Have you wondered what the perfect word count was for a blog post or landing page?
Over the years, that number has been a moving target.
Twenty years ago, I would recommend that every page be at least 250 words.
Back then, people considered 250 words “too much content.” “Readers won’t like it,” folks complained. “I don’t want that many words on my page.”
My, how things have changed.
Here’s a (very) general word count guideline for 2019:
- For landing page content, I’d recommend a minimum word count of 350 words.
- If you’re writing a blog post that you want to position, the minimum (in most cases) would be 500 words.
Why is there no hard-and-fast rule? The true “best” word count for a post or landing page depends on many factors. I’ll talk about them soon and show some examples.
Having said that, many companies think “shorter copy is bad.” Instead, they focus almost exclusively on long-form content — for instance, 5,000+ word, in-depth skyscraper guides.
Why so many words?
Because the people who write the content think that’s the only way to grab search positions. If the copy is longer, it must be better — right?
So, what does this mean for content producers? Is the age of short copy dead? Does Google reward super-long content?
You don’t need to write 5,000 words every time. At the same time, longer copy has specific SEO benefits.
I’ll talk about what this means to content producers and how to figure out the best word count for your posts. But first, I need to get this out of the way…
Let’s talk about Google’s stance on word count
Google’s John Muller said in August 2019 that “word count is not a ranking factor.”
There’s no magical word fairy who reviews your word count and positions your page accordingly. The Google Quality Raters aren’t counting every.single.word.
In fact, Google has also said that word count does not indicate quality content.
This is good news — content producers aren’t forced to create long-form content every time we sit down to write.
We can write the right amount of content that satisfies the user’s query and provides the standout answer she wants.
But (because there’s always a “but” in SEO…..)
Google may not have an official word count stance, but research does show that longer copy can position better.
What’s the latest word-count research?
A 2017 study by ahrefs found the average #1 ranking page will also position for about 1,000 related keywords — which is something super-short content can’t do.
In a 2018 study, ahrefs found that longer copy positioned better:
HubSpot, in their 2017 post, found their blog post sweet spot was 2,500 words:
A joint study by BuzzSumo and Brian Dean found that long-form content gets more links than short blog posts:
This shows that long-form content does have benefits. It will position for more keyphrases and gain better backlinks over its shorter-copy brethren.
Viola Eva discussed this in a 2019 Search Engine Journal article. Her take:
The path to ranking success looks like:
- Longer content leads to more links.
- More links lead to better rankings (and more organic traffic).
It seems what might be ranking the website is not so much the content length itself (though it for sure helps to be competitive with the Page 1 results), but firstly the amount of links the page received. Guides, skyscrapers, pillar pages, and content hubs make the most interesting link targets.
This makes sense. Especially when you consider that over 91 percent of content gets no traffic from Google. None. Nada. 91 percent. Ouch.
Is it any wonder why companies think that long-form is the only way to go?
Should you always write long-form copy? No.
Shorter content can and does position.
For instance, the top-positioned page for the query [how to brew black tea] is 798 words. That’s still a lot of words — but the page has a number one result and position zero.
The top result for [how to restart a Fitbit versa] is a scant 94 words:
Remember that Google Quality Raters link I included earlier? The article is just 171 words long and positions at number two for [google quality rating guidelines].
So, there’s no hard and fast rule.
How should SEO writers determine the best word count?
Your answer: Quit wondering “what Google wants” and focus on your reader.
The content length should depend on the user query and what your reader needs to see.
Plan on conducting some competitive research before you start writing.
SEO writing is more than shoving keyphrases into content. In today’s world, you also need to check out your top-10 competition. Things to look for include:
- How have other sites approached the content?
- Do their posts provide videos, graphics, or lists?
- What makes their page an authority page?
- Does the page link to other authority sites?
- Who is the author? Are they a recognized expert in their field?
The key isn’t to copy a top-10 page. However, it is smart to see what’s currently positioning. This way, you can develop a writing strategy and make your content even better.
Throw your assumptions out the window.
One of the biggest SEO writing challenges is dealing with people who “just know” what works for their readers — but they don’t back up their opinions with data.
For instance, many writers think sales pages should be short (under 250 words) because “readers don’t want to scroll.”
However, companies create long sales copy all the time. And it works.
Plus, Neil Patel found that long-form copy positioned better, plus provided a higher conversion rate and better-quality leads.
Long copy can indeed clunk and be visually overwhelming. But, that’s true of any poorly-written page. As Seth Godin says, “Please, give me something long (but make it worth my time.)”
Dive into your analytics and roll around in the data.
SEO writers can’t ignore analytics anymore. The data is too tasty, valuable, and fascinating to ignore. Google Analytics and Search Console provide the in-depth information you need to know. And, you can always dive into specialized solutions like Serpstat, ahrefs, or SEMrush for more information.
Analytics will tell you:
- What are your most popular posts?
- Which posts get great Google positions — and which ones are ignored?
- Which posts are positioning?
- What are your post bounce rates?
If you’re freelancing, don’t be afraid to ask your clients for their analytics information. The data will help you better understand what’s working — and how to make their SEO content strategy even better.
Write as much as you need to — and not one word more.
Godin may write a 150-word post one day and a 1,500-word post the next. And that’s OK. Either way, his word count represents how long it takes to get his point across – and no more.
“Fluffing up” a page just to meet a certain word-count requirement is horrible for your readers and it won’t help boost your Google rankings. Plus, since we’ve seen that shorter copy can still position, there’s no percentage to adding more content “just in case.” Focus on answering the query, instead.
Finally, think about this when you’re writing the copy:
- Have I said everything I could?
- Have I overcome all objections?
- Have I showcased the product or service?
- Is the keyphrase usage seamless?
- Does the copy encourage the next conversion step?
- Have I connected with my reader?
If your answer is “yes,”you’ve done your job.
It’s as simple as that.
(Note: This post originally ran 11 years ago! Wow! So much has changed since then.)
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