The debate over whether or not Google prefers long-form content to short-form content rages on. But you’ll be glad to hear we’re not going to discuss that in this blog.

What is clear is that Google seems to like long-form content, regardless of it’s feelings about shorter pieces. Therefore, if you publish blogs regularly as part of a content marketing strategy, you really should be throwing in some sizeable pieces every once in a while.

Long-form blog posts give you far more space to express yourself and offer really detailed information for your audience. But there’s a problem.

How do you make it readable?
More importantly, how do you tempt people to dive in and read such lengthy pieces of text?

Without further ado, here’s our favourite formatting tips for long-form blog posts:

Use plenty of white space

White space is every blogger’s best friend. If you look above, and indeed further down, you’ll notice that there’s loads of it on this page.

We’ve achieved this almost solely by focusing on writing short, snappy paragraphs; no more than three sentences, max.

And, sometimes, just one.

White space is particularly important when it comes to long-form blogging because it gives the reader’s eyes a rest and enables them to scan the page more easily.

So, don’t be afraid to treat it with the same reverence as you do your words.

Write as though you’re speaking only to the reader

Your long form blog posts should be written in a conversational style.

They’re not white papers or government policy documents, and if you fall into the trap of treating them in that way, people simply won’t read them.

Write every post as though you’re having a one-to-one conversation with the person reading. Make them feel like they’re the only person that matters by using words like ‘you’, ‘you’re’ and ‘your’ judiciously.

These are brilliant words, because every time you use them, you draw the reader in. You’ll notice we’ve done exactly that in this post – just for you.

Use plenty of images

You don’t need to plaster your blog post with images just to ensure it gets read, but a few that are strategically placed will almost certainly aid the reader.

Words and pictures have worked brilliantly together for centuries, so make sure your long-form (and short-form, for that matter) posts are given the visual treatment.

Use plenty of subheadings

There’s no getting away from the fact that certain people visiting your blog (ok, most) will be looking for specific information.

You’ll note in this post that we’ve used a shed load of subheadings, and this is for very good reason. Take them away, and you’re left with countless paragraphs. And, let’s be honest – no one is going to read a blog post like that.

This isn’t a news article – it’s intended to be informative but easily scannable. By using plenty of subheadings, we can break the post up into digestible chunks so that you, the reader, can find exactly what you’re looking for.

Use bullet points

Subheadings are great, but another brilliant companion tactic is to use bullet points.

These are useful where you need to break up more complex pieces of advice or list a bunch of statistics. They’re also great for hammering home a point. For example, if this subheading didn’t include a bullet point list:

  • people may not even bother reading it;
  • it would be entirely at odds with the subheading title; and we wouldn’t be practising what we preach.

Use numbered lists

Numbered lists are great ways to add mini step-by-step guides or instructional sections to long-form blog posts.

It’s good practice to tell the reader how many numbered items will follow an introductory paragraph, too. For example, when constructing numbered lists for a blog post, make sure you ask yourself the following four questions:

1) Is it best served as a numbered list or bunch of bullet points?
2) How many are required? If it feels like too many, you may have discovered an entirely different blog topic!
3) Can you succinctly write each one within two sentences or less?
4) Are there any links you’d like to include to help further the point?

Use block quotes

The words for your long-form blog post don’t just have to come from you.

By inserting block quotes from people or sources relevant to the subject about which you’re writing, you’ll help evidence your thoughts and break things up for the reader.

This works particularly well when you’re trying to motivate the reader or tempt them to make a change to the way they do something. Your words will do a great job of that, but they often need a helping hand.

And, as Helen Keller once said:

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

Spend a decent amount of time on the first three paragraphs

You have very little time to draw people into your long-form blog posts, which is why the first three paragraphs play such a crucial role in the overall proceedings.

In this post, for example, we ease people in with a common thought that is likely to be on their mind if they find it via natural search.

We then offer some reassurance this blog post ‘isn’t like the rest’ before confirming exactly what we’ll be talking about and what’s in it for them.

All in three paragraphs.

If you instead ramble on or tell a whimsical story that has no real relevance to the blog post itself, most people will head elsewhere very quickly indeed.

 

Try and write consistently (but not too rigidly)

Most long form blog posts make it as easy as possible for the reader by writing each section consistently. A common structure you’ll find beneath each subheading within a long-form blog post will be:

  • problem
  • solution to the problem
  • tip for the solution

We’ve followed that loosely here, but you’ll notice it isn’t always the case.

If you’re too rigid with the way you format each section, people might tire of what appears to be a robotic approach to writing. Instead, mix it up a little, but try and remain consistent. The same goes for the size of each section – try and keep them roughly the same so the reader isn’t put off by anything that looks cumbersome further down the page.

Conclusion

Always include a conclusion or something that rounds the post of nicely. A great call-to-action that points people in the direction of additional content (that’s accessed once an email address is handed over, for example) will work well, but you might just need to reaffirm the key points made.

However you finish off your blog post, try and do so as succinctly as you started it and end on a cliff-hanger that promises more of the same in the near future. Who knows, maybe we’ll delve into the best way to format short-form blog posts soon…