Writing longform content is great for gaining visibility.
It also gives the opportunity to be more in-depth and personal when compared to a quick step-by-step guide, creating a subconscious bond between author and reader.
In this guide, we’re going to be focusing on how you can create content that is thousands of words long in just a few hours, and is interesting to read, too.
This post isn’t just for bloggers:
For running an online store, you might be in the position where you need to write a large number of high quality product descriptions.
Perhaps you need to create pages that show off your online service.
Or, maybe you need to put together an interesting email series.
This guide is aimed at those that want to know how someone with only a very average grasp on the English language (I mean me) can write content described by one person as “so magnetic that I just can’t help but keep reading” — thanks again for that, mom — and how it doesn’t take me that long to put it together, either.
One of the main things I have people say to me is:
And then after that, some people also say:
“I just don’t understand how you write so many words in a post.”
The number one reason most people don’t know how I do this is because they don’t even try to do it themselves.
So I guess there’s my first tip:
Try to write a lot of words.
The most important thing when doing this is to ensure you avoid padding; useless filler content that serves no real purpose.
What you want to add is relevant information, helpful tips, useful anecdotes (as long as they’re appropriate and kept reasonably short) and things like that.
You could practice by trying to describe a random household item.
This is like a ‘sell me this pen’ type situation.
Take an apple.
Ask a random person to describe one.
They’ll usually say something like ‘a red or green fruit’.
That’s 5 words of content.
I honestly think I could write 1,000+ words to describe an apple, if for some reason I needed to. I know, I’m so impressive.
The process is simple:
Take each minor aspect of the fruit and expand each part with detail.
There’s the skin, the core, the seeds, the colours, the textures — and that’s with just a few seconds of thought from the top of my head. With a bit of research, I could also add how apples benefit your body or your mind, how they grow best and more.
Let’s take a quick look at my ‘How to Make a Website‘ guide.
That post, if you’ve not read it or forgotten it existed, could probably be a 5-step, 100-word article.
But instead, my post is over four thousand words long, covering around 35 setup steps and additional bonus content.
Why add so much detail?
The main reason is that longer posts usually get more visibility in Google and therefore it will help me to make more money long-term.
Longer content does not guarantee higher rankings. There’s a heavy correlation, but this could be for a variety of factors that we’ll discuss another day.
But there’s a second reason I create long content, too:
I think it’s important that people understand exactly what they’re doing and why they’re doing it when following guides.
Detail, provided in an engaging manner, helps people to ensure they don’t make mistakes — and that they’ll be more likely to remember how to do it correctly again in the future.
I want to be a good teacher.
More money, more satisfied readers; two birds, one stone.
These days, I find myself spending hours cutting content because I’ve written too much.
Stories are strange.
The same 3,000-word post can be much tougher to read than a 4,500-word post that has an anecdote or real-world example in the middle.
By making my posts longer, I’m making them much more valuable and effective in multiple ways.
I don’t have a miracle process that will make thousands of words land on a page without putting any effort in.
As I’ve already said, the number one way you will write a lot of words is to try to write a lot of words.
But I don’t specifically try to write words, I just try to provide detail. I think the difference is nuanced but I hope you can see it.
My overall process is generally quite messy.
Successful writers, productivity experts and those with OCD are probably about to throw up in their mouths.
My style is much more Pollock than it is Da Vinci.
I come up with an idea as a working post title, I then write some subheadings out and start with whichever subsection appeals to me most. Later, I work through the other sections and add in extra parts that are relevant.
I edit a lot of times throughout — it’s not a set number of structured edits per post. I’m continually checking for improvements, but not necessarily typos.
I mix things up if I’m getting bored in areas or I delete parts too — I want to be entertaining, but primarily I want to be helpful. I don’t want any post to just be thousands of words of stupid jokes.
Correction: You don’t want that. I do.
The other thing to highlight is that I don’t start at the beginning and work my way through to the end.
These aren’t bedtime stories.
If they were, I’d start with the wolf tearing the shit out of the pigs’ houses and then work backwards to the less exciting stuff, like describing the smartass lump of pork that built his house from bricks. What a nerd.
If I have a good idea for a certain section, I usually want to work on it straight away.
Sometimes I’ll have good ideas for a variety of sections, so I’ll quickly make notes in each one.
I don’t wanna write any of the sections.
I find this to be so much more true when I have a reasonable volume of set guides that I need to create, like, I dunno…the step-by-step blueprint that this very post is a part of.
If I can go off-the-cuff and create a one-off article around a sudden idea, I find things so much easier and more freeflowing to write.
If I know I have ten specific posts I gotta create…not only can it seem daunting at the start, it can get seriously boring at times, too.
When starting, expanding or improving an online store, writing hundreds of unique product descriptions can seem like hell.
Sometimes you just gotta do what you set out to do.
You know from your research and plans that your current to-do list is probably the best thing to work on right now; don’t sacrifice the best thing for the fun thing. That’s exactly what I told my ex-wife. I’m not really sure why I felt the need to tell you that.
FUCK YOU CAROL YOU BROKE MY HEART.
I have some fun ideas that I’d much rather work on than this post right now, but the site needs this essential tutorial content much more than it needs my crazy spontaneity at this time.
Writing isn’t always easy.
Sometimes, it’s about grinding your way through.
Other people will do things differently.
I’m not saying my way is the best way (as it’s almost certainly not), it’s just the best way for me.
Find your own best way.
There will be some of you that benefit from following a set plan, and others that just can’t help their mind wandering all over the place in a structured regime — I definitely fall into the second category.
Whilst writing that, it made me have a serious realisation: what if I have something like Attention Deficit Disorder?
So, I opened up an online ADD test to see if I was on some sort of spectrum. I don’t know what the results were because I decided to watch YouTube half way through.
The strategy I use helps me to write a 2,000-3,500 words in 2-3 hours, meaning I used to get 1-2 good posts out a week even with a full-time job.
It’s not all about writing lots.
In fact, ‘writing lots’ is often just the means to an end; the end goal is money, the sale of a product or a service is how you get that money, and the writing itself is just the way of making the sales happen.
Much like with my opinions on branding, great content won’t matter at all if you don’t have a good product or service to offer.
Note: I class affiliate blogs as a bit of a product and a bit of a service.
For those of you wondering if you can even write well enough to put something decent together: you can.
This post is not about ‘how to write well’ because that’s not important; writing effectively is what matters.
I follow one golden rule:
Write as if you’re talking to a five-year-old.
Actually, it’d be a messed up five-year-old if it was reading everything that I was writing, but it’s a simple enough idea in theory.
Use simple words plus simple sentences, and let what you’re saying — rather than how you’re saying it — shine.
We’re now going to look at how you can ensure your written content is engaging enough to get that sweet cash in the bank.
In what appears to be a trend of mine, let’s start with the things you shouldn’t do based on mistakes that I’ve made and seen out in the wild.
Number one tip: don’t try to be someone you’re not.
If you’re not a squeaky clean type of person in your every day life, you’ll find it hard to keep up the persona of a squeaky clean individual online.
Not everyone struggles with a persona or a facade, but a lot will — especially in the modern day where there’s a growing demand to be on every platform and put more of yourself out there than ever before.
On my first online marketing blog, I found — only with hindsight — that I was tweaking my writing, along with my style of humour, to try to appeal to a wider audience. It didn’t take long for me to loathe that site.
You and your brand might, and probably will, have totally separate identities.
The ‘don’t try to be something you’re not’ extends to brands.
You need to establish your brand’s personality and ensure it’s creative, but still fits the industry.
Local garages using memes because memes are cool, right?
Restaurants roasting their complaining customers because they saw another chain doing it and it’s funny, what?
Literally everyone using gifs when there’s absolutely no reason to (note: there’s almost never a reason).
In my opinion, gifs are the lowest form of comedy and are just incredibly lazy. They’re the lowest of the low hanging fruit, if you want engagement.
Memes can be good when used effectively, but most brands are not doing this.
Stop trying to force personality and consider the main point:
Who’s your target audience?
Appeal to them and don’t try too hard.
The next thing we’re going to look at is the type of words and phrases you should use…
…But this varies massively from website to website, industry to industry.
Take this, for example:
The type of language you’d use on a website for a law firm aimed at lower-income families would be totally different to a law firm aimed at supporting the rich and famous.
In the first example, you might focus on words surrounding being relatable in their struggle (think ‘David vs Goliath’) and value for money, where things like discretion and world-class reputation would probably be prioritised for the celebrity service.
On ClichéWebsite, I want to develop a loyal audience that learns from me but can also appreciate the fact I’m not afraid to use a crack addict as a simile.
No matter how hard I try to publish brand-friendly stuff, I just can’t resist tightening that belt in an attempt to get right into a reader’s veins.
Most brands don’t have the luxury of saying whatever they want.
On my main affiliate blog, I was always 100% honest, but I ensured language remained relatively professional at all times.
People are (rightly) afraid to write certain words because it could drastically affect their marketability and therefore their potential income.
I’m sacrificing money and views to try to do something a little different to the hundreds of boring blogs out there and, long-term, I hope that somehow makes me more money.
Most websites will want to stick to the status quo and follow trends (see: memes, gifs) because there’s little-to-no risk involved.
This is something you must consider if you’re looking to make a success online.
I might talk openly about not giving a single fuck about what people think about me, but you definitely need to consider how your brand is viewed from the language you use and how income could be affected, if that’s your primary goal.
Common sense dictates that family-friendly language is also going to be more likely to rank highly in Google — even if Google doesn’t actively limit the visibility of certain sites that use bad language or controversial content, which they may well do.
These sites will be less likely to be shared and linked to than a vanilla brand, meaning they suffer in search as a result.
The above is definitely true for YouTube, which is owned by Google if you were unaware — their algorithms do suppress non-family-friendly videos.
Nerd City did a great video explaining this secret system.
You need to figure out what types of language you can use and get away with on your site — who is your target demographic? Where is ‘the line’?
You’ll generally want to try to avoid:
Basically, I’m doing almost everything I probably shouldn’t be, except for the final point.
Let’s take a look at that one now:
It’s not just the language you use, but the topics you decide to voice your opinion on within your contentlin.
You still have so much freedom to show personality without revealing beliefs that will ostracise people.
If I make a joke that people don’t like, the person reading is either going to think “that’s not funny”, “that’s just rude” or “oh, was that a joke?”
If I talk about my religious or political beliefs, regardless of which side of the fence I sit on with either, there is like a 50%+ chance that the person reading is going to be like “wow, fuck this guy, he clearly knows absolutely nothing about the world.”
Here’s the thing:
Some companies really can’t help themselves.
They’ll go with the line of thought that if they spread their political thoughts, maybe they’ll get some more people to vote for who they want them to vote for.
Maybe that goal would work, but we’re talking about businesses here. Businesses with profit — not elections — as their primary focus.
Unless, you know, the business is earning by being paid off by the government in shady backhanders. Which definitely doesn’t happen.
You will lose customers, new and old, by putting what people believe to be ‘important’ beliefs out there.
Even when trying to show your creativity as a brand, you have to know where the line is.
For a lot of brands, that line isn’t going to be too far away from family-friendly, non-political and religion-neutral content.
However, you can use every appropriate opportunity to try to show that you’re not just another website.
The places that you can show off your identity on your website are pretty obvious.
You’ve got blog posts, service pages, contact pages, your home page, sidebars or footers, product listings, videos and more.
There are also a good range of places you can show off your style post-conversion (i.e. a person has already purchased or subscribed).
An obvious place for someone like me is in new subscriber emails. I don’t want you to just confirm that you’ve become another person in the crowd, I want you to know exactly what you can expect by being a part of the exclusive Cliché fam:
After all, you’ve already won over your customer here — now you have a chance to make sure they’ll remember you.
It doesn’t take a lot of effort to say “Congratulations! You now have a new best friend — it’s me!” rather than “Order received. Reference number: #0000001.”
Things like handwritten notes, included as a surprise to accompany an order, can also be a really great touch that customers really appreciate, even if it’s incredibly simple. It only needs to say “Hi [name], I hope you like your [product]! Thanks so much, [company name]”.
Important note: this doesn’t always work and, as always, will depend on what your site is and offers.
You’re gonna give off all the wrong vibes if you’re called Bob and you’re sending out handwritten notes to women (or men, I’m not one to judge) telling them to really enjoy their new vibrater.
Personality is just one piece of the puzzle.
Writing long-form content is another.
We’re going to look at one more puzzle piece in this post before calling it a day.
You can actively do things to keep more people reading and interacting with your content.
You’ll notice that I use most, or maybe even all, of the following tactics:
I covered this in the branding and design section of my blueprint series so I’ll avoid being too repetitive here.
Whitespace is your friend — as a writer and as a reader.
Use short sentences and short paragraphs. A reader will find it much easier and more enjoyable to stay engaged.
If you can include examples in image form, it’s a great way to break up text and add additional value.
I am personally not a fan of using random images just to break up text. Many people will disagree with this and that’s fine.
If it doesn’t add value in any way, why add anything?
Images increase the size of a page, making it take longer to load. It might only be tiny increments per image, but it’s more of a load nonetheless.
Page load times impact SEO.
I don’t mind increasing the size of a page for images that help or entertain a reader.
I have no idea if these things already have a name, but I’m referring to them as ‘interrupters’ because they have the intention of interrupting a reader’s trail of thought.
I like to use this tactic that is psychologically proven to keep you more active and engaged in certain areas, like when listening to music or watching YouTube videos.
In music, if you want to relax or zone out then the best type of song to put on is something very simple, with no lyrics.
Songs that change up in style (i.e. a verse, then a chorus, then a solo) are more likely to keep your attention on the song — rather than the task you’re perhaps meant to be completing.
In YouTube videos, average watch times increase significantly if clips are broken up with different camera angles, switches of scenery, inclusions of skits and more, as opposed to a single one-take video — even if it’s the same YouTuber talking about the same subject.
If it works in videos, if it works in music, it should work in writing.
By switching up the subject, including random stories, adding relevant images, dropping in jokes and more, I’m hoping readers are engaged — rather than zoned out — whilst consuming my content.
It’s like a mish-mash of advice slapping you in the face rather than the alternative of something like sitting through a university lecture, which I totally know all about because I definitely went to one or more of the universities.
Bucket brigades are an old-school sales copywriting technique that have been adapted for the online world, primarily by marketers.
That’s a bucket brigade in action.
Using short words or sentences like ‘look’, or ‘the truth is’, or ‘the best thing’, followed by a colon or ellipses (…), is a great way to break things up whilst also keeping readers engaged and scrolling down the page.
Asking rhetorical questions of your audience can be a really good way to be engaging, although I often find them quite patronising to read, so you have to be careful. Does that make sense to you, special and lovely person?
Questions make you interact with content — maybe even subconsciously.
Do you notice?
Wow. OK. Rude.
The final other thing you can do for engagement is to ask for it.
There’s a reason YouTubers ask you to like their video or hit subscribe — it works.
Tweets that say ‘please retweet’ generally get more retweets on average. Ask and ye shall receive.
If you enjoyed this post or found it useful to learn about writing in quantity or writing with quality, subscribe below. Please?