8 Must Have Skills For Creating Effective Long-Form Contents
8 Must Have Skills For Creating Effective Long-Form Contents
By Michael Akinlaby | September 23, 2016
Welcome to the age of long-form contents.
Some years ago, all you needed to do was create a short 200 – 300-word article and the whole world wide web will praise you for it.
But that has changed!
Today, to get attention, earn trust and advocates for your brand, you need long-form contents.
I’m not just talking about any kind of long-form contents.
I’m talking about high-quality, useful long-form contents.
There are some skills you need to become an effective long-form content creator.
These skills aren’t hard to learn at all as long as you’re willing to put in the time.
So what are the skills I’m talking about?
Before you dedicate your valuable 30 minutes to read a long-form content, you want to, at least, know that the writer is knowledgeable on the subject.
I’m not saying you must be an expert before you write a long-form content.
I believe experts are overrated.
To call yourself an expert is a bit self-promoting and arrogant.
Arrogance is a sure way to lose your readers.
No, you don’t have to be expert.
You shouldn’t call yourself one. No one knows it all.
But you should at least know in-depth what you’ll be writing.
If the average web user knows more than you on the topic, don’t write it.
Don’t let the lack of expertise hold you back.
The definition of expertise is completely different when it comes to writing.
To be an expert means to be passionate about the topic. To love it with all your heart.
To breathe it.
To think about it all the time.
To read about it in your free time.
The topic has to be something you could talk about all day.
That’s what makes you an expert because, naturally, you’ll know more than the average web user.
You’ll be able to use your true voice in your writing because it’s something you care so much about.
Let me use myself as an example.
When I know little about a topic and kind of have little interest it, I find it tough to write in my real voice. So, I stopped writing things I don’t know.
As a content marketer (or writer) you need to love what you write.
I created my first blog over a decade ago, and it was a blog about blogging.
How much did I know about blogging back then?
But I would spend the whole day trying new things with my blog.
I would make over 50 changes to my blog every single day.
I would read every article I lay my eyes upon that was about blogging.
I gradually increased my blogging skills as a result of my passion for it. And that made me an expert.
Expertise is the first must-have skill in content creation.
If you don’t have passion and love for the topic, it’s better you hire someone who does. That will increase the effectiveness of your long-form contents.
Any content marketing campaign that isn’t backed up with creativity is a waste.
Look out there.
There’s content on almost every topic under the sun.
Content marketing shines when creativity is applied.
The same is true for long-form contents.
There might not be many long-form contents for every topic, but why should a web reader spend 10 minutes reading your content when they are lots of short contents that would take less than 2 minutes to consume?
Think about that question deeply.
Why should I read your long-form contents when they are lots of short-form contents out there?
Nobody wants to waste their valuable time reading contents they don’t really need.
And nobody wants to read an article that could’ve contained less than 500 words but has 2,000 words.
There are a lot of articles out there that are really long because the writer believes the only way to show that the article is better is to add more words.
Don’t write long-form articles because you have to.
Write long-form articles because there’s something new, amazing and interesting the reader will find in your content. I mean something they wouldn’t find elsewhere. That’s why creativity is very important when creating contents for the web.
When you’re creative, people are motivated to read your contents.
“The reason we struggle with content marketing is because we haven’t started with ‘Why?’ Customers don’t care about your vanity metrics. Ask them, ‘How can I help?’” – Kristina Halvorson, CEO and Founder, Brain Traffic
To make your long-form content deserve attention, you have to create something that’s different and interesting.
Smart marketers are taking boring information, stats, content ideas, and turning them into interesting, entertaining contents. You have no excuse for not being a creative content creator.
For example, Jeff Bullas published the article “5 Digital Marketing Trends That Will Disrupt Your Business.”
The article has been shared over 15k times on social media.
Every business owner will surely want to know the marketing trends that could damage their business.
The topic “marketing trends” looks a little boring.
But with Jeff’s creativity, he turned it into an interesting topic.
The article was in-depth, and the quality was there. But without the creativity, I doubt it would have achieved such feat.
Who cares about your favorite mobile apps?
Everyone has theirs.
Pat Flynn wrote the article “My Top 10 Favorite Apps on My Phone (and Why I Love ’em So Much).”
The headline sounds clever.
The article is long-form.
And yes, the article was successful because it’s the work of creativity.
Storytelling is an ancient art. It’s as old as the planet.
It’s being used in movie-making, fiction writing, and branding. It’s hard to imagine their existence without storytelling.
Storytelling is even more important in content marketing. Especially, when you’re be creating contents that will take lots of minutes to digest.
With storytelling, you’ll gain and keep attention. Without it, you’ll lose it even before you gain it.
The difference between being a boring writer and an interesting one is storytelling. That’s why it’s a skill you need to create effective long-form contents.
Brands like Apple, Coca-Cola, and GoPro all use storytelling in their content marketing campaigns.
When you visit the website of a mom and pop family farm business like the Burroughs Family Farms, their story will immediately capture your attention:
“In 1894, Benjamin Burroughs traveled to California from Illinois to find his future in the milk business. Little did he know that his great grandchildren would still be farming in the twenty-first century, producing and selling organic almonds, olive oil, milk, cheese, and grass-based eggs and meats.”
Alex Turnbull, the founder of Groove invests heavily in content marketing to promote his SaaS business. He produces a lot of long-form contents on his blog.
So he conducted an a/b test that would forever change his approach to the way he writes long-form contents.
“Some of our visitors were sent to a version of the post that started with a simple story that led into the “meat” of the content, while others found a post with a no-nonsense intro that jumped right to the point.”
“The post with the narrative intro had nearly 300% more people scroll all the way to the bottom, and average time on page was more than five times higher!”
It’s an important skill you need if you want people reading your long-form contents from the top all the way to the bottom.
Content marketing is growing. Many businesses are still struggling to do it right.
Here’s the biggest challenge in content marketing:
Your long-form content can be great, interesting, insightful and entertaining. Is it really the right content for your target audience?
The right contents include data.
People love data.
Real data back up your points. They show that you really know what you’re talking about.
People don’t act on mere opinions. They want proof that what you’re talking about is the real thing.
For example, BuzzSumo could have come out and say why contents go viral. No, they didn’t do that.
Instead, they back up their points with real data from their study.
The study got them lots of publicity, visits, and sales.
You may not have the budget and resources to conduct studies like BuzzSumo, but you can still back up your points with real data and examples. They are a lot of them out there.
Note: Data makes your post more interesting, which keeps people reading.
This may not look much like a skill as long as you find it easy to talk with strangers.
Expert interviewing is something you’ll need to do to gather more interesting points and add credibility to your long-form content.
One of the reasons why I recommend it is that it helps you differentiate your content.
For example, Ahrefs published a long-form link building guide on their blog.
The guide contains valuable contributions from respected link building experts like Eric Ward, Jon Cooper, and Brian Dean.
The art of reaching out to experts in the field and asking for their opinions is called blogger outreach.
Blogger outreach will help you improve the quality of your long-form content. That’s interviewing for me.
I’ve written a lot of long-form contents over the past few years.
It’s very easy to get bored at the proofreading and editing stage.
You may want to take short-cuts in order to quickly hit the “Publish” button. That would affect the overall quality of the content and make it almost worthless.
I’ve experienced this first-hand, so I understand how it feels.
Long-form contents are long, and so is the editing phase.
To properly organize, re-organize and edit your work takes lots of work.
There will be a lot of times when you believe everything is right. Then you decide to read it for the last time only for you to discover another stupid error you’ve missed.
In fact, it’ll look like the error has been hiding from you only to show up the last time.
That’s how editing looks like.
When you take the time to edit your content, it’ll shine. A lot of people will find it easier to read and understand your points.
And if people are reading, it means that your content is doing well.
I don’t start editing immediately I finished creating the first draft.
I let the first draft sit for 3 – 4 days before I start editing it.
This helps me approach the editing phase with fresh eyes and mind.
I also read my content out aloud to ensure that it’s smooth and sounds good to the ear.
Trust me, you’ll get very bored with the editing phase. You have to get used to it. That’s how editing works. Except, of course, you’re hiring an editor for your content marketing campaign.
In today’s ever-changing world, writers need the complete skill sets to succeed.
One of these skills is designing.
A writer should at least have some HTML, CSS, and graphic designing skills.
These three essential skills will improve the user experience of your long-form content.
Imagine you want to highlight a few important points in your long-form content, do you always have to hire a web designer for that?
You may also want to create an image to add to your post.
Do you have to hire a graphic designer for that?
Today, there is a wide array of tools and resources that will help you design the perfect image you need for your blog posts.
Canva is one of my favorite tools for designing cool images for my blog posts.
Even though I’m not a graphic designer, my images still look attractive.
You can’t create a long-form content and wait for visitors to come. They won’t come.
You need to go out there and promote your content if you want it to succeed.
Don’t just tweet it once and expect it to go crazy on Twitter. You need to constantly be tweeting it and reaching out to influencers to share it with their followers.
You need to get a lot of backlinks to your content. Or, it won’t rank on search engines.
Except there’s a zero competition for your target keyword on Google, you’ll need links.
You may also want to reach out to anyone who have shared similar contents before, asking them to share your content.
Promotion is the key to successful long-form contents.
So are you promoting your contents enough for them to become successful?
If not, you need to start learning how to promote your content well.