Longform video content – an evolution for content marketing and SEO?

May 9th, 2019

The world of search engine optimisation is one that is constantly changing. It is an industry that’s so vital to so many businesses across the globe, yet one that is driven by the strategy and activities of a very small number of tech companies. And every time those companies tweak their algorithms, or deliver updates, then the SEO world has to respond to help their clients.

At one point a major SEO tactic was stuffing as many keywords as possible into a piece of content. Then the nature of the content changed and search engines began to focus on quality articles validated by credible links from highly ranked websites.

Since then we have seen the impact of video and how it can help companies rank highly on search engine front pages, most recently via Google’s AMP format.

We have also heard about the importance of longform, and more recently how the major search companies are going to start giving more exposure to podcasts and audio content.

The importance of longform

At the Brighton SEO Conference, an event held twice a year which brings together many of the leading players in the UK industry, there were other suggestions as to how SEO might develop.

Speakers at the event tackled many different issues from the role of digital PR in content distribution through to technical issues around data and measurement. Yet often the presentations came back to content marketing and its role in SEO – and increasingly the potential of video.

Several companies at the event suggested that longform video might be a highly effective option for brands. The concept being that search engines will recognise the quality of, and the investment in the video and prioritise it ahead of say shorter more social focused videos.

One of the companies championing longform branded content video was Wistia a video tech company from Boston in the US. The company has been producing shorter, more social style videos to promote its technology for many years. Yet at Brighton SEO it hired the local cinema to show its film, One, Ten, One Hundred, which is a classic example of longform video content marketing.

The film follows a trio of the company’s employees as they work with a hot shot LA based video agency to create a series of films which promote Wistia’s new Soapbox offering. Soapbox is a Google Chrome extension that enables anyone to record, edit, share, and measure presentation videos. It complements the company’s premium and core Wistia for Marketing platform.

The smart twist though is that the agency is given three separate budgets. They are asked to make a film for 1000 dollars, another for 10,000 dollars and finally one with a budget of 100,000 dollars. The storyline, themes and length of the film are all roughly the same, so the key for the viewer is seeing how the production values increase the larger the budget gets.

The cheapest video is shot on an iPhone with very basic supporting equipment and a largely improvised cast. The interim $10k one adds a better camera, some decent lighting, a larger crew and higher quality editing, while the mega budget film secures a large cast, a huge crew, state of the art filming and editing equipment and much more.

The film works on many levels. The fly on the wall footage gives viewers a great insight into the process of making added content videos. It also underlines what exactly brands get for their money when investing in video content. In my opinion, the leap from one thousand to ten thousand dollar budget was huge, from ten to hundred, arguably less so.

From a content marketing perspective, it is also highly effective as the viewer gets to see three different ads for the company’s Soapbox product.

Fragmentation of audiences

Phil Nottingham, video strategist at Wistia, explains that the creation of the film was inspired by what he sees as a major trend in branded longform video content.

There are many other examples of longform video content from high profile brands including; Patagonia, BMW, Hyundai and Airbnb, but Phil thinks that smaller brands could lead the way.

“I think that the longform video revolution has begun and it is going to replace some forms of traditional advertising – it will replace the brand building of yesterday. It is not necessarily larger companies, but small companies who will be ringing the changes.”

Phil then gave a few examples the most striking of which is Andertons Music Co, a music/guitar shop in Guilford. “Their videos, which include a lot of serialised longform content, have attracted over a million subscribers on YouTube, he adds.”

“It is niche marketing, appealing to the audience of that subculture but underlines what we are seeing is fragmentation of audiences.”

Phil also stresses that companies should understand that longform is just one part of a content marketing mix.

“There is still a place for ‘functional how to do stuff’ to cover the SEO basics. Longform is more about how you build a brand.”

Ultimately Phil believes that we are about to see a renaissance in the creation of video content, especially longform, from brands. He thinks that the drivers will be creative individuals in companies who are passionate about what they do and want to share that enthusiasm on behalf of their brands with audiences.


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