February 14th, 2017

How to write longer blogs without losing content quality

person at computer with note pads and phone near work station

Quantity and Quality: it’s not an either/or proposition.

If you read our recent blog post about the benefits of long-form content, you may be left wondering how you can possibly stretch your short-form posts into worthwhile longer reads. We know the feeling. If you’ve been trained to believe that brevity is a virtue, the idea of spinning a respectable 300-word post into something nearly four times its length can feel nauseating. How do you make a piece longer without turning it into complete fluff?

It’s good to be focused on content quality. After all, the end goal isn’t to provide more content but more quality. That the two seem to be highly correlated (as per user engagement feedback) indicates that content quantity is a factor in content quality. Or in other words: the more information the better.

So how can you write longer blogs that will attract readership, promote engagement, and maintain your rigorous standards for content quality? Here’s where we suggest you start.

Make your summary your outline.

Think about the structure of your typical blog post: much like the 3-part essay you learned in school, you start with an introduction, pull together a paragraph of body copy, and round it off with a conclusion. That format still works, only you need to elaborate on the main points in your body paragraphs.

Look at places where you may have glossed over a point and take time to clarify your meaning. If you have bullet points, think about how you could give more detailed information. If you’ve included a graph or a table, don’t assume it explains itself. Using your outline to create scannable headers will boost your readability as well as providing you a framework to structure your blog, and both of these will help your content quality.

Do your research.

If you’re short on ideas, your best move is to head for the Internet where a bit of intelligent browsing can break you out of your rut. Google the thing you’re trying to write about, and see if anyone else is offering advice on the subject. You may agree with that advice, in which case you can share it with your readers. Or, you may think that is terrible advice, and with any luck your passion on the subject will easily fill your available space.

Either way, your blog posts will benefit from added perspective. Over time, you may also find that this added research contributes more blog ideas to your pool of topics. And as you read more, you expand your knowledge, making it easier for you to go in-depth. After a while, you may find yourself easily contributing long-form content articles in almost the same amount of time it took you to generate short-form ones: a read win-win.

Challenge your assumptions.

Think critically about your topic. What are possible objections to your post? What are common user complaints? How can you address frequently asked questions? What assumptions have you made about your readers? Are they at an entry-level, meaning they need some of your concepts broken down a bit more? Or are they a peer group, meaning you can go further into the weeds than on other topics?

Another way to look at this is through point and counterpoint. Long-form content is an excellent space to address user hesitations. They’re like the elephant in the room, only now, instead of avoiding them, you can tackle them head-on. Revel in your new-found opportunity to persuade. Turn those bugs into features. You have all the space you need.

Provide examples.

Anything you can do to illustrate your point will create a richer content experience for your readers. That could mean diverting some budget internally to create a nice graph or infographic. Or it could mean scouting the Internet for examples and taking some screenshots. If you’re providing any sort of tutorial, it will almost certainly mean pictures or screengrabs of various stages of the process.

Examples provide your readership with something more concrete to grasp in what might otherwise feel like an overly theoretical topic. They also back up your point and show you know what you’re talking about. Some solid examples will do more to bulk up your post with rich, quality content, but they’re usually harder to pull together. The most efficient way to do this is by keeping your eyes peeled as you research your topic. When you see something relevant, keep track of it by copying the link into a spreadsheet, or grabbing a screenshot and saving it into your blog folder. Even if you don’t use it right away, it can provide excellent resources to come back to later.

Bring it all together.

The longer your post gets, the more spread out the information becomes. Your readers may get to the end and feel like they need a summary of what they just read—essentially, the short-form post you wanted to write at the beginning. Give it to them! If they’ve come to you as a reference point or for research, having a bullet-point recap serves as a useful memory tool to help them recall the main points of your article.

If you’ve ever read through a recipe blog, you’ve probably seen this in action. Recipe bloggers often start with a story—something to describe why they’ve decided to share this particular recipe with you. Then they chronicle their entire cooking process, usually with plenty of pictures and more tips and information. They share the results, and then they finish off their post with the recipe condensed and written in standard recipe card form. This is key: many of us enjoy the story behind the recipe while sitting at our computers. But no one busy in the kitchen wants to search through paragraphs of text to find the next step in the directions.

Use your short-form thinking to bring structure to your long-form content.

Following our own advice, we would summarize the above as follows:

  • Take time to explain your thinking rather than leaving it in a series of bullet points.
  • Invest in researching your posts—it will pay off many times over in content quality.
  • Put yourself in the position of your readership: are you assuming too much?
  • Challenge your own point of view. Provide counterpoints and address them.
  • Give examples of what you’re talking about. Include pictures, links, tutorials.
  • At either the beginning or the end, give scannable summary of your main points.

Remember, short-form and long-form don’t contradict each other in principle. The short-form ideals of direct, concise, writing still apply. But in long-form copy, you’re taking more of these ideas and either building upon them, or stringing them together to form a relevant chain of thought. Either way, you can reap the benefits of long-form copy without sacrificing content quality.

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