If you sell online courses, or you’re an e-commerce business, or you’re trying to find qualified leads for your sales team, it all starts with the people that you can reach.

Content marketing is one of the best ways to build a contact list of qualified leads — people who are interested in hearing (and buying!) what you have to say.

ActiveCampaign’s Director of Content Benyamin Elias hosted a webinar to show you how content marketing works to grow your contact list.

Watch the recording above or read the recap below to learn:

  • Why you should probably write long content
  • How do you get people to read long content?
  • The fastest way to write for Google
  • How to grow your contact list without increasing website traffic

Why you should probably write long content

“Long content tends to work better than most other types of content. And I think it’s important to start this way – start by completely covering a topic. It gives you more chances to win in search, and social and gives your customers and your prospects more information that they need,” says Benyamin.

Let’s look at some of the data.

People who write long content say that they get results and are more successful.

People who write long content report stronger results (Source: Orbit Media Studios)

In a 2019 survey of 1,0001 content marketers from Orbit Media Studios, more than half of people whose average content was longer than 2000 words said they were really successful and saw strong results – not just good results, but strong results.

“People who write long content feel like they’re getting better results from content than people who write short. In an analysis of 100 million articles, long content gets shared more,” says Benyamin.

After looking at 100 million articles, Buzzsumo concluded that long content gets shared more (Source: Buzzsumo and Noah Kagan)

Long content tends to do better in search engines, it tends to get more traffic overall – and even convert better.

“The publishing platform Medium publishes data from usage of their platform so they know how long people spend on a post. And then you can correlate that based on how long the post is in minutes. 7 minutes is about 1,600 words. 1,600 words is where people, on average, engage the most with content.”

Medium-length posts were the most engaging on average, but long content had the most engagement overall (Source: Medium Data Lab)

“1,600 words is already a little bit longer than what a lot of people are writing for content. But as you get higher on the median, the average here decreases. But the range increases a lot at the 16-minute mark – that’s where we see people actually engaging the most if the content is good.”

“People really do engage a lot with content that is long, if the content is also good. Of course, it’s hard to make good long content. But if you can do it well, there’s a ton of opportunity,” says Benyamin.

You don’t have to write long content (there are other content types you can explore), but you also don’t have to be afraid of long content.

How do you get people to read long content?

There are 3 ways to get people to read your long content:

  1. Start with a narrow topic and answer it completely
  2. Format for scanners
  3. Instead of just giving advice, prove that you’re right

1. Start with a narrow topic and answer it completely

The narrower the topic a reader sees, the more likely they are to actually read that than they are to click in, scroll down, click out because they couldn’t find the thing that was relevant to them.

An example of a narrowed-topic post from ActiveCampaign (Source: ActiveCampaign)

“No more of these ultimate guides to nothing in particular. You see so many ultimate guides out there. The challenge with them is that ultimate guides are too broad, and they promise a general benefit,” says Benyamin.

“If you were to read an Ultimate Guide to lead generation…you could write a whole book about lead generation. You need to narrow your focus and ask, ‘what’s the part that’s relevant to your customer?’ ‘What’s the part that solves the pain that makes them come to you?’ An ultimate guide is too general to get them to engage with your content because it doesn’t promise an answer to their specific question.”

To give a specific answer, you have to use the words your audience uses.

This is an example from Copyhackers. It comes from a conversion test that they did with the headline, “if you think you need rehab, you do.”

Improved clicks by 400% (Source: Copyhackers)

“This copy increased clicks on this page by 400% relative to the control copy. What’s interesting about that is that copy is not a headline that they wrote. It’s a headline that they pulled right out of an Amazon book review for a book about rehabilitation,” shares Benyamin.

“When you use the words your customer uses, you understand their pain points. You understand the exact questions that they have and you can answer in a way that uses the same language and understanding that they have.”

Customer research lets you:

  1. Hold attention
  2. Completely answer questions
  3. Find new content topics
  4. Make people feel understood
  5. Convert more

You’ll find what people care about, then give them the answers they need.

2. Format for scanners

The Nielsen Norman Group published an article, How Little Do Users Read? On the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.

“The idea that people don’t read online is sort of true. They don’t read online; they read about one-fifth of anything that you’re going to write – roughly one out of every five words is a way to think about that. But that’s actually not a problem. You can nudge them to read closer to that 30%,” notes Benyamin.

“You don’t need everyone to read every word of your content. You just need them to read the parts that are most relevant to them, you need to read the parts that make them believe that you are a solution to their problem. And you need them to read the parts that convinced them to convert into your contact list.”

How do you get them to read as much of your content as you can? More research from Nielsen Norman Group is an eye-tracking study on the F-shape on the scanning pattern that people use when they look at content online.

An F-shape heat map. (Source: Nielsen Normal Group)

“People reading in English tend to read left to right. People tend to start at this upper left, go across, then down and across, then down and across and progressively less across it.”

“On the left is a blog post on the left. In the middle is an e-commerce page, and on the right is a search engine result. You can see the pattern is a little bit more spotty. In the second two, people tend to read more content when it is an article. People scan down the left side of the page when they’re looking at your content. That’s the most common scanning pattern, but there are others,” says Benyamin.

3. Instead of just giving advice, prove that you’re right

“There’s a lot of content out there today that says, ‘this is how you do it.’ And there’s not a lot of content that says, ‘here’s the right way you do this and this is why – this is the evidence.’”

So far in this webinar/recap, there has been:

  1. Google Analytics data
  2. Survey data
  3. Data analysis from social media
  4. Data analysis about engagement
  5. Specific case studies
  6. Eye-tracking research

Your content is more persuasive and holds attention if you prove why you’re right — using multiple types of evidence.

The fastest way to write for Google

“Do you even need to write for Google? You sort of do. There are ways to get traffic that are not Google. And many businesses survive without having Google traffic or even a website sometimes. But for most businesses, this is the biggest source of traffic out there,” says Benyamin.

Organic traffic from Google could be your gold mine. (Source: Animalz)

A case study from Animalz shows that as a website scales, a larger percentage of their traffic comes from Google. This is mostly because Google has the most people. If you want to get people to your website, go where the people are. And the people are going to Google.

There are 3 fundamentals of SEO for content to keep in mind when you want to write content that shows up on Google:

  1. Start with “pain point” SEO – use customer reviews, sales calls, feedback forms, and keyword research tools to find out what your customers are struggling with.
  2. Look at what’s currently ranking – searcher intent tells you so much. Google your keyword and see what type of content (listicle? step-by-step?) is already ranking.
  3. Include phrases related to your keyword – you can find related phrases using keyword research tools, Google suggestions, “people also ask” boxes, and content that already ranks.

“The type of content that’s showing up in the search engine tells you what kind of content people are looking for from that phrase. Before you even do any other work, before you write the thing, match the type of content to what you see on the SERP. This is a huge head start when it comes to getting traffic from Google and takes almost no research to get done. All you have to do is Google a keyword and look at what is ranking,” says Benyamin.

These questions from “people also ask” are fully-formed topics you can pluck straight from Google and create content about.

How to grow your contact list without increasing website traffic

There are 2 proven ways to improve your conversions:

  1. Prominence: make your opt-in form more visible by using modals (they really work).
  2. Promise: offer something amazing to new subscribers, and nail your opt-in copy.

“Prominence means, can people find the place to opt into your contact list? Prominent pop-ups work. People don’t like pop-ups, but they increase conversions. A pop-up that takes over the screen has an average 3.1% conversion rate,” says Benyamin.

Don’t discount the pop-ups! (Source: Sumo)

“The second most important thing is your promise. What are you offering? Why should someone sign up? Why should someone give you their email address? What do they want that you can give them?” says Benyamin.

“Here’s an example of something that ActiveCampaign is using to promote an event. And you can see the promise clearly – 1 day, 15 experts, and 45 tactics you can use right now.”

An add that offers a specific promise is an ad that works.

“This is converting pretty well because it offers something really specific. People tend to want things that they can use right away. And that’s what this gives them. They also like specifics – 1 day, 15 experts, 45 tactics. It feels concrete, they can picture what they’re actually going to get.”

Three fundamentals of a great offer:

  1. Be clear—impossible to misunderstand
  2. Say what you’re offering and how it will help
  3. Use the words your audience uses to describe their problems

(Get a whole webinar about writing great copy here and learn more about opt-in copy specifically [plus 10+ examples] in this blog post.)

“If you want more qualified leads on your contact list, it’s sometimes as simple as getting more visitors and increasing your conversion rate. If you can get more people in through this longform content or just pain point content that is bringing in traffic from search engines and then with a prominent promise, you’re going to get more people to sign up,” says Benyamin.