after certain point it makes no sense to produce more units of content. Users can consume only certain amount and if you produce 5 times more it doesn't mean that people will read 5 times more. At such point if you continue increasing quantity it might be even bad because some "average" articles will start stealing audience from your "best" articles. That's why we now focus only on quality and implemented metrics like "wow-score". With "wow-score" we know how people interact with our content and what drives true engagement.
Content is King! Nice post Chintan.
Ricci M.
Agree....Content that adds value.
Ricci M.
Thanks for reading :) When used in the correct manner to help the user, content is indeed an asset!
Nice Post
Idris Hussain
Thank you. Are you using long-form content right now ?
หัวน้ำหอม ขายส่งหัวน้ำหอม ขายหัวน้ำหอม
Thanks for reading. Would love to know how you plan to use the strategies!
Nice actionable article, Chintan!

Thanks for the reminder of the 'Difficulty, %" functionality under the Keyword Difficulty tool. I completely forgot it existed there (although I think 'domain strength' are slightly overrated).

Thanks all the same!
Kelechi Ibe
Thanks for reading, Kelechi. Yes, keyword difficulty is definitely helpful. Domain authority does play a role, though we cannot find the value Google has assigned to a website. I guess tools like SEMRush are a good starting point :)
Chintan Zalani
Oh yes it plays a role for sure. However, from my research, I have seen a lot of sites with low domain strength (aka DA) around the 40 range outrank website with extremely high DA in the 70, 80 or even 90 range.

This is often because the sites with high DA were probably ranking there because of the sheer strength of their domain and a few relevant keywords in the title tag or body on a piece of "not too relevant content". Meanwhile, the lower DA site outranking them covered the topic better than them and implemented a good topic cluster and internal linking strategy.

I guess all I am saying (which I assume you probably already know) is there are a lot of other factors that play a huge role besides just the strength of a domain. And many opportunities to attain quality traffic can be missed if SEOs or content writers get too scared of domains with high DA present in the SERP for their chosen keyword during their keyword research.

When proper SERP analysis is done before hand, opportunities can be found where high DA sites haven't done enough to deserve that spot. I see this all the time.

Kelechi Ibe
That totally makes sense, Kelechi. I see where you're coming from. My point of contention was between websites at DA around 10-20 and trying to compete for extremely competitive keywords (for which these DA 90 sites rank).

Otherwise, what you said makes complete sense. Thank you for the detailed breakdown of your argument :)
Chintan Zalani
Sure thing! I completely agree with you. A website with a DA around the 10-20 range probably stand little chance to compete against those high DA websites.

Going after lower competitive search phrases like you said (and ranking on the 1st page for them) will be a smart strategy to "get on Googles good book".

I am sure ranking for as many of those lowly competitive search phrases plays a part in earning Google's trust or more "Page rank score" in their algorithm. Just a speculation a this point :)
Kelechi Ibe
There is another aspect to consider. DA 10-20 have a lot of noise to sift through. For example, we just finished up launching a landscaping business website. There are over 20 other competing websites in their business service area, within 4 miles of each other. How does one sift through the noise when it is going up against websites like HomeAdvisor, Yelp, Angies List, Thumbtack, and many others power players.
Daniel H.
I think Daniel that local businesses and local SEO are a totally different beast altogether.
Daniel H.
Daniel, Chintan is right. Local SEO is a completely different beast to tame. I would like to refer you to this recent SEMrush webinar on Local SEO,

It contains a lot of helpful tips from Local SEO experts.

I do believe some of the basic concepts of SEO still applies to Local SEO. For example, companies like HomeAdvisor go above and beyond when creating quality in-depth content for their users. A good example is the "True Cost Guide" category.

Personally, I would start with what the goal of the business is. If targeting is hyper-local and lead generation is the goal, I would consider using Google Ads and directing traffic to a dedicated local landing page offering.

These companies have deep pockets to invest in researchers and content writers for SEO. It can be overwhelming. But their big size could also be a competitive advantage for small hyper-local businesses. Users right now want QUICK, FAST service. They don't have time browsing through huge websites. This is a competitive advantage for small local businesses.

So focusing on lead gen and growing revenue to have the budget to compete with them in the future SEO-wise could be a smarter play.

NB: There are a ton of entrepreneurs making a killing right now providing leads for local businesses using Google Ads combined with dedicated local landing pages with simple CTAs, phone numbers, and live chat on site. This is working really well right now.

Something to consider.
Kelechi Ibe
Kelechi - thank you for the link. I will take a look.
Kelechi Ibe
Thanks again Kelechi - very useful information about Local SEO and Schema.
Daniel H.
My pleasure, Daniel!
Kelechi Ibe
You seem like an expert on local SEO, Kelechi. What you said makes a lot of sense. Agree that local SEO has certain similar strategies to the usual SEO we try to do. And the link to that webinar seems super valuable. Thanks for sharing and adding so much value to the article :)
Chintan Zalani
You're welcome, Chintan! It was a well-written article. Glad I was able to contribute :)
Kelechi Ibe
Exactly. So you can also try to rank for a long-tail version of your target keyword. For example, Ryan Robinson tried ranking for the long-tail version of "side business ideas." Once he built authority and slowly climbed the ropes, he began ranking for the more competitive term as well :)
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My pleasure. Which strategy do you plan to implement?
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