Have you wondered how long a blog post or landing page should be for Google?
Over the years, that number has been a moving target.
Once upon a time, SEO consultants recommended that every page has at least 250 words.
Amazingly, some people considered 250 words “too much content.” “People won’t read all of it,” folks complained. “I don’t want that many words on my page.”
My, how things have changed.
Today, it’s an entirely different story. In many cases, a 250-word blog post could be considered “thin content.” Now, many companies are creating 5,000+ word in-depth guides to showcase their expertise -and to snag positioning opportunities.
In fact, 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. Here’s a recent graph from ahrefs showing what this can mean:
So, what does this study (and others) mean for content producers? Is the age of short copy dead?
Let’s break down the word-count research
HubSpot, in their 2017 post, found their blog post sweet spot was 2,500 words:
A recently-updated post, citing a joint study by OKDork and BuzzSumo, says copy over 3,000 words receives more social shares:
Think longer copy is where it’s at? Some experts disagree.
One article discusses that we’re in the “age of skimming” and people won’t read a longer article. Anything too long will get stuck in the tl;dr trap (too long; didn’t read.)
And finally, a 2016 blog post in BuzzSumo (Yes, the same folks who helped with the above study) has this fascinating quote:
I know if you are in content marketing, there is a lot of advice about quality over quantity. Provide something of value, research it well, make it helpful. It is a strategy I have followed at BuzzSumo. I spend a lot of time researching posts, as I did with this one, aiming to produce authoritative, long form content that provides insights which, hopefully, are helpful to marketers. This takes time and I produce around one to two posts a month.
What’s the takeaway? Even the experts can’t agree on the “best” word count for Google.
Yes, it’s true that longer content has more positioning chances. And yes, a 1,500-blog post (or more) can more fully answer the readers’ questions.
But, not every topic lends itself to a longer blog post without pushing the “fluffy content” envelope.
What’s an SEO writer to do?
Your answer: Quit wondering “what Google wants” and focus on your reader.
– Throw your assumptions out the window. For instance, many writers think long-form sales copy doesn’t work in today’s overstimulated world.
Plus, Neil Patel found that long-form copy positioned better, plus provided a higher conversion rate and better-quality leads.
It’s true that long copy can clunk — but, that’s true of any poorly-written page. As Seth Godin says, “Please, give me something long (but make it worth my time.)”
– Poll your readers. A simple way to learn what your readers want to read is to ask them (amazing, I know!) You may find that many of their suggested topics would make great in-depth-article fodder or quickie “tips” posts. Free software like Survey Monkey makes running reader surveys a snap.
– Learn from analytics and testing. What posts do people love? What posts fall flat? Are longer posts getting shared more than shorter ones? What are your post bounce rates? Carefully review your analytics, test your content and see what’s clicking with your readers.
– Tighten up your writing. 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. Don’t “fluff up” a page just to meet a certain word-count requirement.
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 in 2008, and I completely updated it for today’s brave new Google world. I hope you enjoyed it!)
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