There are numerous things you need to keep in mind when optimizing your website for search engines. But the crucial ones to remember are the production of helpful and relevant content and the necessity of user-friendly design. In short, what search engines basically take into account when ranking pages is the quality of the user experience (UX) you provide. And there’s no better way to boost your rankings in the long run than delivering top-class long-form content.
Various studies showcase the link between long-form content and high rankings. There’s no consensus about the exact number of words you should ideally target, but it usually ranges from 2,000 to 2,500.
In any case, keep in mind that not all long-form content is good content that will help you rank better. Google recognizes top-quality content not only based on its length but more importantly, by analyzing backlinks, social shares, user behavior, and other factors that can show whether it is actually helpful and valuable.
Here are a few tips on how to use this to your advantage.
1. Know Your Target Audience
First of all, you need to narrow things down. You can’t write for everyone in order to attract all age and demographic groups and rank for all possible keywords. It’s obviously impossible and also unnecessary if you’re running a company blog.
You need to write about things that will attract your target audience and create content that they will find interesting. Go for industry-related topics because they will bring in visitors that could eventually become your customers. In highly competitive industries, it’s advisable that you concentrate on very specific issues that haven’t been already intensively covered but that are still frequently searched and that may be of interest to your target audience. This can give you some initial visibility and something to build on.
Of course, you’ll need to get to know your potential audience before coming up with content ideas and a broader content strategy. It’s key that you address their concerns and answer their questions with relevant, thoroughly-researched articles written by knowledgeable, experienced writers. If they come across your website, realize they haven’t found what they were looking for, and leave right away, it will ruin some very important ranking metrics for you and make things even worse.
2. Conduct Keyword Research
Now, to better understand your prospective audience and their needs, it’s important to conduct meticulous keyword research and find out what they search for and what sort of searches can bring them to your blog.
Keyword research and optimization is a demanding process that requires dedication, but the results can be very rewarding. You’re not only going to get inspiration for new content ideas, but you’ll also get insights into the exact phrasing you should use to maximize your SEO efforts.
Simply put, the more you use the exact words that people tend to type in their search engines, the bigger the chance to rank for those terms. However, don’t go over the top with this as it may have an opposite effect if you just randomly insert keywords whenever possible at the price of damaging the actual value of the article. If it looks unnatural – don’t do it. If it’s going to make your piece unreadable – definitely don’t do it.
As a matter of fact, over 70% of SEO specialists think that you should include only 2-5 keywords per post. It’s important that you use them in strategic places that’ll help you boost your rankings, such as the title, subtitles, introduction, meta description, or title tags.
Also, search engine algorithms tend to focus more and more on semantics and actual user intent instead of exact matches. So the lesson remains the same – it’s vital that users find helpful, valuable, well-targeted content, and if you can naturally squeeze in a keyword or two as well, you should definitely do it.
3. Pay Attention to Formatting and Design
Making your site easy to browse around and your articles easy to read are the two vital UX concerns for every blog owner. This is especially important in the case of long-form content. Attention spans of users are getting shorter and shorter, and you need to make sure there’s no distractions or obstacles that’ll make it harder for them to stay on the page and read the article.
There are several things you need to pay attention to in this respect. First and foremost – page loading speed, especially if your pages load bit by bit as users scroll down. You’ll need to optimize the images, get rid of all unnecessary design elements, and unclutter the code in order to boost your website’s performance.
Moreover, your content needs to be easily scannable. Most people won’t read every word of the article, and they need to be able to effortlessly find what they want. That’s why you’ll need clear and informative subtitles and a table of contents, preferably with links that will take readers to the paragraphs they’re interested in. If they bump into your piece of content and then get discouraged because it takes too much time to find the parts they need, they may leave very quickly – and that’s exactly the kind of user behavior that destroys your SEO.
4. Stay Fresh
Another parameter that Google takes into consideration is the freshness of your content. It’s generally a great idea to produce evergreen long-form content that will use time to its advantage to boost authority and earn backlinks and social shares. But to use the full potential of this kind of content, try to update it and refine it whenever you have the opportunity.
There are many ways to do this: you can update the articles with new data, new stories, or comments on related current events. Don’t forget to share the updated piece on your social media and let your followers know what sort of new info they can expect to find inside.
5. Employ Internal Linking
Once they’re already on your website, you’ll want to direct your readers to other related pieces that could appeal to them. The fact that visitors are browsing around your website and spending their time on various pages sends some very good signals to search engine algorithms.
Even more importantly, if you connect your pages via internal links, it’ll make it easier for Googlebot to crawl and index all your pages. Finally, the authority every page earns is partly transferred through these links to the pages they lead to, so making the most out of this fact is a definite must.
Examples of Long-Form Content Done Right
There are many other ranking-boosting tricks you can use when creating long-form content, such as optimizing meta descriptions, URLs, or headlines, as well as utilizing multimedia, inserting social buttons, making pages mobile responsive, and much, much more.
But instead of going through all of these, let’s take a quick look at three very different examples of blogs that have done a great job in creating content that helped them get to the top rankings in various niches. This will probably tell a better story of what works and what doesn’t in this context.
Let’s start with a household name in the world of marketing – Neil Patel, an all-around digital marketing expert. His site occupies top places for a very broad range of terms – from “how to get more traffic” to “what tools to use for keyword research.” This comes as a result of long, meticulous work on every aspect of his content and his website.
Neil Patel writes for experts who wish to learn things about the industry and become experts themselves. Notice how he uses short, concise paragraphs. He keeps the content carefully partitioned and on point, focusing on explaining concrete steps you need to take to fulfill concrete goals. The articles are easily scannable and packed with multimedia to help illustrate the points. If there was a website that SEO students should dissect to learn the anatomy of SEO-friendly content, it would be this one.
What makes Eachnight a great blog is simply its top-class, science-backed long-form content. However, compared to Neil Patel’s website, it covers a more specific niche and it doesn’t have such a huge prominence, so the writers have to focus on methods that suit these circumstances.
For instance, they write about some very narrow sleep-related topics, such as the number of calories you burn sleeping or stiffness in the lower back. This is important because the search volume for these queries is significant and competition is not too tough, so they have a fair chance of occupying a place on the first page of results for these searches.
Once a user has landed on their website, internal links can lead the intrigued visitor around and keep them engaged, which then additionally boosts their traffic and rankings. The blog is full of valuable industry-related content that addresses actual problems of their target audience and helps them find solutions. This is a great way to ensure developing a growing blog to its full potential in the long run.
Finally, let’s take a look at the remarkably amusing Waitbutwhy. It’s different from the previous examples since it’s not a company blog nor an affiliate site, it doesn’t follow a particular niche, and it’s hardly imaginable that the author has ever bothered himself with making his content SEO-friendly.
It’s difficult to pin down the exact area of interest of Tim Urban, the creator of the website. Let’s just say he ranks first for “how to pick a career,” second for “AI revolution,” and you can find his site somewhere on page two of search results if you type “Trump-Biden debate,” which is ridiculous, considering that this is probably one of the hottest trending topics globally.
Most probably, Tim didn’t think about any of the widely acknowledged tricks to boost his rankings. What made his content “optimized” for search engines was his style, his brightness, and the new perspective he offers on some very broad and serious subjects. It keeps you engaged, and it’s obsessively well-researched and extremely informative while remaining a lot of fun at the same time.
So, what would be the most important lesson for everyone trying to affect their Google rankings with long-form content?
The only way to do this is with actual interesting, quality content that people will read and like.
There are tips and tricks you can use to give your website an additional little push, but it’s only supplementary. These tips can be seen only as a signpost that should show you a general direction, not guide you through every step of the way. Find your voice, focus on quality, and let your genuine interest in the topic shine through every post.