Have you wondered what the optimal word count was for a blog post or web page?
Over the years, that number has been a moving target.
Twenty years ago, I recommended that every page be at least 250 words.
Back then, people considered 250 words “too much content.” “People won’t read it,” folks complained. “I don’t want that many words on my page.”
Now, in 2022, the pendulum has swung the other way. Some companies focus almost exclusively on long-form content — for instance, 2,000+ word, in-depth skyscraper guides.
The myth is that long content is the only way to grab good Google positions – and Google equates a higher word count to a higher quality article.
So, what does this mean for content producers? Is the age of short copy dead?
Well, not really.
Let’s break down the research:
What’s a minimum word count guideline for 2022?
Determining the best word count for blog posts and web pages has everything to do with your topic and reader. Generally, from a content writing perspective, some general word count guidelines are:
- Sales landing pages: A minimum word count of 350 words – however the content length depends on the product or service, and what the reader needs to see.
- Blog posts: It depends on the search query. Generally, at least 250 words for highly-specific queries. Other queries lend themselves to a longer word count.
It’s important to note that these word count guidelines are not based on Google guidelines – they’re more around what works for readers. That’s an important distinction.
But what about pinpointing the magical word count that makes Google smile? You’re probably wondering…
What’s the best word count for Google?
And the answer is – Google doesn’t care about your blog post or web page word count.
Google’s John Mueller 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.
Google said back in 2018 that word count does not indicate quality content.
This is good news!
Despite what some “experts” believe (and what some SEO writing courses teach), content producers don’t have to create long-form content every time. Nor do writers need to mindlessly add extra content to existing pages to “help the page rank” and showcase content quality.
It doesn’t work that way.
Google’s John Mueller clarified in 2021 that adding additional content won’t necessarily help a page position.
According to Mueller:
“From our point of view, the number of words on a page is not a quality factor, not a ranking factor.
So just blindly adding more and more text to a page doesn’t make it better.”
We can write the right amount of content that satisfies the user’s query and provides the standout answer they want.
This is why, after analyzing the information, Matt Southern from Search Engine Journal declared that content length is not a ranking factor.
But (because there’s always a “but” in SEO…..)
Google may not have an official word count stance, but some research does show that longer blog posts position better.
Let’s break down why that is…
What’s the best word count for a blog post?
It depends on what you mean by “best.”
For instance, a 2020 article by ahrefs stated there was a moderate correlation between word count (up to 2,000 words,) and organic traffic.
What’s interesting is content over 2,000 words had a moderate negative correlation. This means longer content doesn’t guarantee a top ranking. More words won’t drive more traffic.
It doesn’t work that way.
HubSpot, in their 2020 post, said that their blog word count sweet spot was 2,100-2,400 words. However, this is based on their average of 50 of HubSpot’s most-read posts – not a larger study with multiple respondents and search data.
So, the numbers are interesting – but they’re HubSpot’s numbers. They don’t necessarily apply to your site and target reader.
Plus, the article mentions that one-third of their top articles were less than 1,500 words. So, longer content isn’t always a magic SEO bullet.
Having said that, longer content can drive links. Moz ran a survey in 2021 asking, “When it comes to the execution of your idea, which of the following do you find to be the most effective in generating links?”
This result is reinforced by ahrefs, which found a positive correlation between word count and backlinks…but only up to 1,000 words.
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.
Eva’s take 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?
Let’s turn to our friends at ahrefs again. They actually found a negative correlation between backlinks and articles over 1,000 words.
This makes sense. Sure, some general topics lend themselves to long-form content – for instance, an article about [what is b2b marketing].
But if you’re trying to write 1,500 words about [how to sew a button], you’ll throw off your reader. People don’t want to slog through useless, fluffy content to get their questions answered. If the search query only requires 500 words to answer it – then just write 500 words. Especially since…
Shorter content can and does position.
Is there a minimum word count for SEO?
For instance, the top-positioned page for the query [how to brew black tea] is 424 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] is a scant 94 words:
The NASA page answering [what is a solar eclipse] positions number one – and is less than 50 words:
Longer copy isn’t better – and shorter copy positions?
So, what’s the best word count for SEO?
There is no “best word count for SEO.”
Let go of the idea that you have to have a certain word count “for Google” or “for SEO success.”
In fact, the content length depends on the user query and what your reader needs to see.
Conduct competitive research before you start writing.
SEO writing is more than shoving keyphrases into the content. You also need to check out your top-10 competition before you start writing. Things to look for include:
- What’s the search intent for your desired keyphrases? If you’re seeing mostly informational pages, a sales page probably won’t position.
- How have other sites approached the content? You don’t want to copy them, but you do want to determine how to make your content unique.
- Does the competition link out to other sites? Outbound links to authority sites won’t help your SEO, but they are good for your readers.
- How could you create a more clickable page Title than what you see currently positioning?
- Are there other positioning opportunities, such as writing a FAQ page?
For more tips about how to research and write SEO content, check out this SEO copywriting checklist.
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.
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 information is too tasty, valuable, and fascinating to ignore.
Analytics will tell you:
- Which posts get great Google positions?
- Is there a “sweet spot” correlation between your most popular posts and word count?
- Are posts positioning, but you aren’t getting click-throughs to the page?
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.
“Fluffing up” a page just to meet a specific word-count requirement is horrible for your readers… and it won’t help boost your Google rankings. In fact, Google’s John Mueller said fluffy content, makes “it hard for search engines to figure out what you’re trying to say.”
Later, Mueller discussed fluffy copy in a 2022 video hangout, saying “Just filling extra text on a page – I would not do that.”
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.
Content expert Ann Smarty wrote a great post about how to improve an article without fluffing out your word count.
Finally, think about this when you’re writing the copy:
- Did I fully answer the search query?
- 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?
- Have I written the content in a voice that clicks with my readers?
- Am I open to making changes to the page as additional data rolls in?
If your answer is “yes,” you’ve done your job.
It’s as simple as that.
(Note: This post originally ran 14 years ago! Wow! So much has changed since then.)
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