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A Foolproof Guide to Long Form Content

12 min read

Even for seasoned writers, the task of creating long-form content that ranks and achieves business goals can seem daunting. And if you are heading up a team of freelance and internal writers, your work is that much harder. 

That’s because the very nature of long-form content requires a fair bit of research. And as you know, if you want a job well done, you might need to do it yourself. 

We created MarketMuse to ease the pain of content marketers. Here’s what we have learned by working with literally hundreds of you on how to simplify the content creation process without sacrificing quality.

What Is Long-Form Content

Long-form content is anything that takes more than a glance or more than several seconds to consume. When you think about it – it can be anything ranging from a blog post to a book, a white paper to a report. Long-form video content is becoming more prevalent. Video content can be a 45-minute webinar, a 10-minute YouTube video, or a half-hour podcast. 

But no one wants to consume long-form content. Oh really? Says who? While our attention span has decreased to 8.25 seconds over the past 20 years,  almost 90% of US consumers confess to binge-watching – which is defined as 3-5 shows in one sitting. So people will pay attention if the content is interesting. 

For this post, we are focusing on long form written content, which is any content that offers a depth of information on a given topic. It could be in any format: blog posts, white papers, articles, white papers, downloadable e-books, guides, reports – and yes, even books. 

The minimum length should range anywhere between 700 and 2,000 words. The upper limit is dependent on several factors, including focus topic, scope, intended aims, and audience. But it’s not unusual for an authoritative blog post to be upwards of 2500 words. This blog post will end up around 3000 words. 

Of course, if you are producing a webinar, longer videos or podcast, you can use much of this same process listed below.

In 2023, the average blog post length is 1427 words long. That’s the average of the ranges of all of the responses. That’s 77% more words per post than 10 years ago.

Orbit Media

Why Longer Form Content?

Whereas short-form content has been called “snackable content,” Iong-form content is a meal. And while it takes longer to produce than shorter-form content, it has longer-lasting staying power – particularly if optimized for search engines. 

A study shows that on average, the top 10 results of a search were greater than 2,000 words. So, content length is an attribute of a page that will rank highly. Why is that? 

It’s not the length of the content but showing your expertise on the subject at hand. 

Search engines are focused on context. Long articles are simply able to create a greater context for the focus topic by a) going into greater depth about the topic and, b) connecting it to a greater number of related topics, showcasing the connection between them. Further, search engines value content that’s broad or deep, rather than short or concentrated. In fact, Google’s algorithm will not only not rank thin content, but penalize it. Here’s more on how bad content is costing your company. 

Also, evidence is piling up that organizations that publish longer-form content see an increase in conversion rates. Here are some examples: Crazy Egg, Highrise Marketing.

Good, quality information is useful (assuming it’s not out-of-date) when the person is looking for it regardless of how long ago it was published. If it’s a strong piece – just schedule it for updating. 

To determine whether something needs to be long-form or shorter content, consider a person’s intent. Are you trying to interrupt their thought process and get them to find your site? Or are they only looking for a definition? Consider something shorter in form. 

On the other hand, if what you do is complicated – or can extend value through further explanation – then consider longer-form content.

The best results are creating a content strategy to mix these forms of content. Use shorter pieces to promote your longer ones. 

Planning Long-Form Content: Topic, Audience, and Aims

Writing long-form content requires critical thinking and research. It’s intended to be read (as opposed to skimmed). It isn’t an article that jams as many keywords into a single page as possible. Instead, long-form content must have substance and purpose in order to rank highly and be considered useful by readers. Sometimes long-form content is gated, meaning that the audience must submit personal information before being able to access it. Your content needs to have value to be worthy of that.

Goals and Audience

As mentioned previously, there are two goals with any content piece: to provide value to the audience, and to meet business goals.

For the former, consider how you can establish yourself as an expert, provide engaging or helpful information, and answer their questions. Topic goals will dictate the content length.

Secondly, consider your business objectives. Try not to bite off more than you can chew with this second category. It’s likely not possible to write a piece that meets every single marketing objective, so choose a few that align best with your chosen topic and audience. Business goals will dictate the form it will take, whether it will be gated content, and the kinds of supporting graphics, images, videos, or links you’ll include.

You’re also going to need a good grasp on who you’re addressing with your content. You’re not writing just for the sake of writing. You’re writing to reach a specific audience. Who is that audience? Knowing your audience will inform the questions to be answered, the tone and style, the depth, and the piece’s value.

As an example, let’s take a look at the personas that we defined when writing this piece:

Our audience is someone who is a sole practitioner, who 

  • Needs help in structuring for SEO
  • Is short on time and needs a quick way to put together effective content

Or, who heads up a team of freelancers – and non-writers, who

  • Needs to create content that fills a content gap
  • Needs to provide detailed briefs for freelancers
  • They’re looking for tips to boost their content marketing performance even further

We wanted to make sure our tone is straightforward because content creators are reading to learn, rather than to be entertained or find quick information. The structure of this piece should lbe step-by-step, so that someone can easily follow along with their own writing, or they can pick up at the place where they need the most help. 

Focus Topic & Treatment

The focus topic tells in a word or phrase what the content piece is about. How do you choose a focus topic? Well, consider your organization’s industry, niche, and personality. What topics relate to your organization, either directly or tangentially? What valuable insights can you add to it? For example, if you’re a furniture-maker, you could write about:

  • trees (connects back to the type of wood used to make your furniture),
  • The history of furniture and time periods as they relate to furniture (showcases the styles you sell and how the features of each display a time period or style),
  • The process of making furniture (craftsmanship, can point to that in your own furniture),
  • Clients (who use this furniture, things to consider when purchasing furniture; the types of furniture that complement large houses, small apartments, modern/retro looks)
  • The types of people who will be using it (kids, adults, families, pets),
  • Where you live (city vs. country), etc. etc. etc. etc.

Ensure that you can clearly state the reason that the focus topic relates to your organization.

Further, make sure that your focus topic is broad enough to allow you to reach your target word count, but not so broad that you would have to write a novel to cover it comprehensively. You can always refine the focus topic as you research.

Regarding treatment, you should decide how you’re going to present information about the focus topic. For example, in this blog post we won’t delve into a complicated history of how SEO is related to content length, or give examples of good or bad long-form content. We just want to teach people the best process for writing it.

For best practices, you should get in the habit of thinking in terms of Topic Optimization. SEO will reward content creators who build out topic clusters — offering content around specific topics and concepts relevant to your business. You can optimize topics on a single page of content (built to describe a “focus topic”) or in a collection of material.

Researching Your Focus Topic

Once you have defined the audience, aims, and focus topic, it’s time to start researching. We start by tapping into our audience’s point of view. What questions would they need answered by this piece? For this piece, we asked:

What’s long-form content? What are some examples of long-form content?

How long should long-form content be? Why is it necessary? Who should create it and use it?

  • For marketing
  • For reputation
  • For SEO

How do you structure long-form content?

  • Depending on the topic
  • Depth
  • What questions are you trying to answer?
  • Who’s your audience?

What is the process of building long-form content?

  • How to choose the topic
  • What are some tips for structuring long-form content?

That’s a good start. To ensure that we’re not missing anything, we turned to the MarketMuse platform. Again, let’s use this post as an example. 

When this post was first published in July 2017, we were aiming for a Content Score of 40 with a word count of around 2,400. That’s how much space it takes a subject-matter expert to write quality content addressing the most important related topics.

But over the last five years, the SERP has changed. Articles on this subject have increased in length and address a fewer number of topics. Updating this post, we now see our target word count at 3,000 with a Target Content Score of 34.

One of the big changes over the past few years is that winning the term “long-form content” requires advising the content marketer about video content. So we added a mention of “video” above. We touched on it, but didn’t want to go in too deep because this is about writing. But writing a long-form script requires much of the same energy and research as writing longer content. So borrow heavily from what we have below. 

Then, we start researching. We slowly work through the list of questions, answering what we can, researching answers to the questions we don’t know, and adding more questions to the list as we go.

Writing Long-Form Content

Once you’ve addressed all the questions on your list, you can start writing. If you’ve done your work correctly, you’ll have most of your content written because you’ve answered questions that can be adapted into paragraphs. Read through the research to determine the best way to organize your content, and then start copying and pasting it into sections so that a logical narrative is created. (In this case, “First, define what it is. Then, explain why it’s valuable. Then explain how to research it. Then explain how to write it…”)


Once a first draft is written, the immediate next question is, “How did I do?” To answer this, plug your content back into the MarketMuse platform. It’s not published yet, of course, so we copied and pasted it into Optimize without an accompanying URL. On the first go, we received a score of 30, and our word count was at 2505. Hmm. We could do better.

Scanning the list of related topics, we realize that there’s room to better address the relationship between long-form content and both SEO and social media. We do more research and flesh out these sections. But we also tightened up some concepts. We don’t want people laboring to understand. 

Running it again, we have tightened it to 2,351 words and a score of 44. Not bad. We’re definitely in the top 10. We’ll update and optimize our blog posts regularly, as all good content marketers should. Being number one in the search engine rankings doesn’t happen in a day, so be sure to revisit your content to see how you can improve it, using some of the steps we’ve outlined.

Additionally, make sure you’re taking the following points into account when posting your long-form content:

Additionally, make sure you’re taking the following points into account when posting your long-form content:

A Few Tips

  • Add images! Data shows that content with images (of any length) receives more backlinks than content without images. Video also works well to increase engagement. 
  • Ask for feedback. If your clients are looking for information, ask them whether the post answers all their questions. Not only will this increase engagement, but you’ll get better market data about what your audience is looking for directly from the horses’ mouth.
  • Make sure to include a few inbound and outbound links. Inbound links should direct the audience to related posts and other long-form content. For example, I will definitely link this article to some of the other blog posts we’ve published that give information on keywords. Outbound links should go to related, but not competitive, content. In this case, I’ll add a few links about SEO algorithms, and possibly about creating infographics.
  • If you get writer’s block (happens to us all!), here’s a secret: talk out loud. Answer the questions to yourself freely and then write down what you’ve just said. From there, you have a base with which to work.

Sometimes, the hardest part is determining what to write. MarketMuse’s content outlines give you data-based recommendations on which topics to cover and what you need to include in each post to rank for keywords related to your focus topic.

What you should do now

When you’re ready… here are 3 ways we can help you publish better content, faster:

  1. Book time with MarketMuse Schedule a live demo with one of our strategists to see how MarketMuse can help your team reach their content goals.
  2. If you’d like to learn how to create better content faster, visit our blog. It’s full of resources to help scale content.
  3. If you know another marketer who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.
Aki Balogh

Co-founder & CEO of, Co-founder & President of MarketMuse, Advisor at (builders of the El Salvador Chivo wallet). Holds 2 patents in semantic analysis. Ex-VC at OpenView. Building decentralized tech to empower society.