25 Ingredients of Long-Form Blog Posts That Deliver SEO Results
I have been a fan of long-form content for a while now, and if you are a regular reader of my blog you know that my posts tend to have a lot of meat to them. The days of throwing up 500 word articles and hoping to rank in the SERPs for long-tail keyword variations are long gone.
Not only do the search engines favor long-form content, but it helps to keep your website visitors engaged longer, which leads to more social shares, earned links, and conversions. To sum it up, long-form content will help you make more money.
While some people understand how to make long-form content work for them, many still aren’t seeing any results, simply because they are doing it wrong. It’s a lot more than just throwing a bunch of words together until you reach at least 2,000 words. While the success formula isn’t difficult, it does involve more than just word count.
I decided to put together an in-depth blog post that breaks down all the ingredients of a successful long-form blog post. Meaning, one that will benefit your SEO and help you increase the authority of your website and improve your SERP results.
Enough rambling.. you’ll see great SEO Results following these tips..
1. Intelligent Keyword Research
Content serves two main purposes. First, it gives your website visitors something to dive into, and when done right it will make them feel more comfortable about doing business with you, and it can even help to eliminate standard questions that consumers have before they make a purchase. Second, it can help you attract organic search traffic in the SERPs.
In order to attract the right kind of traffic, you need to be targeting the right keywords, and it all starts with intelligent keyword selection. You need to ignore search volume and focus on terms that make sense. If you rely only on search volume you might see a lot of visitors, but they won’t convert because they were just seeking information. There is a big difference between someone looking for pictures of a particular model of car and someone wanting to buy the car. Ten visitors that are looking to buy are much more valuable than 1,000 visitors that are just seeking information.
2. Long-Tail Keywords That Have “Buyer Intent”
I mentioned intelligent keyword selection above, and long-tail keywords allow you to really target those terms that have complete buyer intent. These are the keywords that you should be able to come up with based on your expertise and knowledge of the product or service you sell.
You aren’t going to locate these with keyword tools or the Google Keyword Planner. Don’t focus on search volume, because these terms are going to bring you sales. Imagine if you can come up with a list of 100 long-tail terms that have massive buyer intent. Even if each one only has 10 searches a month, this strategy would bring you 1,000 buyers month after month. These long-tails will be much easier to rank for, so with a little effort you can really increase your sales and create a consistent flow of monthly quality traffic. Solid on-site optimization can rank these types of long-tail terms.
3. Headings That Feature Your Target Keyword
You will want to make sure you include your target keyword in H2 and H3 header tags. Make sure that you write headings that make sense and introduce the content below it. If they look spammy they can really ruin a great piece of content.
You don’t have to include them at the very beginning, so focus on writing headlines that are grammatically correct and make sense, allowing them to be read naturally. If your target keyword won’t fit in naturally, use a variation. This is a great opportunity to include LSI keywords, helping you to pull in even more traffic.
You only need to include your main keyword in H2 or H3 once per post, so don’t go overboard and make it look spammy. What you can do though, is include variations and additional long-tail keywords. Just because you are only targeting one keyword per page doesn’t mean you won’t pull traffic from long-tail variations. I have seen pages pull traffic from over 100 variations of a main keyword because the content was so in-depth.
4. Network of Influencers Ready to Share Your Content
One of the fastest way to build your website authority, traffic numbers, and success, is by having influencers share your content. You can pay them to do this, or you can take time to build relationships within your industry.
If you are just starting out, I would suggest a mix of both. Building relationships takes time, so you can’t expect big name influencers to automatically start sharing your content with their valuable followers. For immediate results and traffic, offer to pay them. This can help bridge the gap of no results and consistent referral traffic.
Rather than just offering money, you can also see if you have anything of value you can offer up as a bribe. An introduction, a referral, or products or service. There are plenty of ways to get creative, but always strive to build meaningful business relationships within your industry. They will end up helping you in more ways than just with your content and SEO.
5. Schema Mark-Up
Do you think you are the only person writing long-form content that is properly optimized and provides value? Heck no. Depending on how competitive your niche is, there could be hundreds, if not thousands of new blog posts being published every single day. Content is a very competitive part of marketing. You need to take every step to make sure you have a competitive advantage, which is the reason I decided to write this blog post.
One way to draw more eyes to your posts is by using Schema mark-up in your blog posts. A lot of people will just use it on product pages, thinking that star reviews are the answer. What many don’t know is that you can include Schema mark-up on any page on your website, including blog posts. Not only does Schema help your click-through rate in the SERPs, but it helps to tell Google what your content is about. Wouldn’t it make sense to give Google all the possible information you can, in an attempt to have it ranked as highly as possible. Of course is does!
6. Outbound Links to Authority Websites (and those you want to exchange links with)
Linking out to reference points on authority websites helps you two ways. It shows Google that you are linking to high authority sources, meaning your content is more than likely to be of the same high quality standard, and it also gives your readers additional information.
When you do link out to other websites, make sure you set the links to open in a new window. Failing to do this can kill your bounce rate and average time on site stats, which impact your SEO. When they open in a new window the user doesn’t “leave” your site like they would if the outbound links opened in the same window.
You never want to link to a website that offers the same product or service as you do. That would be like handing the competition sales on a silver platter. You want to link to reference sites that are authority sites, like news and media outlets.
7. SEO-Friendly URL
A SEO-friendly URL is much easier for Google to crawl and use to identify what your content is about. If it crawls a URL that looks like “blog/may?3-15-2017-jhsdfghsdfghsdfghjsd” it provides nothing when it comes to helping it understand what the page is about.
If the URL is something like “/blog/how-to-rank-for-difficult-keywords” there is no question what the page is about. Google knows, just by crawling the title, that the page is about ranking difficult keywords.
This strategy also makes your content more appealing in the SERPs. When the individual performing the search scans the results and sees a result that has his or her search query in the URL it increases the chance of them clicking on it. More click will help your content rank higher, and in the event that you are in a lower position, something as simple as the URL structure can help you pull clicks away from the pages that rank above you.
8. LSI Keyword Variations
Latent semantic indexing (LSI) refers to keywords that are similar to your main keyword. You want to include LSI keywords in all of your content, as it helps to pull in more organic traffic without having to produce additional pages of content on related topics. It’s much better to publish long-form content with several LSI keywords worked into it rather than publishing smaller articles for each term.
By including several LSI keywords, it shows Google that your content is relevant to multiple keywords in a similar niche or search query. This will help you to rank organically for a wide range of terms.
9. Strong Internal Blog Linking
When you are writing long-form blog posts it gives you plenty of opportunities to link to other posts within your website, which is referred to as internal linking. This gives you a lot of SEO benefit by recycling your authority throughout your pages. This essentially spreads the love, helping to push up all your content higher up in the SERPs.
If you have a great post that has been linked to by major media sites, you can then link out to other internal pages and give them some added boost from the powerful authority juice. This also keeps your visitors on your site longer, by introducing them to additional pieces of content (information) that they can read. The longer they stay on your website and the more pages they interact with, the greater the chance of them converting and the better your SEO, since average time on site and bounce rate contribute to Google’s algorithm.
10. SEO-Friendly Page Title
Page titles are crawled by Google, just like the article body and the URL, and a title that contains your keyword is going to help Google identify what your content is about. You don’t want a spammy looking and sounding title, so try to work your keyword in naturally. If it doesn’t work, use a long-tail or LSI variation to help you pull relevant traffic from the organic SERPs.
Your page title also needs to entice people to click through to your post. When someone is looking at the first page of results in Google they have several ads and ten website pages to select from. While some people are naturally going to be attracted to the top listing, many can be persuaded to click your listing if your title is strong enough. Get creative and put yourself in the shoes of your customer. What won’t they be able to resist? Figure that out and create your title around it.
11. Meta Description with Click-Through Rate (CTR) In Mind
You should notice a trend by now if you have read this entire post to this point. Optimizing your long-form content to entice clicks in the organic SERPs is a high priority, and this ingredient also applies to that strategy.
Meta descriptions have absolutely no impact on your search results in terms of having a direct relation to Google’s algorithm. But, while the actual text in your meta description won’t help you rank, pulling clicks will. Let me explain. An attractive and enticing meta description works just like your URL and page title; helping to pull in clicks, regardless of your position in the SERPs.
When Google notices that a particular listing is receiving a high percentage of clicks for specific search terms, they are going to reward that listing by moving it up in the results. In their eyes, it’s a listing that provides more value to their users, which is their ultimate focus.
12. Include Your Main keyword in The Body of Your Content
Back in the day, there was a term that dominated content, and that was “keyword density.” This referred to the number of times a keyword showed up in your content. Back then, 5% and 7% were not abnormal. That means, for every 100 words of content, your keyword would appear within it 5 to 7 times. It is crazy to think that practice was normal.
Today, that would get you penalized and slapped out of the SERPs. When I talk about long-form content I am referring to content with at least 2,000 words. For a post length of 2,000 words I would include the main keyword 4 to 5 times. By old standards that would be a keyword density of 0.20% to 0.25%, which is a far cry from what used to be considered standard practice back in the days of 500 word articles. Also, only include your keyword this amount of times if it can be done in a natural way. Never compromise your content quality to stuff it full of keywords.
13. Don’t Overuse Your Keyword (You Want Natural KW Density)
This coincides with the last point. While you want to make sure your content has a few occurrences of your main keyword, you do not want to stuff your content and face two dangers: having Google penalize your website for keyword stuffing and turn off your visitors because your content reads like outsourced garbage found on lower quality websites.
If you are writing your own content, this isn’t an issue because you have complete control over every aspect of the publishing process. But, if you are hiring a freelancer or a content company, you need to make sure they understand how SEO works in terms of today’s up to date best practices. They also need to write content for your visitor’s. The price you pay dictates a lot. If you are looking for content at $1 per 100 words, you are in for a rude awakening when it comes to quality. That price will generally get you content that is spun and computer generated. It is barely readable and will do nothing to help your SEO or make an impression on your site visitors.
Quality content isn’t cheap. Experienced writers, especially niche-focused ones, will cost a pretty penny, but they are worth their weight in gold when you connect with the right one. They essentially become a voice of your business.
14. Mobile-Friendly Content Font
This doesn’t relate to the actual content, words-wise, but rather the CMS you use and the fonts that are pre-set in your theme. A lot of pre-made themes allow you to select from several font packages, but a custom theme will generally have just one font style built in. You want to make sure they fonts you are using on your blog make it very easy for your visitors to read your content on even the smallest mobile screens.
What you might think is a fancy or edgy font, might be a complete nightmare to read on smaller screen sizes, causing an unpleasant user experience. The same goes for heading fonts. I have seen some H2 fonts that are so big and bold that they are impossible to read on mobile. When you provide such a poor experience, you not only lose that potential conversion that moment, but you also eliminate the possibility of repeat and future conversions.
15. Fast-Loading Content
If you are publishing long-form content that is between 2,000 and 5,000 words and you have a website that loads as slow as a pig, you are in trouble. When you take into consideration all the formatting, links and images in a large piece of content, these are all things that can slow the load time.
You have to make sure you do everything possible to increase your speed. Not only does it impact your SEO, but nobody will stick around waiting for a page to load these days. Some options to help:
Use a dedicated server: The shared hosting plans may be inexpensive, but you end up paying for it when it comes to performance. You are sitting on the same server as hundreds of other websites. If they are being attacked it can affect your site as well. A dedicated server means you have all the server’s resources for your own use. You will never be in danger of experiencing down time or slow speeds due to another website.
Use a CDN: A content delivery network serves your website in locations across the world, so when someone access it, they are presented with the one closest to their location. This increases speed tremendously.
Use a caching plugin: If you have a WordPress website or blog, install a caching plugin. This is an easy way to speed up your website. I would suggest you only use the basic caching features. If you aren’t an experienced developer, the wrong advanced settings can actually harm your speed.
Run speed tests: GTmetrix is my favorite speed test, and it’s free to use. It will assign you a score along with a list of suggestions to improve your load time. Try to get your page load time under two seconds.
16. Keyword in The First 2-3 Sentences
The content that appears in the first two to three sentences on each blog post influences how Google interprets what the page is about. This makes it very important that you include your focus keyword at the very beginning, but do so in a natural way. I like to also make sure I include a LSI variation very close, because this helps to tell Google what the page should rank for.
When you do this, it’s just the starting point. You need to have solid technical SEO, authority and perfect on-site optimization to really experience the true potential. So many people think they can do one or two things really good and ignore the rest and still rank. It just doesn’t work that way. You have to be very good at everything. Each ingredient on this list contributes to top rankings. You can’t just build links and ignore the rest. You can’t bake a cake with just some of the ingredients; the same theory applies to SEO.
17. Write with Conversion Goals in Mind
When you (or your writer) is creating content, you need to have very specific goals in mind. Are you trying to get the reader to make a purchase on your website after finishing the article? If so, you need to write the article in a way that it qualifies the readers, step by step, and if they reach the end they should be educated and convinced enough to click through to make the purchase.
If your goal is to collect emails, then provide so much value throughout the blog post that they are craving more information at the end. Then, include a simple opt-in form that promises them more value delivered to their email inbox.
What good is it to have content ranking in the SERPs and pulling in qualified traffic if it’s not written in a way that will generate conversions for you? Not every goal has to be conversion focused, either.
You might want the reader to click over to another piece of content, helping your bounce rate and average time on site. Then, the page you push them to could be content with conversion goals in mind. The point is, don’t just blindly write content for the sake of posting new blogs. Always have a predefined goal in mind prior to writing every post.
18. Avoid Spammy Anchor Text in Your Content
I have seen so many good websites ruined because the owners started to internally spam their own website. Once their authority was increased, they started to drop exact match anchor text to their pages and products. Not only does this look really bad, but Google will penalize a website for over optimization of anchor text whether the links appear on other websites or your own. The same rules apply.
Let’s pretend you have a website that sells health supplements. If you are trying to get the reader to click over to a particular product, would you want a link anchor that says, “weight loss pill” or “click here to learn more about this weight loss product”?
Not only will the second option result in more clicks from your visitors, but Google will understand that as a helpful resource link rather than an over optimized anchor designed to game the algorithm.
19. Paid Social Media Promotion Strategy
You can write long-form content all day long, and unless people see it, you will never see any results. If your website is already an authority, then your content will start to attract organic traffic if all of your SEO ingredients are on point. If your website is newer and doesn’t index immediately you will need to use social media to kick start it.
You should allocate at least a couple hundred dollars in Facebook ad spend for every piece of long-form content you publish. While posting your content on your own social profiles is great, and needs to be done, paid promotion puts it in front of a new audience that may not be familiar with you yet. It’s a trickle-down effect: paid social promotion gets you social shares, referral traffic, links, and conversions.
20. Visible Social Share Icons
When visitors share your posts, it is free exposure. Free referral traffic. Free sales. Free exposure. It shocks me that some blogs make it so hard to share their content. You would be surprised at how many people will share your content without you having to ask. If you provide true value, they will want to share it with their social media followers.
Make it easy for them. Include big social share icons at the very end of your content and also on the top. Many people will scroll back up to the top of your page out of habit, so having them up there is a last reminder to them.
21. Word Count of 2,000+
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to what qualifies as long-form content. Personally, I refer to it as anything longer than 2,000 words. This number allows for a lot of information to be packed in, without being too long that the reader gets bored.
One of the biggest mistakes I see with long-form blog posts is failure to break them up into small easy to digest pieces of information. Long paragraphs will push readers away. Use short paragraphs and use headings or numbered lists to make it much easier to get through. Also, using headings and numbers lists allow you to still get your message across if the person decides to skim through your content.
22. Syndication Platforms
Do you want to attract a much larger audience? Using content distribution networks like Outbrain, can get your blog posts in front of millions. You pay each time someone clicks through and lands on your website, but these are people that are interested in what you have to say.
You have probably seen recommended articles at the end of articles on the top sites. Those are sponsored recommendations, and their algorithms place your posts after articles that have similar content. This is where your post titles also come into play. I spoke about allocating some funds to Facebook promotion for each post, and I also suggest allocating some to syndication networks.
23. Provide Value, Solve Problems and Answer Questions
Your content will never produce results, no matter how long it is, unless it provides value. Smart companies use their content as a way to educate their potential customers about the products or services they offer. When done right, you can eliminate the common questions and barriers that get in the way of sales.
If you are able to eliminate those issues before they arise, your visitors are more likely to convert while on your website, rather than leaving. Every visitor has a hard cost tied to them, and most will never return once they leave, making it important that you squeeze out as many conversions as possible.
Ask yourself, “How can we help our customers make buying decisions while they are on our website?” Once you have the answer to that, mold your content strategy around that and watch your business take off.
24. Re-purpose Old Long-Form Content (Schedule in Advance 3-6 Months Out)
You spend a lot of time and money on content. Long-form content takes planning, so you need to throw out the one-and-done mentality. You can’t put effort into promoting it just once. If you do this, you will miss many opportunities.
Use a social media management tool (Hootsuite is good and free) and every time you publish a post log in and schedule it to be shared multiple times over the next few months. Not only does this help you get the most value out of each post, but it gives your social feed activity, eliminating the need to manually share content daily.
25. Build Authority Links to Your Posts
Ahh, good old link building. Links are still numero uno when it comes to Google’s algorithm, and quality over quantity is more important now than it has ever been. If you monitor the SERPs closely, you will see that top ranking pages aren’t necessarily the ones with the most links. A handful of top authority links can propel a page to the top.
Perform manual outreach, use content assets to attract them, or buy them. The point is, you need to add authority links if you want to rank.
If you have been writing longer content but not seeing any results, this post was designed for you. It’s a simple checklist that anyone can follow, which will help you write more effective long-form content.
Remember, SEO doesn’t happen overnight, and content marketing takes time. When I started publishing content the traffic didn’t happen overnight. It took time to build an audience and from there my content was rewarded with social shares and links, which helped to attract more people to my blog. When done right, long-form content can really help your business grow.
If you have any specific questions about writing long-form content, please leave them in the comments section below. Additionally, if you have a success story to share, I’d love to hear how long-form content has helped your business.