Five Reasons Long-Form Content Is Key for B2B

By Tom Went on 28th September 2021

People’s attention spans are apparently getting shorter. We’re told there’s now too much information for people to engage with, understand and interpret in any meaningful way. And the chances of holding someone’s interest online for longer than a few seconds is incredibly difficult, if not impossible.

Research appears to corroborate this idea. A 2019 study from the Technical University of Denmark found that collective global attention span is narrowing due to the sheer volume of information now presented to the public in the digital age. It concluded that today, people have “more things to focus on – but often focus on things for short periods of time”.

If this is true, it poses a problem for marketing departments, not least companies in technical fields dealing with topics that aren’t easily digestible. Those working in B2B marketing arguably have the biggest challenge of all. The decision-makers they want to target will already be busy running their own businesses and have little time to digest anything else.

So what role does long-form content have to play against this backdrop of shortening attention spans and information overload? WPR senior content manager Tom Went explores five reasons why long-form B2B content is so important for today’s market:

  • 1. SEO

You’d be forgiven for thinking that short, snackable content is preferred by Google – the domain everyone turns to when a quick answer to a short question is needed. But it’s actually long-form content that tends to rank higher in organic search results. This is true for all but the most established brands with the highest domain ratings, such as IBM.

One study of ranking factors by SEMrush, for example, found the content held in Google’s top three was on average 45% longer when compared with the content in 20th position. In 2021, SEMrush also revealed that articles with more than 7,000 words delivered nearly four times as much traffic and far more shares when compared with those of a lower word count.

  • 2. Value

Given the economic downturn of the past 18 months, it’s unsurprising to see that businesses are now keen to use their content to nurture leads. According to a 2020 report from the Content Marketing Institute, over 81% of respondents said ‘building trust’ was now a top priority – up from 68% recorded two years earlier.

Long-form content is one of the most effective ways to achieve this, thanks to its ability to demonstrate a deeper understanding of key industry issues and how to address them. While openly promotional content can get warm leads over the line, it’s far less likely to convince longer-term targets working to much longer purchasing cycles.

  • 3. Authority

The most persuasive arguments usually follow a set structure. First, they introduce a main idea. Then they build a strong case using evidence to support it. Finally, they end with a compelling call to action. Long-form content gives authors the best opportunity to mirror these steps and develop an authoritative voice in their chosen field, especially when introducing analysis via quantitative and qualitative research.

If businesses are making the effort to understand their customers, it makes sense to present insights and ideas in as much detail as possible, not least because the solution is usually a product of their own. That said, brevity has a role to play. It’s always better to keep content tight and to the point, providing it covers off all the main points. ‘Long-form’ isn’t a licence to drone on endlessly just because you can; that’s a poor use of everyone’s time.

  • 4. Assets

In-depth reports offer a credible platform for businesses to discuss challenges and solutions without appearing too salesy – even when lead generation is the ultimate aim. While seemingly outdated in a fast-paced digital world, the stats suggest they still have an important role to play. One survey of different B2B leaders, for instance, found that 71% had used a white paper in the previous 12 months to research and weight their purchasing decisions.

Reports will typically serve as the foundation for campaigns, with the most successful being reused or referenced years after first being published. This creates a rapport with readers that is difficult to replicate with other formats. Long-form content of this type also offers great potential to be repurposed for other work, such as media relations, delivering strong return on investment.

  • 5. Some Topics Deserve More

Some B2B products and services are difficult to market without going into detail. WPR’s content marketing case studies offer a great case in point. Take Alfa Laval’s Fit for Duty campaign. First, it had to argue why running plant to failure was a false economy, particularly for precision-engineered equipment like gasketed plate heat exchangers. It then needed to present the company’s service centre as the ideal solution for delivering ongoing return in a market that’s still married to reactive maintenance strategies. Ultimately, it’s difficult to state a strong case in short formats when you’re trying to achieve long-term strategic goals.

The argument, then, is to focus on quality over quantity. If you’re going to capture and sustain someone’s attention, the content needs to be worthwhile and engaging. In many ways, this can be achieved most effectively when a business has room to stretch out – not only to demonstrate knowledge but also to develop a compelling narrative which answers a real need for its audiences. Get it right and your long-form content can be a hardworking marketing tool for your business.

The author: Senior content manager Tom Went is a content specialist in B2B PR and publishing. He turns technical subject matter into accessible campaign content for clients across WPR’s B2B portfolio.