A Practical Guide to Writing Long-Form SEO Blog Posts
Long-form SEO blog posts benefit any business where expertise matters, from specialty coffee to a sales engagement platform. But if you or the marketing team haven’t written long-form content before, where do you start? And how can you make a success of it?
Let’s talk about how you can make a strategy for long-form SEO blog content and how you can make a success of it.
What is long-form content?
Long-form SEO blog posts are about 1,000 to 10,000 words long. You might read studies about the exact “optimal” word count for SEO purposes. But that matters less than the quality of the blog. The purpose of long-form content is to deliver value to the reader. This is great for B2B companies who are looking to educate their readers about complex decisions, but there’s a lot of room for B2C content as well.
To create valuable content, you’ll have to start by clearly defining the needs of your target audience. From there, you can plan your content strategy.
Planning your long-form blog posts
Some marketers will hesitate to get into long-form content. Even if they have talented creatives around, they don’t think it scales relative to the time invested. That’s true… if you don’t start with a solid, scalable content strategy.
If you’re a startup eCommerce business, an effective eCommerce content strategy doesn’t have to take weeks of planning and discussion with the marketing team. If you’re starting from nothing, you could have something workable in an afternoon.
An easy way to start is to look at what your competitors are doing. Look at the topics covered in their long-form content and where they’re posting it. Make a note of what topics are done and, in some cases, overdone. Not only can you benefit from all their hard work but you’ll probably identify “gaps in the market” they’re not talking about. These are the subjects you can cover.
Next, it’s time to think about SEO and keywords. The cost for SEO doesn’t have to be higher than a small investment of time researching these. Keywords are the terms people search online, like “Indian restaurants New York” or “best wireless earphones 2021”.
You need to understand what your target audience is searching for. Format your keywords to the kinds of searches they might be making like “web design best practices” or “best SaaS landing pages”. If your page matches those terms, you’ll be in a good position to get in front of your audience.
Look again at your competitors’ subjects and in particular their article titles. If they’ve done their market research, you’ll find some common phrases turning up. Google Search Console will show you the keywords that are leading people to your site already. That might give you some more ideas. Think about the frequently asked questions you receive from customers and note those down as potential keyword ideas.
The more specific to your industry, company, or audience your keywords are, the better. The ideal scenario is that your audience searches for a keyword only they would search for. Then they find multiple helpful, detailed articles by you on that very topic.
SEO is a winner-take-all field. Google surfaces millions of results per search, but almost nobody looks past the first page. You might want to aim for “long-tail keywords”, an industry term for keywords with a high search volume but low competition.
A local SEO online store strategy would be very locally targeted. If they’re a specialty coffee store in New York, they’re not going to compete on “best coffee”. “Best coffee store New York” is a little better. “Robusta coffee New York” is getting close to a target audience, which is what you’re aiming for.
With all this in mind, it’s a good idea to review the content you’ve posted before. See where you can improve your SEO. You were probably going in the right direction, but a refined keyword strategy in mind can help you get there quickly. See if you can break a broad article down into smaller posts more narrowly-targeted at certain keywords.
If you’re struggling to come up with content ideas, a good strategy is to use the advantages only you have. Big platforms like Stripe collect data on payments worldwide, so they might as well turn those insights into blog content. If you’re a small B2B SaaS company, is one of your clients a well-known business in your industry niche? A glowing case study can make both of you look good.
SEO is a fast-paced and strategic game, so you want your content to be evergreen and relevant in a world where content is regularly churned out. This means it’ll be valuable and shareable for years to come.
Writing your blog posts
Once you have your keywords and your content ideas it’s time to get writing, right?
Maybe, but if you want to be producing content on a regular basis, you need to speed up the process where you can. This is where the outline comes in.
Writing even a rough, bullet-pointed outline of your blog post will save you lots of time. Most of that is down to eliminating errors that could come up later. An outline lets you take a “top-down” approach to your blog post rather than navigating from beginning to end. Think of how a painter might begin with a rough sketch before they start filling in color.
By writing your post’s main argument in outline form, you know you’re not going to run out of things to say partway through. Once you have this top-down view, you might see that part of your blog post’s argument doesn’t flow very well. An outline lets you rearrange sections very easily, but it’ll also help you check if your post’s SEO is in order at a glance.
Your main keywords for this article should appear in the title of the page (the text that appears in the browser tab), the page’s meta description (the text below your title in Google search results) and in the article’s main heading.
Practically, this means an article about how your audience can improve business processes should have “improve business processes” in the title. Include your “secondary” keywords in the article’s subheadings and mention them a couple of times in your text where appropriate.
If you’ve planned for specific links to go in this post, either to your own site or the site you’re guest-blogging on, you can make sure they’re included in the outline. Linking to well-known domains can enhance your post by sourcing your data or otherwise backing up your ideas. This will also make your content look authoritative and valuable to the search engines’ web crawlers.
As with your keywords, the “anchor text” people click on to follow your links should be worded like a relevant search term. As with other SEO efforts, the aim isn’t so much about gaming the system as it is getting your content in front of the people who are looking for it.
If you have a specific word count you want to meet, a good rule of thumb is that your outline should be about half that word count. Since all your post’s “technical” requirements are specified in the outline, you now just have to worry about drafting good content. This is great for you if you’re the writer, but it’s also a good way for marketing managers to delegate posts to employees.
Don’t sweat the first draft too much. Any writer will tell you that most of writing is editing. Once you’ve got your ideas down you can give them as much refinement as they need in the next stage.
Editing your posts
You want to look like an expert in your blog post, so avoiding an embarrassing typo is essential. Spellchecker can only catch so much, so you want to run your article by a more thorough program like Grammarly. Grammarly will catch spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors that your standard spell checker won’t.
In a long-form blog, it’s essential you keep a clear, easy-to-read style. Don’t be too formal and don’t use industry jargon without explaining it first. The free web app Hemingway is great for cutting down complex sentences and eliminating unnecessary cruft.
Readers will be put off by big blocks of text. Keep paragraphs to five lines maximum and try to break your content up with subheadings and visual content like images and videos. If your reader gets distracted and clicks over to another tab, you want to make it easy for them to find their place again.
Sharing your posts
You’ll likely be posting blogs to your site and sharing to your own social channels. But there are plenty of other options you should look into. In a B2B context, LinkedIn articles are a great way to meet your target audience where they are and offer you good analytics.
Guest blogs are a great way to get your brand in front of new, qualified audiences. Industry-specific outlets like SaaS sites will often do paid or free guest blogs. If you can syndicate the same piece of content across multiple sites, even better. This means you can scale up your content marketing operation without actually having to write more of it.
The importance of content
Good SEO is important for any company, but for smaller ones, it can be the thing that gets them their initial success. In the digital age, companies can’t afford to not have an SEO strategy. Long-form SEO blog posts are a crucial part of that, and it’s easier to start up and scale up a content strategy around that than many would assume.
Koa Frederick – accelerate agency
Koa Frederick is the Senior Vice President of SaaS strategy at accelerate agency, a Marketing SaaS agency who exclusively partners with enterprise tech companies to scale their SEO and content marketing. Koa has extensive experience in growing SaaS brands via organic leads and loves to write in her spare time. Here is her LinkedIn.