Here at Embryo, we’re mad when it comes to effective longform content – I’ve been part of the content team for almost a year now and I can honestly say that I’ve never seen another company or agency that utilises content in the way that we do. With that said, it’s no big surprise to see the results that we consistently obtain for our clients either; the best strategy will always reap the most reward in the end. With our content strategy being so different to that used elsewhere, I thought it would be a good idea to give you a rundown of how to write effective longform content, or at least our opinions on the matter.
In this post, you’ll find something that almost resembles a guide to writing content, but more in the mental sense than the physical sense; we all know how to type words onto a screen, but it’s the way that you tackle specific key decisions that make the difference between good content and great content.
If you want to work with our talented content team here at Embryo, give us a call or drop us a message via our contact form and we’ll get in touch to discuss ways that we can elevate your presence and really improve your content from all angles.
Use keyword research to your advantage, but always use your gut
One of the things that everyone is aware of when it comes to creating content is the importance of keywords; they’re the cornerstone of what we do and without good keyword research, the page will likely fall flat on its face. Of course, that’s not to say that keyword research is the only thing that you need to keep in mind when you’re crafting content – keywords are just the tip of the iceberg and research can only take you so far. When it comes to target keywords, I think your gut should play a major role in your decision making, but only if it aligns with stats to back it up. What I mean by that is this:
The tools that we use to find and analyse keywords aren’t always 100% accurate – they’re deciphered using algorithms – which means there are instances where your gut feeling on a keyword may be more accurate than the monthly search number that your tool has quoted to you.
A great example of this is when a term is beginning to gain a large amount of traffic due to world events, such as the term “hybrid conferences” during the dark days of lockdown. With in-person events cancelled, hybrid events and hybrid conferences became the go-to way to stay connected and host meetings or networking events without putting anyone in danger. Because of this, we know the search volume is going to rise. However, the tools were telling us that nobody uses those terms (stupid, right!) – so, how do you tackle this issue? Your number one asset in these situations is balance; try to find and use relevant terms with genuine search volume statistics as well as using the phrases you know are about to rocket. This way, your covering every base and setting yourself up for success in the short term AND long term.
Keywords aren’t just primary, there’s a whole sphere of ontology to incorporate too
Ontology is something that’s heavily related to keyword targetting and research, but different enough (or important enough, however you see it) to warrant its own section within this post. Ontology is essentially all of the phrases and topics around your key term that give it relevancy and meaning. Think of a spider’s web – one single strand of the web doesn’t really hold any weight at all and it doesn’t lead to anything, it just sort of hangs there. This is EXACTLY what your site pages do if you aren’t using intelligent interlinking and a wide range of ontological phrases! When you start to use well-crafted anchor text within your pages and building ontology into your work, you start to create a full spider’s web of content – all interlinked, all connected, and much stronger as a whole than it was on its own.
A big part of this boils down to intent and the desire to gain information on not just the search topic, but the topics that surround it or create the issue that you’re seeking a solution for. Here’s an example of how ontology could be used to expand your coverage of a topic, create a deeper web of content, and provide the maximum amount of relevant information to the user and search engines:
Take the term ‘bad credit car finance’ – if you were to search this, you’d probably expect lots of car finance companies to appear on the search page, talking about bad credit car finance, and you’d have assumed correctly. So if everyone is looking to rank for the term ‘bad credit car finance’, how can you compete? The answer is ONTOLOGY. You’ll compete by creating content on the topics related to ‘bad credit car finance’, such as the causes of bad credit, ways to improve credit, and the best cars to finance on bad credit – whilst none of these topics is ‘bad credit car finance’, by creating content for these pages and linking it into your main ‘bad credit car finance’ page, you start to show that you have a deeper understanding of the topic and you assert yourself as a thought leader on the topic.
Big pages of content can be challenging – break them up!
As part of our content strategies here at Embryo, we create some huge pages of content, and I mean HUGE! On occasion, we have seen our biggest pages hit quantities of 20,000+ words, with subpages of around 7000 words a piece supporting it – when we say big pages, we mean BIG pages. Of course, writing one of these monster pages is no easy task and it takes a lot of thought, effort, and research to keep things fresh and moving without coming too stale. In my experience, “word count fear” is something that a lot of writers experience – the need to hit a high word count without any idea how you’re going to manage it.
So how do we manage it? In reality, it’s simple – we use frameworks, intelligent page splitting, and a little sprinkle of something we’re calling ‘The Embryo Technique’ (which you’ll be hearing more about in the coming months, so keep your eyes and ears open), which all combine to help make large word counts seem much less daunting. I like to think of big pages as a series of mini-blog posts – each coming in at around 300 words each. Each of these mini blogs has its own title, which becomes the header tags on the larger page, and explain a small section of the larger topic that’s being covered. By writing this way, all you need to do to hit 1000 words is to write three of these mini-articles and an introduction; it really is that simple!
Intent, intent, intent: Who are you targeting and WHY?
In recent months, intent is something we’ve been focusing on a lot at Embryo – we know how to write great content, but now we’re really starting to drill down into the specifics to create strategies that don’t just target keywords and specific audiences, but also users with a specific type of search intent too. By tailoring a piece of content to a specific user intent, such as making a purchase action, you are able to take more control over the tone and styling that you use – users at different stages of the customer journey will often have different types of intent, so it’s vital that you’re targeting the content at each step to resonate with the right kind of user.
For example, think about the process of buying a new pair of shoes. Your search history will probably end up looking something like this:
1st search: “Men’s shoes” – this is an incredibly broad search term with very little purchase intent. A user using this type of search is primarily looking for information and will make their purchase decision further down the line after they decide on the style of shoe they want, the brand they want to buy, and even the vendor that they want to use to purchase the shoe too. At this stage, you want to deliver content that informs the reader about the latest trends, the most affordable shoes, or even the most comfortable shoes on the market.
2nd search: “best men’s trainers” – at this stage, the user has made a decision regarding the type of shoe that they want to purchase, so you can delve a little further into the topic area and offer some more detailed information relating to trainers. At this point, the main intent is still to gather information and to find the best trainers, so tailor your content to reflect this.
3rd search: “Asics GT-2000 9” – at this stage, a decision to purchase a certain trainer has been made and it’s time to spend less effort explaining why you should buy a certain shoe and more effort explaining why you are the company to buy the shoe from. In content at this level, such as product pages, we see much more direct sales copy that’s designed to influence the user to make their purchase now rather than later. In these pages, you’ll look to strike a balance between the benefits of buying this specific product and also explaining why you are the best vendor to purchase this shoe from. If all goes well, the next step should be a conversion or sale.
I hope this guide to writing effective longform content has helped to guide you in the right direction or debunk a few points of confusion that you may have been facing. If you need further assistance with your content strategy, please get in touch with a member of the expert team here at Embryo, who will be happy to assist you with any content marketing queries.