By: Adam Rowan
You’ve already heard the aphorism “content is king.” In this day and age, though, the kingdom is full of soothsayers, prognosticators, and outright charlatans who claim to have an “inside track” on what makes great content. They say they have a formula that guarantees success — for a price. A few are just deluding themselves, but most of them are outright lying.
There are plenty of so-called “gurus” who make you pay to find out their “secrets” for how to build a website, write content, optimize for search, and market your brand. In reality, the starting point is simple, and the advice is free to give: When you develop your marketing strategy, start with your website first.
Your website will lay the groundwork for all of the marketing campaigns that follow. As such, you need to develop a distinct identity for your brand that presents your business identity and ability to serve customers. In most cases, this requires more than a series of webpages with a few hundreds words of text. To stand out in today’s marketplace, your business needs to provide substantive information that users can trust, in order to persuade them that your services and/or products are the optimal solution.
For those just starting out with content marketing, this is no doubt a daunting task. Where to begin? At Page 1 Solutions, we have gathered data on a viable content marketing strategy that can help both established businesses and newcomers: long-form content consolidation.
What Is Long-Form Content?
Unlike traditional web pages of a few hundred words, long-form pages can comprise thousands of words and multiple topics and questions related to a particular area of your business. They are an effective way to serve the three core audiences accessing your website:
- Customers, who need to know what services and products you offer, as well as what sets you apart
- The search engines, which crawl your site for ranking signals that indicate the authority of your website compared to domains with similar information, as well as how completely you address your consumers’ needs (as expressed by search queries)
- Your brand (and, by extension, competitors), where you promote the history and unique selling proposition of your business in order to define who you are and present your accomplishments
It might seem difficult to serve all of these audiences at once, and it often is. However, long-form content provides you with both the space and format to provide multiple kinds of information about your business while serving website users and search engines — all within an individual piece of content.
Multiple SEO companies have tried to identify the ideal word count to rank high in search results. Research from HubSpot indicates that the average word count for pages with the most organic traffic is around 2,500 words.
This might seem like a tall order, whether you’re writing the content yourself or paying a professional or employee to do it for you. However, one of the best parts of long-form content is that it can be totally original or, with a little editing and formatting, comprise elements from multiple pages.
At Page 1 Solutions, we have seen multiple instances where our clients’ websites experience increased search rankings, traffic, and leads when we implement a content consolidation strategy. One client’s website saw a 287% increase in pageviews when we consolidated and cleaned up disparate content into one long-form page.
So How Will I Know Which Pages Need Consolidation?
When evaluating prospective long-form content options, the first thing you should look at is the site structure, not the text on the page. If your menu navigation is clumsy and has too many links, visitors to the site are going to get confused or frustrated and leave.
With the 287% case study above, we used the client’s website redesign to start thinking about a fresh start. Some of the main pages for priority services and keywords had as many as a dozen supporting pages. Many of these pages had reliable, still accurate information, but the presentation for the user experience was poor.
So, we developed a 20-month plan to restructure the site and streamline the content after launch. We believed that this strategy, combined with the client’s website redesign, would improve organic traffic and engagement with the website.
Scrutinize the Search Results
The client in this case is a law firm in Florida. We relied upon our knowledge of the legal industry and the specific fields the client serves to develop our long-form pages according to the high-level keyword terms the client targets, as well as user-generated search queries.
Exact-match keywords have dominated SEO discussions for a long time, but Google’s move toward semantic search has required marketers and SEO professionals to invest more optimization attention to the broad range of questions and conversations happening around the businesses and industries they serve. When you develop, create, consolidate, or repurpose content, you need to think about both the high-level “vanity” keywords that drive traffic, as well as supporting queries that generate less interest but can bring more qualified visitors to your site.
In our long-form content case study, we looked at data for the supporting pages and compared the metrics to the primary practice area page they served. In the majority of cases, the supporting pages tended to be shorter, more narrowly focused, and (in some cases) driven by a current event that had lost its currency.
Furthermore, with rare exception, the primary practice area page dominated the supporting content in terms of traffic, performance, and search rankings. As a result, we realized that the disparate pages could be better served reinforcing the high-level content, instead of drawing users away from it.
Below are a few of the metrics we review in Google Analytics and Google Search Console when building a long-form content consolidation strategy:
- Pageviews: Overall traffic is an indicator of how many users are finding your page. If one or more pages contains valuable information but hasn’t been accessed in a year, that signals that the content would be better served as part of a more popular page.
- Bounce rate: Eventually, visitors are going to leave your website. However, if they leave after visiting only one page (“bouncing,” in Google’s vocabulary), you might be able to keep them on the website longer, get them to visit more pages, and even convert into a lead with streamlined, accessible content on a single page
- Keyword performance and search query visibility: For many businesses, organic SEO is the most cost-effective marketing option. Therefore, if your highest-level service pages are underperforming or you’re not ranking in the results, think about how to bolster the word count; after all, according to Backlinko, “the average word count of a Google first page result is 1,890 words.”
Aren’t Long-Form Pages More Difficult to Use?
If all you’re doing is copy-pasting the text from each supporting page onto the single long-form page, then yes, the page is going to be difficult to read and tough to navigate. When we create long-form pages, we introduce user-friendly features to keep the text engaging and digestible. These include:
- Anchor links within the page to facilitate navigation to specific sections
- Images and custom photos/visual content to break up the text
- Short paragraphs, bullet points, and subheads to vary the length and look of the text
Remember: Your goal is to inform visitors, keep them on the website, and ideally earn their business. When you create long-form content, don’t forget to integrate call-to-action elements like embedding your contact form or including your phone number in the text. Once you create the long-form pages, you can track the leads through these and other channels to see how the consolidation of content affects your conversions.
Making changes to your website doesn’t immediately result in improvements to your rankings or how visitors interact with your site. It takes time for Google to crawl your website, identify the changes you’ve made, and deliver the page for the right user queries.
But, over a fairly brief period of time, you should see growth on multiple metrics. For example, the page that saw a 287% boost in traffic on our client’s website took 1 month to reach that benchmark. Other pages, however, took 3 months or more for us to see an increase in traffic and/or improved rankings in search results.
Ultimately, a long-form content strategy enables you to build your authority as a service provider. Customers will recognize the information you provide and engage with the accessible presentation, while search engines will find quality signals in the length, depth, and breadth of the user queries you address.
Whether you’re just starting to develop content for your website or you’re an established brand looking to improve your content marketing, the benefits of a long-form consolidation strategy are vast. We have discovered the benefits of this strategy firsthand, and your agency or business can do the same.
About the Author: Adam Rowan is the content specialist at Page 1 Solutions, LLC. He has written for media and marketing outlets in multiple industries for more than 10 years, including publications in the news, business, public relations and advertising, entertainment, and other industries.