SEO has many complexities, and there’s controversy surrounding the ideal word count. Short blog posts of up to 500 words used to be the norm. However, Google’s algorithms have changed in recent years, leading marketing experts to debate the merits of lengthier content. The changes have sparked many online debates as experts, specialists, writers, and site owners speculate about the “ideal word count.”
Do longer articles rank better? Is there such a thing as a perfect word count for SEO purposes? In this article, we’ll look at:
- Whether word count affects SEO.
- Quality vs. quantity in blog posts.
- How long blog posts should be.
Does Word Count Affect SEO?
Many factors contribute to search engine ranking. While word count can play a part, it’s certainly not the only way to improve your SEO. Backlinko conducted a detailed analysis of millions of Google search results to determine what factors correlated to first page rankings. They found that the average word count of top results was 1,447.
Can we then conclude that a word count near 1,500 is ideal for online articles? Unfortunately, even the experts are still divided on this topic.
Opinion 1: Word Count Doesn’t Directly Affect SEO
Professionals in this camp assert that there’s no such thing as an ideal word count. They believe every search query needs an individualized approach. In some cases, shorter is better, while in others, you need long-form content.
When it comes to comprehensive technical articles, businesses find that word counts vary widely. Some pieces fall between 1,000 and 1,500, while others can be between 5,000 and 12,000.
Some professionals find that articles over 4,000 words rank highest, while others have success with posts between 2,000 and 3,000. In the end, most conclude it depends on the topic and purpose.
Opinion 2: Longer May Be Better
Other experts believe word count is critical. Longer articles allow you to share your expertise on the topic. If you’re presenting an in-depth treatment of a subject, you need a substantial word count to achieve it. If you try to cut it too short, readers won’t get a comprehensive learning experience.
SEO experts provide the following reasons longer articles may rank higher:
- Higher chance of getting backlinks and shares .
- Provide more value to the reader, providing everything they need in one place.
- Higher chance of ranking for multiple keywords.
- Visitors spend more time on your page.
SEO experts Neil Patel and CognitiveSEO indicate that pages with word counts between 1,000 and 5,000 tend to rank highest, as long as the information is focused and comprehensive. Such long-form content allows a writer to conduct analyses and discuss topics in detail, providing outstanding value to the reader.
Opinion 3: It’s Best When It’s Done
Interestingly, there may just be a reason why longer articles are performing better. Search intent is gathering a lot of traction as search engines like Google adapt their algorithms to provide users with answers rather than just relevant content. In other words, they’re encouraging writers to focus on a user’s search intent; the core of their question. In turn, Google expects you to answer the user’s question as thoroughly and accurately as possible.
In short, while there might be no ideal word count, a longer article can often provide insights and details that a shorter piece won’t. In turn, Google assigns it more value since it provides the answers a user might be looking for. Essentially, “write until you’re done.”
That said, writing a long piece for length’s sake entirely negates the purposes of this system, since many writers will fill their articles or content with fluff and filler.
Quality vs. Quantity: How Length Impacts Blog Posts and SEO
SEO experts generally agree that quality takes priority over quantity. Blog post length doesn’t matter if your content is mediocre.
We’ve compiled some tips on how to provide the greatest value for readers. They include producing evergreen content, removing fluff, formatting the article well, doing keyword research, and editing before publishing.
Produce Evergreen Content
Evergreen content is information that doesn’t expire, allowing it to engage readers for a long time. To write this type of article, consider topics in your niche that will likely hold value for years to come.
You’ll want to invest in creating evergreen content because it:
- Boosts search rankings by positioning your site as an authority in your field.
- Draws organic traffic because it answers people’s questions.
- Keeps your business relevant.
In-depth guides and tutorials are excellent choices for evergreen content. That’s because they’re comprehensive enough to answer all the questions people have about a topic. You need to keep this content updated at all times to continue ranking well. Adding information, changing outdated details, and refreshing images are a few ways to accomplish this.
Cut the Fluff
When you’re trying to hit a specific word count, it can be tempting to repeat information or add fillers that provide no real value for the reader. However, doing so will hurt your SEO strategy in the long run when the content fails to engage your audience.
Writing quality content that’s relevant to readers is always the priority. If you can adequately cover the topic in fewer words, do so. It’ll be more effective than a piece with added fluff. Creating an outline before writing can help ensure you cover all the essential aspects of the topic. When you write comprehensive content, you’ll likely hit the ideal word count range without having to try very hard.
Invest in Structure and Formatting
If you’re aiming for shareable content, articles must be easy to read. Attractive formatting is essential to holding your audience’s attention.
Internet users today have very short attention spans. According to a 2015 Microsoft study, the average dropped from 12 to eight seconds over 15 years. If you fail to appeal to a reader within the first few instants after landing on your page, they’ll leave.
To capture a reader’s attention, you can:
- Use eye-catching subheadings.
- Make the text scannable.
- Use bold, italics, and bullet-point lists.
- Keep paragraphs short (2-3 sentences).
- Put the main idea of each paragraph in the first line.
- Insert relevant images, especially animated graphics.
Perform Keyword Research
Keyword research is essential to writing quality content, and SEO strategy development can be costly. However, there are several ways you can find the right keywords for free:
- Use a tool like Ubersuggest or Moz Keyword Explorer.
- Search a broader term to get more specific ideas.
- Explore AnswerThePublic to discover what questions people are asking.
- Navigate within Google Analytics to find search terms being used on your site.
- Try the Amazon search bar to find eCommerce keywords.
- Access Google Trends to discover the topics that are trending.
- Use Google Search Console to see what keywords your site already ranks for.
If you’re just starting to build your site’s domain authority, you’ll want to focus on long-tail keywords. These terms typically have three to seven words and generate much lower competition. Using them makes your page more likely to rank at the top of search results and receive more conversions with fewer visits.
Proofread and Edit Your Posts
Valuable, keyword-rich content with no fluff can attract a loyal readership, but significant spelling or grammar errors are a turnoff for many. Take the time to make sure your writing is correct and polished before publishing.
Free proofreading and editing tools can be an excellent choice for those on a tight budget. If you’re unsure of your abilities or have a little more money to invest, you can also hire professional proofreading services. In either case, you’ll be taking the necessary steps to make the best possible impression on your audience and retain users on your site.
How Long Should Blog Posts Be?
Once you’ve ensured the quality of your content, you can consider the ideal blog post length. However, the answer isn’t as straightforward as you might hope.
Experts often recommend using a variety of lengths, depending on the purpose of each article. HubSpot’s study of their company’s blog posts led to the following conclusions regarding ideal word count:
- Pillar pages (all-encompassing guides) rank best at about 4,000 words.
- Listicles between 2,300 and 2,600 words rank highest.
- “How-to” posts are best when they have 1,700 to 2,100 words.
- “What is” blog posts rank highest between 1,300 and 1,700 words.
OkDork analyzed 100 million articles and found that posts with lengths between 3,000 and 10,000 words were most likely to be shared.
Moz teamed up with BuzzSumo to study millions of articles, too. They concluded that content with at least 1,000 words earned more links and shares. However, posts with over 2,000 didn’t seem to bring more significant benefits than those between 1,000 and 2,000. The consensus is that posts of at least 1,000 to 1,500 words rank higher than shorter articles. Some bloggers report they see even more success with pieces over 2,000 or 3,000 words.
However, not all digital marketing experts see these numbers as hard-and-fast rules. Some indicate that blog post length should be at least 300 words, while others set a lower limit of 600.
Here are a few other pieces of advice gleaned from various digital marketers:
- If you’re using long-tail keywords, make sure the article has at least 1,000 words to avoid keyword stuffing.
- Landing pages should be between 300 and 600 words.
- Blog post length needs to match the topic and the audience.
- Shorter word counts (300-600 words) are better for blogs shared on social media.
In the end, the value you offer to readers is more critical than the word count. If you’re answering pertinent questions, you’ll engage your audience.
In short, there’s no ideal word count for all blog articles. The answer to the length question depends on your audience and the type of content you’re creating.
However, quality pieces with high word counts tend to rank higher than shorter pieces because they give readers more thorough answers to their questions. To decide the perfect length for your articles, meet with your team to discuss priorities. By weighing the pros and cons of each option, you can choose the best blog post length.